Designing Your Own Path: A Year of Professional Development for the California Teaching Artist

Most of us design our own path — that’s what this hot topic of certification is all about.  But whether you think that’s a good thing or more like a path that needs repaving, professional development is something we’re all interested in. So, if we were to undertake to design a year of professional development for a California teaching artist in the current landscape, what might that look like? Here are some possibilities.

First,a good place to start: The  provides some insight into working as a teaching artist.  Subtitled Tools, Techniques, and Ideas to Help Any Artist Teach, it’s not a how-to, but a collection of essays, stories, lists and examples, along with opinions and techniques you might find provocative.

In the Fall…

  • First, drop everything and apply immediately  from November 11-14 in Philadelphia. Facilitated by Eric Booth,  promises to involve you in working to forward teaching artistry, including improving the business of teaching artistry; advancing the quality of practice; and activating a national network to strengthen the teaching artist field. Of course, you’ll have to figure out how to get to Philadelphia in November, but it will be well worth it.
  • Next, if you’re in Los Angeles, fill out your application for . This is a FREE advocacy training and leadership development with real-world application, preparing you to be an arts leader by empowering you with the skills, knowledge, and an expanded network to effect change in your community.  Apply by Sept. 9.
  • If you’re in the Bay Area, plan to stop by Luna Dance Institute on the 2nd Tuesday of each month for Practitioner Exchanges. Coinciding with the start of the school year, these events create time and space for peer educators to explore issues of practice, get inspired, try out new ideas or perspectives, or ask for help with challenges. Each month centers on a different topic. RSVP and fee info .
  • Bay Area folks, don’t forget to also register for the Integrated Learning Specialist Program (Alameda County – East Bay/ San Francisco/Marin) Dedicate your Saturdays in Fall to learning about research-based frameworks and practice-proven strategies for supporting culturally-responsive arts-integrated teaching across the curriculum. Sound fancy? Pretty soon, you’ll have that vocabulary down, too. .

In Winter, the internet is your friend.

You can sign up to receive updates from some local organizations that frequently offer professional development opportunities. For example…

  • If you’re in Northern California, the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission frequently hosts excellent  geared towards teaching artists.
  • The Arts Education Roundtable Listserv in Los Angeles is an online forum through Yahoo Groups with close to 800 members that alerts you to opportunities and events in the Los Angeles County arts education community. Subscribe by emailing: .

And while you’re at it, maybe take in some self-study webinars to add depth and breadth to your practice:

  •  offers: “On the Same Page: Building Strong Partnerships between Classroom Teachers and Teaching Artists.”
  • The website for  is designed to increase the expertise of those who direct existing community arts and aging programs and to give others in the community the tools to take the first step — and keep going.

Spring is a time to apply, apply, apply.

  • If you’re a dance teaching artist, you probably really want to attend the  2016, created to support dance teaching artists to develop their craft and held in July at Mills College, Oakland. Truly a professional experience. Applications for 2016-17 available in early spring 2016.
  • Yes, this one is in Washington DC, but think of it as planning your summer vacation. The Kennedy Center National Seminar for Teaching Artists takes place in the summer and is designed to strengthen the quality and impact of teaching artists’ work. To do so, this intensive, multi-day Seminar leverages the Kennedy Center’s decades of experience in professional learning for artists. Apply in May for August dates. .
  • And yes, this one is in New York City, but what we said before. Lincoln Center Education’s summer Teaching Artist training program provides learning opportunities in such integral areas as artistry, lesson/activity design, facilitation and environment, student engagement, questioning and inquiry-based instruction,reflection, and collaborations/ partnerships. .

And after your applications are done…

  • Check out the Freelancers Union and .
  • Brush up on your teaching artist business skills.  Download the free e-book from the Teaching Artist Guild: .

School’s out, and it’s time for Summer!

If you submitted your applications in Spring, your plans are set. You’ll be off on a teaching artist learning adventure! If not, not to worry. There are still plenty of opportunities, not to mention plenty of short-term teaching gigs in youth summer programs — and practice is also excellent professional development, don’t you think? Here are some other options…

  •  is a unique opportunity — a rigorous, 20-hour Teaching Artist Training Program that mentors Hip Hop Dancers, MC’s, Beatboxers, DJ’s, and Visual Artists to acquire the strong skills, knowledge, and resources to teach professionally in K-12 Schools. Register in July for August dates.
  • The Lincoln Center also offers  during the summer. Attend keynotes, panels, roundtable discussions, and learning labs—ranging in topics from teaching artistry to arts and the Common Core, to LCE’s pedagogy for engaging students in problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Questions? Email .

TASC also has resources for you if you’re planning to design a training:

These are just a few possible stops along a possible professional development path. Are there resources we’ve missed? Something you’d like to share with your fellow teaching artists? We’re interested. Please leave a comment below the article to let us know about resources in your community and/or your thoughts about TA professional development paths in general.