On the first day of class our students voiced their fears and concerns about approaching a stranger for their video project. “What if they say no”, “What if they are mean” and the most extreme “What if they try to kidnap us”. (I assured them I would not let anyone kidnap a Marwen student).
Street Scouting encourages students, grades 6-8th, to hit the streets in an attempt to collect stories, voices and opinions of strangers. So when I heard how they felt about approaching a stranger I told myself I had to do the same so I could give them honest first hand advice and tips.
When proposing a course, teaching artists are able to work with a topic that relates closely to their artistic practice, yet as assistants you’re sometimes placed with a course that differs from your own work. When that happens it’s beneficial to practice the work your students are doing both for personal growth and to be of better assistance to them.
Although interviewing strangers wasn’t that new for me; it was definitely something I hadn’t done in a while. On the first day of class I began a project both for work and personal interest that involved going into a completely new environment and meeting the residents. I admit, I was nervous, but after learning how nervous my students were I knew I had to do what the teaching artist and I expected our students to accomplish.
Now at the end of two months I have grown tremendously from this process. I’m even more confident working with my students as they attempt the same type of work. Some students are still nervous and shy but there is obvious growth with half of the class. One Saturday morning two students raced after a woman whose appearance they admired just to interview her. They spent about 20 minutes talking with her and taking pictures to remember the moment. The following week two other young ladies persuaded a man to be the voice of his dog as they interviewed pets for their video. The owner created a hysterical accent for his dog “Benito”, as one student filmed the little puppy running around his owner’s legs.
Now when my students approach me with concerns or ask for advice, I can honestly give notes and stories from my own personal experience. Whatever your artistic practice may be, whether it is the complete opposite of what you do or similar to your work, finding a way to incorporate it into your practice during the term is a memorable and beneficial experience for your students and yourself.
Sophia Nahli Allison
Sophia Nahli Allison is a photographer and arts educator based in Chicago. Using photography and video as a method of educating and inspiring youth, she is a teaching artist with Marwen, Street Level Youth Media, a photographer and writer for "SIFC: The Chicago Arts, Archive and Collective Project", and has worked as the photojournalism teaching artist with Step Up Women’s Network. As a visual storyteller she is dedicated to using photography to examine identity and social issues. Sophia believes art is truly an effective way to educate, empower, and evoke change. She loves sunshine, coffee, the ocean, laughter, and being around phenomenal educators and artists.