Profile: Mr. Jeremy Guidry
Position: Drama Teacher
Written by: Ms. Julia Miller, parent
This is the first in a series of profiles of teachers and staff of Ravenswood Elementary School. We hope these parent-produced profiles, coordinated by the Friends of Ravenswood School, will help other parents, students and community members form a more nuanced sense of the thoughtfulness, creativity, experience and dedication these education leaders bring to school every day.
Ms. Miller: I’m really interested in the quote on your website about “teaching by amusement”:
“Do not train children by forcing and harshness, but do it by what amuses their mind so that you may be better able to understand the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”
– Plato, The Republic
Mr. Guidry: That was a quote I came across while studying and reading about teaching. It was something that hit me in my teaching core, because to me it describes that each person is a genius in their own sort of way. Finding that particular genius is the key to teaching them, and to helping them understand. The best way to do that is by observing students doing something they enjoy. People are naturally drawn to the things that they like to do so, when that happens, when that’s expressed, it’s like opening a floodgate.
Ms. Miller: And especially at a music and arts magnet school, isn’t it important to celebrate individual qualities? Could that be a challenge in a public school situation?
Mr. Guidry: Yes, public schools can group students, which tends to limit individual creativity in children, but in an arts school, like here (at Ravenswood) you just see creativity everywhere. Each child is their own living human being.
Ms. Miller: Do you experience that individuality really concretely here (at Ravenswood) versus at other schools.
Mr. Guidry: Absolutely, yes; the individual expression of these students is by far some of the most creative that I’ve seen. Not only is there a lot of expression, but there’s a lot of thoughtful expression as opposed to simply shouting out whatever you’re thinking or feeling, which is really refreshing. This makes all the difference in the world in the education of the child as well as in their emotional well-being.
Ms. Miller: Returning to the original quote from the Republic, how do you amuse and engage in your teaching?
Mr. Guidry: Well, my job is particularly easy in that, because drama itself is generally fun, especially with the younger grades. If you consider that the majority of students between 3 and 8 years old experience the world almost entirely in joy, with drama we get to express that. We have drama games, and laughter is a product of pretty much everything we do, so then they are able to delve into other concepts or ideas. In drama, if we’re talking about vocal expression, that’s an aspect of joy. If we’re talking about physical expression, that’s an aspect of joy. And then we can start looking at other emotions.
Ms. Miller: That also leads to empathy, and consideration for the other people around you, as well as self worth and self-esteem. I think that empathy is a really important function of the artistic process.
Mr. Guidry: Oh, absolutely. And that’s one of the main goals that I try to get the students to express.
Ms. Miller: Can you relate an example, from your teaching, which could be representative of spontaneous joy or amusement?
Mr. Guidry: Just last week, there was a first grade class that, out of nowhere, started singing a song like, “Jingle Bells.” One student had it in her head and started singing it quietly under her breath, and then another student picked it up, and within a second or two everyone in the class was singing. And it was terribly annoying for me because I was trying to teach, BUT, once I got over that…
Ms. Miller: …embrace the moment…
Mr. Guidry: Yeah, absolutely. It was one of those moments where they felt something and they recognized it in someone else. And then all of a sudden they all wanted to share in on it. And it was really beautiful once I calmed my own self down and realized that this was a useful moment.
With older students, experiences tend to be more individual. I can think of one student in particular who was having a really terrible day, and we started playing one of his favorite drama games, a game called “Why Are You Late?” One kid is the boss, and another kid leaves, and the rest of the students have to charade about why that child was late. The original student got to be the boss because they were having a bad day, and it changed their whole perspective on the day.
Ms. Miller: Because they had some control, or intent, and were able to make a little determination about what’s going to come next, right?
Mr. Guidry: Absolutely. And it made people laugh. All of a sudden his day was brighter and everything else was better.