Collaborating in the Classroom

Posted by Janae Melvin on October 15, 2015 in Arts, education, Festival, Fine, Ottawa, SWAN, Teaching Meg-(1).jpg

When Meg Dickinson moved to Ottawa with her husband in 2008, they purchased a home near Ottawa University. She didn’t know what opportunities might be available that would allow her to get involved with the University, but she was intrigued by the thought of working on campus.

Dickinson taught music at a local elementary school for many years, taking time to learn more about the community and identifying opportunities throughout the city to collaborate and work with others for the betterment of the students. Through these experiences, she met Dean Dr. Amy Hogan, School of Education Dean, and it wasn’t long before Dickinson began working at OU, first designing curriculum and then as an adjunct professor.

“I started out as a subject matter expert in fine arts integration, something I’m passionate about, and wrote curriculum,” Dickinson said. “Then, the following fall semester, an opportunity came about to teach on the residential campus and I jumped at the chance.”

Combining teaching experience with her love of the fine arts, Dickinson stood at the front of two classrooms: Integrating the Fine Arts and The Teaching Profession I.

Integrating the Fine Arts assists those aspiring to be teachers on how to include the fine arts in their classroom, including visual arts, literature, dance, drama and music. Dickinson hopes to equip future teachers with not only the tools on how to start the integration process but also the skills to maintain it.
“My goal is to help them with the key concepts and skills they need to make this integration meaningful and impactful. Show them how to embed the arts into their curriculum,” Dickinson said.

Students who enroll in the The Teaching Profession I class are introduced into the idea of being a teacher. It gives those who are interested in the profession a better understanding of what it’s like being in a classroom.

“I try not to sell them a bill of goods,” she said. “I try to give an honest explanation of what the role of being a teacher is and show them that it really can be a rewarding experience. It’s okay if they leave my class and decide they don’t want to become a teacher. It’s better that they make the decision sooner, rather than in the middle of their practicum or when they only have a semester of school left.”

As students progress through the course, they are faced with the question of whether or not they possess the qualities of a good teacher. They learn the importance, and necessity, of collaboration and how to become a top-notch communicator. They also learn that teaching is not an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. job and the true scope of time needed to be a successful educator is much longer.

Even though Dickinson has only been teaching for a little more than a year, her passion has already had an impact on students and colleagues.

“Innovation is a driver in her teaching style,” Dr. Hogan said. “In her Integrating the Fine Arts course, she stretches teacher education candidates to use the expressive arts to engage young students. You can often hear singing and poetry from her OU classroom. She encourages, through modeling and advocacy, the teacher education candidates to learn about and become dedicated to the community.”

Her passion for the fine arts extends beyond the OU campus. The Development and Community Relations Manager at Ottawa Library, she, along with her husband, created the SWAN Arts Festival, a two-day event that celebrates the bright and vibrant cultural community of Ottawa and the surrounding cities. Realizing the arts should be supported year round, not just during a multi-day festival, they have moved their offices into a space in downtown Ottawa and created the SWAN Arts Center, a physical space for people to experience the arts. And as the SWAN Arts Center grows, Dickinson is excited about the opportunities it will present to students at OU.

“The relationships that are built between the community and the university hold so many possibilities and can be so fruitful,” she said. “This university is an asset to our community and we want to be a partner to help showcase what’s on campus and what the faculty and students are doing every day.”
Dickinson looks forward to the space being one day utilized by student and faculty for art shows, dance and music lessons, poetry readings and more allowing OU and the city of Ottawa to collaborate in the most creative of ways.