In our families, our communities, our nation, and our world, we face a crisis in education which predates the pandemic but has been severely exacerbated by it—an intersection of deep inequity of educational opportunity and sterility of pedagogy in which teachers are expected to address the diversity of needs in their classrooms by delivering a fixed, formulaic curriculum that by its nature is disengaging.
In short, the art of teaching is being lost, and with it the quality of teaching with grace and empathy, recognizing and valuing the diversity of needs of students, and creating lessons that spark children’s curiosity and interest—that is, carisma.
To face this educational crisis, our response needs to be humanistic, not bureaucratic. Teachers should be allowed and encouraged to be more creative, not less so. Carisma must be cultivated.
Standard pre-service training and professional development experiences are not designed to achieve this goal, and generally are intrinsically incapable of it. Fortunately, there is another approach, another resource that can be called upon, a community of practice for whom carisma is a natural and ever-present aspect of their training and professional development. It is, of course, the community of accomplished artists.
We have all known people who seem to know what to do in a crisis, people who appear intuitively to understand the essential elements of a problem, to know the right thing to do.
They recognize that a crisis, whether economic, educational, social, or individual, is really just an intersection of events that must be resolved in the moment, a turning point in time in which single decisions can profoundly affect the future. And they act, not out of fear, but with compassion and reason.
We even have a phrase for such people: we say they have “grace under pressure.”
There’s an Italian word well known to artists, a word which captures the concept of grace, poise, compassion, and a very high degree of communication. The word is Carisma.
Carisma embodies empathy and the recognition of the audience’s presence and right to participate in a performance as an audience.
Like teachers, artists understand that their first objective is always to capture and command attention, for with attention communication is not possible. And they know that each time they take the stage is a new time, a time in which they must again create their performance as though it were their first time, because for the audience it is indeed the first time.
The Masters of Arts Professional Development Course, developed by the Italian Cultural Foundation PENSARE oltre© (“to think beyond”), inspires and trains teachers to approach their lessons as artists, to bring to the act of teaching their natural creativity and a renewal of the quality of carisma that all people possess. Drawing upon the model of the bottega—that artist’s studio of the Renaissance, participants will collaborate with master artists to produce an experience of beauty shared by performers and audience, and in the process rediscover and reinforce the creative talents that lie at the heart of every impactful lesson.