Taking Ownership and Focusing on Flexibility

Taking Ownership and Focusing on Flexibility
May 02, 2023

A Conversation with Wolf Trap Teaching Artist Gabriela Cohen 

Meet Gabriela Cohen, a Spanish and English-speaking Wolf Trap Teaching Artist who is passionate about early childhood arts integration. With a background steeped in music, Cohen has a deep appreciation for the impact that music can have on young minds. In this interview, Cohen shares her strategies for connecting with educators and children, and offers advice for teachers on how to make their lessons engaging and impactful. Cohen’s favorite moments include hearing children sing and play the songs she has taught them, and watching teachers take ownership of the lessons and make them their own. Join us as we delve into the world of music education with Gabriela Cohen, a dedicated teaching artist who is on a mission to bring joy to children through the power of music.

Q: What specific strategies help you to connect with educators and children best?

A: I approach educators with the knowledge that we are colleagues who work together to create the best experience for the students. Just as they learn from me, I have a lot to learn from them and I value their opinions, ideas, and feedback. Above all, I want them to know that I am a guest and I’m there to help them in any way that I can. When it comes to the children, I engage with each of their processes of learning to meet them where they are as individuals. It’s important to give them each a voice and celebrate and incorporate their ideas. 

Credit: A.E. Landes

Q: What’s your best advice for teachers?

A: The more excited and engaged you are in what you’re sharing, the more excited and engaged the children are likely to be. The way you present the content is just as important as the content itself. That being said, all children learn and absorb differently; if there is a child who is just observing and not actively participating, or one that seems distracted, it doesn’t mean that they are not learning or benefitting from the lesson. Be flexible and allow yourself to follow the child’s lead, even if it’s not the direction you intended to take.

Q: Are there any favorite “Aha!” moments that you’d like to share?

A: I have so many favorite moments! I love when the children and teachers take ownership of what we do during class and make it their own, such as a teacher proudly telling me, “We’ve been practicing this, can we show you?” Or a child will tell me, “I taught this to my family.” Sometimes I even overhear them humming or singing the songs I taught them at recess!

I’ll never forget the last day at one of my residencies when I told the students I was going to a different school and one child asked, “Are you going to show them the Slinky, the mouse, and the worm like you showed us? They are going to love it.” To discover more about Wolf Trap’s work in the early childhood classroom, visit https://www.wolftrap.org/education.aspx