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  • Artist Residency: Teaching on Resilience

    On Friday, I started teaching a unit on visual storytelling to a group of 20 seventh- and eighth-grade students at Holmes Middle School in Annandale, Va. The class is part of my artist-in-residence program sponsored by the Arts Council of Fairfax County.

    Irony was in abundance, as my dad taught middle school art for more than 30 years and my wife's first job as an assistant principal was at Holmes Middle School in North Carolina almost 20 years ago. And despite being a parent of four and a longtime presenter, I was more than a little nervous. Middle schoolers can be a tough crowd.

    The first class — others are scheduled through March 1 — focused on portraits and composition using mobile phones. The students' engagement and answers were terrific, and they spent a few minutes taking photos of each other outside. It was fascinating to see how quickly these digital natives caught on to what I was talking about.

    One point I tried to make was that you can get an interesting photo anywhere, even a parking lot where nothing is going on, if you think outside the box about composition. While we were outside, one student asked me to demonstrate and, with my iPhone, I shot the photo below and showed it to him.

    "That's pretty cool," the student said. And with that, we were off and running.

    Tomorrow's class will introduce the theme of the students' project: resilience. I'll have a PowerPoint, videos and my own work to show, and then we'll get down to the nitty gritty of planning what they'll be working on for the next few weeks. I will keep you posted. #artsfairfax