Assistant Professor, Department of Secondary and Middle School Education
“Teaching is a creative endeavor. It is challenging, engaging and always a struggle, but with practice you can get better at it,” says Lisa Barker.
Since joining the faculty of Towson University’s Department of Secondary and Middle School Education in 2014, Barker has taken on the misconception that teaching is “a natural gift.” She believes, “There are teaching skills that can be rehearsed and exercised.”
Barker enrolled in improvisation classes during her first teaching assignment many years ago. “I found that the principles of improv theatre — listen actively, accept and build on others’ ideas, fail cheerfully — served my teaching,” explains Barker, who draws on those skills in her teaching and research, which focuses on how the principles and practices of improvisers can inform teacher education.
Barker hopes to create a children’s repertory theatre company at Towson University similar to Flying Treehouse, a company she founded at Stanford University. The company would consist of a Towson University course in partnership with a Baltimore City elementary school through which TU students would learn to use theatre to teach creative writing.
“We give children story notebooks and hold residences for several weeks to help them develop their stories through dramatic play,” says Barker. “Then, the Towson University students adapt the children’s stories into plays, and perform these plays for the young authors at their schools and on the TU campus.”
A 2016-2017 Towson University Diversity Faculty Fellow, Barker is using the fellowship as a forum for teaching prospective high school and middle school English teachers how young adult literature can be used to promote social justice.
“Since literature is a vehicle for seeing others’ lives, we need to be sure the young adult literature we read in our classrooms speaks to many different audiences, identities, and storytelling styles,” explains Barker.