PICTURES OF PRACTICE WITH ELISA MOSELE

INTRODUCTION 

Here is another ‘picture of practice’ episode. In these episodes, I’m really interested is in finding out how other museum educators around the world engage their audiences with art and objects. What are some of the practices that are really important to them? How might they use thinking routines, or slow looking, questioning or facilitation?

Today I’m delighted to be talking to Elisa Mosele about her work. Elisa is an English language teacher and an art facilitator.  She currently collaborates with the Verona Minor Hierusalem Foundation

We’re talking all how she uses thinking routines to overcome the fear of speaking a language and encourage all her students to participate. We’re also talking about how she combines slow looking, church art and spirituality in her work as an art facilitator.

Elisa introduced the concepts of VTM and thinking routines to the Verona Minor Hierusalem Foundation and in 2020 initiated their first virtual sessions looking slowly and carefully at artworks from local churches. This year she took part in Slow Art Day for the second time. 

Elisa wrote a blog for me in 2020 about her very first experience facilitating with thinking routines virtually and it was great to hear in our chat about how she is now facilitating sessions in person too. 

In today’s chat we talk about how Elisa uses thinking routines to develop vocabulary and how she combines Visible Thinking with spirituality in her work at the foundation. 

Another lovely chat. So, here it – enjoy!

TRANSCRIPT

Claire Bown

Hi Elisa and welcome to the Art Engager podcast.

Elisa Mosele  03:09

Hello, Claire. It’s great to be here and also an honour, a real honour.

Claire Bown  03:15

Oh, thank you so much. I’m delighted you could come Could you tell us where you are in the world right now?

Elisa Mosele  03:23

Well, I’m speaking to you from my home in Verona. So I’m in Verona, it’s a city in northern Italy. Probably people will remember it as Romeo and Juliet’s city. But of course there’s much more than that. I think it’s a great city. It’s not too big. It’s not too small. As I said it’s northeast Italy, not far from Venice. It’s near the mountains, it’s near Lake Garda, the biggest Italian Lake it’s not far from the seaside. And it’s one of the most historical cities in Italy and one of the most visited. It was founded by the Romans. So you see a lot of you can see a lot of Roman monuments, we have this big Amphitheatre, right in the centre of the city in perfect condition where… still used for operas and concerts and rock concerts. There’s a Roman theatre – still used. In summer we have a Shakespeare Festival and Jazz Festival and other monuments. There’s a big medieval castle right in the centre of the city that houses the art museum. So it’s really a lovely city. As I said, it’s not too big. It’s not too small. Perfect size. Yeah,

Claire Bown  04:52

Lovely. I think you’re making us all want to move to Verona right now..!

Elisa Mosele 04:56

It can be a bit provincial sometimes but that’s it. It’s a great place.

Claire Bown  05:01

So what is it that you do in Verona?

Elisa Mosele 05:04

I, well, my main job is teaching English to adult students. And I’ve been teaching English for more than 20 years, even if I have a completely different background, because I studied law at university, but I soon discovered that I didn’t like it. And so I teach English in a local private language school. And I also collaborate with a local foundation called Verona Minor Hiersalem as an art facilitator, I started with them as a volunteer docent, but now I mostly collaborate as an art facilitator.

Claire Bown  05:50

Fantastic. Could you tell us a little bit more about the foundation? And what they do? 

Elisa Mosele 06:00

So the the main objective of the foundation is to keep some of the, I call them minor churches in Verona open to tourists and to visitors. So as I said, before, Verona was founded by the Romans and in it built a longer the Adige river. And the river forms like a big S inside the city, and the historical cities are concentrated in one of these bends. So the major churches, the Cathedral are all there. And tourists, usually they they visit the centre, they, very often they don’t go to the other side of the river. And so we keep, we keep open, these churches that aren’t in the centre that are still very beautiful, with beautiful artworks open to the public, because otherwise they would open only for, for worship. And so we have a lot of volunteers, hundreds actually, volunteers, who welcome visitors keep the churches open. And if they want, they show them around. So we have volunteer docents and the foundation also organises a lot of other activities, and is really focused on training, training the volunteers in art in spirituality, architecture, but also people from from the city. And I started as a volunteer with them. And and then we organised we started working with Visible Thinking, and we are now organising a lot of activities, with art.

Claire Bown  07:56

Amazing. So great work that the foundation is doing, getting people off off the beaten track into other areas of the city, and great work that you’re doing with the foundation. You mentioned Visible Thinking there, so can you tell us about your first experience of hearing about thinking routine,?

Elisa Mosele 08:16

Yeah, that’s really interesting, because it all goes back to the first lockdown. So Italy was put under lockdown at the beginning of March 2020. And so my school closed, of course, like everything else. And after a few days, I got a call from my boss saying, Do you feel like driving to the centre to the school? Because we would like you to try an e-learning platform, because we would like to transfer all the classes online. And they know that, you know, I’m not afraid of technology. So I went, it worked. It was very strange. It was an eerie feeling because there was no one around, I was the only one driving. So I will always remember that. But anyway, we transferred everything online. And we have two different kinds of lesson. There’s the English language lesson, which is grammar, it’s drills and usually it’s one to one. So that’s not too difficult to do it online. The real problem was conversation classes where you have a group of people, and it’s already difficult to get them to speak in presence in a real classroom. So it was even more difficult online. And I was, you know, looking online to see if I could find ideas to help me with that. And that’s when I saw a post of yours, I think in LinkedIn, now I don’t remember it exactly what it was. But I’m sure it was a post and it spoke about Visible Thinking. And you were, uh, you were offering a free class. So I joined. And I think, no, I think I’m sure, it was the routine, See Think Wonder. And I just fell in love. And my mind started running right a lot of ideas. And I could use it for this, so I could use it for that. And I wasn’t thinking of art yet. I’m still thinking of English teaching. And so I joined your course I did all the cores. And that was well love at first sight. And I started using it in teaching, but I also started thinking of using it in, with the foundation. Yeah, takes

Claire Bown  10:55

Yeah, it takes me back to all those three classes that I put on at the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020. And they went on for a few months. And I think quite a few people from those classes, then went on to do the course and really went on to start implementing some of these techniques, including thinking routines into their work. So you said that at first, you were using the thinking routine, in your teaching, and then you moved on to perhaps using them in your work at the foundation? Can we just talk a little bit about how you use them in your teaching job to start with, and then we’ll move on to the art facilitation?

Elisa Mosele 11:34

Yeah, in my teaching job, what I want when I teach a conversation class, I really want students to really feel the need to speak. I know it’s very difficult, we use a lot in our job, role-plays where they have to imagine, you know, they are something, something different. And it’s really very difficult for them, especially for very shy students or very insecure students. With the routines with Visible Thinking, I always start with observation. So I use a lot See Think Wonder So I use, or any other routines that make students observe and describe. So we use, usually photographs, sometimes we work, we use work of art, works of art. So we have the first part, the first stage where they have to describe,. And many of them have to do an  international examination to get their level certified. And in the international examination,  very often, there are tasks where they have to describe a picture. So that’s a fantastic exercise for vocabulary, for eliciting vocabulary, to give them new vocabulary. And then we go on to the thinking stage, where they really have to think and they have to formulate a hypothesis and speculate and give their opinion, which is another another language point that is required in international examination. And the great thing with the thinking routine, is that everybody wants to share their opinion, they really want to say what they think. And so they, in a way, they overcome the fear of speaking in a language that is not theirs. I don’t know if we have time, but I could give you a little example of an activity that I loved. It was during the Summer Olympics. It was an advanced group. And I used a photograph of Simone Biles, the American gymnasts who had all the problems and had to pull out of the finals. And we did first See Think Wonder, so description, and then what is going on. Some of them had heard about her, others hadn’t, so they knew nothing about her. And then they wondered. ‘Do you have any questions?’ So – and it’s great for them to formulate questions. And then I share with them some information about her. And then, I used Lenses. So we all brainstormed different perspectives through which you can look at something, an event or something. And they came up with fantastic ideas. And then I asked them to choose one lens. And it was incredible because I had a very diverse class I had young men, mothers, older ladies. And I remember there was a trainer, and he chose the lens of a trainer. There was a there was a woman- and Simone Biles was adopted by her grandfather, and her, her grandfather’s wife- and there was a woman who was an adoptive mother, she chose the lens of the adoptive mother. And I had to tell them, ‘sorry, but we need to go’ because I have another class. But they were just talking, talking and talking in English. And it was fantastic. And this, this is just a small example. But it’s almost always like this. So you as a teacher, you don’t really need to do much, because they do all the work. And it’s great. It’s just great and very rewarding.

Claire Bown  16:24

I can imagine. And using Lenses – Lenses is such a fantastic thinking routine, to use to view things from alternative perspectives. And I know we’ve used it a few times in the membership and had great fun using it. So I can see that you’ve really been able to implement some of these routines in your work teaching. And it’s so familiar to me, I’ve had quite a few people who’ve told me that they’ve used thinking routines when they’re teaching English or another language or additional languages to people, that the carefully-crafted questions actually assist the conversation. And they, as you say, encourage people to chat, like you didn’t have a problem with confidence, people were just really keen to give you their perspective on the photograph. So it’s great to hear. I’d love to move on to chat a little bit about your work with the foundation. So how have you used thinking routines, observation or slow looking in your work there?

Elisa Mosele 17:35

And we, we combine actually Visible Thinking with art, and also spirituality in art, because of course, all the work we we use are in the churches. So the theme is always a religious theme. And I work together with two young colleagues, two young girls, and they are they both studied art at university, so they are much more knowledgeable than I am. And we usually what we do, we choose a work of art. Usually it’s a painting or a fresco, but it can also be a statue. And we there’s a first stage usually, and it’s a Visible Thinking stage that I need. And we’ve been using, See Think Wonder, Zoom In or The Elaboration Game to slowly observe the artwork and formulate ideas, hypotheses, so that participants can look at the artwork and also feel the artwork and think of the emotions they get from the artwork. And I also used Step Inside a lot so if it’s possible with the with the artwork, we ask participants to step into the painting and become one of the characters in the painting. But no matter what routine we use, we always encourage participants to ask questions, to ask themselves questions. We take note of all their observations, the questions, especially my two colleagues write down all the questions, all the observations and what they do in the second half of the activity, they try to share information based on the questions and the observations of the participants. So it’s a very natural activity that starts from slow looking and observing and thinking, and asking questions to – the end of the activity where they get the information they need and they asked for. And it works really well. Again, we started during lockdown with our volunteers, everything online. Because these activities are great online. And then yeah, and then we went in presence. And now we are working mainly in presence, we have at least one one session every month. And it’s really going very well.

Claire Bown  21:13

Yeah, that’s so great to hear. And you wrote about your very first experience facilitating with thinking routines online, that was a blog post from a while back from 2020, I believe. So I can share a link to that in the show notes. And it’s great to hear that you’re now continuing this work in person. And what I love is the combination of focusing on observation and interpretation, and then bringing in the art historians to share information based on people’s wonderings. So they’re really sharing what people are curious about what people really want to know. And it’s such a skill to be able to layer in information in that way. And it’s obviously having an effect engaging your participants. What sort of responses do you get from people who are participating in these sessions?

Elisa Mosele 22:11

It’s all very new for our participants. At the beginning, they didn’t, they didn’t really know what to expect. And it was not easy. I remember I will always remember it was one of the first Visible Thinking sessions we had, and there was this old gentleman. And I had had asked him to observe and be objective and say, ok, ‘Tell me what you see. Don’t tell me what you think yet’. And he couldn’t, he couldn’t. And at the end, he came to me and he said, ‘You know what, I’m appalled – I realised I cannot describe, I’m not able to describe‘. And he was really surprised. And he said – and I first I I thought he was like sort of criticising the activity, and no he said that was great. ‘And now I will work (on), you know, my ability to describe‘. So that was really interesting. But now I think we have a lot of people who come back, they come back, come back to the sessions. And we have waiting list, because we, we tend to limit the number of participants, first of all, because often we are in a church. And then again, it’s better to have a smaller group, so that you can really listen and acknowledge everyone, but no, it’s great.

Claire Bown  24:06

I really, really am so good to hear that it led to some kind of insights about one participant’s observation and description skills, which is I’ve heard many times that adults are not used to being asked to observe and describe and if you’re not doing this regularly, it is a skill that sort of disappears, you know, you really have to work at it and flex it to be really good at noticing. So that was so interesting. And you’ve also taken part recently in Slow Art Day as well. Can you tell us a little bit about how that went?

Elisa Mosele 24:40

Yeah, it was it was so funny, because we had we participated last year online the first time, but it was all all online. But this year was the first time in presence and it was actually very, very funny, because first of all, we had a huge group, we had more than 20 people participate in. And we were the focus of the activity was this painting by Giovan Francesco Caroto, who is a painter from Verona who lived in the 16th century. And there will be a big exhibition in May, starting from May in Verona. And..but there were also these two young people coming from outside Verona. And I didn’t really know who they were, I thought they were someone who had seen this activity, and they wanted to participate. And at the end, I realised because they told me, they were actually two people from the Slow Art Day organisation. And they had to come to see if the activities were done according to, you know, the Slow Art Day guidelines. And thank God, I didn’t know that. But it went really very well. And they say, Well, you know, exceeded all expectations. So it was really rewarding. And the activity really went very well. Even though, as I said, we had quite a lot of people. And we had to divide the group in for smaller groups. But the art work allowed that because we there was a predella with three different paintings and a lunette. So I could create for groups. But yeah, that was an interesting experience,

Claire Bown  26:57

I bet. What are your plans for the future? Are there..anything you’ve got planned in the pipeline? What are you working on next?

Elisa Mosele 27:05

Well, we are working, as I said, there’s this big exhibition, opening on the 12th or 13th of May, I don’t remember, now that celebrates Giovan Francesco Caroto, for this painter, there are a lot of events in the city and what we are doing as a foundation, because we have several of his artworks in our churches, we are organising every single month, different activities, and also Visible Thinking activities with his art works. And this is really interesting. Also a bit challenging, because some of the artworks are not exactly what I would choose for a Visible Thinking session. So they really stretch my flexibility and my imagination, but it’s a good exercise. Yeah,

Claire Bown  28:16

I like being challenged. I always think that’s good. Yeah.

Elisa Mosele  28:20

And I’m also I’m also leading every month, in the foundation, in English-through-art course, classes, where we just choose a work of art. Mm, just for, just to exercise and consolidate English as a language. So it’s not really, it’s English language. But obviously, most of the participants are volunteers. And they want to be able, to be able to speak about art in English. And that’s, I think, a great opportunity for them. And, again, I’m using Visible Thinking routines with them. So Visible Thinking is everywhere in my life

Claire Bown  29:21

It plays a strong role.

Elisa Mosele  29:23

Yeah, absolutely.

Claire Bown  29:25

Thank you so much for sharing. We’ve heard all about your fantastic work that you do with English language learners. We’ve heard about your work that you do with the foundation bringing in thinking routines and visible thinking into the work that you do with your audiences. How can people find out more about you and reach out to you?

Elisa Mosele 29:45

Well, I can share my LinkedIn profile. Unfortunately, I’m not very active on social media. That’s one of my resolutions I should be a bit more active. And I also can share the website of the foundation that’s Verona Minor Hiersalem. We do a lot of, we organise a lot of interesting activities. And if people come to Verona we have this three itineraries with some fantastic churches that they can visit. Or we also organise a lot of things online. So even people who are not from Verona or not visiting Verona can join. And sometimes we do something in English as well.

Claire Bown  30:34

Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for talking to us today, and for sharing all the amazing things you’re up to for participating in this special episode about your picture of your practice. Thank you so much, Elisa.

Elisa Mosele  30:49

Thank you, Claire. Thank you. Bye, bye.

SLOW LOOKING CLUB

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