Sunday, September 20, 2015

Teaching Philosophy

Making Heads in Anticipation of Visiting Artist, Thaddeus Erdahl

Good teachers inspire their students to greatness. We all know these teachers, we have sat in their classrooms, where we’ve found our worldview expanding. These teachers have given  encouragement to our children who have brought home stories of inspiration and insight that they have gained in class. As colleagues, these teachers have set the standard, such that we continually perfect the craft of our own teaching.

Humility and education follow the same trajectory. The more one learns, the more one realizes there is much that is unknown. Once a student and teacher crosses that threshold, they will spend the rest of their lives discovering what they don’t yet know. Arrogance is replaced with humility in the face of the mysteries of the world.  As an art teacher, my charge is to find ways to get the student to understand their unique voice and help them find intelligent ways to express it. Whatever the message, the struggle they face is to find a way to express it as intelligently as possible.

There are moments in every class when every student is engaged in the conversation, when their senses are heightened and their ambivalence shifts to active participation. When these moments occur, the student and teacher know that their lives have been altered in some inexplicable way. It may be the result of a successful completion of an art assignment or a devastating disaster. Either way, these moments lend themselves to self-discovery and are the conversations that I strive for.

If I can facilitate a student to accept uncertainty when beginning a new idea, most often they quickly gain the confidence to experiment with new materials and accept the inevitability of failure along the way to a realized idea. It is in the actual making process that new ideas are born. My goal is to give them opportunities for success, preceded by failure, so they can become life long risk takers.

In the classroom, I give contemporary and historical context to each assignment. I demonstrate technique to the extent that the assignment allows. I provide feedback, critiques and technical help. There is give and take between student and teacher, a kind of dance between the experience and wisdom of the teacher, and the tools and background that the student brings to the class. By encouraging the student to push their creative limits and question their comfort zones we begin to move as partners in the pursuit of excellence.

Each semester, I am continually reminded that each teaching breakthrough is a stepping-stone to more insight. Teaching is never static; it exists on a continuum and each success or failure in the class act as a source of information for the next assignment or conversation. As a teacher, like students, one is always becoming. Both require a curiosity and a willingness to venture into the unknown. As I continue to improve, I hope to be a stepping-stone on the student’s path to a life of learning and curiosity.

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