“The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think- rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with the thoughts of other men. “ (Bill Beattie)
This quote is at the heart of what education did for my life, and why I started teaching. Education should be empowering to my students, and it should help them understand themselves and their world. Learning how I see the world gave voice to my own ideas and allowed me to share them through art. As a teacher I want to guide my students to their own empowerment.
A good education, one that prepares students to affect today’s world, is an education that teaches a student different ways of thinking. It is my duty to provide students the opportunity to consider different perspectives and situations through meaningful experiences. Rather than just building a bank of knowledge clogged with “facts,” students must build a bank of many lenses with which to examine their world. For example, when studying Native American culture with a group of nine to twelve year-olds, we examined what footwear tells us about a person’s identity and where and how her or she lives. We applied this learning as students examined their own culture by designing footwear to match their identities and lifestyles. As each student shared their individual designs, we noticed there are many different lifestyles just within Baltimore.
Learning is a process that happens differently for everyone. People have multiple intelligences, which means we all learn best in different ways. As a teacher, it is my job to provide opportunities for the many learners within my classroom to succeed in understanding the lessons at hand and assessing those lessons. Today’s dynamic, fast-paced world requires design thinkers and visionaries. A teacher acts as a guide to help students develop dispositions such as critical thinking and creativitiy through inquiry and experience.
Art is a behavior. Visual art is a phenomenon of human behavior that people do and have done throughout history as a way to communicate and express thoughts beyond verbal and written language. Art as a lifestyle is as a way of thinking and a way of seeing. For students, art is an outlet that gives their voices agency and power.
I often begin the process of teaching by thinking about what the students need. The environment of the classroom is important. Students need a safe space that cares holistically for them as learners and people. Here the freedom to play is possible. When we play we experiment and take risks without a thought to failure. I keep rules simple and basic, and focus on highlighting the strengths in each class. When I am teaching I constantly ask questions to guide students’ thinking and keep them engaged in the discussion. I draw from diverse sources to help make lessons meaningful for all students. Students come to the classroom with their own identities and approaches, which means everything from lesson delivery to assessment needs to be diverse and address the many learners in the classroom where they are.
In my experiences, the student-teacher relationship works both ways. Students show me who they are and what they need. They point me to new ideas and perspectives. I am still, and will always be, learning about who my students are and how to inspire them best in my classroom. My goal is to grow into an artist-teacher who is entirely present with her students and guides her students by example to find their own agency.