When I think of what might constitute humane and liberating learning spaces for all---spaces in which every learner is recognized and sustained in her or his struggle of learning how to learn, I think of many teachers who refuse mere compliance along roads already paved; those who awaken the senses and intensify the consciousness to what happens, can happen and should happen qualitatively and post qualitatively in education.
In the midst of my teaching career, I view my philosophy of teaching as developing in stages. My journey has involved me as a multi-racial and multi-cultural woman; an artist, educator and researcher. Standing at the intersection of many social and cultural forces, I am forever finding my way. Amidst this multiplicity, my life’s work has been to achieve an understanding of teaching and learning, and I have chosen to do so in connection with the broader community, always in flux—a community that may some day become truly democratic.
Over the years, I have never met a student uninterested in learning. Because my experience includes teaching in inner-city and rural environments, I have been faced with unique challenges, and yet, underscoring these experiences are students who want to experience success and be engaged in meaningful learning; having this perspective, I am able to provide my current art education students with practical knowledge that supports contemporary theorizing about education.
The theme for the National Art Education Association’s (NAEA) 2017 convention, “The Challenge of Change," inspires the quest for a better state of things for those we teach and for the world we all share. Art educator’s are in a unique position to model this quest through reimagining education’s possibilities for providing openings for student’s to see their world in and through visual constructions of meaning. I acknowledge teaching as a social and cultural intervention. Through teacher education, I encourage a directing of our focus toward student-centered processes whereby the teacher must access and utilize the students’ sociocultural values and beliefs and those of the cultures of the community, when planning educative curricula; this is of important note in a contemporary education paradigm. Thinking critically about how our experiences are shaped by our own social position--always informed by history--cannot be ignored.
According to Maxine Greene (1995) a direction for the possibilities of education is that we imagine schools as agents of social change. I agree with Greene, and as an art educator, I encourage preparing pre-service teachers to be agents in support of learning that takes place as dialogical, relational and reciprocal. Most recently, my duties as a educator to pre-service art teachers allow me to facilitate discussions about current trends and issues in art education, specifically concerns about recent adoption of common core standards and how the widening achievement gap might be addressed. Too often we read about issues of inequity and injustice in our nation’s schools, but less frequently is this critical discourse elevated within the communities of teacher preparation. In order to highlight success stories and equip pre-service teachers to imagine the complex realities of diverse students’ lived experiences in support of a culturally responsive curriculum, these discourses must be unpacked.
Currently, as an art educator, my aim is to advance contemporary theories in art education in order illuminate for pre-service art teachers methods of instruction that affirm the lives of all students. Taking part in research in order to understand how other art educators are using these methods to engage and affirm their own students’ lives is especially interesting to me. I am interested in teacher preparation inspired by the use of a paradigms, which necessarily supports culturally responsive curriculum and acknowledges the legitimacy of cultural heritage(s) of diverse students; one that teaches students to know, respect, and affirm their own cultural heritage and the heritage of others. Using my prior experience in K-12 environments, I use this philosophy and vision as a springboard for advancing these contemporary theories.
When applied to education, this vision sees teaching and learning from the perspective of an interwoven network of systems; seeing things both big and small, deep and wide. The vision that sees things wide, looks through the lenses of a system—a vantage point of existing ideologies and policies. The vision that sees things deep, brings us in nuanced contact with details and peculiarities that cannot be reduced to statistics; much like an era before the American Civil Rights Movement, these are the worn-down low-resource classrooms juxtaposed by clean-lined spaces of suburban educational environments.
Foremost, I believe learners are individuals who bring a unique set of needs and abilities to the classroom; therefore, I am committed to the education and growth of the whole individual. In my classrooms, students experience hands-on activities in order to address a holistic experience of an arts education, enabling them to explore their intellectual and emotional dimensions. A century ago, John Dewey understood that how students are taught is as important as what they are taught. I believe the ultimate goal of enhanced student achievement and social growth for all students calls for embracing the stance that knowledge is co-constructed and interdisciplinary, thereby bringing about meaningful dialogue and authentic learning.
Greene, M. (1995). Releasing the imagination. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.