Statement of Teaching Philosophy
I find that one of my qualities that serves me best in my role as an educator is my ability to connect with people. It seems so simple, but I think it is important to cultivate this social skillset as a teacher in order to see your classroom as a collection of people with individual needs rather than a singular whole. College is an incredible time of vulnerability, for undergraduates in particular, and I attempt a variety of ways to knock down barriers that keep them ‘boxed in’ to a more introverted routine with simple tasks such as remembering their first names from day one, having regular one-on-one check-ins with students to discuss their work, and enjoying small talk before class as a group. All of these efforts combine to build a firm foundation of trust with my class, a necessary component for their success if I am to lead them through uncertain paths that challenge their skills and intellect. I believe students who feel safe from judgment are willing to take bigger risks in their creative pursuits and to ask questions when needed. This courage begins with a foundation of trust in their instructor and peers.
I want my students in the arts to perfect their craftsmanship and to use their technique and design principles knowledge to make artworks with intention. I command this desire by being clear with my expectations about assignments while also being open and Socratic with my guidance during discussion. Many of their questions will not be fully answered until they take their hands to task with their mind’s idea. I find it is best to foster a sense of exploration in order to motivate them. Fortunately and unfortunately, there is no greater teacher than the thrill of a successful experiment or the sting of a regret and redo. Artworks take time, and sometimes multiple tries make for better final outcomes.
In critique I ask the artist to speak last in order for their peers to give them a ‘cold read’ of the artwork. Oftentimes this method leads to rather stimulating discussions of materiality, form, and function. Many ‘a-ha!’ moments are brewed in this rich discussion time. For more basic, foundations-level classes I sometimes have the students utilize a list of art and design principles to comment from so that they can begin to practice using the correct terminology to analyze art. This is particularly helpful not only for students who are new to the arts, but in diverse classrooms where many individuals may not have learned English as their first language. I find that by the end of the semester proper art and design terminology becomes second nature to the students.
I measure my effectiveness in the classroom when I start to hear my students teach one another without realizing they are doing so. It makes me so proud to hear them offering confident and fitting advice to one another in small group discussions or larger class critiques. To teach is to really know, and many times my students start to show evidence of this independence in thinking mid-semester. It is around this time that I know to back off of my daily drills of design principle questions and to turn up my Socratic method questioning as a means to further engage their intellect. I find teaching to be the most rewarding job I have had because it allows me to not only bond with fellow artists, but to assist in building the foundation of understanding for arts advocates as well. While it is statistically true that not all students will be destined for art stardom, all are destined to have a better understanding of art and its cultural value for the rest of their lives after having left my classroom.