My Teaching Philosophy is actually a “Learning Philosophy.” I am a teacher, but one who leads through the practice of democratic education, otherwise known as “progressive education.” By this, I mean allowing students to grow by doing, thereby allowing them to be their own agents of change in student- based learning as they apply acquired knowledge from personal experience. In traditional education, the teacher is often pulling students from a self- elevated level; however, in my own idea of progressive education, I push students to higher ground. Rather than being as a bank, making deposits of information into a pupil, I am like the financial consultant, inspiring and facilitating investments and withdrawals. Learning must be experiential, not spoon-fed. Students must be invested in what they are learning if they are to retain, recall, and relate information.
As a student of progressive education myself, I understand the importance of this learning environment. In studying and being led in this direction, I learned from the inside-out, rather than being imposed upon to learn from the outside-in, adapting to someone else’s method. According to the University of Vermont’s website, progressive education “involves two essential elements: (1). Respect for diversity, meaning that each individual should be recognized for his or her own abilities, interests, ideas, needs, and cultural identity, and (2). the development of critical, socially engaged intelligence, which enables individuals to understand and participate effectively in the affairs of their community in a collaborative effort to achieve a common good.”
So, how does this philosophy translate into the art classroom? According to educational philosopher John Dewey, in his book, Art as Experience, “The inertia of habit overrides adaptation of the meaning of the here and now with that of experiences, without which there is no consciousness, the imaginative phase of experience.” I push my students to experience art rather than solely learn about it. I begin each project encouraging the student to rely on his/ her experience. Going to the internet for answers rather than one’s mind and perception is a last resort in my learning philosophy. While I ask students to employ their imaginations, I also induce them to ask themselves provoking questions, reminding students that it is not sufficient, to simply ask, “What, where, when, and who?” I believe that the most critical of questions are “Why and how?” In a high school setting, I have found asking these questions to be very trying, yet most rewarding. In an age of instant media access, I find my students engaging in technology for answers before attempting to think for themselves; however, by teaching students how to ask “Why?” and “How?,” I am helping to pry open their imaginations so that they are the sources of their artwork. Only then can they see relevance in its creation and existence. Consequently, students also learn far more about themselves, and even their communities, than they ever imagined.
A good leader must be a good learner as well; therefore, I strive to study and practice, applying theory to concepts and creating art. After all, I can only take students as far as I am emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, or artistically. Over the years I have ascertained that the only way to “make a difference” is to be humble enough to be willing to have a difference made in me. If I want to make a change, then I have to be the change. Because of my desire to affect change in my community and classroom, engaging in artistic practice, asking meaningful questions, and exploring theory is important to me; moreover, it is equally as important to me to raise inquiries and teach students how to raise inquiries that will guide their artistic processes.