Philosophy of Teaching
Everyone is creative despite how many oodles of times I have heard someone say, “I wish I was creative!” This reoccurring belief that a person could lack creativity is reflective of some collective cultural dysfunction and is a misconception that exists even in the collegiate study of art. My experience as an educator/mentor interprets this “wish for creativity” as unlikely within this mindset because it remains an unattainable desire rather than a characteristic that one must strive to develop. Tracing the idology of this misconception to its source reveals contemporary society’s fascination with fear and worry.
Ted Orland and David Bayle’s 2001 Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking dissect the complex relationship between fear and art. This book has been pivotal to my career as an artist and as an educator. The concepts introduced to me in this book played a significant role into the formation of my philosophy of teaching and sparked an interest in the psychology of creativity, learning theory, and behavioral psychology. I encourage the complex process of self-understanding as related to the process of creativity. Knowing thyself, vulnerability, cultural reflection, and ultimately (and of course!) Greek Mythology became popular topics in art critiques as the class engaged the conceptual ideas, formal elements and principles of design, material/technical employment, and personal reflection.
As a conceptual artist I am regularly engaged in serious creative work consisting of (1) play, (2) comfort with ambiguity in the pursuit of exploration of idea, and (3) trans-disciplinary research that serves curiosity as suggested by arts educator Cindy Foley in her 2014 TEDxColombus presentation titled, Teaching Art or Teaching to Think Like an Artist. Like a garden the brain needs consistent nourishment in order to flourish. Modeling in this kind of creative practice and thinking places high demands on physical and mental rigor and consistency in order for conceptual growth and contemplative reflection.
I teach this way because I am committed to delivering authentic content about which I am excited, but more important; I am committed to modeling a growth mind-set in the process. Inevitably, what I feed my mind becomes evident in my artwork, in class, and in conversations with students and peers. I intentionally and inclusively invite students to my exhibitions and my studio to observe the results of my creative output. This too serves to model the professional practice of an artist to the student and enforces a mentor-mentee relationship.
Mentorship is the foundation on which I have formed my approach to education. Integral to this approach is a desire to connect with the student in his/her current mindset and try to bring awareness to the journey of life through the process of art. This approach requires sensitivity, listening and hearing, observation, trust, flexibility, empathy, and self-awareness. Acknowledging the learner-centric approach necessitates a development of the full person not only in a diverse range of liberal arts subjects but also in an understanding of the unique individual.
I consider my role as an educator a privilege and responsibility. This time in a student’s life is critical as it is a time of transition from adolescence to adulthood. My goal is to honor each student I serve.