As an artist and community art educator, I am committed to providing students with the resources they need to succeed in thinking critically and deeply, as well as to become confident with their own relationship with the visual arts. With an emphasis on choice-based learning, I believe by taking advantage of using each experience as a learning opportunity within the art classroom, students and myself alike have the chance to grow beyond the perimeters of a lesson plan.
By listening carefully and by asking questions I can begin to understand the heart of the community of learners I am working with, and doing so requires trust to establish a collective learning environment. I remain humble through humour and fun, which allows me to assess the needs of students in a more informal yet professional manner. The goal of every lesson plan should be exceptional learning, and should consider the needs of diverse learners to introduce new concepts and facilitate group discussions. As I adopt the just-in-time method for teaching community art education, I can remain flexible by providing scaffolding for learners to build upon their own critical thinking through needs-based inquiry and personal investigation (Sinner, Wicks and Zantingh, 2016). As a group, we can discover layers of meaning that may interconnect to other disciplines and interests beyond the classroom. It is my method of careful observations, questioning, and conversations where I can assess the requirements of a community which then allows me to plan a meaningful art lesson. This enables the students to individually begin a process of self-reflection while experiencing the creation of art and community.
As a practising artist and art facilitator, I bring my own knowledge and interests to the lessons, because, when you think you read students, they can read you just as well (if not better ). Therefore, I find genuine passion to be easily transferable to the learners. My personal interest models my role within the arts community and plays a large part in how I conduct myself within the classroom. Much like Stenberg, I find that identity work is a tool for promoting professional development of teachers and that teaching is a cycle of ongoing self-understanding exchange between myself and students (2010). My own art practice is an organic form of self-reflection to “explore [my] values, beliefs and understandings critically and deeply” (Stenberg, 2010, p. 342), in relation to my place within my own community both personally and professionally. Doing this reveals interconnectedness which allows me to tend to the perspectives of others (Sternberg, 2010). I am growing with the students by collaborating to help shape lessons, through not only themes of fine art but them of personal identity, social justice, environmental issues, and more.
Taking the role as an art facilitator, I am able to transfer the trades of the tools, method, elements, principles and theory. It is my objective, however, to allow the learners to engage in a way that best suits them in the moment, and that is why choice-based learning offers a way to revitalize community art education. When learners acquire the self-awareness that they need to find their own means of personal engagement and to discover the plurality of art, then I have done my job as a teacher. For example, by adopting Sandell’s formula (Art = FTC, form, theme, context) (n.d.), collectively the workshop community can construct their personal points of view to be confident in expressing their own creativity, in a path to “individual enlightenment while building community” (Sandell, n.d., p. 4).
Combining all aspects of community, art and education, I am motivated to facilitate members of the community to look, create, and think deeper, not only about themselves and their art practice, but to reveal to students that “they affirm their lives as a source of knowledge” (Barndt, 2008, p. 360). It is my personal motto that art should be accessible to everyone, and that is my mission as an art educator.
Barndt, D. (2008). Touching minds and hearts. Handbook of the arts in qualitative research:
Perspectives, methodologies, examples, and issues. Los Angeles: Sage Publications. 351- 362
Sandell, R. (n.d.). What excellent visual arts teaching looks like: balances, interdisciplinary,
and meaningful. Advocacy white papers for art education. National Art Education Association.
Sinner, A., Wicks, J., Zantingh, P. (2016). You have to judge on the spot: Just-in-time
community art education, Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, DOI: 10.1080/15505170.2016.1234984
Stenberg, K. (2010) Identity work as a tool for promoting the professional development of
student teachers, Reflective Practice, 11:3, 331-346, DOI:10.1080/14623943.2010.490698