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February 2021

March 2021

Course Takeaway

We begin to wind down our class. At the start, I didn't know what to expect. I wasn’t nervous as much as I was skeptical. I wasn’t afraid to change gears if I had to. I did wonder, though, Did my bike have more than one gear? Turns out it did. This class inspired me. It affected the way I think about the way I teach. For that I am grateful.

At the end of each term, I ask students to write a Course Takeaway. I give them a prompt, Has your relationship with art changed since you took the class? It’s an open-ended question. Students can refer to the syllabus. The course material. Class structure. My performance. I’ll do the same thing here.

Has your relationship to teaching changed since you took this class? Yes, it did. I came a long way in a short time. I deliberated on all parts of my teaching. I had never done that before. I just taught. I became aware of things I didn't know that I didn't know.

Presence. I’m not a neutral conduit of material. A teller in the educational banking system. No, I'm a physical, intellectual, and emotional member of this class. Like my students. Active, not passive. Reading verbal and non-verbal cues for what we need to do at any one time. Adapting when I need to.

With presence comes focus. Teaching is not material taught and grades given. It’s acknowledgement, inspiration, and guidance. Students’ dreams and success, as per the Universal Design for Learning. These are what we work with and for. What we encourage. You can’t quantify dreams and success. They're individual and relative. You can feel them, though.

With focus comes spontaneity. Out of deliberation comes spontaneity. We need structure in our curriculum. Benchmarks, endpoints, criteria. We also need agility. (Thanks to Glenn DeVoogd for his post on the agile curriculum and for comments on this Takeaway). Don’t carve things in stone. Be flexible with course material and its enactment. Be sensitive to adapt as circumstances dictate.

With spontaneity comes listening. Listening instills mutual respect, as we learned in this class. Its application is universal. Not just in this class.

With listening comes prioritizing. We teach with students, not to and for. So too do we work with technology, not to and for.

With prioritizing comes celebration. The biggest thing I learned in this class was, We’re all in this together! That was my biggest surprise. We’re not alone. We share the same concerns. We can learn from one another. Let’s celebrate that!

Speaking of celebration, an adage proved true. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I must have been ready for Critical Digital Pedagogy. Out of nowhere, Annemarie Perez’ class announcement appeared. I’ve written before about my frustration with theory. In conversation with her, in and out of class, I understood the importance of theory. Theory makes sense of things that otherwise confuse. Thanks, Annemarie!

The presence, focus, spontaneity, listening, prioritizing, and celebration I experienced led to a coming together. Our class created a space of sacred time. Like-minded colleagues could open up and share their experiences without judgment. This faculty learning community helped me a lot. I will model my classes on its structure, content, and sharing.

Statement of Teaching Philosophy

I have a broad arts background. Adjunct professor. Museum educator, curator, and director. Art historian and critic. Educational designer. And there's for-profit, too. Yahoo! Analyst. Tech Writer. Script Analyst. Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor. I've run a law firm. A fiduciary firm. And a public relations firm. These experiences inform the way I teach art.

They serve three purposes. First, I can frame art as an experience by which students can understand the world as well as themselves. Second, I can craft the message to various audiences. And third, I can convey this message in an appropriate manner, on an appropriate platform. I want students to understand that their life histories and experiences are unique. That the only response to art is their response. In and out of the classroom, I want them to embrace, value, and practice tolerance. People will look at the same thing - art; not-art - and have a different opinion. It’s all relevant. What matters is to be comfortable in one’s own skin, in one’s own culture.

Three objectives guide my teaching.

First, I want students to understand that art is accessible. If they can access art, then they can engage it. It doesn’t matter where or when the artist made the work. Museums look like mausoleums. That doesn’t mean that the art housed therein isn’t robust, dynamic, and alive. That it has something to say to anyone, anytime, anywhere. I want students to conduct this engagement in a brave, honest, and sincere manner.

Second, I want students to understand that there are many histories of art. No one history is the correct one. There is a conventional history. The kind you read in textbooks. This canon implies value judgments and criteria that may not apply to non-canon works. Many alternative histories feature artists and works of art that textbooks overlook. I want to redress these value judgements. Then I can teach a comprehensive art history that embraces all art by all artists.

And third, I want learning to be collaborative, playful, and spontaneous. I want assignments and discussions to focus on the shared responses that art elicits. I want to create a feedback loop where students learn from me. Where students learn from each other. And I learn from my students. Since each student’s take on art is unique, there is a lot for us to learn. I want an environment where success accrues from enthusiasm and insight, not rote.  Where each class is a voyage of discovery. Where who made what when and why matters less than why art is the perfect tool to make us realize one unassailable fact: we are all human.