"I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher."
--Temple Grandin (Professor, writer, speaker, hero)
What do I do to be a good teacher?
When I create lessons and projects and challenges for my students, I work very hard to make sure I find them interesting, appealing, and exciting myself. If I would be bored, they will be bored... And, what fun is that? What learning can occur?... None.
This doesn't mean that one devises lessons that are "fluff", because we are afraid of resistance from our students. Everyone resists change and challenges that have open-ended answers. We all want to be "right". None of us wants to fail. We flee from failure.
But, we all must face it, or we are frozen in time. We cannot move forward, grow, and change... and learn.
So, I create problems for my students that require them to experiment with possible answers, brainstorm, and throw a bunch of stuff at "the wall", in the hopes that something "sticks"... something works. And, it does sometimes, and doesn't at others. But, that is the value of process, versus product.
Art educators are not supposed to be product conveyour belt managers. It is not a race to see how much "stuff" our students can produce, that makes the "best educator". It cannot be, or we miss the point. And, worst of all, our students miss the experience of moving through problems. It is the journey that matters most. Not the destination.
And, when I set about proposing ideas to my students, I always make them work with some type of "map". These "maps" are something labeled in my gradebook as Creative Planning. This label covers everything from intial sketches, to plans for making things, to writing exercises, self-evaluation tools, etc... And, believe you me, they get credit for this process! They cannot move forward without having jumped through the "hoops" of the planning process. Can they change their minds, as artists, as they are making a work of art? Absolutely! But, one must first plan a direction to take, before setting off on "the trip", otherwise one could end up in Oklahoma, instead of New York city. (And, although Oklahoma has it's perks, it does not have the Statue of Liberty, and if that is what you are aiming for, you will be disappointed.)
It is always about PLAN B, not PLAN A... This is a life lesson. It is one of the greatest gifts I give my students. To navigate the world, one must know that it is essential most of the time to have a "map". But, it is even more essential to know when to alter the route on the map, when road blocks occur, so that one can still get to one's destination.
And, those "alterations" or detours are the difference between life and living. Living is the space between. The inbetween spaces. That is where our real life occurs. That is where the real answers come to us, and where our most precious memories are formed...
The detours are the "zone"... that illusive place of our greatest accomplishments. That is where the light bulbs are blinding, and what I aim for with the projects and challenges I set for my kids... Sometimes it doesn't happen... But, sometimes it does!
More and more over the years I have spent teaching, I have been the lucky witness of it. Is that due to time and the volume of experience?
Or, am I simply becoming the "good teacher", of which Temple Grandin speaks?... I sure hope so...
Safety, health, happiness, and peace... Pam