Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Teach like a Muse

Muses are the nine goddesses that inspire us in the arts and sciences. Yes, I know that they are not real...but the idea that they exist in our mind or our world is quite fascinating to me.

I love the word inspire. It is so enlightening and ever since I started using it in my work with the arts, it has come to mean so much. To be inspiring is to be like a muse and so I sit here and ponder the use of the muse in education. Join me, if you will...

We are getting into this trap of forgetting what is at the core of education - inspiring students. What does it mean to inspire? Without looking up the word, this is my brainstorm: share, guide, question, stretch, challenge
All verbs and all verbs that connect us to true inquisition and learning.

My friend and colleague gave me a sticky pad with a saying on it for my b'day, "Teachers desire to inspire." We do! But maybe we forget about that part sometimes. And how can we not??? We are constantly asked to teach from the books we are given, the material that is tested and in a way that is the new rage. When we don't feel inspired, how can we inspire those we teach? How many teachers are sick of getting the new pedagogy when they know that with a simple change in administration or at least 3-5 quick years, things will change.

What doesn't change though is our love for teaching, our growth as an educator, our loves and passions that we want to share with our students. We may not get much time to do this, but that needs to change. Don't you think???

We need to be muses. For our sake, for our students' sakes and for our future's sake.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pulling away from art to come back to it

One idea I keep coming back to in my mind from reading Dewey is this.

Actually, let me back up. My prob is that I keep thinking that Dewey is defining all experiences as art and it is confusing me. Does that mean that walking down the street is art if you have had an esthetic experience?

NO! I don't think so.

By way of discussions I have realized my problem. I am trying too hard to figure out what art is according to experience. I need forget about or at least de-emphasize the word art and emphasize the word experience. When people have an esthetic experience it can then lead to art making.

I wonder now, about how so many people are intimidated by art in various forms: visual, musical, poetic, dramatic, that in story, etc. I guess that is why I previously offered the idea of introducing the skill of recognizing experiences to my students and drawing their attention to those that stand out as esthetic.

Be de-emphasizing the art, and bringing their attention to the experience, you can then show them (whomever that may be: students, peers, children, adults) how the emotion brought forth by esthetic experiences can lead us to making great art that is personal and real and worthy of making!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dewey's Art as Experience

I am reading this as part of a course I am taking and I've come across some interesting revelations in reading it, pondering it and discussing it with my teacher.

Experiences - they occur all the time, in fact, according to John Dewey life is a string of continuous experiences. He does however differentiate between two types of experiences: esthetic and anesthetic. An anesthetic experience is what our lives are mostly made of – the norms of our life: day to day duties that do not have a significant beginning or end. We are not so much concerned with these experiences in our lives. They are things such as waking up, commuting to work, doing the dishes, going for a walk. We seem to drift from one thing to the next.

An esthetic experience, however, is very different. It is a “wholehearted action” that “moves by its own urge to fulfillment.” (p46) There is an initiation and an end, after which you know you have just had an experience worthy of being label esthetic. It is this “esthetic quality that rounds out an experience into completeness and unity (and causes us to be) emotional.” (p48)

It is necessary to also apply these learnings to education and in particular my classroom. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to bring to light the fact that our lives are but an abundance of experiences to our students/children? By explaining and discussing this with them, they can start to recognize and share when they have an esthetic experience and further understand what it means to become emotional (in a more complex manner) and work towards artfulness.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Process

During these time of such high-stakes testing, we need to explore new and innovative ways to make sure the arts does not get beaten back, but brought to the forefront.
Who is going to be the first to have the guts to try it? Not just we teachers in the classrooms, but administrators and politicians. I've heard from so many admins who truly believe in the value of arts' ed. They applaud it, encourage it but there is road block to why the arts continues to take second stage...

The problem – high stakes testing, the need for immediate results, more and more of the curriculum being tested

But the arts don’t give immediate results. Actually, that is the point of it. Therein lies the beauty of arts education: preparation, hard work, creation, sharing and fulfillment – a process by which fully capable individuals and team players are made.