My twice-yearly trips to Chicago’s Art Institute as a child were events only equaled by my experiences going to weeklong art camps in the summers. Both instilled different things in me: The museum opened my eyes to the “final product”—grand ways of thinking, making, and doing—and camp created community and focused on the processes of art-making. As a teacher, I plan to mold both experiences for my students by presenting them with a warm and trusting environment where creative liberty transcends into great, prolific, and gloriously creative pieces. Creativity is a lifelong exercise, and much like physical exercise, one that has to be practiced daily. In my classroom, I intend to routinely give my students the ability to think outside their normal structure of school, present them with big concepts, while also curating a safe and nurturing environment. This space will give them opportunities to express their ideas and feelings in ways they may not have been previously exposed to before entering my classroom. I want them to think about life as a limitless, wonderful experience wherein their shared personal experiences enhance the lives of others.
In my five years of teaching with my all-ages art collective, I have found the following things to be self-evident:
1. Young people are a lot smarter and more capable than they are often given credit for and thrive when given responsibility and trust.
2. A relaxed classroom is good for developing brains and feelings, which is imperative to an art-making environment. (Cash)
3. Trust and learning go hand-in-hand, and one cannot happen without the other.
4. A teacher acts as a guide to behavior in a classroom. (Borich)
As I carry these four statements into my teaching philosophy, then, I believe that I, as a teacher, will be responsible for acting as a trustworthy, excited emcee for their art experience, giving them room to grow and make mistakes, while encouraging them to try again or try something new. I plan to establish this classroom climate of consistency and reliability in our first few weeks together. An example of how I intend to have a warm classroom environment is (Borich), utilizing many different team-building exercises that will produce a cohesive, trusting classroom experience. Making art takes a lot of thought and a lot of risks, so I want to listen to their concerns often, implementing bi-weekly check-in days. Discussion and critiques require respect and bravery, so end-of-project critiques will be an imperative part of my curriculum. I hope to engage them often with surprising ideas, projects, and classroom experiences in order to develop their thirst for knowledge, learning, and discovery. I will expect more of them than they think they are capable of—but what I know they are capable of. (Fried)
I believe that, through my efforts, I can expand my students’ ideas of what is possible in this great, big world. The arts are so often forgotten about by administrators but contain invaluable resources about how we communicate our human experience. It is a mechanism in which we make easy the larger life concepts we come across. I firmly believe that art reminds us that we are all equal, and I hope to give my students a solid curiosity and passion for the world around them. The arts are an amazing vehicle for us to emote and bring all our emotions to the forefront, so we can all share what makes us human, and art is so much more than paintings on a wall: it is about awakening us to be present members of the universe. I hope that in my teaching practice, I can inspire my students to express themselves and respect the expressions of others for the rest of their lives.
But a classroom with big ideas needs a lot of grounding, and that requires a few weeks of trust exercises and building our community of respect. I intend to make a list of “Agreements” with my students that we come up with together, with a few of my own rules already set in place. Respect for their fellow students as they navigate through new emotional and intellectual theories is key. I’ve found that social agreements, such as “Ouch, Oops,” “Don’t Yuck My Yum,” and “ELMO (Enough, Let’s Move On),” are all easy and engaging ways to express one’s personal boundaries; they establish a light, happy environment with kids of all ages. By coming up with our Agreements together and signing a contract that will stay up in our classroom, it will be an easy tool to refer back to when someone is not following our classroom agreements. Classroom management is a natural byproduct of a level of cultural responsiveness and a culture of error that honors and respects every member of a classroom’s beliefs and opinions. My classroom management strategy is built on growth and love and nurtures relationships that turn my classroom into a space free of judgment, which is instead replaced by mutual aid and support. I follow the times of the school and hold high, clear expectations, but I believe effective management comes from a place of love and support, first and foremost.
To wrap up, my personal classroom management philosophy centers around creating a calm environment where students learn big, chaotic ideas while also maintaining trust and respect as key components of brave art-making. I intend on working with my students and treating them as capable young adults and expecting the most from them both behaviorally and with regards to their art-making and engagement. I will use classroom management systems in my first few weeks to establish boundaries and expectations, checking in with them frequently, utilizing peer-to-peer critical feedback, and acting as a model for them at all times. Art should be fun, mind-blowing, and take us out of our comfort zones. I have every intention of giving them the best experiences possible. I know my personal teaching statement will evolve in the future, but I believe this is a solid foundation for growth.
Borich, Gary D. Observation Skills for Effective Teaching. Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers, 2011.
Cash, Richard M. Self-Regulation in the Classroom: Helping Students Learn How to Learn. Free Spirit Publishing, 2016.
Fried, Robert L. The Passionate Teacher: a Practical Guide. Beacon Press, 2001.