Welcome to my blog..

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. ~Pablo Picasso

Thoughts for the Teaching Artist is devoted to an ongoing exploration of the role of the arts in education. I believe that the arts are an integral, essential part of every person's education. Arts education develops 21st Century Learning Skills, supports all core subjects, creates empathy & builds bridges, and helps develop voice & vision.

The views expressed in Thoughts for the Teaching Artist are mine alone and do not represent the views of my employer or any other persons or organization.



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. ~Edgar Degas

Monday, November 21, 2011

Daily Thoughts

The purpose of art is higher than art. What we are really interested in are masterpieces of humanity. ~Alonzo King

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Creativity is merely a plus name for regular activity. Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better. ~John Updike

Monday, November 7, 2011

Daily Thoughts

If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary ~Jim Rohn

Friday, November 4, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Time and memory are true artists; they remold reality nearer to the heart's desire. ~John Dewey

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Daily Thoughts

The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking. ~ A.A. Milne

Monday, October 31, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Never fear shadows. They simply mean there's a light shining somewhere nearby. ~Ruth E. Renkel

 

 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Traditional thinking is all about what is. Future thinking will also need to be about what can be.~ Edward de Bono

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Daily Thoughts

When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid .~Audre Lorde

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Daily Thoughts

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. ~Galileo Galilei

 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Happiness is different from pleasure.  Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing. ~George Sheehan

Monday, October 24, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Creativity is a highfalutin word for the work I have to do between now and Tuesday. ~Ray Kroc

Friday, October 21, 2011

Daily Thoughts

How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell. There is a deep, wide gulf, a chasm, and in that chasm is no place for any man. ~Johnny Cash

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Daily Thoughts

There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community. ~M. Scott Peck

 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Daily Thoughts

It's said in Hollywood that you should always forgive your enemies - because you never know when you'll have to work with them. ~Lana Turner

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Daily Thoughts

When things are taking their ordinary course, it is hard to remember what matters.~ Marilynne Robinson

 

 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Being negative is easy. There will always be a downside to everything good, a hurdle to everything desirable, a con to every pro. The real courage is in finding the good in what you have, the opportunities in every hurdle, the pros in every con.~ Carolyn Hax

Friday, October 14, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being. ~Goethe

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Daily Thoughts

First comes the sweat. Then comes the beauty if you're very lucky and have said your prayers. ~George Balanchine

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it. ~ Madeleine L'Engle

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased. ~John Steinbeck

 

 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Daily Thoughts

The elevator to success is broken. You'll have to take the stairs. ~ Joe Girard

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Daily Thoughts

We rely upon the poets, the philosophers and the playwrights to articulate what most of us can only feel, in joy or sorrow. They illuminate the thoughts for which we only grope. They give us the strength and balm we cannot find in ourselves. Whenever I find my courage wavering I rush to them. They give me the wisdom of acceptance, the will and resilience to push on.~ Helen Hayes

 

 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant. ~Horace

 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Daily Thoughts

In order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd. ~Miguel de Cervantes

Monday, October 3, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Because of Mozart, it's all over after the age of seven. ~Wendy Wasserstein

 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Daily Thoughts

The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious. ~John Sculley

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Daily Thoughts

The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style. ~Fred Astaire

 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Daily Thoughts

It occurs to me it is not so much the aim of the devil to lure me with evil as it is to preoccupy me with the meaningless. ~Donald Miller

 

 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Daily Thoughts

There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way." ~C. S. Lewis

Friday, September 16, 2011

Daily Thoughts

If I had listened to the critics I'd have died drunk in the gutter.~ Anton Chekov

 

 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Daily Thoughts

If I hadn't started painting, I would have raised chickens. ~Grandma Moses

 

 

 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Daily Thoughts

People seldom see the halting and painful steps by which the most insignificant success is achieved. ~Annie Sullivan

 

 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Daily Thoughts

In life, as in dance, grace glides on blistered feet.~ Alice Abrams

Friday, September 9, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticized anyway. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Daily Thoughts

We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same. ~Carlos Castaneda

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Well, Art is Art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know. ~Groucho Marx

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Daily Thoughts

I will have nothing to do with a God who cares only occasionally. I need a God who is with us always, everywhere, in the deepest depths as well as the highest heights. It is when things go wrong, when good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly. ~Madeleine L'Engle

Friday, September 2, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue. ~Eugene O'Neill

 

 

 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Daily Thoughts

I had as many doubts as anyone else. Standing on the starting line, we're all cowards. ~ Alberto Salazar

 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Daily Thoughts

It would be better if you begin to teach others only after you yourself have learned something. ~Albert Einstein

 

 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Daily Thoughts

To change the world, you must first change yourself. And baby, that's hard enough. ~Alonzo King

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose - not the one you began with perhaps, but one you'll be glad to remember. ~Annie Sullivan

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theatre. ~Gail Godwin

 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil. ~C. S. Lewis

 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Daily Thoughts

The beginning is the most important part of the work. ~ Plato

Welcome to the 2011-2012 edition of Thoughts for the Teaching Artist.  Have a blessed year!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Awards & Rewards

It's Awards Season!  Now is the time of year when students are being recognized for their work in the arts, and that's a good thing.  Many of us slogged through our own student years with little to no attention being paid to our work, either by our peers, our non-arts teachers or even our own parents.  For some, school-wide or community-wide recognition was almost non-existent, let alone state or national honors. So as Teaching Artists,  we should be happy to embrace opportunities for our students' work in the arts to receive recognition.

To have a piece of student artwork selected for a juried show is exciting, both for the student and the teacher. For the cast and crew of a high school musical to receive accolades for their efforts is encouraging to the students, and validating to the director. To see arts students receive a small fraction of the attention that has traditionally heaped upon athletes may even fill us with a bit of smug satisfaction.  At last, justice!

And yet, some of these awards programs raise troubling questions.

What, exactly, are students being honored for?  By definition, awards programs are fundamentally product-oriented, and that's not inherently bad.  After all, in performing arts the ultimate summative assessment is the performance; in visual arts, the artwork itself.  No one is giving awards for the four ceramic pieces that cracked in the kiln, or the disastrous tech rehearsal that lasted seven hours.  And yet, the only way we get to the final work that can be judged is by being faithful to the artistic process that brings the work from concept to reality.  So being evaluated on the final product is not necessarily wrong.

But making the final product the most important thing, rather than the daily learning that comes out of the process, can potentially do our students a huge disservice.  As the focus increases on the product, its easy for the adults involved to invest too much of their own ego in the success of the final outcome.  Adults may begin to draw their own validation from the awards their students' work receives, rather than from the learning that has taken place during the process of creating that work. (For more on this, see my earlier post The Artist and His Ego.)

Too much emphasis on awards can cause students to value their own work based solely on the opinions of others, rather than on their own personal growth.  We need to teach our students that sometimes their work is being evaluated on a largely subjective basis.  Although we may use rubrics in our own teaching, often awards programs are driven by nothing more than the personal taste of the adjudicators.  In this respect, students are subject to the same whims of trend and taste that professional artists are accustomed to; think of the annual roundup of common-knowledge explanations about why some particular movie was not nominated for an Academy Award (Comedies don't win Best Picture!) or the Tony-timing dilemma (Opened too early in the season!  Opened too late in the season!)

Ultimately, students will continue studying the arts because somewhere along the way they have discovered  the link between themselves and the art form.  It is this opportunity for expression and exploration of their essential humanity that keeps them coming back.  When we are able to guide students into an artistic experience that brings those kind of personal rewards, then awards naturally stay in proper perspective.  The true rewards of an arts education will still shine bright long after the trophies have lost their luster, forgotten on a dusty shelf.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Daily Thoughts

In the life of the spirit there is no ending that is not a beginning.~Henrietta Szold

 

 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy. ~Joseph Campbell

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Daily Thoughts

If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased. ~Katharine Hepburn

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Censorship Conundrum

There is a fine line between censorship and good taste and moral responsibility. ~Steven Spielberg

Every Teaching Artist who has been in the field for any length of time has most likely had to make decisions involving censorship. As Teaching Artists, we spend a good deal of our energy helping our students to silence their Inner Critics and encouraging them to produce raw work first and apply critical thinking later.  However, this method of work can be fraught with peril.

 I often tell my older students that censorship has less to do with what is "allowed" and far more to do with understanding the audience.  I especially emphasize this point with student playwrights.  You may write anything you choose, I tell them, using whatever language you think the play requires.  I promise that I will read whatever you have written, and I promise that I am unshockable (yes, sometimes I have regretted that promise.)  I promise to give you feedback. But what I can't and won't promise is that the play will be produced, or even read aloud in the classroom.

In a similar vein, the canon of dramatic literature is filled with important prize-wining plays that simply cannot be produced in a school environment.  The merits of any one of these plays can be debated at length, but it ultimately comes down to this: a student may read a novel under the guidance of an English teacher that contains adult language, situations and themes that are considered appropriate for that particular student in that particular school, depending on grade level, overall curriculum, community norms, etc. But put that same material up on stage, performed by student actors, and suddenly everything changes.  A dramatic version of many novels routinely read by high school freshmen would quickly ring down the curtain (and probably leave the director looking for another job.)

Simply put, the power of "acting it out" changes the dynamic of how the material is perceived, both by the actors, and certainly by the audience.  A clear understanding of this fact is essential for those Teaching Artists who work in schools.  Ultimately, this concept is at the very heart of why art matters: art affects us deeply, and often in ways that are difficult to understand or even express.  As Teaching Artists, we must remain acutely aware that we are working with powerful stuff. We must not take that responsibility lightly.
(For more on this topic, please see my post The Power of Enactment.)

Daily Thoughts

The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure. ~Joseph Campbell

Friday, May 20, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Philippians 4:8-9 (The Message)

 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Daily Thoughts

In a way humans are not made of skin and bone as much as we're made of stories. ~Sue Monk Kidd

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn. ~C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Darling, the legs aren't so beautiful; I just know what to do with them. ~Marlene Dietrich

Monday, May 9, 2011

Daily Thoughts

See everything, overlook a great deal, correct a little. ~Pope John XXIII

Friday, May 6, 2011

Daily Thoughts

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. ~Joseph Campbell

 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Daily Thoughts

We are the teachers of the world.  We are the descendants of priests and rabbis and ministers. We are special. We are no longer allowed to look at the world like everybody else. – Nina Foch

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Daily Thoughts

The passing moment is all we can be sure of; it is only common sense to extract its utmost value from it; the future will one day be the present and will seem as unimportant as the present does now.~ W. Somerset Maugham

 

 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Daily Thoughts

I can never remember being afraid of an audience. If the audience could do better, they'd be up here on stage and I'd be out there watching them. ~Ethel Merman

 

 

 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Daily Thoughts

New needs need new techniques. And the modern artists have found new ways and new means of making their statements... the modern painter cannot express this age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or of any other past culture. ~Jackson Pollock

Friday, April 29, 2011

Daily Thoughts

 

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. ~Dalai Lama

 

 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Attempt the impossible in order to improve your work. ~Bette Davis

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. ~Victor Hugo

 

 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Daily Thoughts

The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a Wilderness. ~Henry Ellis

 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Daily Thoughts

If you make it a habit not to blame others, you will feel the growth of the ability to love in your soul, and you will see the growth of goodness in your life. ~ Leo Tolstoy

 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Once you fully apprehend the vacuity of a life without struggle, you are equipped with the basic means of salvation. ~Tennessee Williams

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Daily Thoughts

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.~ Henry Ellis

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Journey Worth the Taking

On her blog Purple Sage Post, Amy Luskey Barth, a noted theatre educator, has written a wonderful and evocative post about the strange and layered journey of the final days before opening a musical:

"The show comes together in pieces. Ragged and fragile. Both. Everyone with their share of the responsibility. Actors remember to pre-set your props, take the tags off your costumes. We need a different leotard for the dove. What is that shadow on the Father's robe? It has too big a hem in it. Noah's beard is overwhelming him. Father's mustache is too shiny. Where do we stash the mini flashlights? Someone comes up with an idea to attach a big safety pin to each costume. Brilliant. Problem solved."

Those who teach only from a text book likely have little notion of the multitude of odd details that the Teaching Artist must weave together.  As we lead our students on their journey, our work and the students' work is often entertwined as we labor together to create something beautful. The learning happens in the midst of this work as mistakes are made, problems solved and dreams finally realized.

Read all of Amy's post here: Purple Sage Post

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. ~George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Always give them the old fire, even when you feel like a squashed cake of ice. ~Ethel Merman

 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Daily Thoughts

I do not want to go until I have faithfully made the most of my talent and cultivated the seed that was placed in me. ~Kathe Kollwitz

 

 

 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Daily Thoughts

Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. ~Carrie Fisher

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Daily Thoughts

There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept. ~Ansel Adams

 

 

 

 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Daily Thoughts

When you're famous, you run into human nature in a raw kind of way. It stirs up envy, fame does. People you run into feel that, well, who does she think she is, Marilyn Monroe? They feel fame gives them some kind of privilege to walk up to you and say anything to you, of any kind of nature… and it won't hurt your feelings, like it's happening to your clothes not you. ~Marilyn Monroe

 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Daily Thoughts

A man paints with his brains and not with his hands. ~Michelangelo

 

 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Daily Thoughts

To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given a chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy. ~ Bette Davis

 

 

 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Daily Thoughts

It is strange that the years teach us patience; that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting. ~Elizabeth Taylor

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Daily Thoughts

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. -Maya Angelou

 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Daily Thoughts

O great creator of being grant us one more hour to perform our art and perfect our lives. ~Jim Morrison

 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Daily Thoughts

March 14 - 18, 2011

Playwriting gets into your blood and you can't stop it. At least not until the producers or the public tell you to. ~T. S. Eliot

Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing. ~Robert Benchley


All good art is an indiscretion. ~Tennessee Williams

I am just too much. ~Bette Davis


In our life there is a single color, as on an artist's palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love.~ Marc Chagall

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Future is Coming! The Future is Coming!

If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there. ~Lewis Carroll

The future is coming- whether you like it or not.  As Teaching Artists, we strive to honor the accumulated wisdom of the past, and work diligently to pass at least some of that wisdom on to our students.  However, it is incumbent upon us to spend at least as much time thinking about the future, and our students' role in that future.  The National Association of Independent Schools puts it this way:

At first glance, it seems surprising that the arts play such an integral role in schools of the future. But on second thought, it makes perfect sense.

Clearly, the arts promote creative thinking, teach flexibility and adaptability, and encourage risk-taking. The arts also develop self-expression and communication skills. Perhaps most important, at a time when students are developing a sense of personal identity, the arts provide a safe environment for students to “try-on” different identities and roles.


Public performance is the most terrifying thing most of us ever face. Perhaps for this reason, the intensity of the arts, especially the performing arts, fosters discipline, a work ethic, and the realization that practice trumps talent.

Similar to good athletic programs, well-managed arts programs focus on developing individual competence while simultaneously fostering an esprit de corps that aspires to the highest levels of teamwork.

Finally, these noteworthy schools support the investment in arts programs because the arts provide moments of beauty and  fulfillment that relieve stress and fill young hearts with hope and joy.

From A Guide to Becoming a School of the Future © 2010 National Association of Independent Schools

Friday, February 11, 2011

Daily Thoughts

February 7 - 11, 2010

We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible. ~Vince Lombardi

I will not retire while I've still got my legs and my make-up box. ~Bette Davis

There can be no joy in living without joy in work. ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks. ~Tennessee Williams

Life is hard. After all, it kills you. ~Katharine Hepburn

Friday, February 4, 2011

Daily Thoughts

January 31 - February 4, 2011

You specialize in something until one day you find it is specializing in you. ~Arthur Miller

It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. ~ G. K. Chesterton

My mother said to me, 'If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.' Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso. ~Pablo Picasso

Believe me; the living artist needs an advocate. ~Howardena Pindell

Through spontaneity we are re-formed into ourselves. It creates an explosion that for the moment frees us from handed-down frames of reference, memory choked with old facts and information and undigested theories and techniques of other people's findings. Spontaneity is the moment of personal freedom when we are faced with reality, and see it, explore it and act accordingly. In this reality the bits and pieces of ourselves function as an organic whole. It is the time of discovery, of experiencing, of creative expression. ~Viola Spolin

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Daily Thoughts

January 24 - January 28, 2011

Too much of our work amounts to the drudgery of arranging means toward ends, mechanically placing the right foot in front of the left and the left in front of the right, moving down narrow corridors toward narrow goals. Play widens the halls. Work will always be with us, and many works are worthy. But the worthiest works of all often reflect an artful creativity that looks more like play than work.— James Ogilvy

I bend and do not break. ~Jean de La Fontaine

The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday - but never jam today. ~Lewis Carroll

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. - Helen Keller

Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression. ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

If you wish to receive these daily thoughts as an email every Monday through Friday, please send me an email at artistthoughts@gmail.com and I will add you to my distribution list.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Daily Thoughts

January 18 - 21, 2011

Life is an unanswered question, but let's still believe in the dignity and importance of the question. ~Tennessee Williams

I’ve never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances. ~ Anne Tyler

Avoiding humiliation is the core of tragedy and comedy. ~John Guare

I read Shakespeare and the Bible, and I can shoot dice. That's what I call a liberal education. ~Tallulah Bankhead

If you wish to receive these daily thoughts as an email every Monday through Friday, please send me an email at artistthoughts@gmail.com and I will add you to my distribution list.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Perils of Familiarity

As Teaching Artists, our primary desire should be to see our students develop, grow and change as artists. On the surface, that seems such a basic premise that it should not need to be stated. We want our students to learn, don't we? Why else are we here?

Most Teaching Artists need never give this a second thought. The great majority of us live for the "aha!" moment when a student makes the leap of understanding, or displays a new level of expertise after working hard to master a skill. We love to be amazed at how far a student has come, how much she has learned, how quickly he advances to another level.

Sadly, however, there are a few exceptions. Some teachers are quick to slot students, to think--wrongly-- that they already know what this student can do, where that one fits. Such teachers have stopped listening. They have stopped seeing. Why does this happen?  Often it is the result of familiarity.  A teacher who has worked with a student over a period of time may believe there are no surprises left.  Familiarity can lead to pre-judgement, which will be positive toward some students, less so toward the rest.  Some students may never be allowed to break out of the role that a certain teacher cast them in long ago.  Ironically, the only student that such a teacher sees with true clarity is the stranger, who has not yet been labeled.

What contributes to this artistic myopia toward certain students?  One major factor is a controlling personality.  Teachers with unresolved control issues must always have the last word, must be the final arbiter.  Such teachers have shut off the possibility that students can, and indeed should, always be shaking things up, challenging our beliefs about them and the art form. These teachers are only comfortable being the "smartest one in the room."

Another possibility is the teacher's  inability to separate liking from judging.  Are you more drawn toward students whose artistic tastes echo (and perhaps even flatter) your own?  Are you put off by students who produce socially or politically charged work that offends your personal sensibilities?  Are you kinder to students who somehow remind you of your own youthful struggles?

Another contributing factor is immaturity and jealousy in the teacher.  As Leonardo da Vinci said "Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master."  Although those who work with very young students may not face this issue, certainly those who work in the post-secondary (and even secondary) world may very well come face-to-face with emerging artists whose passion and vision, if not yet skill, equals and may eventually surpass their own.  If you envy your students their moments in the spotlight, it is time for you to consider a new career.

In her book Mindset, Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck discusses the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.  Persons with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence and talents are simply fixed traits.  Persons with a growth mindset believe most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.  As Teaching Artists, we owe it to our students to maintain a growth mindset toward them. Teaching Artists must not let familiarity and favoritism blind us to the students' ongoing development. Teaching Artists must give up the need for control, and actively fight the need to always be right.  Teaching Artists must actively make the distinction between liking and judging. Teaching Artists must reject jealousy. 

Ultimately, Teaching Artists must regard our students as ever-evolving works in progress.  And if we are really wise, we will remember to think of ourselves in the same way as well.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Daily Thoughts

January 10-14, 2011

In the end we shall have had enough of cynicism and skepticism and humbug and we shall want to live more musically. ~Vincent Van Gogh

All cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness. ~Tennessee Williams

In the fiddler’s house, all are dancers. ~French Proverb

I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They're beautiful. Everybody's plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic. ~Andy Warhol

If you wish to receive these daily thoughts as an email every Monday through Friday, please send me an email at artistthoughts@gmail.com and I will add you to my distribution list.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Daily Thoughts

January 3-7, 2011

Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable. ~George Bernard Shaw

The only thing I fear more than change is no change. The business of being static makes me nuts. -Twyla Tharp

The audience is the most revered member of the theater. Without an audience there is no theater. Every technique learned by the actor, every curtain, every flat on the stage, every careful analysis by the director, every coordinated scene, is for the enjoyment of the audience. They are our guests, our evaluators, and the last spoke in the wheel which can then begin to roll. They make the performance meaningful. ~ Viola Spolin

Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.~Salvador Dali

Success makes so many people hate you. I wish it wasn't that way. It would be wonderful to enjoy success without seeing envy in the eyes of those around you. ~Marilyn Monroe

If you wish to receive these daily thoughts as an email every Monday through Friday, please send me an email at artistthoughts@gmail.com and I will add you to my distribution list.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Resolutions for the Teaching Artist

The holidays are about wrapped up. A new year is upon us. Have you made your New Year's resolutions yet? Not the usual ones, the ones everybody makes to decrease their vices and increase their virtues. I'm talking about the resolutions that will directly affect your life as a Teaching Artist in 2011. Here are a few of mine. Feel free to adopt any that work for you, and I welcome your own resolutions as a Teaching Artist as well. Please share yours in the comments section and we will all learn something. Oh, and I hope you lose weight this year as well.

1) I resolve to continue my own work as an artist this year. I won't promise to finish my epic trilogy this year, but I am going to keep plugging away at my writing. Whatever your art form, your students will benefit from you engaging in your ongoing work.

2) I resolve to be an advocate for arts education whereever and whenever the opportunity presents itself. I will strive to view these conversations both private and public as divine appointments for the benefit of my students. I will strive to be patient with those who don't yet understand why arts education matters for every person.

3) I resolve to meet difficulty with grace and good humor. I will strive to see the good, to be thankful for progress and to reject cynicism. I will maintain my belief that my work is important even when it seems invisible to the world.

4) I resolve to be grateful. I will strive for good will toward every student and colleague, recognizing that often the most apparently indifferent person turns out to be the one who will most benefit from what I have to offer.

5) I resolve to encourage other Teaching Artists. I will strive to remember how others have helped me in difficult times, and I will welcome the opportunity to pass that on to others.

Happy New Year!