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.

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!