What can you do as an educator to make students feel like they matter, that you see them? For school, camps or online, I always research artists from my students’ culture or heritage to make sure my lessons represent all artists…artists of color, artists of different cultures, women and not just those of the past, but contemporary artists too. Students need to know that Native Americans make art today for example. I don’t do these for a special month or holiday, I do it every day so my students recognize they are all artists. My students’s faces light up when they see themselves represented in the art. I specifically remember some Somali girls who were excited when I shared mendi/henna designs in class during a lesson on patterning and a student from Japan who knew hardly any English that was so excited to see a Japanese wood cut that he jumped up and said “Me.”. As teachers we have the ability to say “I see you. I respect your heritage and value who you are.” And we also teach our white students to value them too. I took anti-racism and an arts approach to multi-culturalism back in the 1990s and yet I still see many examples of black history, art, etc only being taught one month a year. As educators we can make change by teaching it as an integrated part of our curriculum not an add on. I love helping others see themselves reflected in art by sharing art from all cultures, races and of women as well as men. As educators we have the opportunity to help broaden students views and to acknowledge the value of our students’ world.
I have dedicated a huge portion of my time to my other passion of teaching art. I love the opportunities I have had to share my art with students as a guest artist in elementary and high schools, as well as talk about my process to college students. I have been fortunate to teach in a multitude of places: public schools, museums, arts centers, on a cart, in art rooms, outdoors, in community centers and in my own home. Each experience has shaped my abilities to teach, respond to my students needs and my flexibility.
I love helping others find their voice and share their stories through art. We all come with different experiences and backgrounds… different favorite colors and foods, different pets and families and houses… therefore our art should all look different and reflect who we are, what our story is. That is my goal as a teacher.
My approach to teaching art is grounded in a few core principals. First, I teach from a child development approach to art, helping students draw upon their own knowledge and building on that to advance their skills, understanding and expression. I believe having a thorough understanding of child development is essential for planning sequential lessons that work with children’s strengths, abilities and thought patterns for a given age to help them grow.
Secondly, I feel it is important to connect learning to students’ lives and experiences. I believe that students should see art as another a way to communicate their own stories and ideas to the world. We all come from different families, backgrounds and experiences, therefore our art should not all look the same, but reflect who we are as individuals. Art provides students with the perfect environment to learn problem solving skills while integrating their own message into their work. Additionally I do a lot of research to make sure that any professional artists’ work I share includes examples that reflect the cultural heritage of the students in the class while also seeking to broaden students’ views with art from across the globe. I also include contemporary examples so that students’ see that artists of all cultures are making art today, not only in the past.
Lastly, through sharing and discussions, I aim to develop students’ communication and analytical skills by developing their ability to back up their opinions with specifics and explanations of why they believe or see that in the work. Additionally, by having students focus on the how and why behind their decisions, students’ self-esteem and confidence increase as they develop a growth mind-set focusing on the effort and work they put into their art.