My teaching philosophy has changed quite a bit since I first started teaching in September of 2020. Pre pandemic- my philosophy was more centered around creating a learning sanctuary that would allow my students to be as comfortable and creative as possible. While that is still true, other values have shinned over that priority recently.
A lot has happened in the past few years in our country, and it has really made me think what I hold as important in my life. Subjects like public health, race, religion, and political views were in the headlines of almost every news station and it became a topic that was almost impossible to ignore. I have always been passionate about social justice, but ever since the rise of the BLM movement and push for social change in 2019, my mindset about education shifted. I felt incredibly hopeless and had no idea how I could help my community, but I knew that I could teach my students how to be kind and compassionate people no matter what people look like. Teaching and spreading love is one of the only things that can fight against all of the hate we see in everyday life and it is something I take great pride in as an educator.
How could I, as a young white art educator, contribute to something so significant in our society?
Creating a culturally sensitive educational pedagogy became of the utmost importance to me. I started to feel the need to talk about current events in my classroom so that students could understand that their feelings around these topics are okay. It's okay to feel scared or sad or angry, or maybe even nothing at all. All of these feelings are completely normal. It's been really scary for alot of people, and that's why it's my job to assist my students in understanding those emotions through art. I have begun to understand that creating an inclusive learning "sanctuary" for a classroom begins with awareness, RESPECT, and representation. All three of these things are something I try to incorporate into my art lessons. Being aware and staying up to date with what is happening around us, being respectful of others 100% of the time, and representing artists that the students may have never heard of before.
What I'm up to Now
Every year part of the focus for my lessons center around local artists and makers here in Milwaukee WI and how they have been making work in response to all of the chaos around us. I have amazing friends and community members and all are willing to assist in learning experiences with this kids through interviews and demonstrations. In these interviews, the artists are allowed to speak for themselves, instead of me trying to reshare the information second hand. Hearing information right from the source allows students to see the diversity there is within the Milwaukee art scene.
At the end of the day, I always remind my student that strange emotions and weird feelings are okay. We are all living through some very heavy history and we are bound to be impacted by that. Connecting with our community, talking about our feelings, and creating art are all things that we can do to help with these emotions and it's my job to show my students those possibilities.
Some Thoughts on Classroom Management
I'm not going to lie, classroom management is the hardest part of the job. This was something that I never fully understood until I started teaching in person.
I started my teaching journey in a virtual setting and it was a bit awkward and was something that I didn't expect when I started this journey. It wasn't ideal and was honestly very frustrating at times. Once we were fully in person, my student's personalities started to shine through. Little by little, they got more comfortable during art time. Discipline quickly started becoming a more strict part of my teaching and essentially became necessary. There is a very fine line between disrespect and "just joking" and alot of middle schoolers love to play on that line, but we love them anyways! Right?!