Ok, so I know this is long, and I edited it down back in class, to where my prof liked it, but I've added more pedagogical elements and honestly, I don't give a damn if it's too long. Expecting an entire teaching philosophy to be under 2 pages is like expecting a resume to be 1 page. If someone wants to see my views but doesn't really care to read all my views that's insulting. I can understand editing an argument that's redundant, but I don't want to cut them out. That being said, if you want to rip any of the content apart, be my guest, and I'm not really happy with how it ends - too abrupt. Any feedback will be greatly appreciated, and politely recieved - I promise! So here it is:
(Note this is for highschool level art classes)
Before explaining my philosophy on art education, I feel I should discuss what I believe art is and why art matters, for those who study it and the world in general. As an artist, I see the importance of art every day, but I know that not everyone sees the world as I do. I define art as any means of communication between the maker and viewer, which has been thoughtfully and carefully designed and executed. Art can be a painting, a book, a movie, a song, etc. Every work of art has something to say, whether it is a historical photo, a novel, or a simple shard of pottery. Now, you might look at a piece of pottery, see a bit of decoration, and think nothing of it. But, as Jared Diamond notes in his book Guns, Germs, & Steel, with a trained eye, you would know where it was made, when, which culture made it, when they arrived in that location, where they came from, and something of their religious beliefs, icons, society, wealth, and level of technology. Every work of art holds a wealth of information about the person who made it, and the culture and time period the person came from. More importantly, for many past cultures, their artwork constitutes the only clue as to how they lived and what they believed.
I believe that art education has the same goal as other educational fields, which is primarily to develop skills that students can use throughout their lives, in college, in professions, and on their own. For me, the main question of art education is what skills should be taught? What skills are most beneficial for young artists today? Unlike some other subjects, art making encompasses not one skill or body of knowledge, but rather an endless list of related skills that build off each other. These skills include drawing, painting, photography, ceramics, computer graphics, animation, film & video, architecture, and many others. Although these abilities may not seem related, any artist will tell you that mastering one will influence all your work in the others. This is because working in one medium, say printmaking, will lead an artist to different kinds of lines than they would make by drawing with charcoal, and might result in this artist trying new kinds of line with charcoal, or pencil, or later in Photoshop, or jewelry making.
I believe the most appropriate skills to teach beginning students are drawing from observation, sculpting from observation, studying human anatomy, and mastering the intricacies of color theory, all the while incorporating art history, criticism, art theory, aesthetics, reading, writing, vocabulary, and research. I consider these four skills most important because they will enhance the work produced in all other arts. Anatomy alone allows for art involving people, portraits, illustrations, etc. Even if a student decides he/she wants to go on to make art unrelated to the figure, the familiarity he will gain with the materials, and the precision she will develop to perceive shape, size, proportion, and color will allow the artist to pursue any and all future projects. Ultimately, all the different fields of art are all founded on the same aesthetic principles of composition, emphasis, balance, rhythm, pattern, contrast, juxtaposition, color, etc, and by having students work in a variety of mediums, they will gain a greater sense of what these aesthetic principles mean. Also, as Phillip Dunn explains in his book Creating Curriculum in Art, from the NAEA Point of View series, these four artistic abilities also develop certain cognitive skills such as visual communication, visual literacy, speech and debate, hands-on learning, longitudinal thinking, problem solving, and making qualitative evaluations through critique and self-assessment.
I believe that any art course should first focus on developing students’ skills. In any beginning art class, there will be students of varying development and ability. Most will need to go through a series of technical exercises before they will be ready to try real projects. It is crucial with each skill set to break down the difficult concepts into short, manageable, learning activities for students to complete – and that students can complete. Giving them a weighty project on the first day that they feel they cannot do, will only bog down the class and erode students’ confidence, and I have seen this happen in other teachers’ classrooms. It is also important for students to know the difference between a work of art and an exercise. A work of art is a means of self-expression. So long as the work truly communicates what the artist intends, it cannot be wrong. It becomes infallible. It also cannot be marked over, as that would infringe the voice of the artist. When student work becomes art, it is therefore difficult to criticize and correct, and for students to open their minds to what they might learn from their teacher.
A technical exercise, on the other hand, is not about self-expression, but rather is a test to see whether a student can do a certain task, such as a realistic still life drawing, with objects chosen by a teacher solely for their educational value. In a technical exercise, it is not so important what students make as what they learn from what they make. These studies are like scales in music. A musician would never perform a scale before an audience, but must practice them every day to improve the real pieces. Given enough exercises, students in any art subject will feel confident, and be knowledgeable enough to begin real art projects of their choosing. When, on the other hand, an art teacher expects students to complete excellent drawings in the first assignment, and will not let students move on until they are excellent, this is like expecting a beginning musician to pick up a violin and play a Brahms concerto on the first try. It is an unreal expectation that creates a gap between student and teacher, and leads some students to doubt if the subject is right for them.
Art is ultimately a means of communication, and some thought must be put into what students are saying through their art. Beginning students should be introduced to art-related topics and concepts to debate, such as, what is art? Is art something you make for others or yourself? How do you know when a work of art is finished? Why make art, anyway – what makes it important? If a student goes on to become a professional artist, these questions will come up again and again, and any artist must be able to respond to them intelligently, and articulately. It is not enough to know how to make art, one must be able to talk about it. I believe any art class should cover these types of questions – but always allowing students to come up with their own answers. I have seen classes where teachers try to force their views on students to make the work meaningful, and almost always to a negative result. The work no longer belongs to the students, who constantly check and change their work to what their teacher wants. What these teachers need to learn is that their students do not have to make one large body of connected work, all centering on a theme chosen by the teacher. Who cares if it makes a more cohesive exhibit? The primary focus of art education is not to show exhibits, but to teach skills students can use in future work. All a teacher needs to do is know each individual student, and figure out what they are really interested in doing, that they would benefit by doing.
All art courses must allow for students to say something of their choice, throughout their educational experience. A crucial role of the art teacher is to motivate their students, finding subjects and issues that inspire them, when their own inspiration is lacking. For me it is not important that students make any particular kind of art, but rather that their senses are refined enough to truly create what they want. A student might have a fascination with motorcycles, and by allowing that student to make art about motorcycles, he will work harder than he ever has in his life, make incredible work, and have a portfolio piece for college. Motorcycles might not be intellectual, or linked directly to politics, ethics, etc, but I hesitate to tell any student that their passion is unacceptable in my classroom. My ultimate goal as a teacher is that students will want to take what they have learned in my classes and go on to make great art and continue to study the arts throughout their lives.
Well, most employers don't give a damn about the length of the resume. One reason it's so wordy is back in the class, my prof suggested that it read too much like a book, and I needed to keep saying things like, I think & I feel. I think that it's obvious I feel this way, it's my damn teaching philosophy. I could edit it down. Maybe I should. Do you all think I should take out that part? or is it important?
Well, I feel a bit identified, since I tend to overstate and repeat the same thing too much, and stuff sentences with unecessary redundancies. Its a tough habit to break, just don't get defensive about it (like saying "its my damn teaching philosophy"). You asked for critiques, just be more open about it, thats all.
Argh, yes, so far as editing down a concept to make it succint, that's fine. I'm just saying, when I was in that course, I had over 4 pages of ideas that my prof said no one wanted to hear about. It was basically like telling me to shut up and just feed people two small pages of what they want to hear. This may be necessary to getting a teaching job, but man does it suck.
Is there anyone who wants to look at the actual content and critique it? Is any of it confusing?
A couple of suggestions from a high school art teacher. First let me say I agree with much of your philosophy, however, it is very long and needs to be trimmed down. Most interviewers will skim through, only a few ever read it in its entirety, but you do want them to. Pick your points and make them strong and concise. Be aware that high school art educations vary and not every kid in art cares about being in art or even wants to be there.
Consider the curriculum standards of the state you want to teach and formulate a simple but effective response. Cut out alot of the specifics about why technical and anatomy are important. Don't tell them you know how to draw, show them by bringing a portfolio of your work. Stick with discussing curriculum, why you're passionate about teaching art, and how art can help all your students to grow. Be sure that you can intelligently respond to any and everything in the philosophy in case you're asked to expand on any particulars. One last thing it's a lot of work but don't be afraid to tweak it based on the schools you're applying to.
Hehe, sorry - why did an aspiring teacher drop a class?
Also, I think .. you may be overwhelming the majority of Highschool students. I think perhaps your first priority should be to get them interested and involved with art. Teach pre-existing art-geeks the intricate details. Sorry if that seems like dumbing it down for the masses, but that's exactly what it is . No one will do something they don't enjoy or see benefits from.
I think that you might want to reconcider the way you are using language. I reccommend a book (small) called The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
it talks about writing style at length . one major point being. never use a big word when a small word will do. It doesn't make you sound smarter or more thoughtful , just pretentious.
By and large I agree with your ideas. but your way of expressing them could be cleaner. and Like stated above I used to proof read dissertations...but I got paid for it.
keep thinking...but perhaps you should switch to making art for a while and let this lie fallow and simmer
(mixed metaphor , I know)
To see the world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wildflower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.
"IdiotApathy" I agree with what you're saying, but I thought I addressed that when I said you break down difficult skills like drawing into smaller, manageable lessons. I've done this in afterschool programs and it worked.
Chaosrocks, thanks for the crit, I actually bought that book, but haven't had time to read it. The thing is, I can't just let this simmer. I'm applying for jobs now. My wife's pregnant, and so she won't be able to support my artist ass much longer. I'm looking for any jobs while I finish up my masters.