1. What makes a good teacher?
In his book “Against Common Sense,” Kevin Kumashiro argues that teachers with preconceived notions about what is good or bad, effective or ineffective, productive or unproductive are seldom right. In fact, he argues that, “Common sense is not what should shape educational reform and curriculum design; it is what needs to be examined and challenged (xxiv).”
I think teachers are most effective when they treat their practice as inquiry—approaching their subjects with freshness, flexibility and curiosity, willing to be surprised by their own discipline and their own students.
2. How does being an artist inform your work as a teacher? A vise versa, how does your work as a teacher inform your work as an artist?
I'm really intrigued by the emerging idea of "A/r/tography," which is a method of practice-based research creating a symbiotic tie between the roles of artist, researcher and teacher.
Rita Irwin, Art Education professor at the University of British Columbia, says, “To be engaged in the practice of a/r/tography means to inquire in the world through an ongoing process of art making in any artform and writing not separate or illustrative of each other but interconnected and woven through each other to create additional and/or enhanced meanings (website, http://m1.cust.educ.ubc.ca/Artography/).”
To answer the question, the roles of artist, researcher and teacher are not disparate. They bleed together. And in so doing, as Irwin states, they create “additional and/or enhanced meanings.”
3. How are teachers portrayed in the media of popular visual culture?
Too often the media portrays teachers as wise sages who beneficently grace students with sprigs of their knowledge. However, this doesn’t seem to be an effective method or model.
Edward J. Brantmeier, scholar at Indiana University, is a believer in a school of thought called “Empowerment Pedagogy,” which “changes the role sets of teachers and students from dispensers and receptacles of knowledge to joint sojourners on the quest for knowledge.” He says, Positioning oneself as a co-learner when teaching requires much unlearning of cultural conditioning because it challenges the traditional authoritative, dominant and subordinate role sets in schooling environments (website, http://www.indiana.edu/~leeehman/Brantmeier.pdf).”
4. What is the potential role of art education in school?
John Ruskin, a Victorian era art critic, argued that “the art is greatest which conveys to the mind of the spectator, by any means whatsoever, the greatest number of the greatest ideas (“Modern Painters” p.92, from Efland’s “History of Art Education” p.134).”
Art has the power not only to convey great ideas but to connect great ideas. It functions as an adhesive, binding principles, truths and inquiries together across the vast expanse of global culture—promoting, as Ruskin declared, an explosion of thought.
In schools, art has the power to bind learning together—to draw parallels between disparate disciplines, promoting not only critical thinking skills but also providing avenues of application for the principles learned in classrooms.
5. What works of art or artifacts of visual culture can teach our students the most? / What is the role of the classical repertoire of art education within the emerging worlds of visual culture and digital media?
I believe they all have a place and a purpose. Teaching students about the societal sway of the 7 o’clock news can be just as effective as discussing Picasso’s “Guernica.” Teaching them about the power and presence of symbols in our lives can be effectively taught by discussing both emojis and van Eyck’s “Arnolfini Portrait.” Teaching them about psychology and consciousness can be done by discussing Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” alongside Dali’s “Persistence of Memory.”
I think art history is most effective when focussed on artistic motivations, asking “Why?” rather than “How?” ...In so doing, we find sympathy for the arts that precede us, and we explore how our generation can add to the conversation.
6. What is the role of artistry in personal spiritual development?
In Efland’s “History of Art Education” the author paraphrases some of John Ruskin’s core beliefs in the power and purpose of art. He says, “For Ruskin art was neither recreation nor amusement. Though the true object of art evokes pleasure, the ultimate purpose of art is that of giving expression to the creating spirit in the universe...” Ruskin claimed that “art is a source of spiritual insight and morality and thus important for human progress (p.135).” I subscribe to that belief as well. Art is communion.
7. What happens in an effective art classroom?
Everything. Life. Inquiry, exploration, discovery. An exchange of both thought and feeling.
8. What is knowledge, teaching and learning?
In high school my art teacher read us a few excerpts from a book called “Advice to Young Artists” (I think the author is William V. Dunning, from what I can see on Amazon). I don’t remember much of the reading, or much from those years of my life for that matter, but I remember a sentence from that reading as clear as a bell. The author said, “The surest sign of genius is an insatiable curiosity.” That stuck with me for some reason.
I think that sentiment represents the power that should propel knowledge, teaching and learning—a burning, insatiable curiosity.