I believe that a classroom is a community. The classroom should be a supportive space, where we teach and learn from each other and take care of one another. I believe in promoting respect, compassion and encouragement. My role in this is as a facilitator and builder of this structure. Every class is a new start and due to the special dynamics of each individual, the outcome will never be the same. I must be able to respond to my students to find a rhythm that feels natural and helpful to most of the group. It is my responsibility to get to know my students to build and create opportunities for them to engage with each other to build trust. Together, we create a supportive environment where students can feel comfortable to explore new things, ask each other for help or advice and feel comfortable being vulnerable and sharing their work.
Once we reach a comfort level, I take a step back and become a partner in learning and a reflexive instructor. The students have more freedom to explore assignments on their own terms. The students should feel ownership over the classroom and materials and should be able to work like artists, imagining they are coming into their own studio each day. As they work, I reflect on the ways they interact with each other, the way they responded to certain activities and what the overall interests of the group is. My ability to assess the class and their interests shows the students that I understand them. The more I know my students, the easier it is for me to know how to push them and when to trust them to self direct.
When students understand that they have the power to decide when something isn’t working for them and switch gears to something more interesting to them, they become directors of their own work. They take more pride in their work and take more responsibility for their space and work ethic. Their work can have a deeper personal connection to the student and their excitement and investment in a project increases. At this point I become more of an advisor and guide to their artmaking practice. They understand what they like and can begin to formalize their theory of art and I will constantly challenge it so that the learning never stops but they become stronger, more confident and aware artists.