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Reflections on Teaching

This blog started as my graduate thesis. After taking some time away I am coming back to it now, recording my praxis and reflecting.

Updated: 2014-10-14T15:55:24.829-07:00


Politics, is it a good thing anywhere?


Recently I have been learning a lot from the comments of Dr. Pion who is graciously reading my sometimes rambling posts and giving much wanted feedback. A comment by Dr. Pion has gotten me thinking about politics in teaching.

When I was in undergrad I wanted to teach 6Th grade, boy was I wrong. First day in the teacher's lounge taught me that I was not cut out for squabbles over who used the paper room and left a mess and why teacher X is getting new stuff in their classroom......

Did I trade one kind of politics for another?

At my CC there is little discussion of paper rooms but there is always something going on. As an adjunct I was happily immune to it all. I just was not on campus enough to know what was going on. But now I am starting to see where there is tension and my first faculty association meeting was a wide eyed experience learning how to navigate the sometimes clique-ish faculty.

I am brand new to the full time gig and am currently working on tenure. Tenure in this setting is heavily based on teaching but I also have to be involved in the goings on of the CC and community.

Recently in reworking our Gen Ed goals I have been able to get my foot in the door and get involved in something I am excited about and something that will help with my tenure endeavours.

What I realize now was that I also threw myself into the political life of the college. I am now the newbie speaking out on things when maybe I shouldn't. I think I am good at sitting back and observing, it is part of my teaching pedagogy, but I also like to be active and involved. My MA work was all about stuff like gen ed goals and course alignments, etc. I really can contribute but at the same time I am running the big risk of stepping on toes and am quickly learning what it means to be in the camp that agrees with the division chair and then all those who do not.

It is such a strange situation to be in, wanting to be your best and really shine so they want to keep you and then being sure to not play it up in front of some to avoid awkward and angry situations.

getting started (Again) for the second time


I cannot believe I let and entire semester go by without reflecting on anything I had done all semester. Along with blogging again about all this I have made a number of changes that I think are pedagogically informed, yet I am still worried about them...

1. I noticed on my reviews by students that very few of them refer to the syllabus. When I was a student I hardly ever refered to my syllabus either but then harder classes sprung up and I was behind the learning curve. I realized if I wanted students to use the syllabus more I needed to make it work their while. Now the syllabus contains a detailed schedule of what will happen each week along with outlining assignments and when they are due. ( I have to admit I think this change comes from time spent. I never could have done this my first two semesters teaching. I want to remain flexible and reflective, continuing to make the class form around students needs and interests but I also need to provide some structure so they feel comfortable and confident)

2. "They seem to be missing so many skills"
each semester grading papers seems to get more and more disappointing. So many students have great ideas but struggle to express them. Organization is rarely there and most seem rushed. I have noticed as well that often there is no intended point to be made in their papers. they will write forever about how a work of art looks and never actually discuss why they are talking about it. This is true in group discussion as well. So I have created and intro packet and made some room for a week of building up some key skills. We are going to walk through observation skills, note taking skills, discussion practice and writing tips. I am sure that I cannot fix essay writing for my students in one week but it seems like it is a good idea to get the ball rolling early. Maybe this will get them comfortable in asking for help and in general getting a good picture of what is expected of them.

3. course mapping for the students?
Our school is heavily engaged at the moment in course mapping and aligning my course assignments and activities to the course objectives and outcomes to the institutional goals and objectives. I create actual paper maps of this process (ah I am such a visual learner) to show how all these pieces connect. I think it is time for the students to see these. I am working on a more friendly student version so that they can see where we are going with different activities. these have been time consuming and I will be posting drafts of them soon.

I am unsure of the outcomes from these changes but I am eager to see what will happen.

Change Seekers Manifesto


I believe that the socially-constructed, political notion of "race" was developed in the sixteenth century for the express purpose of the exploitation of people of color by those who inhabited the continent of Europe at that time and that this exploitation continues still--brutally, unapologetically, and with the realization of great wealth. As a person bearing the physical characteristics attributed to Europeans and European-Americans, I accept the responsibility of becoming ever more cognizant of this reality, ever more sensitive to its effects, and ever more committed to changing it. I do not perceive myself as worthy of particular benefits such as are bestowed upon me, often without acknowledgement or even awareness.

I stumbled upon this on a website but now cannot find it again. While i try to stick to actual experiences teaching on this blog I could not help but address this statement in relation to what I have been working on.

One of my favorite things about my community college teaching job is that there is so much more to do besides teaching. Obviously teaching is the root and all other activities lead back to it in some way.

One major project I have been able to work on has been revising General Education Goals. These goals are so important as they are part of the basic building blocks of the classes I teach. The idea is that after any and all gen ed classes there are skill sets that all students will have had exposure to. These are the characteristics of great students who enter the world to be great citizens.

I got involved with this topic when I called into question eurocentric language and priveledge in our newly formed gen ed goals. This is not to pat myself on the back since recognizing my priveledge as a white middle class american is hardly something to stand up and cheer about. Recognitiion does not always mean action. As the Change Seekers Manifesto states that we must be committed to changing this not just being aware of it. Though awareness is not easy and is a very important first step.

In our gen ed goals when it came to critical thinking a definition was given that was "logical" or some might say "common sense" Either way it was giving priviledge to one way of knowing which is not so different from the practice of racism, sexism, classism, and globalism (in its negative lets all be humans and pretend race doesn't matter but it obviously does kind of way).

When it came to the arts gen ed goals the term fine art was used. While the art world is making changes (though some would say at a snails pace) fine art still excludes women and minorities as well as untrained or folk/craft artists.

These terms and definitions were not meant to be harmful and were in fact written for a greater educational purpose. They are also a textual example at the way many times people forget or do not have to consider priviledge.

The Hot Seat


A few weeks ago I had a classroom observation done on me. It was not like a pop quiz or anything like that. I even picked the date that I would have my evaluation. After the observation my students took an anonymous survey and today I got the results of both the observation and the survey....

Both were very good and as a new techer it is really great to get such positive feedback. I was even given a few helpful ideas from the observer and the students about slowing down sometimes when I am talking, giving more consistent feedback on a regular basis to build confidence and changing up classroom time from time to time to confront boredom.

For some reason though things like this always get me so depressed. I have never been one to say, If I can just reach one student then my job is done. I know I may never reach them all but I've got to be able to do more than one!

On these surveys the students fill out I was above three on all of them on a scale of 1 to 4, this is great right!?!?! But when I read the breakdown of those numbers at times there were three students saying that I needed much improvement on something depending on the category. I was also given written comments and while most were positive and some were helpful there was one in each section that was just bad.

Now to be honest I have to admit I dont know why that one student would continue to take my class, this is college, you can drop!

And why would I let one unhelpful negative comment destroy what is otherwise very positive feedback with places to improve and some places where I am already doing well??????

It is more than wanting everyone to like me....I genuinely believe that what I teach is necessary to being critical citizens of the world. I realize most nursing or economy majors will say that art history does not make them a better nurse...but I think it does. Ask me anyday when my life is in the hands of a doctor and I can choose between the one that took art history and the one that didn't and I would pick the one that did. The arts help you to observe, they give a way to express ones self and ideas, art can be a window into a cultre or community and often times it is about relationships and critical issues. It is visible thought porcess. I can't think of a single major or life event that is not made better with these skills!

So where do I go from here? Try to make that one student happy (that is probably not possible)!

So I will be commenting more in their weekly journals so that they are getting that constant feeedback and building confidence. I will be trying to think of more interactive assignments to do during group discussion time to keep it all going. The big one for me is going to be framing each lesson so they are not guessing at why we are doing what we are doing. That means sometimes force feeding the connections and then letting them discover other personal connections!

This is harder than it looks!

And I say to myself....what a wonderful (read scary) world


Well, my first semester as a full time community college teacher has begun!

In some ways it is a wonderful place of continued education and higher goals. In other ways it is frustrating!

Just yesterday I gave the first exam of the semester to one of my classes. The material spanned cave paintings to the peoples of the Aegean Sea. In addition I asked them to fill out a small (literally small as I sut the paper in half) classroom assessment tool that I told them would be anonymous. I asked them to beriefly state a muddy point in the class and a clear one. I let them know that only I would see them and that I use what they say to help me be a better teacher. I try to be transparent in the classroom to keep from weilding all the power (probably that is another post for another day).

What I got was primarily lazy responses. I got a lot of comment like what was muddy was that I did not spell out for them every detail of the exam. I teach art history and while it may be an outdated teaching method there is some slide memorization involved. I do not tell them what slides to memorize, instead I tell them to reflect on the themes present in each chapter and then to find a few art objects that refelct those themes and memorize those. Since I test primarily on the themes and not small details this is a good study strategy.

However, more than half the students felt like what was muddy was this one point. So maybe it was genuine confusion or maybe it was wanting me to do the work for them???

At the heart of this issue is something I think many teachers go through on a regular basis. How do we facilitate learning in a way that is pleasant but also demand a certain amount of effort from our students?

To the students who reflected that they wanted more review of the images my first impulse is to say, "then review them!" I post my slide shows for the entire class to see before I actually give them and they stay up the entire semester. I also provide a lecture outline so that studens can print it out and follow along with me. -- However, that is assuming that these students have the tools to review works effectively.

While my first instinct was to say if you think that was hard wait til art history two where the teacher requires students to memorize slides in the language they were made in. But that would not be fair, positioning my class as at least not something else does not change the concern of the students.

So from here I begin to build into my syllabus some notetaking skills, study skills specific to art history and even more time setting up what test expectations are!

Postmodernism and Bringing it All Home


This is the last week of classes and I felt like it was important to bring together all of the things we had been talking about all semester long into a context that hits them directly and leaves them with skills to tackle images in their own world! We started with talking about postmodernism and identity. They very quickly began to jump on the idea that interpreting art and visual images is really about building identity. Although it took us a little while to talk about identity in terms bigger than like and dislikes. This week we looked at images dealing with power from the Art 21 series by PBS. The slide show was done for me (bonus) and the images were great. The students had a chance to try out their interpretation skills and then we reflected on those interpretations and tried to locate places where their identity played a role. This was a good activity but as it turns out a little boring. So today we tried a number of photographs dealing with gas prices, immigration, and Iraq. ( I chose these as they represented the first three news stories I saw this morning) We then took a quote from Coco Fusco about the importance of photography in building American Identity and pulled it apart and in a large group discussion answered or reflected on the following questions:
1) Do you agree/disagree with Coco Fusco that photographs build identity?
2) How do we see or not see ourselves in images popular media creates?
3) Do you see yourself/generation/culture represented in the images given?
4) If images make, "cultural classifications visible, understandable, and useful" then what cultural classifications are visible.... in these images?

The response was good overall and students seemed to like discussing something they know alot about, themselves and popular culture. They were able to discuss without me the ways they are portrayed and what images are harmful helpful to that portrayal. They also made statements about not just believing the images they see but asking questions about them!!!!! I was worried that since this is the last class they would be distracted and antsy but I think by challenging them with a difficult quote to digest as well as issue that directly effect them, that they were willing to stay focused and almost spend an hour talking about these things.

I feel more confident now about not leading with critical pedagogy but easing into it. It has lead to wonderful discussion and allowed students in on the process of learning. I also feel like I need to make a bigger effort sooner to engage the students in more challenging reading and ideas. Today was the first day that I really handed them a challenging quote and they did well with it. I am still wary of work that is academically privledged with jargon and big confusing words. However, there are plenty of artists and theorists out there who have conversations about visual images that speak in understandble terms. I think the class would benefit from some of these harder to chew on quotes. There needs to be a mix of down to earth, everyday language as well as the academically challenging. Stricking that balance will make for a stronger class and I think a really interesting exchange of ideas.

I'm a Mess But They Had Fun


A teacher once told me that what makes a teacher great is being able to salvage the greatest lesson plan they have ever written after a fire drill.

Not so sure that I am great but I am working on it. Today in class I had this really great intention of talking about postmodernism so that we can next week discuss contemporary art in the context of postmodernism. To do this I borrowed and created and I really think I put together a good lesson.

My agenda was:
  • Assign the final essay ( A reflection paper on the semester)
  • Introduce Post Modernism ( As a set of ideas, a changing theory, and also to focus onto he aspects of identity formation and adaptation as well as isolationism versus community and understanding ones past through multiple lenses)
  • Imagined History (As a group we created a few imagined histories for random objects brought from home. We based these stories off of known information ie its a keychain, visual clues ie tag from China, broken compass, and whatever we could make up ie used to store drugs, a secret code to smuggle people into the country)
  • Bio Poems - Thanks Sue and the I AM Culture Project! (Since Post Modernism is about identity this short poem asks students to think about how they identify themselves beyond what can be seen)
  • Chicano Park (In response to the recent popularity in the media on the subject of Latino workers and fair wages, show images from Chicano Park San Diego, CA and look at them as images of Latinos, by Latinos, for Latinos as well as showing a history through the lens of civil disobedience)

The essay was well received (probably because it is not a research paper). The Imagined History activity went really well. They were creative and active and responsive to how this connected to an actual theory. It was suggested to me that I play slow sad music while working on the Bio Poems and we should all click instead of clap for each other :) However they did get into the poems and will be working with them again to create their final art work. They also appreciated that I let them read mine later.

When it came time to look at slides I showed the first image which in large white letters on the side of a freeway post says Varrios Si, Yonkes No! I explained that this had to do with the land struggle in this area. One student, who asks really great questions, asked if this wasn't reverse discrimination? At which another student stated that if that sign were reversed in her neighborhood it would be racist! This set off other students to suggest that no sign was needed because white people did not have to fight for their land. One student asked if we could go back to the pictures but that person was out voted by a louder member who said no I like this topic and so it went. We did talk about some really great things in an almost all white space. The issue of whiteness actually came up from the students! My slide show was toast and there was no nice wrap up at the end, we simply ran out of time.

I know this was great! Self directed talk of critical issues that we discovered in art work! It is like a critical pedagogy dream. Where can we go next? The possibilities are endless, Critical Pedagogy has triumphed. Oh wait, next week is the last week, and we have one more required chapter to cover. Ok dream interrupted by reality.

It will still work. We can cover contemporary art that is better then the crap in the book and be critical, super fun! But it won't be led by the students! I guess that's another possible page in my possible book, learning to keep up the small baby steps. This class is a stepping stone, a place to begin, hopefully for them the conversation will not end completely once they leave this class!

Possible page for my Possible book


First Day:Eat a good BreakfastGetting to know your studentsPlanning GoalsSetting the tone I love to see students walk in on the first day. No pencils, no paper and no expectation to stay in class the full duration. Its a stressful time for us to. New names and faces and one million new copies of the class roster. This is a great time to get to know your students and let them get to know you. In the very first class I taught we did a visual response project to a few getting to know you questions. The questions varied from those trying to dig into their previous experiences to ones gauging their interest and desires for the course/semester. These are way better than the standard name, major, and reason for taking the class. I just don't think I could listen to 30+ students tell me that the only reason they are in front of me today is because somewhere in the greater state of Illinois the matriculation gods decided to require art appreciation for their biology major, that's just depressing! Instead I used this time to set the stage for experience, goals and process to play a major role. It also allows for some humor and honesty. In response to the question on biggest fear for the semester I drew a picture of myself ( a stick person of course) on the ground with a dry erase marker stuck in my eye (accompanied with cartoon blood and the standard X where my eye used to be). I told them my biggest fear was falling while lecturing (as I tend to pace a lot) and injuring myself with a blunt object. It helped lighten the mood a little and at the end of the semester I received a congratulations from one of my students on not injuring myself! (A for that student!)First Day:Eat a Good BreakfastReally self explanatoryGetting to know your studentsYou need trust among students and between you and them to be critical in the classroom. How do you begin to build that trust? A great opening day activity!Examples:Windows: Ask students to fold paper into four window panes. In each pane they will visually respond to a question you ask. Words may be used only if necessary and should be limited. (Setting the Tone: This is a chance to place visual response in the spotlight and give it some much earned credibility as a way of communicating) Possible questions may be about goals for the semester, hopes and fears for the class, proud moments, a time they used or saw art that was impactful, A meaningful experience that was hard to describe in words. (Setting the Tone: If incorporating experience in the class is important to you ask a questions about it, if a specific issue like gender or race will come up ask a question about that.) Spend some time looking at and sharing each students’ responses.Imagined History: Any interesting or odd object will do here. I typically use a small rubber fish I call Fred. Sitting in a larger circle if possible, students begin to create the life story of the object and add on to the previous addition from a random starting point to class that day. To challenge students you may ask them to have the object do something they have been through to get to school. For example, “Fred was born in a small pond but knew he would do great things one day.” Pass the object, another student may add, “Early in Fred’s life he was caught in a net and moved to store where he had to make a lot of new friends…” And then on to the next person. (Setting the Tone: While the story may get crazy you are letting students be creative and inventive. They are listening and engaging as a group which is challenging in many classes. It is also a simple step in interpretation and thinking about the history an object may have, significant points in a class covering art historical content) This project can be done as one large group or small groups with multiple objects depending on size and ability to move around.Round Robin: The old stan[...]

Trying new ways on for size


One week ago I began the art historical section of my art appreciation course. I am excited and anxious about this section as I have a lot of hopes for what it can be but limited time to realize them.We began with prehistoric art and moved through mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures in the first week (Entitled Fun in the Sun) It was a little art in the dark and a little question and answer. I showed a number of slides and often asked them to recall facts and link them to the content. For example when looking at The Stelle of Hammurabi I asked them to think of other law systems carved into stone, etc. I had a few sleepers but that is to be expected in a class after lunch when you turn the lights off and start talking about rocks! I added information about issues of interpretation and race with these works and attempted to make my image choices apparent to the students. We jumped to the Chicago World's Fair as a way of talking about anthropology and how ancient and contemporary works of other cultures are interpreted as having never changed or as pure. For example, Japanese architecture at the Expo was a novelty that Fair goers could not get enough of. It was always described as pure, old, and beautiful because it was so distant from technology. We looked at these aspects as being very western and straight from colonial thinking. At least we began this conversation. Next we looked Nudes throughout art history as a way to look at many different western genres of art through singular theme. We have not completely ditched the timeline but it was interesting to see themes recycled and ideas presented in new ways but all under the topic of the nude figure, which quickly turned into the female nude figure. This was interesting as students compared Eve figures to Venus figures to fetish figures to perfume advertisements in recent years. Unsurprisingly, not as many sleepers through this one!My students have responded well to these three different attempts. And in fact they seem to enjoy the variety. A few times I have had needed to clarify some points as there is some confusion as to when I am talking about a larger movement of art and when I am talking about a specific work. This is really critical feedback as it helps to be precise and clear when I am lecturing. They like the more academic stuff and with all the practice with critical group discussion they are unafraid to speak up and share opinion and even disagree with me. The don't clamor for more organization and timelines nor do they insist on study guides and slide lists. They take notes sparingly and really engage in the conversations. I think this is really due to the fact that they are active participants in this classroom and even when I am dispensing with knowledge they know that they have something to contribute. This means that I am at least on the right track. I need to continue to vary my teaching style and delivery to keep them interested and to hit multiple styles of learners. Keeping them on their toes with projects, discussions, lectures, and group projects seems to be a good combination. It also means that I have a lot of work to do before I rewrite art history off the timeline and away from a map. This is a long process of working with new organizational methods that make art history more relevant to the student. There is not one different way to do it but multiple ways that help to get a full 360 view of art historical knowledge. Implications for practice. As I am attempting to focus in on what the new art appreciation teacher needs in the classroom, one of my suggestions has to be try new things and let the students in on your process. It builds relationships and makes process an important aspect in the classroom. It also reinforces that history in general as well as art history is told from different perspectives and through different method[...]

Academically Challenging and Critical?


For the past two weeks I have made an attempt to introduce more meaningful content into the group discussions and slide shows. The class has come to the chapter on advertisements and print media and I chose this as a moment to introduce topics of race, gender, age, etc. To the dialogue. I started by bringing in four different examples of print media ( A political poster, a Vitamin Water EL train advertisement, a children's book, and a breast cancer walk T-shirt) I asked them to consider the audience and elements present in the works in small groups. I also asked them to problematize the images and discuss them in small groups. Afterwards we came back to a large group and shared our findings. They were able to spot many stereotypes and themes that bothered them in the images. We discussed then art historical objects that might have those same stereotypes present, ( Manet's Olympia, Cowboy Art, Classroom art timeline) The students spoke very freely and openly about the popular print media. Over the course of the week students worked on their take home test that consisted of finding an advertisement and scanning it for issues as we did in class. Then they were to respond in visual, written or performative media. Their projects were interesting and critical and wonderful. I then assigned the midterm essay which asked them to chose one of two questions involving fine art and popular images and issues present within them. Students response to the project was good but attitude towards the paper was poor. I had multiple complaints and a few attempts at mutiny. The pressure of the paper, even though it was in their syllabus from day one, was too much they said.I was so thrilled that they caught on to something critical and really ran with it. The discussed key issues in stereotypes and marketing and made comments on the ability of art to hide issues and bring out others. Discussion was at an all time high and getting more and more student led. The project results were great. So great in fact that I got their permission to post them in an online gallery attached to this blog. Then the paper was assigned and moral and attendance went down. WHY? Sure and essay is an academically traditional way of expressing ideas. But they had already begun to develop these ideas. They weren't starting from scratch. They need sources to quote but many of them already had a few from the previous project. My initial explanation as to why this happened is to say that they are students and don't want to work hard. But I don't really believe that. Sure their time is valuable and they are not always willing to devote a lot of it to school work but I would say the majority of them like being in school and have a goal they are working toward. What is it about the stigma of an essay that really grounded an entire classroom. I have no real Why explanation for what happened.What does it mean? It can't mean do not assign essays. They are an intigral part of the required course content and they are not bad just because they are academic. No they do not show off everyone's learning style the best but they are important in college life. I am not just teaching some things about art and then letting them go. I am also responsible for getting them ready for further academic endevours. So my next steps....Set up early on some time in class for writing triage to make sure students have some confidence in their writing.Journal (online discussion board, blog, or on paper) If students are writing every week then they have a great lead in to their paper already with plenty of sources and ideas.Choices of questions ( I already did this) to answer so that students can pick one they feel confident about.encouragement ( I hope I did this) that essays are an important and popular way in academia to put forth your ideas and this is just[...]



This past week I gave my first exam on the first six chapters of the textbook and class lectures. It was an in class short answer test based on four slides. The first question was on a work by Kandinsky in which they were to describe the work in terms of elements and principles and then briefly discuss whether they thought the work to be successful or not. They were asked to do the same with Goya's Third of May. For the last question they were asked to compare Da Vinci's Mona Lisa with Barbara Kruger's Your Body is a Battle GroundThese images were similar to images the students saw in class and had already talked about. A week before students gave peer reviews of art work with a very similar question of elements and principles. They had also in small discussion compared works through critique. The students were very nervous before test but during I saw smiles and positive body language (shoulders up, not slouching on the table, confident strides to turn in their papers and mixed comments afterwards about it not being that hard)Why did it happen? Responses to the test format were mixed. For the most part students seemed to doubt their writing abilities or handwriting abilities. Some wanted something more concrete or a specific outline to study with. I attempted to show in class activities, conversation, and lecture that if I wanted the right answer I could formulate it myself. Instead I wanted a thoughtful answer. They were unsure of this as it was outside their experience. Because it was their thoughts there was no safety net, they had to think! I did however through some scaffolding attempt to model the response with activities which gave them experience in these types of questions and gave them images they had seen before or something close to what they had seen before. I think the positive responses were due to a safe experience where thinking was encouraged but not thrown upon them.What does it mean? In the preparation of a class like this the teacher, in this case myself) has to truly think ahead to prepare students to think critically, It must be modeled and they must have space to try it out! It is also true that taking away the quest for the right answer is scary for some. Asking them to think is a much harder request and it needs to be supported with resources and time so they feel ready to do this in a test format.More theoretically, I think it this example helps me to suggest that college and course standards can be met without enforcing right answers and standard responses. These kinds of classes can be impactful for the students in allowing them to take take the lead in learning without throwing them to the wolves with criticality and power issues. This is a process and like I mentioned in may last entry, we are working to get more critical but it does not happen over night. This exam was a huge step and the students really rose to the challenge with great thoughts mixed with correct vocabulary and criticism.Implications for practice: I will probably never give a multiple choice test again or assume that an essay it the only way to go. Students responded well to short answer in the classroom. They needed guidance to answer the questions but most went beyond the specific question. I once thought if I modeled too much I would be forcing students in a certain direction of planting ideas instead of fostering them. Modeling is a great tool for getting critical thought. It doesn't mean planting ideas but instead inspiring them and allowing for some comfort when trying out new skills.I also have to continue to look critically at the images I show. I am in the process of teaching with images given to me and then adding some of my own. As I have time after teaching to sit and reflect I will need to question my image choices. These works worked with[...]

Thesis Questions with 10 yards to go


This has been a very challenging topic for me to tackle. To compare my thesis experience to a sports analogy it is like I have the football and am running cross field looking for a place to cut the corner and finding nothing but a wall of really angry defensive linemen ready to knock me down with questions and issues I am not ready for. This may be a little over dramatic but I feel like I have found a place to cut the corner, juke the last blocker and make my way for the 1st down!

I was afraid if I asked a question I would spend my thesis time trying to answer it as if there is one answer to the questions I am concerned with. This is not true. It is a just a place to begin to focus the inquiry a bit and get a handle on the specific areas I want to take on. With that said here is my first draft of my thesis question.

Remember it is in progress...

Thesis Question:
What can be done in the Art Appreciation classroom to make the class content critical and relative to the students?

sub question one:
Space? What effects does the space of a community college have on the art appreciation classroom, student, and teacher?

sub question two:
methods of inquiry? What methods (art historical, ethnographic, anthropological, revisionist) of inquiry open up the topic of art appreciation and allow current issues and students experience to play a vital role?

sub question three:
What skills does an art appreciation teacher need to create a meaningful and critical classroom experience?

Holding their hands or creating a better environment to learn?


As I built the lesson plans for each day I made an effort to include group discussion into each meeting as a way of getting other voices heard besides my own. In the first two meetings as a group of 18 or 20 students brought in comments or questions to lead discussion. Often these comments revolved around like or dislike if images and their reasoning was in comparison to other images or they weren't sure why they liked it they just knew they did. Often the questions were directed towards me. A few times I tried to turn the questions back out to the class but got very few responses and a few students who got angry because they felt that I was not helping. Few were engaged in the conversations and those who were, guarded their comments and spoke in turn instead of in a discussion. In the following classes I began by providing questions that I felt were interesting and did not have a single answer but required some thought and connection to the real world. I had the students form small groups to work through whatever questions they wanted. Then we joined together as a larger group and posed a few questions to the group as a whole. The difference in the students response was amazing. Just about everyone was talking and they seemed to like choosing what question interested them and running with them. I circulated around the room and tried to get and idea of what they were talking about and at times asked some more questions if they had run out of comments to make. They need my help less and less now. There are still a few students who join together and pretend to talk about the questions. They have not read the materials so they spend most of their time looking for the answers that are not really in the book. Why did this happen? I assumed, incorrectly, that from the very beginning giving them the power to discuss and lead their own process to learning would be empowering and natural to them. It wasn't. They did not know what to do with this kind of space and so they resorted to what they know, ask the teacher or find THE right answer. When I introduced some guidelines and let them choose from a few options I gave them a starting place and let them go from there. I also respected them as adults to choose what interested them.What does it mean? Critical Pedagogy is great and all but it is not always the first step in the classroom. Students at this level of education have at least 12 years of banking method teaching under their belts and introducing something new and liberating is not necessarily empowering right away. As nam Jun Paik once stated in an essay concerning digital media, freedom and liberty are sometimes antagonistic strangers. I have to work harder to meet students where they are at; create a space where students learn to be more critical and learn how to learn from engaging in dialogue. Hopefully it means that as we go we can, as a class, become less and less dependent on my questions and begin to focus on theirs. I have to model the critical responses I would like to get.Implications for Practice? I recently read a NAEA advisory article on discussion. I know that is was not intended for college level art appreciation classrooms, however its suggestion foe better communication seem really helpful. Or, I should say seemed helpful before this experience. In fact I have read many things on changing the power dynamic in the classroom and allowing the students the power to engage their own learning in a way that works for them. This is great. Let students make up rules for how they want discussion to be and how they will treat each other. Remove yourself (as the teacher) from guiding discussion and allow the students to communicate. And then watch them sit and st[...]

Getting to Know Them


On the first day of class at The Art Institute of Chicago I was asked to participate in this introduction project entitled Windows. It was interesting then as a student as a way to get to know where my classmates were coming from and took the edge off a little of the scary unknown. This experience has stuck with me and I thought it would be nice to incorporate it into my own teaching. On the first day of class I explained that in this class we would be discussing a wide variety of topics and many of them will not be neutral. To prepare for this it would be nice to get to know each other a little better and hopefully feel a little more comfortable around strangers. I am sure for these students a corny getting to know you exercise is standard fare and what they were expecting although they seemed to engage the project and when talking were very open and honest.On an 11 by 17 piece of paper folded in fours they answered the following questions..."Something you've accomplished that makes you proud", A challenging moment you have faced in your life", What you would do with all the money and time in the world", and One hope and one fear you have about the next four months". I asked them to respond to these questions visually and if they must use words to limit them to a few key words. As a student I know how much I enjoyed this introduction activity, as a teacher I found in uniquely helpful and an absolute must for teaching. It was important for me as an instructor to see where my students were coming from. It helped ground the class a little to see students who for the most part were most proud of high school achievements but whose challenging moments ranged from driving cars to the loss of a loved one and all that is in between. I teach two sections of art appreciation, one consisting of mostly freshman first time college students, the other consisting of working adults, returning students, and enrichment students. Their experiences differed greatly but it was the final question of fears and hopes the became the most intriguing and impactful on my role in these two classrooms. The younger first time students across the board were concerned with grades. Every single one had a fear of getting an F and the hope of getting an A. In my own pedagogy in the classroom I like to get away from grades and focus on participation and seeking knowledge. While this is not ruled out I must as an instructor modify my pedagogy to meet the needs of my students. For this class I make sure that grades and expectations are clearly defined. As the semester progresses they will have a bigger say in what the expectation are and how they can be met. This allows for a better distribution of power in the classroom as well as engages the students to be more involved and a part of each assignment.The older students and returning students while still concerned with grades were also concerned with the content of the class, Would they understand the readings, Like the art works, See new things, and be ready for the rigors of school (again). For these students I make sure assignments are given far in advance and that there is appropriate class time for projects. I structure discussion time less for them as they tend to have stronger opinions and therefore more lively debate. While I would in my own pedagogy like to move away from right and wrong answers this group often requests them. To work with this and not let them feel everything is abstract I show more examples and turn questions over the class more often. In my own schooling I find it very easy o get up in the trap that if as an instructor I engage in critical pedagogy in any form my studetns will feel magically free to engage and wil[...]

Captains Log: Week 1, Class 1.


I have begun teaching my first college level course, Art Appreciation, at McHenry County College. It was a very interesting process to prepare a syllabus and lesson plans for an unknown group of students. I had originally thought that as I worked through these two classes I would be preparing my plans and documenting my process. I am finding though after only the first class that much of what I will be reflecting on is the limitations of teaching an already structured course as well as how to work within those confines to engage in menaingful pedagogy. I have also been greatly impacted by student responses already to some of the work from class 1 as well as how easy it is to fall into the trap of banking teaching.

The process of creating a syllabus was a challenging one. I had 11 chapters that I had to cover and then I was free to engage in art history chapters. The book I am using, Prebles Artforms by Patrick Frank, 8th edition. teaches art history separatly from the elements and principles and sets up historical information on a timeline. The text therefore slightly dictates the order in which I must teach. My recommendation for the course is to teach the elements and principles concurrently with art history and instead of using a timeline to organize the content I am suggesting themes such as political, identity, ritual, etc. Many works would be overlapping in these themes and that would make for interesting observation by both the teacher and studnets. In my first class I was able to engage this slightly. I began with Chapter 1 The Nature of Art. Here as a class we defined these works as being examples of specific themes and multiple themes. To follow this up in the next class we will be looking at works related to line, color, and form as defined in chapter 2 of the text. In addition to thinking about the elements we will be looking at one themes are present and the studnets will engage in their own art making project where they will be looking at what elements express certain themes. Also assigning readings became very challenging. As this is a freshman class with students who are not used to a rigorous course load or may not have well defined study habits cannot be assigned too many course reading assignments a week. Also, when it comes to the art history chapters they end up reading a chronological account. I have decided however, that this class should not pretend that art history is always taught in this nontraditional manner that I am attempting to present. Therefore the readings will make a good comparison point for myself and the students to see which one allows for the most freedom to understand and incorporate experience into.

While I have made an effort to incorporate art projects, discussion groups and multiple forms of testing to suit and honor multiple learning styles I found it surprisingly difficult to not lecture. Some of this was becuase it was the first day and they had not come to class prepared to really participate (they were there to get the syllabus). But also I found it hard to move away from the model I had been taught with. I do not think this model is effective for most students or does the topic of art any good but was very easy to fall back on what I know. How to overcome this I have no idea, but I think awareness of the power I have as a teacher to direct the class in any way I choose is very improtant. If I am aware of that at all times then I can begin to work responsibly within that structure to shift some of the power over to the students. This will be a process of trial and error I am sure but with reflection hopefully a productive one.

Next Steps


I have completed the first phase of my fieldwork and am now looking forward to reflecting on the semester and preparing for the next one.

I will be teaching two sections of art appreciation next semester. This will be an opportunity to practice my pedagogy, put some theories into play, and hopefully develop some new ones from my experiences, or at least new insights. I will be working on how to incorporate art history, art making, visual culture and principles and elements into one course. this is a hefty amount of material to squeeze in but I am looking forward to the challenge and new experience.

I am going to continue bloggin for my own reflections on what happens in that class and hopefully getting feedback on what was effective and how to incorporate this all into my thesis.

Exciting times...

What I Got Away From


I received some questions from a fellow classmate who thankfully reminded me of something I said at the very beginning of the formulation of this project. I have gotten away from it and would like to bring it back but am truly unsure how to do this.

In my last post and previously to blogging I had defined patriarchal historical record as history defined by wars and political victories. I imagine a kind of celebratory history, one written by the victors and only includes those who follow or fit onto a specific timeline of events.

I really look a lot to Howard Zinn and his efforts to relate history in a different way. His method of revisionism seems to center around including voices that were previously left out as well as defining history as a series of actions and reactions by those marginalized and fighting for social justice. While I admire Zinn's methods I feel that many people are still excluded from this type of history. Social justice is simply not at the center of all cultures in the past and present.

Then how do I organize history? Or, how do I code what events/experiences are necessary to present in my art history pedagogy?

Moments that display the human spirit
That was my answer. Hearing it again from my classmate brought back a lot of thoughts and ideas that I have been trying to resurrect and somehow felt I could not.
This is not meant to romanticize history or to make this art history something like the Oprah show where we all come together to celebrate this ambiguously but oddly Christian notion of spirit.
It is true that my background and current beliefs in Christianity led me to this notion of history defined by moments of the human spirit but it is in no way to suggest that this is the only context human spirit can exist in. Many people from many cultures are spiritual in a multiplicity of ways. How do we see this play out in history? In my personal work...
How does the human spirit and experience of the human spirit play out in an art historical context?
I do not have an answer to this nor do I even really know where to begin this type of research but I do know that I am grateful to be asking this question again.
As I prepare my art appreciation courses for next semester I will be working this idea out on paper and attempting to make it more clear and apparent in my writing and work.

Not Hiding my Political Agenda


In preparing to teach my own class for the first time next semester and attempting to truly engage in praxis (practice informed by theory, and theory informed by practice) I am really looking at my choices and attempting to define or uncover bias and politicals.In a reading by Elizabeth Ellsworth, Why Doesn't this Feel Empowering? Working through the repressive myths of critical pedagogy, she suggests that we must always question those who are producing power. In my mind a critical educator does this. But what does it mean then to be a critical educator. The definition is not static, it continues to revise itself. This is helpful for me because I believe that history and art history do the same.But as I begin to plan out the next semester and my art appreciation class I find terms like empowering, critical, and even my own term revisionist to be troublesome. This is not meant to be a look at only language and fight for the use of one word over another. It is an exploration of why I choose the methods I choose and what it reveals about me as a teacher. In this way I am mining my choices in the classroom. I like the way Fred Wilson describes mining in his Mining the Museum Exhibit. He says mining like uncovering something and mining like making it mine.So I begin with "revisionist" art history: Here I am rejecting traditional celebratory history as well as eurocentric historical understanding as the only way of knowing. I then place emphasis on experience of myself, my students, and the art itself. Experience as an epistemology can still be abstract. In the school I attend it is believed that experience matters and is important and yet in the thesis I will produce to earn my masters degree my past experience will consist of 5 pages or so while the review of scholarly information in my field will take up 20 at the least. This practice seems to speak louder than theory. So how will I truly act in the classroom to show that experience is of importance and not compare it to other ways of knowing???? I don't have a pretty answer but I know that the students will need to be involved in this process because I cannot make experience important on my own.The use of hermeneutics as one way of interpreting: This is one way in which I support my claim to the importance of experience. Hermeneutics depends on experience and context. Both are present and vital in art history. I do believe that looking back on history and understanding experience will lead to a new understanding of the present and future. Here I uncover a political agenda, I want art history and appreciation to not only appeal to students but also give them a way to understand their contemporary world. Not to just enjoy or fall into categories created by technology and consumerism but to see an alternative to mainstream life. Will all of my students see this? No. Will they think about contemporary issues differently? Maybe. Will they have a new tool in their toolbox to understand the world in another way? That is the goal.feminist theory: I believe that history is written by the victors, men. History can be understood outside of its patriarchal constructs. It can be in the romanticized words of O'Donahue, "[Art] History is an amazing presence. It is the place where vanished time gathers." Art history can exist outside the timeline and off the geopolitical map. Art history is cyclical as Arthur Efland claims. Thereforeore, it can be studied in cyclicalcal manner.Use of contemporary and local art: I am furthering the belief that art must include not just what is in the history books but also what is around. Perhaps th[...]

Another Attempt


My father was a sailor and taught me at a young age that when sailing one never goes in a straight line when the winds are blowing. You have to go back and forth to make progress from one point to another. I like to think of my thesis process and specifically my attempt to write my educational philosophy as sailing. To keep moving through I have to go back and forth and never in a straight line.With that in mind I try my philosophy again with a much different tone this time. I feel like my first attempt was to general and broad and my secong attmept to loaded with jargon and theory. This time around I have a new perspective. Not to beat the analogy I drew to death but it is like a new wind is blowing my sails and so I must move differently to make progress. Today I got job, another one anyway, teaching two sections of art appreciation in the Spring semester at McHenry County College. This philosophy draft was written in direct response to this. What do I want the students to do? Or better, how do I want them to engage the course? How will I engage the course? What theory or methods will I employ and why? There is still more writing to do and I must in a concise way find a way to operationalize my terms but I still feel like this is the most clear attempt I have made yet.Your feedaback is much appreciated. As an educator I am committed to considering art history and education as they intersect with each other at the college level. Identifying the purpose of art history in education is where this art history pedagogy begins. It seems to me through my own art history courses and current research that art history taught in its traditional “art in the dark” methods does not reach student’s current educational needs or those of the institution. Instead, a pedagogy grounded in the use of student’s experiences and responsive to changing historical and interpretive methods is key to making art history meaningful and purposeful. One aspect of this art history pedagogy is the role students adopt while studying art history. Students in this context are the producers of knowledge. Through the use of their own experiences and previous education, learners bring with them a context to understand historical events and lived experiences of artists. College students, whether continuing education or beginning freshman, have a voice within this art history pedagogy. They will look at past images and objects in conjunction with their experiences and project forward meanings and contexts that are applicable to their lives as students. Tied directly to student roles in this art history pedagogy, is the role of the educator. Just as the learners, the educator must mine his or her past experiences to use them as a way to understand the complex subject of art history. This pedagogy requires that educators be aware of their personal bias as well as values that will influence interpretation. This is not to deny bias or values but to openly display them and see them as valid ways of knowing. Educators in this art history pedagogy are presented with the challenge of balancing art historical knowledge with personal experience to interpret works and experiences. Methods and theories enacted in this art historical pedagogy are paramount as they enable educators and learners to take on the roles described above. Art history in the college classroom setting is seen as being in flux with multiple voices contributing to the works. Voices like that of the artist, scholar, audience, and culture combi[...]

Beginning to Write My New Philosophy


First Attempt in Fall of 2004:
Art Education is paramount to both the learner and the educator. Art is tool to be used to create a climate of understanding and sharing knowledge within any educational arena. A student of any age has the responsibility to be a learner and participant in education. The educator of any age must take on a role similar to that of a cultural worker. An educator must engage in critical thinking about the community they educate in. This is not tied only to the classroom but refers to any educational venue where there is an educator and learner relationship present. The role art education is to provide a catalyst for expression and critical thinking and transformation. In this form education cannot be standardized. It must be adapted to each learning environment and its learners. Art education including its histories and practices must be part of the core curriculum in schools and part of life for learners outside traditional educational venues. In this way learners may see the connections between art and their world and be given the opportunity to engage with a subject critically. Through art education and dialogue between learners and educators the necessary tools are present for understanding the contemporary world as well as the past. Learners and educators will then be able to think critically, respond, and change their life, community, world. – Sarah Ruthven (Educational Statement Fall 2004)

New more focused Version Fall 2005:
New methods for the teaching of art history must be pursued in an attempt to shed its patriarchal contexts and bring forward a relevant and empowering way of learning about art history. What is art history? “[Art] History is an amazing presence. It’s the place where vanished time gathers.” (O’Donahue) It is not a static list of great masters existing on an exclusive timeline or only categorized by a geo-political map. This is how art history is relevant, it is the visualization of many voices and lived experiences, it makes what is invisible and brings it forward to this time through images to make it visible to another time. Art History must also be empowering. The roles of learners and educators must combine to create an atmosphere safe for unsafe discussion. Art History is empowering when all surveyors of it mine their pasts and bring to it their own lived experiences. Art History must not be static but in flux, always adding new voices and new images.
This continually changing art history will recognize that history does not happen in a straight line, one event after another, but it is cyclical. (Efland, iv.) This new methodology for the study of art history must be studied to reflect the nature of history.


Personal Reflection on Methods


As I gear up to meet with my fellow art education fieldwork students I am taking time to reflect on my process thus far and look at what I have done as well as what needs to be done.Throughout Thesis 1 I looked at people describing their methods and in fact in reading Changing Multiculturalism by Kinchloe and Steinberg I find myself very critical of their methods and also important what methods they leave out. It is much harder to do that to my own work but I do see the value in such reflection.As a participant observer I find my role to be a precarious one where I must negotiate my personal pedagogy with the pedagogy of another teacher and the needs of the students. I am often conflicted by listening to the often over simplifications given out by the lecturer and the feedback from the students that suggest how effective the lecturer is. In my own lectures in that class I often must balance my subject matter with what the students actually need to know according to pre set art history standards. I even must negotiate my physical space that makes lecture the only effective teaching strategy and makes asking and questions and discussion almost impossible. I realize that as a TA the place where I can practice my pedagogy is in office hours but so few students attend those. Recently I read and returned 48 essays written for the survey class. I realized my use of authority in reading commenting and then grading each paper. I was in an extreme place of power and so while reading I had to balance correcting the students format or incorrect information with encouraging a engagement with the art works and valuing ideas that were contrary to my own. I realized how ingrained student's patterns are. When I asked them write an essay many of them gave me formal analysis of the works, some didn't talk about art at all, and others really strayed from my questions to write an essay on a topic they could engage in. These observations required me to look at how the methods of their past teachers and the students belief that they must write the right answer or what I want to hear took precedent over what they may have wanted to write. As a participant observer I am constantly balancing my power in the classroom. Balancing roles like grader and written discussion leader, lecturer and helpful resource, and most significantly my role as a researcher of a method to art history that is opposite in some ways of what the students are getting.Recently I have engaged in an unplanned method. I conducted and interview with a local community college art history teacher. It was a good experience and I was able to go back to Thesis 1 materials to look at some strategies for asking questions. However, this turned out to be a very personal experience. I asked the professor an umber of questions regarding the culture of her class and her planning methods and goals. What I discovered was a professor who is rather traditional in her art history practice and less idealistic than myself. While I gained much valuable information, I also saw a professor who negotiated her space as an art historian and the limits of uninterested students and difficult administration. I found that I was very discouraged at the idea that students couldn't handle much more than they were given already and that they come in wanting easy answers not critical thought. That is probably very true. I very much see students today who are not taught to quest for knowledge but instead a good grade or just to get through a class. So will my alternative meth[...]

Transcendent Only When I Want To Be


I am a little late in getting this up but I have observed something in my TAship that is I think an illustration of bad pedagogy or unfortunate politics within the classroom.As this class has progressed through the ancient cultures the students have seen some less than typical images. One of those especially is exotic imagery from Greek, Chinese, and Indian cultures. I was not surprised by talk of the Kama Sutra in Hindu culture. Often times in Western centered courses and text books a non western culture will be fetishized. Or as Gardenier, a fellow student in Doing Democracy stated, feminize a culture that is non western. The lecturer of this class did not do this. He showed multiple cultures and their images of exotic imagery not to make it exotic but just as another aspect of the society. He made no apologies for this and did not tell the students that this was not normal practice in the academic art history world.I suppose this is one place where we might disagree on pedagogies. I think this was a wonderful way of discussing this type of imagery but I think the students needed to be made aware that this was not "normal" subject matter and that there are places, classes, and academic arenas where cultures are not studied in a fair or equal way. However this is not the issue I want to focus on just yet.The class is now studying religious art including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. They are also beginning the so called "Dark Ages" and the crusades. It has been exciting to see the teacher include Japan and China in this religion discussions and so at times we also look at the religions taking place there and compare and contrast them but never make value judgments. Unfortunately this is where the power of the lecturer goes overlooked. In talking only about Christianity the lecturer keeps repeating the phrase, "Remember kids, I am just an alien watching from above and talking to you about what I see, this is not about beliefs." He says this I am sure to avoid arguments or students who do not believe in Christianity taking offense to the subject matter. However, It seems as though this teacher makes very political choices within the classroom, ie the inclusion of exotic materials. However, when it comes to religion, an obviously political and heated topic, specifically Christianity, he is a passive observer on high talking neutrally about a subject so as not to offend anyone.To quote once again an over quoted title by Howard Zinn, "You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train" In another book Zinn also says, "citizens thinking outside the boundaries and transcending the given wisdom." (Zinn 29) He says this to artists responding to war times but I think it holds true to educators as well. This teacher I think often looks outside the boundaries of conventional art historical wisdom or teaching. And at times I think the teacher looks to transcend the given wisdom of what to teach and how. However when the teacher disregards his political choices in showing images he does what much of academic art history does. He denies power structures, he hides them instead of bringing them to the students and letting them not only see that these issues exist but also as in Paul Friere's method of teaching suggest solutions to the traditional western art history canon.Now to code this experience in terms of my own pedagogy in the classroom I look at Kinchloe and Steinberg who suggest that teachers, "Must understand where they are located in the web of reality - in relation to t[...]

Is it History or Art History?


On Wednesday I had the opportunity to talk to another one of my students in the survey course I TA in. She asked me some very interesting questions that I realize I need to consider for future classes. On of those questions was why we were moving so slow through the materials? She felt that she had heard much of this before and that we were just dragging things out. She also mentioned that she was already struggling with the need for art history but this survey course includes so much history. I begin my response with a recognition that this student is not a freshman and that she had been in one survey art history course before, the modern to contemporary class. However in a community college there are many types of learners. Art history classes are at times popular classes for continuing education students as well as adults. These are students who may know much of the historical events covered in an art history course. I may be confronted with many students such as this one. First though I address the issue of so much history in an art history class...As I continue to struggle with the term revisionist I am again reminded why I chose the term in response to this students questions. If students are learning a celebratory history or a one-sided (only from one person or cultures point of view)then much of what is covered with be repetitious and possibly boring. But if history is a record of past experience from many cultures/points of view and art history is the visualization of that experience then will it get boring and repetitious? I believe that the changing and at times confrontational manner of revisionist history would create an interesting dialogue within the art history classroom. And further, can I or anyone separate history from art history? It seems that historical inquiry is changing. In the field of anthropology many changes have come about in response to changing notions of "other" cultures and how we go about studying them. Possibly this student felt the disconnect between history and art history because the field of art history has not kept up with changing times in relation to how it is taught and studied and interpreted. Obviously this is an area where I need more research. This change in methods is an important one that must be articulated by those in the field of anthropology, art history, and humanities. Thank you to this student who was willing to ask critical questions as it has opened up for me an opportunity to see a gap in my own studies. Now how to engage her in her own question through the course?Another statement this same student made was that out study of Rome and Greek for two classes was not only too long but not applicable to her. I wonder how many of the other students feel the same way. In fairness, the instructor of this course attempts to draw those connections between the cultures and our contemporary society. He makes reference to many of the things we borrow from Greek and especially Roman culture. We looked at government and civic life, as well as entertainment for the masses, etc. In my American white mind I could not help but draw multiple similarities and usefulness of information. Even seeing the oppression of women in these cultures was something I was able to relate or see the importance of. It is here that the tenents of critical pedagogy seem to jump off the page. One is that as an educator/learner I must think critically of my own experiences and bias whe[...]

Multiculturalism: Should I be Afraid of it?


As my teachers continue to remind me "Revisionist" is really shorthand for a much larger group of ideas. I am still struggling to define the term or even continue to use the term. I came about the term through reading works by Howard Zinn. What I am hoping to embrace in my teachings from this canon is one, the flux nature of revisionist literature. Revisionist works are constantly engaged in the society they come up in. There are always more voices to include and as history progresses there will be more to add from multiple perspectives. The second aspect of revisionist history I look to embrace is its influence of multiculturalism. In the past I have been afraid to really dig into this term because of its complex and multiple meanings. I do not want to have my curriculum pegged as multicultural without understanding what type of multiculturalism I am actually promoting. However through further reading within Doing Democracy with Professor Tavin (one of my Fall 05 classes) and readings outside of that course I am finding that I should not be afraid to use the term multicultural as long as I am unpacking that term and concretizing it within my subject. In readings by Kinchloe and Steinberg as well as Takaki and Hooks, I am attempting to engage a type of course that is based in Critical Multiculturalism. Art History cannot be colorblind. I cannot teach a course where race is the only starting point. Should artists of other races be as prominent as white western males? Yes. But this cannot be the only factor. What about class, age, ability? These must also be factors in presenting an Art History that students can engage in personally and critically. I mentioned at one time that I did not want the materials in the course I teach to be "separated or generated by culture" (Ruthven, Thesis Panel Presentation) Hehe, I just quoted myself! I was asked to unpack that statement and I believe with critical multiculturalism I can now do that. One element is that in creating a more rhizomatic course content I do not want culture, meaning Chinese, Greek, etc. to be the only starting point or organizational method. But what I also mean is that only looking at works of art's culture leaves out a discussion of economics, abilities, and age. The art history class that I TA in now is a multicultural course. The professor is very careful to not just present western art. This is important but in doing so is engages in a type of "essentialist multiculturalism" defined by Kinchloe and Steinberg. This type of multiculturalism sees a set of unchanging properties that defines a category of people. (Kinchloe p19) By looking at images that "represent" a culture but only one aspect of that culture, art history misses out on other discussions. For example, this week in the survey course I TA in the lecture was on early Greek works. The images were shown and their location was described and seen. We saw the disc thrower and the spear bearer and many of the heavy hitters in art but also less seen images. The class saw that now many of the works have artists so we know the role of the artist is now more important. This still barely hints at a discussion of art from different economic classes, or from young apprentice artists versus older master artists (the early buddings of the apprentice system). In engaging students in multiple entry points I can allow them to bring in their own experiences as well as[...]

The Limitations of Office Hours


This week students attended my office hours for the first time! I emailed my group of 43 students that I was changing my "office hours" from questions and answer period or tutor time to discussion groups. I informed them that I would be available to answer questions still but wanted to engage in discussion of things that interest them in relation to the subject matter. I also let them know that I would love to use their discussion as the source for their essay questions. This gave them the opportunity to let me know what they found interesting and what they might be interested in writing about. I feel like this is the most critically pedagogically correct thing I have done. I let the mandatory assignment come from the experiences and interests of the students. I feel in this way that I will not be giving them a starting point but that they have decided where they will enter into discussion. I had three students come to the first meeting and 4 come to the second one. I suspect that I will have more next week when the assignment goes out. I am also encouraged that this method brought in the students. They came because they wanted to have a say in their assignments and possibly wanted the opportunity to discuss what they are learning about. I hope that in this way I have in the words of Paulo Friere "demystify" the student TA relationship and brought us all to the point of being learners as opposed to me being the source for all information.

I did learn that this young group of people in their first semester/year are not completely comfortable in dialogue and that they were very quiet. I truly needed to develop more in depth and probing questions so that they could join in as they felt comfortable. I hope that once they have written the first paper they will come to discuss and have a more confident opinion or contribution. I have three students committed to coming to discussion after their papers are turned in. This is helpful in determining the format of a future course. I may be able to do some lecture and present the information required by standards but also engage students in smaller discussion groups to engage the materials in a critical way. This is my attempt to code the observations I am participating in. While it may be simplified I am attempting to code them in terms of teaching methods and course structures.