Tuesday, April 21, 2015
As I See It
My philosophy of teaching is simple: make learning relevant and fun. As a teacher of high school English, my goal is to help my students to become better communicators. The desired outcomes in my classroom, then, go beyond simple recall and identification. Rather, the students need to develop ways to communicate effectively on an interpersonal as well as an intrapersonal level. That is, students must be trained to be independent, critical thinkers and problem solvers who can tap their creative and imaginative potential. Simply put, they must develop their thinking, writing, reading, and speaking skills - and creativity. To achieve this, it is critical that the students see the relevance of what they are learning, and have some fun learning it.
Realistically, not every student is going to find everything that is taught in my classroom relevant all the time, and not every student is going to enjoy every lesson, every method and every activity. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to try to maximize the opportunities. To this end, students need to have lessons presented to them in a variety of ways, and be given the opportunity to show what they have learned in a variety of ways. Students must be challenged to transcend their comfort zones by trying modalities that are not particularly in their realm of expertise or even experience. It is impossible to watch creative ideas come to life and not believe that every student can participate and make a contribution when given the opportunity to demonstrate what they know through artistic expression.
Integrating arts modalities into the academic curriculum is as important a priority as any issue facing American education. For both the student and the teacher, the arts offer the opportunity to reflect on both content and process, and play an integral role in joining fact and meaning in a person's education. Learning through and with the arts inspires the creativity and imagination that is so essential to think critically, love deeply, and to live fully in a diverse and complex world.
Cultural awareness and enrichment have always been essential parts of my educational philosophy. That is, it is important to raise student awareness of various cultural experiences. In our examination of the themes reflected in selections of prose, poetry, and drama, my students and I discuss the universality of human experience as we celebrate the diversity among the cultures and people of our world, both past and present. Through such discussions, I also seek to raise awareness of the limitations of stereotyping through the analysis of literary characters. In my literature classes, this exploration occurs primarily through the study of fiction, drama, and poetry. My theatre arts classes allow further exploration through the participation in improvisational theater, pantomime, characterization, musical theater, and oral interpretation. Improvisational theater, by the way, is a wonderful mechanism for exploring the constraints of stereotyping, not only on stage but also in the arena of multiculturalism. When students easily fall into the habit of relying on stereotypes to develop characters, it provides the opportunity to examine why we stereotype as well as the dangers of stereotyping.
Literature teaches us profoundly about the human condition. Using the arts to teach makes sense because the arts appeal to the multiple intelligences, the arts are a universal tool for communicating, the arts encourage students to participate actively in their learning environment, and it is through art that children can appreciate best their cultural heritage.