by Dr. Susan F. Amster
Let’s take time to ponder our role as art educators. Let’s consider the responsibilities, the challenges, and the impact that are part of our everyday reality. Let’s each seriously answer the question, “Why am I in this profession?”
If the answer is that you value the creative process and are dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of others, you have an investment not only in your ability but also in the values that you deem significant for future generations. You are the product, the personification of the creative process which has enabled you to reach this point in your life and which will continue to be instrumental in your problem solving and decision making.
How can our impacts be maximized? When we acknowledge our powerful position as shapers of verbal and visual thought and creation, we need to consider carefully how we implement our influence. As educators we are constantly challenged; as art educators we must accept the ultimate challenge of exemplifying creativity in our lives and therefore our teaching strategies. If we intend to nurture our students’ creativity, we must make visible the creative process in our teaching.
We are complex role models for our specialized profession. Students are not only influenced by that which we say and do, but by that which we are. If we ask ourselves how we perceive ourselves, then perhaps we will glean the image we are giving our students. Do we live and/or teach what we are, what we believe? Are we true to ourselves, to the creative process, to our students?
We can not genuinely teach about the creative process without teaching with the creative process. Indeed, if we are and foster what we do; we must accept the challenge of expending as much thought and energy in facilitating learning as we put into creating a work of thought or art. We must be as creative in our teaching as we are in nurturing a fondness for and an appreciation and understanding of art itself.
We are really quite fortunate in our role as art educators in that we not only facilitate learning and nurture creativity, but that we also metaphorically represent the ultimate of the creative process. In addition to being creative artists we are necessarily creative teachers. No longer do we need to cling to the term artist-educator for validation of worth as a teacher of art; we can think of ourselves as accomplished people immersed in creativity - a process of teaching, of learning, of creating, of being. As we examine our purpose, we should strive to cultivate thinking, to treasure the process, and to value the product of whatever our endeavor, whatever the form of art, including the art of teaching.
When looking at teaching as an art, as an ongoing creative process, we recognize the importance of establishing the best possible learning atmosphere; one of trust, respect and comfort allows for periodic “eurekas” for both students and teachers. Creativity flourishes when people are open-minded, receptive to change and willing to take risks; when ideas are generated, incubated and freely expressed and valued as brainstormed contributions; when discover learning is fostered for both individuals and groups; and, when there are as many possibly solutions as there are perspective and interpretations.
A constant opportunity for inquiry, reconsideration and change encourages involvement, fosters ownership, allows for transfer of understandings and increases the desire to accept the next challenge. What could be more exhilarating than the dynamics of such a process?
An awareness of the purpose and the perceived significance of the involvement, challenges individuals to do their personal best. When the creative process is valued and there is not an obsession with an anticipated product but a joy in the unexpected, the accidental or the surprise that evolves as a part of the product, new opportunities exist and an energy and excitement ensues. Carefully designed lessons that are customized to accommodate different types of learning, thinking and creating styles, can maximize the potential of a creative involvement; teaching that allows this flexibility of encounter is indeed an art.
We as art teachers are constantly challenging ourselves as well as our students within a profession that allows us to delight in our own creativity when we are able to see the product of our efforts, the creativity of our students reflecting in the mirror of ourselves. Let us rejoice in the impact of the creative process made visible in our lives. Our hope and our future rests in the creative spirit.