Over the past few months, I’ve had to do quite a bit of soul-searching to understand what’s actually important to me as an art educator. It’s not enough to say that I love teaching, that I love kids, or that I love art/art-making. That’s not a reason to teach, that’s a hobby. Being responsible for the growth of hundreds of students isn’t an easy job… it pushes you in ways you didn’t know you could be pushed. It challenges you and demands you overcome, especially when you think you can’t. To be perfectly honest, half the time I’m terrified of getting my own classroom because I’m afraid I don’t have what it takes to do this, do it well, and continue doing it in the face of adversary I will inevitably face. I will never forget what it’s felt like to go through this process and have people outright laugh at me, saying these dreams will never happen. Nonetheless… I’m still here. I’ve made it this far, and I walk in two days. It’s crazy, I know. I’m still trying not to think about it in some regards.
You see.. I’m about to lose my safety net. Us graduating folks are being flung from the nest, “It’s time to fly!” our professors yell encouragingly from the stage. We’re terrified, we’re excited, and (most importantly, even though sometimes it may not feel like it sometimes) we’re ready. I don’t know where we’re all going yet… but I’m excited to find out.
With all of that said, I’ve taken a hard look at what’s important to me as a teacher, what I want to accomplish in my art room, and I’ve revamped my teaching philosophy! If you feel so inclined, take a gander, be inspired, and ask yourself… “What can I do to change this world?”
I believe education to be one of the few institutions truly capable of changing the world. When a student walks into a classroom they are presented with the opportunity to learn, to adapt, and to grow. As facilitators of the knowledge necessary to achieve such a transformation, teachers are imparted the responsibility of committing themselves to understanding the multifaceted nature of each student, all the while compelling them to conceptualize endless creative possibilities. Together, students and teachers can imagine a new future for this world; a future we have the power to enact with every subsequent generation that passes through our doors. Acknowledging this limitless potential, I strive to enable my students to learn how to think critically about current issues through innovative art-making, enabling them to become active, empathetic global citizens.
An art classroom is a place of discovery; there is no “right” or “wrong” way to explore. As such, my students play a crucial role in the development of curriculum themes. Together we analyze content that is immediate, relevant, and applicable to students’ lives. This content is then embedded into the world of art where students get messy, take chances, and make mistakes. Art becomes our tool, our medium, for exploration. It allows us expressively rip open complicated issues in a way that is significant and meaningful to every student who chooses to wield it.
In exploring this world, students inevitably realize that their unique voices all have something important to say. At its core, the arts provide an unparalleled opportunity for students to discover who they are, what matters to them, and what they have to contribute back to their communities. In the process of making such discoveries, my students are challenged to think about the contexts of their lives and recognize that they don’t exist within a vacuum. Rather, their lives are all interconnected through a vast web of knowledge, resources, experiences, and passions. In recognizing these threads we are able to better understand our place in and value to society.
With the assistance of contemporary works by artists from all walks of life, my students unearth ways in which art-making can change the world. Through research, collaboration, reflection, and expression my students learn what it means to belong to the human race. They come to understand why they matter, and recognize actions they can take to realize their fullest potentials. Our work, our process, and our art thus shapes how we choose to fulfill our roles as global citizens.
If, after all that, you feel inclined to stay in touch and see what my classroom is doing (whenever I manage to get one…) follow me on my website! jbarthle.com or on Instagram: @artistheessence. You have been a wonderful audience 🙂