Labor Day is Picnic Day (or, Teaching Philosophy)
Labor day is picnic day. And picnic day is a day of packing up the essentials and going on a stroll.
I carry with me my teaching philosophy, a deep love of materials, and a bag full of tricks. The tricks come out in expected but unpredictable ways, but the teaching philosophy is always there for the ride:
Over the years, my toddlers and preschoolers have often asked me the same question:
“Why don’t you have a job like the other grownups?”
As usual, kids make me think; as usual, they’re effortlessly accurate; as usual, they get the point long before I even know it’s there. It’s not that I don’t have a job – like most grownups, I do need to make a living. But there must be something different about it – if they consistently ask that question, I’m sure it’s for a reason.
As a studio teacher of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, I support my students in learning ways of using materials and techniques, and of exploring the possibilities they offer; I suggest that different materials can help us think about different things, and that exploring their properties may open up new possibilities and discoveries; and I encourage my students to use our studio as a site to think about stuff – their stuff.
My job as a studio teacher is to explore alongside my children, to listen to them as they question and discover the world, to assist them in their inquiries, and to prompt them with possibilities and techniques to take those explorations further. I strive to teach my children that play is good, that inquiry is important, and that more than answers to be found there are questions to be posed. I work to help them sustain a spirit of wonder, and they do the same for me, as they marvel at the beauty of small things in life: the magic way colors mix together, the smooth feeling of clay in our hands, or the way an unexpected spill can fill the room with sparkling silver glitter.
As a teacher, I aim to continually be perceptive, aware, and welcoming of my students. I commit to thinking about, learning about, and systematically researching what it is that I see my students exploring in their interactions with the world through artistic techniques and materials.. I pledge to do my best to address what I see as their needs, wants, and wishes in the most engaged, thoughtful, and informed way I can. My job is to keep growing as an educator and to bring the best of my self and my abilities to my students, my peers, and my studio – to my teaching. Anything less than that would be faking it.
Maybe what my students mean is that they will not let me fake it: I can’t pretend I’m having fun if I am not; when I get excited about all our discoveries and adventures, it has to be genuine. I have to engage with my students and my teaching with my entire self and to the best of my abilities, if I want to be taken seriously. They’re in it with all they have – and I must do the same.