Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Philosophical Welcome

A Philosophical Welcome

Hello Everyone,

Welcome to Spaces for Possibility: An arts-based learning community for reflective teacher practice. Just as the title suggests, we are convening and re-convening a group of dedicated professionals who teach in the arts to question, explore and challenge the possibilities of what an art education can be. Our group formed three years ago to use the Studio Thinking Framework as an analytic lens to consider specific dispositions used in the art studio. This framework gave us much to think about. We grew in our own understanding of critical thinking, and questioned the very thought of teaching art in our current climate within the Chicago Public Schools. We exhibited these questions last spring at Firecat Projects gallery and created an exhibition catalogue with artwork, essays and reflections.

Internal expertise with on-going questioning
What has become clear to us over the course of convening this learning community is that we need dedicated time and space for substantive conversations around our teaching practices. 

We have heard over and over again that teachers yearn for a space to share what you are doing each day. You also need time to explore different concepts, methods and practices for teaching within public education. Internally, our group contains vast amounts of expertise. As a member of our learning community mentioned last year, teachers need a space where you don't feel as if you are broken and need to be fixed. 

What we hope that this learning community allows you to do on the most profound level is to re-examine your own practices in the company of others. That means that you are open to seeing what you cannot see as individual teachers on your own. Through dialogue, reflection, readings, images, and conversation, we come together to think about what is possible within an art education.

The late art education philosopher Maxine Greene talks of the value of making ourselves strangers. We must defamiliarize ourselves with our own patterns and habitual practices to see differently. At the heart of this process, we ask ourselves difficult questions about what we do each day. Within this learning community we trust that you inherently know your own classrooms and that your are ultimately responsible for your own education as teachers. Within this learning community we provide a space to ask pertinent questions and gently nudge each other towards a more complex practice. We include ourselves in this process as facilitators.

Multiplicity of Spaces
Exploring the concept of space takes on many different meanings. For some it is the physical spaces we teach in, the art studio, and for others it has to do with concepts in the mind, for others it is simply the time to be reflective/reflexive within a practice. 

We can consider the philosopher Gilles Deleuze when talking about breaking old patterns, and how he refers to the idea of "deterritorialization" - "a movement by which we leave the territory or move away from spaces regulated by dominant systems of signification that keep us confined within old patterns, in order make new connections." The system of teaching is full of insidious patterns of reproducing predictable movements. If we remain open to new possibilities, new patterns, new ways of emerging, that doesn't mean we have to leave what works behind. Instead, we remain perceptually aware and wide-awake to what might happen in the moment. As art educators, we have a unique role within education to work with this kind of space and thinking. So, Spaces for Possibility has to do with a state of mind. Being open to what might happen, listening to each other, checking in with ourselves, asking questions, reading and viewing the work of professional artists and educators beyond the classroom, and being present to what is before us. 

Perspectives of Others
We have an incredible group of teachers this year. Many are returning, while half of the group is new. We have high school and elementary group members. All teachers work within CPS. There is a wealth of experience within our group and we are asking Olivia Gude, founder of the Spiral Workshop and writing team member for the new visual arts standards, to lead two workshops, one on curriculum development and the other skeptical assessment. We also have our dear friend Dr. Cynthia Gehrie working with us to think about student feedback as way to improve our practice. These outside educators come in to help us practice a state of "wide-awakeness" through a type of shock. Here Greene would say that shock allows us to move into a "new province of meaning" and out of which new visions arise. Greene would say that after this shock "an event or feeling may precipitate a change in attitude." 

Often our funders ask us to think about how teacher practice will change. We find it difficult to explain how change occurs in grant writing terms, but when we read Maxine Greene's concepts of wide-awakeness and shock leading to new insights and actions this makes a great deal of sense.

However you as a teacher come to understand your own practice, this community can serve as place to tackle both the mundane and philosophical aspects of teaching. 

We are very excited to work with you this year.

If you are interested in these philosopher ideas, Maxine Greene's work can be found in The Passionate Mind of Maxine Greene edited by William Pinar. The title of the essay is "Existential and Phenomenological Influences on Maxine Greene" and Gilles Deleauze's ideas can be found in Teachers in Nomadic Spaces: Deleuze and Curriculum by Kaustuv Roy.


1 comment:

  1. Hi, Thank you for the welcome. I wrote a comment back when this was first posted and I don't know why it did not go through. I am thrilled to be a part of this group and look forward to meeting soon to learn and grow together.