When I walk into each classroom on the first day of classes, I put my students in a circle and (before I even ask their names) I introduce myself and say, "The most important thing you need to know about me is that I love to teach." The first thing I want all of my students to know as they are sizing me up, deciding if they're safe and how they should behave, is that I love being a teacher. Everything else is just the details.
I operate my classroom in a way that puts the power of choice into the hands of the students. I support democratic ideals by allowing my students the personal freedom to say yes or no, and in that way I put the responsibility and consequences of their classroom experience into each of their hands.
I say yes and… I allow the students their individuality and uniqueness by accepting who they are and what they believe, then push them to go beyond their range of emotional, intellectual, and physical limits to find more potential.
I Listen and Learn
Listening to my students means I can learn from them. I exist in the intersection between teacher and student. I live for the moments when my students turn the tables and teach me something new about my art, myself, or my world. And in exchange, when they are teaching, they have the opportunity to learn something about themselves.
As a teacher it is my requisite obligation to be adaptable to the needs of a diverse body of students. Any student who walks into my room must be accommodated. I am prepared to meet the needs of students with behavioral disorders, language barriers, religious obligations, physical disabilities, mental health concerns, or anything else that arises. I teach this adaptability to my students by insisting that the students offer one another (and myself) the same respect I offer each of them.
I believe in the power of community and work with my students to bring art in the community to them, and to bring them outside to the community. This interactive ebb and flow of sharing allows for the community and students to grow together around and with the art.
I Give Love
The first thing I tell my students is that I love to teach, but what I don’t tell them is that I will also love them. I will show them this as I listen to them, respect them, push them, invest in them, work hard for them, and put the tools in their hands to truly engage in their own education while accepting each of them on their own terms.