I believe that being an artist is something you are, not something you do. It is a way of seeing and interacting with the world. Whether or not my students go on to pursue art as a career, my role is to give them the tools necessary to use their creativity in every endeavor they choose. I am teaching them to live a creative life. In my opinion, learning has 3 levels. Each level builds on the previous one. The first level is to master the skills being taught. In the visual arts and especially in metals, mastering technical skills is essential in order to accurately communicate a message or belief through your artwork. This is the foundation that supports the second level, critical thinking and conceptual development. I aim to help students to develop the necessary skills to evaluate and refine what they wish to communicate. While being able to objectively evaluate your own work is an important skill, this process also requires the student to develop the ability to effectively communicate their ideas to others. This skill is essential to growing as an artist. The third level is teaching how the skills learned in the classroom are applied outside of the classroom; not only in their career as an artist but in other areas of their life as well.
My role as a teacher is not only to instruct. I am also a mentor, a cheerleader, and a resource. As an artist and educator, it is important for me to share both my experience and knowledge with my students as well as my community. One way to do this is to be a mentor. In this way, my students benefit from my professional experience as well as my technical skills. As a mentor, I must be someone who exemplifies what it is to live a creative life. I must be generous with my knowledge, expressly to aid in the student’s professional growth. In my own life I have had instructors who have mentored me and helped guide me. It is an honor to have such an important place in a student’s career. In the classroom, I am a cheerleader. I love what I do and it is up to me to pass that enthusiasm on to my students. By showing my enthusiasm for the subject, my students will be more engaged in the subject matter and will be better able to complete the tasks that I have set out for them and genuinely excel. As an instructor, I am a resource for knowledge. I am there to answer technical questions, ask questions that will spur further insight, and help my students brainstorm solutions. If I do not have the answers to their questions, I will help them find them.
My love of learning guides my personal artistic practice. I am fascinated with new techniques and technologies and am always experimenting with new ways to work. This passion for learning and experimentation is a significant benefit to my teaching style as well. Knowing so many ways of working allows me to tailor my teaching to the needs of different types of learners or students with different interests. For example, a student with a stronger digital background may respond more enthusiastically to the technology that can be used in metalsmithing.
My assessment of students will echo my belief in the 3 levels mentioned earlier. They will be assessed based on craftsmanship and their mastery of the skills outlined for the given assignment. They will also be expected to participate in a variety of activities that encourage critical thinking and self-evaluation while building communication skills. They will participate in group and individual critiques. Through this they will learn how to objectively evaluate their work as well as become more effective as verbally communicating their ideas. They will also be expected to write short statements on their work. Not only will this prepare them to verbally discuss their work but strengthen their writing skills. They will be required to present research on their ideas in the form of sketches and journals. This will also help them to communicate their ideas visually. Being able to evaluate, edit, and communicate your ideas is an essential skill for artists. All of these skills add up to become important life skills. Being able to effectively apply and communicate their ideas will help them in many other areas of life and show them how they can apply creative practice as a lifestyle.