teaching philosophy

My main goal as an art educator is to empower young people to think like artists, which means, on the most foundational level, developing their capacity for critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and empathy. I combine three contemporary art education frameworks in my approach to achieving this goal: Julia Marshall’s work on art-based creative inquiry, Studio Habits of Mind, and Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB, or choice-based learning). I design curricula that honor my students’ diverse identities, backgrounds, and experiences, and give them opportunities to critically and creatively investigate and express what matters most to them.

For me, teaching is a relational craft. I believe that strong relationships are at the heart of meaningful, engaged learning. I see it as one of my main duties as a teacher to cultivate positive relationships in the classroom and wider school community. bell hooks defines love as an active practice of care, recognition, respect, commitment, trust, honesty, and open communication, and I uphold and practice these values in my classroom in order to develop positive relationships. Once these positive relationships are established, students are more inclined to open themselves to the vulnerable process of art-making. They are also more inclined to help each other, learn from each other, and work collaboratively to solve problems.

I center my curricula around contemporary art practices, approaches, and themes. This allows students to examine how living artists interpret and express today’s issues, many of which students face in their everyday lives. Contemporary art is cross disciplinary and multi-media; it asks questions and communicates ideas in a multitude of ways. The study of contemporary art provides a guide for students to engage in their own processes of  asking questions, conducting research, mapping concepts, and expressing ideas in a variety of media.

I utilize the Studio Habits of Mind and Teaching for Artistic Behavior frameworks to develop students’ artistic thinking dispositions and create opportunities for student choice and agency.  These frameworks emphasize exploration, process, and persistence over mastery of technique and the creation of final products. With these frameworks, I’m better able to meet students as individuals and help them grow based on their unique interests and abilities. When students have agency in the development of their inquiries and projects, there is space for them to authentically express their ideas, dreams, and experiences in art.

It is my goal that each student leaves my class with confidence in—and an understanding of—their creative capacity. I hope to instill in them an appreciation for visual culture, an understanding that art is a powerful tool for expression and connection, and an ability tap into their artistic thinking dispositions at any time throughout their lives. Most importantly, I hope to foster in students the desire to develop positive relationships with their peers and the world around them. If students leave my class with greater capacity for care, recognition, respect, commitment, trust, honesty, and open communication, I will feel like I’ve succeeded as a teacher.
© Ava Lonergan 2023