As I sit at my desk inside my classroom on this cold, gloomy Saturday, I cannot stop reflecting and rethinking everything I have learned about my teaching practices and education. In fact, the two articles I was assigned to read and carefully discuss for this week only served to reinforce the need for more self-reflection on my part. The first article I read was Rethinking Our Classrooms by Bigelow, Harvey, Karp & Miller. The authors begin by stating that,"schools and classrooms should be laboratories for a more just society than the one we live in."(pg. X) As a society, we continue to struggle with long standing issues such as racism, social, economic, medical and educational inequalities. What kind of realistic change can we bring about in a system that does not necessarily allow nor support transformation? In Rethinking Our Classrooms, I immediately connected with the idea of being visionary and practical. "We need to be inspired by each other's vision of schooling;practical because for too long teachers have been preached at by theoreticians, well removed from classrooms."(pg. X) As a 14 year Chicago Public School art teacher, it has been frustrating at times to figure out creative ways to connect with students and art teachers from other schools within our district. My idea is to create a non-profit arts organization that will help build arts communities that brings students, parents and teachers together to make art that is intentional, participatory and critically addresses social concerns relevant to them. In doing so, students would become activists or "truth-tellers and change makers." (pg. XI)
In the article An Inevitable Question: Exploring the Defining Features of Social Justice Art Education, author Marit Dewhurst explains the complexities of trying to define the meaning of social justice art education. After observing 14 teenagers in a free after school activist art class, Dewhurst identified 3 pedagogical activities. They are connecting, questioning, and translating. (pg. 2) Both of these articles make reference to Paolo Friere by noting that art making practice and educational opportunties should be connected to a student's life experiences. In doing so, students may draw deeper levels of meaning if connections are made. Questioning is very important in the process of making social justice art. "Through both posing and pursuing questions, activists artists are simultaneously learning and teaching about social issues in ways evocative of critical pedagogy's collaborative problem-posing education (Friere, 1970) (pg. 4) The point that I find most challenging both as an artist and teacher has to do with "translating." Trying to find a "proper" balance between how you want to get your message across and the aesthetic qualities of your work is not easy. Finding the right tools to convey your message successfully may take plenty of trial and error. Teaching students the importance of critical questions, understanding the value from critiques and continuing the discussion via a public audience are also important according to Drewhurst.
1.) Have you made artwork that could be considered "activist" or social justice art? Was it made in a classroom or on your own?
2.) As an elementary or high school student, can you recall an experience or moment where you felt you were encouraged to question or "talk back" to the world? Did your teacher facilitate that experience or did you take it upon yourself to do so?