Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lessons from the students

I interviewed this week for the 2011 SES, now called Pre-College Summer Sessions.
I should hear with the next week or so whether or not I passed muster. I'm reasonably confident, but take nothing for granted.
In preparing for the interview, I reflected on the last 11 years, during which I've taught 11 sessions of one of the two programs, and all 6 of the others.
This is a great experience. I get to challenge myself to new possibilities through working with high school age students, as opposed to the college and returning adult students in my more standard teachign rotation.
At the end of every session, I hand out index cards and ask the students for recommendations. Books, movies, games, music, anything they think I might not have been exposed to that might be of value to me, or just fun. I won't provide links for these. I take them as an opportunity for research, and encourage you to do likewise.
I'm always amazed at how much they really know, given their relatively short lives. I know people in their 40s and older who aren't as receptive to such a wide array of possibilities.
Here are a few of their recommendations, presented verbatim from the cards.
2009 brochure, designed by Jenna Brouse!
Four Eyed Monsters: independent movie
This is Art: website
Architecture in Helsinki
Bands I like- Death Cab for Cutie, Rilo Kiley, Bright Eyes, Band of Horses, Hotel Lights, the Postal Service. Thank you!
Sufjan Stevens (music), What's Up Doc (movie)
books: anything by David Sedaris movies: nevermind, I can't think of any good ones
band: Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground
Velvet Goldmine Watch it. It's a nice movie about glam rock. One man emboides every glam rock god ever! Also, take a listen to Tiger Army's "Music from Regions Beyond..."
movie: Waking Life
Cyanide & Happiness online comic @ exposim. net It's, quote "fuckin hilarious" Google it
Movie The Fountain thanks Diana!
Speed Grapher anime'
book: The Magus John Fowles
Boys and Girls in America: the Hold Steady 
Tsubasa Reservoir by Clamp. It's a manga, so if you do not care for manga, I am sorry. I did not know.
Band" Kamelot CDs: BLack Hole & Epic. Russian Literature: Baba yaga and Kosche. You have to look this one up.
I'm going to save the rest of these for another day. It's such a delight to recognize the imagination and spirit of the burgeoning adults (I find the term "teenager" demeaning) that I want to save some of it!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Storyboards: The Man Who Shot liberty Valance, part 7

Here we go with two more panels of the Liberty Valance boards!

The beginning of another ongoing gag in these. The Sherriff, Link Appleyard, played in the film by the great Andy Devine, grows in every panel in which he appears.
This is the kind of gag you can get away with in any of three conditions.
1. A classroom setting with a forgiving teacher, one who would rather encourage creativity than squelch it.
2. Working with a client you know VERY well.
3. Working on a broad comedy.
Luckily for the students, one of the three applied here!
Pretty straightforward content. Again, the use of the term "point of view" is ambiguous.
Next, for variety, a different kind of student work.

Towards a philosophy of teaching

Promotional comic on teaching
from Marvel and Office Max

As I apply for teaching jobs for spring quarter and fall semester, I am given to reexamine the parts of that application.
There are the usual: cover letters, CVs, recommendations, and in the case of studio courses, work samples.
When applying for some positions, such as a Visiting Scholar position, it's also mandated to supply a statement of your teaching philosophy.
This can be daunting.
First, you have to have thought about what your teaching philosophy actually IS. The first time I was posed this question, I thought that I didn't have one, and immediately realized that I did.
The funny thing is that I had the same  reaction when someone first told me they liked my art style!
While teaching is a skill, a craft, a discipline and a philosophy, much of it is learned by doing. And as Kierkegaard notes, we live life forwards and understand it backwards. So a teaching philosophy evolves out of classroom experience, which in turn involves the balance between the pragmatic aspects of dealing with  student issues coupled with administrative concerns.
Let's face it. This can be a daunting profession. So when summarizing your philosophy on your work, it's crucial to, as the song says, accentuate the positive. If your teaching philosophy rambles on about the inability of students to construct an argument, or the difficulties of budget limitations, not only will you not get the position, but you probably shouldn't get it!
Teaching is an art. Like any art form, its material rewards are sometimes low. You have to get something else out of it to make it rewarding beyond the paycheck.
What else do you get?
That's where your teaching philosophy comes in.
I'm currently rewriting mine. I was surprised to discover how it's evolved from its initial core position to its current one.
Initially, I simply held that we can't really teach students anything, that all we can do show them things and that it's up to them to learn from them.
There's truth in that, but there's much more to it.
It relates to the larger issue of measuring achievement vs. retained and applied knowledge as goals for students. It also relates to the issue of pedagogy, a necessary but problematic dance in which teaching risks becoming performance as an end in itself, rather than a means to the larger end of expanding the student's knowledge base and world view as related to the material taught.
And if your teaching philosophy is not all about the students and their needs, it's about the administration, or worse, about you.
Teaching is for the students, above all else. It has to be.
I'll table this discussion  for the moment and give my man Harry the last word.
The risks of bad teaching are made apparent in this Harry Chapin song, a longtime favorite. Please note that the subject in question is art, arguably the most powerful force in shaping a mind, body and spirit.