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Monday, December 04, 2006

A little thought

For those who do not know yet, I am an Art teacher in one of the schools in Metro Manila. I have been an Art teacher for 21 years, the same number of years I have been married. Not that that is relevant but just to give you an idea of how old I am. Teaching has never been my intended vocation, though. I am a Fine Arts graduate with an Advertising major but never got to practice this trade. I worked as soon as I graduated. Meaning I took whatever was available.

Anyway, not having been trained to be a teacher, I labored each day during my first years of teaching. I had to learn the tricks of the trade, sometimes, painfully. I had to learn to deal with each problem that came my way. Slowly, I learned what works and what does not work with my lessons. I kept those lessons that many were able to grasp, threw away those that were too hard to comprehend. Always a hit or miss with my lessons, I tried to come up with a cohesive syllabus, a word which meaning II did not have a full grasp of at the time I started.

Anyway, I have been thinking about showing examples to students. First and foremost, examples that we show the students should always be what we, in the academic world as "authentic material". By this we mean those that are seen in print and has been available to the public. Hence, if say for example that a teacher, who writes poems, should want to show a poem as an example, it should only be those that have been published and not a personal poem, he/she has written. Of course, with subjects like Science, authentic material would be an actual leaf, or whatever material is being discussed rather than showing a picture or a drawing.

At any rate, will showing examples in art, like painting styles, be beneficial to the learner. My theory is that sometimes, they are not. While it is true that examples facilitate in the understanding of a concept being taught and at best, trigger an idea for the day's project, I have the feeling that sometimes, they stand in the way for new creative ideas to prosper.

Showing examples may limit the avenue for the creation of a new style or concept since the learner has fixed his/her standard of beauty based on the example. Hence, the learner might not try to explore new avenues to attack the problem/project on hand. And yet, we must remember that the great artists, especially during the modern era, became what they are in the Art world simply because they did not go with the flow. They rebelled with what was considered as the norm. Remember, too, that art is the pursuit of beauty, which is relative in the first place. This line of thinking, again, posed a big problem for me during my first years of teaching. What if a student submits a mere line on the premise that this is his ideal of beauty? Would you have considered this as creative seeing that he/she diverted from the norm or is this a product of sheer laziness? It took me a while to learn how to parry a retort like this one. First, I should know how a student works in class. Secondly, know how his/her mind works. And lastly, come up with projects that has less subjectivity in it.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Svelte Rogue said...

i don't think it can be helped, tito rolly, to have elements of the subjective when you try to teach a subject. in your case pa, you do have to begin somewhere, eg the aesthetics of the trade. you must orient the student to the trends of beauty over so many hundred years, and how different people have tried to capture and express this concept onto their art.

now if you want to give creativity free rein, it does not necessitate doing away with your opinions (as the teacher) and fielding examples that enflesh such concepts.

if i were the art teacher, for example, i would say that one lesson would be spent looking at the work of impressionists and if my course syllabus allows for it, having them dabble in the form. if it is an art appreciation class, they don't have to "do" the art.

the caveat, i believe, would have to be thus: that you don't claim to know it all, but given the wide spectrum of styles and philosophies available, your course takes a segment of that spectrum and tries to apply a prism to that particular segment. a course can only do so much in so many weeks...

2:24 AM  
Blogger rolly said...

svelte There are a lot of things missing in this post. I cannot capture what I want to say exactly. Anyway, it's the issue on showing examples. How many is sufficient.

Inasmuch as I would like to tackle in my class all aspects in art, like appreciation, history, culture, philosophy of art. I don't have enough time. Anyway, now that I am in high school, I tend to give students those subjects that would be beneficial when they enter college like drafting, calligraphy, and the graphic arts which can probably be used in advertising, most especially.

I can only work within my limitations as a teacher and as a person. I cannot claim that I know it all or that I am exemplary as a teacher.

6:16 AM  

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Twenty years of teaching must sure amount to something. A new friend in cyberspace suggested I ought to have a journal by now. I agree.


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Jack of all trade, master of none. First a disclaimer. My students have discovered this blog and they might think that what I write is gospel truth. Worse is they might find an argument that they think they can use, for some reason or another, against their teachers. So, to set the record straight, it is NOT. As a matter of fact, I write and open it to feedback to get another view in the hope that somebody would tell me if I am wrong and reenforce my thinking if it is right. Not that I will accept anything thrown my way, though. Just so I can think about it some more and decide whether my original stance is right or definitely off tangent. So there. I hope that clarifies everything. Now, on to blogging.


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