Though what I teach varies---ranging from methods and craft for preservice secondary English teachers to arts integration practice for nonarts teachers to trauma-informed practices and pedagogy for teaching artists---the spaces I create to teach in remain constant. The education spaces I create and teach in are sometimes loud and sometimes quiet, sometimes reflective and sometimes challenging, sometimes firm and sometimes playful. They are always filled with art-making, exploration, and communing. They always emphasize love and joy.
I believe that our own identities can never be separate from who we are, or the values we operate from, in classroom spaces. And they shouldn’t be. We should name them, our identities and values, and offer ourselves as mirrors and accomplices. Generally speaking, I believe in the importance of teachers offering their authentic selves to their students. With this statement, I aim to offer my authentic teacher-self to you.
I identify as an artographer, or an artist-researcher-teacher. I believe that the process of art-making is a worthwhile way to explore questions about the world, reflect on our place in it, and imagine radical possibilities for its future. Sinner et al. (2006) writes, “To be engaged in the practice of a/r/tography means to inquire in the world through an ongoing process of art making in any art form and writing not separate or illustrative of each other but interconnected and woven through each other to create additional and/or enhanced meanings” (p. 1124). I believe in scaffolding opportunities for students to bring their passions into education spaces, whether that is directly related to content or not, and to engage in exploratory learning, often through art-making. Content cannot be taught as if it is objective; it is enhanced by each individual’s unique perspective and interpretations.
I identify as a wandering bard. By the time I was twelve years old, I had lived in five different states across the United States. Now, I am on state number eight. My frequent relocation has inspired a love of language and a fascination with its fluidity, as well as a focussed interest in relationships between people and the roles people can play in our lives. I believe that cultivating healthy connections can be life-changing. Additionally, I believe that every student has the power to change a person’s world for the better. To cultivate connection, I focus on growing both students’ communities within education spaces as well as their relationship with local communities beyond education spaces. I believe that student voice and stories can change the world and that strong storytelling is the skill that will help students do it.
I identify as a queer femme. I believe magic is created in classrooms through all of the ingredients that I have mentioned thus far---art-making, questioning, imagining radical possibilities for the world, cultivating healthy connection---alongside consistent offerings of compassion, affirmation, playfulness, and love.
I identify as a cisgender white woman. My privilege as a white person allows me to move unencumbered through most, if not all, spaces in the United States, and my privilege as a cisgender white woman, while complicated, offers me more security than most. I believe it is necessary for our students to practice critical thinking skills in order to understand, analyze, and reflect on the state of the world and our role in it, particularly in relation to power. Strong critical thinking skills are what will enable our students to take steps towards imagining radical possibilities for the future yet to come.
In offering my teacher-self to you, in sharing what I value most, I also offer several promises:
I promise that we will make art together and that we will tell stories.
I promise to be committed to playful, collaborative exploration.
I promise that if I make you a promise, I will keep it, no matter how small.
I promise that if I can’t keep a promise, I will let you know right away and I will let you know why.
I promise that I will try new things alongside you.
I promise that my classroom space will have space for your whole self, and that I will advocate for your success, support your curiosities, and encourage you to rest when you need to.
To my students, I promise that I will always teach with my whole heart.
THR 114: Introduction to Theatre in Education (developed for final in Introduction to Graduate Studies in Theatre, Fall 2021, Michigan State University)