Teaching Philosophy


My classroom thrives on risk-taking.  The most incredible thing about teaching in any creative discipline is that teachers inherently are given the ability to un-teach, or rather to provoke the relearning, of much of that which has been lost to students.  Curiosity, connection to experience, autonomous investigation: these are the essential rewards of education.  An education in the arts is fundamentally different from the majority of other areas of study in that it is an education about asking questions rather than finding answers. 


My role as a teacher is to create a classroom community in which all questions, especially the uncomfortable ones, can be safely pursued.  Establishing mutual respect between student, teacher, and peers is vital in order to encourage exploration into uniquely meaningful questions very early on.  It is often through personal work that students begin to reap immediately these essential rewards, igniting their passion for art-making in all forms, for process, for the pursuit of other ideas.  The idea is always more important than the image, object, performance, story, poem — though the student must understand that these output sources are generally the only means through which their message will be disseminated.  Thus, technical skills are important in order to effectively communicate what it is the student is trying to say.  IÕve found that students worry about their craft when they are creating meaningful work.


I believe that a teacher in the arts has a unique duty to grow a sense of responsibility within their students.  This includes not only the encouragement of autonomy and personal accountability, but recognition of the influential potential of creative making on a much broader level.  Many students are anxious not to be passive makers and just need a little encouragement to move their work into an empowering direction.  Often times, after students begin to ask questions, they begin to challenge our cultureÕs collective consciousness, which is encouraged with the leading toward recognition of global awareness, critical theory, and discourse.  Teaching interpretation is the best way to foster critical thinking.


My belief in the importance of idea over medium is reflected in my own work, which incorporates writing, historic and contemporary photographic processes, installation, time-based media, and performance.  Thus, regardless of the course being taught, interdisciplinary exploration and collaboration are encouraged in the classroom if they best suit an idea.  With that being said, however, teaching photography specifically is an ideal way to provoke discourse in visual awareness, as we are constant, and mostly unconscious, everyday consumers of photographic media.  Photographs are thus a language through which we have already learned to speak, though students may not yet understand the grammar through which phrases are optimally pieced together.  Writing post establishment of this visual grammar leads to a more solid understanding of the work being made.  Often times my students have chosen to couple their work with poems or stories rather than traditional artist statements.


Perhaps my most important duty as a teacher is to embrace difference, to honor and encourage varying methods of learning and of working.  Any given classroom will contain students from diverse backgrounds with different passions, personalities, and processes.  No one person can ever fully understand any other personÕs experience, though we can respect each other and even learn to anticipate needs over time.  Creating a supportive community and opening safe lines of communication is critical in any classroom, especially a creative one in which risk-taking is encouraged.  Though some students are forthright with concerns and problems, many will not be.  It is my responsibility to understand this and to nurture each voice uniquely, so that every student is optimally poised to reap the essential rewards from their education.