I believe that knowledge is fluid and dynamic and that each student brings their own set of strengths and unique learning methods to the classroom. I expect students to approach the learning process with an open mind and encourage them to explore. Process and practice are the most central focus of my teaching philosophy. With solid technique and appropriate guidance, mastery of new skills will develop for each student at their own pace. An important aspect of creating equity in my classroom is achieved through attentiveness, responsibility, and a commitment to approaching the curriculum on an equal footing with my students.
An example that speaks to this practice occurred in an intermediate wheel pottery class. Students asked to see a demonstration of wheel-throwing a large planter (many of them were afraid to attempt throwing more than 10 pounds of clay at once). I sat down with 25 pounds of clay and began working. I pulled the clay up into a respectably sized planter and began shaping it. After a few minutes I determined that I didn’t like the shape and that the planter was going to be too heavy for its size. I continued to push out the walls and overwork it until it collapsed. The students were momentarily devastated, lamenting the “failure” of the planter. I assured them I could always recycle the clay and try again. I sat back down and the next planter I threw was much better. Every student in the class sat down after the demonstration with more clay than they would have generally dared, and all of them took risks and produced work they previously thought themselves incapable of. From this experience I learned that, while it is important to exhibit good technique and mastery as an instructor, it is equally important to demonstrate a measured and composed approach to perceived failures. By providing myself room to take risks in the classroom, I gave my students license to do the same.
My approach to teaching is an ongoing progression of co-discovery. The student comes with what they know (sometimes with no experience whatsoever, and no faith in their abilities) and I help to guide them through a process of learning rooted in a personalized approach to their own physicality. I have encountered that every student has their own unique relationship to method and material. My responsibility as a teacher is to impart a solid base of technique as a road map and then to provide a safe space for students to explore and take risks along the way. I encourage students to play, to not take themselves too seriously while they are just getting started. Giving each of my students the tools and room to learn a new form of expression has enriched my own practice more deeply than decades alone in the studio. I am continually honored to be able to assist each student in connecting with themselves through making.