An introduction. Yeah, that would be good...
I am an art teacher at an American boarding school, and I got here by way of an environmental science degree and a few years working as an admissions counselor and financial aid officer. I've had five years working on both the administrative and the classroom sides of private education, and now I am 4 credits and a thesis project away from a Masters Degree in Education, Leadership, and Emerging Technology. I work at a small school, and we have a remarkable amount of control over our curriculum and access to motivated and talented students. We are also subjected to families who pay a lot of money and expect an individuated education for each of their children. My experiences this far have led me to search for solutions to the following problems:
1. Is it possible to be everything to everyone? What responsibility do I have to making sure tuition-paying students and families learn the skills and subjects they want to learn?
2. How can we expand and specialize the curriculum if we can't hire more teachers with specialized skill-sets or build more classrooms?
3. How can I teach my students to take risks and teach themselves the skills they want to learn so that they are not limited by my own abilities and talents?
With these questions in mind, I have reflected on my own art education, which has been cobbled together through a combination of formal classes, casual experimentation with materials twisted together or cut apart by restless hands, YouTube tutorials, blog posts, and hours of practice. Add a little praise from from a social network of dilettantes, who shower me with encouragement in the form of Facebook likes and Instagram posts, and you get an artist who finds time to cultivate her talent whenever and in whatever way possible. I am not classically trained, but I am not afraid to teach myself or seek out internet wisdom for how to create something cool. As a result, I am a teacher with a patchwork of experience and knowledge. More often than not, my response to a student's question is, "I don't know. Let's Google it."
My Master's thesis seeks to discover strategies to target this habit into something more intentional. I want my students to never allow themselves to be limited by who is around them and what their teachers can tell them. I want them to push through challenges on their own, and seek solutions to their failures by consulting their peers or seeking guidance from an online community. The ultimate goal is to teach my students to become their own instructional designers, and to create the curriculums they want for themselves. I believe that these skills will help them to become innovators and create the industries of the future. Whether it results in them becoming better artists remains to be seen.