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The critic Susan Sontag in her personal journals states, “I intend to do everything…I shall anticipate pleasure everywhere and find it too, for it is everywhere!  I shall involve myself wholly…everything matters.”[1] At the core of my teaching philosophy is observation.  It is through observation that we discern history, we create community, we question our position, and we perform.  I practice Sontag’s words in my life because it directly impacts what happens in my studio and also in my classroom.  This motto can be daunting.  As an educator I facilitate ways for students to navigate this vast terrain and become more attune to their history, interests, and the overlap between the two and finally how to analyze and critique their choices.   


I intend to do everything.  Students enter the classroom with a diverse range of previous knowledge.  My role is to continue to nourish, add to, and challenge these notions. I believe in creating a foundation.  It can come in the form of mastering medium-specific skills, or reflecting on a medium’s history while being aware of contemporary practices.  It is through this foundation that students’ can find their own relevance and in turn a medium’s relevance.


I shall involve myself wholly.   A professor once told me “Just date it.  You don’t have to marry it.”  With this motto in mind, I seek to create an environment where it is okay to take risks, to be vulnerable, and to ask questions.  In Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, she says “vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, its understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging it being all in.”[2]  It is being “all in” that leads students to find ways to challenge the norm and be challenged, to act on their curiosities, and formulate methods of problem solving in order to move forward.


I shall anticipate pleasure everywhere and find it too.  My medium of ceramics is ever changing and so too is my teaching.  I do not teach the same way twice and am continuously informed by innovations in the application of a specific medium as well as new ways of sharing this information.   No student learns in the same way and so my teaching should reflect this by being attentive to their needs.  Over the years I have taken on a more interdisciplinary approach.  I encourage the use of alternate materials or technologies to ceramics and try to get students outside of the classroom and into the community that they will soon inhabit. 


Everything Matters.  A student should understand that their voice matters.  My most important role as an educator is giving a student the confidence to believe this.  I do this through observing.  I patiently listen, encourage their determination, and find the light in their disappointments.  It is with this confidence that students become conscious of their observations and self-motivated to navigate their future.


[1] Sontag, Susan. 2008.  Reborn:  Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963. David Rieff (Ed.)  New York:  Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.

[2] Brown, Brené. 2012. Daring Greatly:  How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.  New York:  Gotham Books. p.2.

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