Artistic Teaching

Art is generally seen as a matter of personal or individual taste, expression of emotion or producing artists or craftspeople. Due to this perception Art is located as a separate subject divorced from the so-called academic subjects that is if at all it is recognized in the curriculum.  This further results in the Art teacher also detached from the everyday workings of the school.  She is seen to work with children to either create/develop art works wherein the focus lies only on the end product rather than the process or in better cases where there is focus on process therefore respecting and honing individual expression.  While the latter does sound closer to what one would want to have in the school curriculum yet one also realizes that the idea of Art in education is still disconnected or separate from the regular workings of the school. Art is still not recognized as part of the very nature of schooling and this is going to be the focal point of this article.

A few days ago we, Riad Foundation conducted our first Teacher Sharing Session.  This involved three teachers who came forward and shared their classroom experiences. These were raw classroom sharings and therefore the teachers were free to share anything from a particular theme, to discussing about a specific child or group of children, to a specific subject or something else. While the three speakers came from schools of different formats and they spoke about subjects that were far a part from one another yet there was an interesting link that seemed to emerge which connected to the idea of the importance of art and creative activity in education.

One of the differences between learning and education is that learning can happen anytime and anywhere therefore it is not necessarily intentional or deliberate or that it only happens in a certain physical space or under the guidance of certain people.  Since it is not deliberate there can exist good learning as well as bad learning.  Education on the other hand is intentional and has an element of ‘goodness’ attached to it.  If education is intended/deliberate and focuses on the betterment or ‘what ought to be’ then it needs to be well designed and organized. When we talk about designing, creativity is inevitable.  For example if we want a product to be designed we require subject matter experts who know what materials should be used and how the materials interact with one another but we also look at the aesthetic coming together of the materials which is what makes it pleasing.  Similarly education design while requires subject matter expertise it also requires the coming together of it all in an aesthetic manner.  It is the aesthetic element that will lead to the child to truly experience pleasure and internalize the outcome. I will not focus on the importance of or what is aesthetics here and will just close it on the point that the more aesthetic the outcome the more it is connected with being human and therefore the organic internalization.

Teachers are therefore designers who deliberately need to design the delivery of their subject matter.  During the Teacher Sharing Session that was the common thread that interestingly emerged across the three teachers. One teacher in his sharing mentioned, co-curricular activities are equally influenced by academiaand therefore the reverse relation also needs exploration. He is a theatre practitioner as well and stated, even theatre (which is considered co-curricular in schools) needs academia (subject matter knowledge) be it for content or for the making.  All teachers during their talks had their ‘aha’ moments when delivering their subject matter through creative activity.  The conscious awareness of classroom space and movement of the child, the children’s visual representations, singing, dancing, literature and more is where all the teachers felt that there was an impact, they felt they had moved forward with the children.  The teachers also enjoy this process because they have deliberately designed something and the end product has succeeded. Teachers are everyday designers indulged in creative activity to achieve that sweet spot between them the children and the subject matter. Given this point one can also then say that not deliberately designing (following some usually practiced approaches) leads to not truly educating…teaching. Therefore education is a complex design that needs to be handled with not just subject matter knowledge but subject matter knowledge intertwined with creative activity.

When an artistic teacher (all teachers and not just an art teacher) is aware of physical space, movement in the space, expression and interpersonal relations, dress, presentation, color, etc. is when the nature of schooling as a whole changes.  Education does not seem a divorced idea from a child’s everyday life but rather becomes part of it.  Another point that came through all three talks was contextualizing for the child. It was only when the teachers delivered through creative activity is when they felt the children were able to express from their own perspective, from their own world.

The next question that inevitably springs up is, can creativity be taught? Can a teacher learn to become an artistic teacher? But these questions demand another discussion all together. As of now the important point to explore as an educator is ‘artistic teaching’ and in this manner see the true integration of arts in education for the teacher and in turn the child.

You can visit the videos of the three talks I have referred to in this article by clicking the following links:

Identifying Smaller Milestones
Chanakya Vyas – Facilitator  and Pedagogue

Experiences at a Bridge School
Josephdeyone Jacobi – Learning Center Coordinator and Educator

What the study of Humanities and Language is teaching me
Kalpana Aravamuthu – Freelance Educator