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Audrey M.

Reeves: A Statement of Teaching Philosophy

Over the years I have evolved from a teacher that stood in front of the classroom and
lectured information that I deemed important. Instead, I now pride myself in being more of a
coach, striving for students to take control of their own learning through a combination of self
exploration and discussion with others. Through my endeavors, I have developed as a teacher
and I now carry this philosophy with me with each teaching experience, figuring out ways to
change my teaching to better meet my students’ needs. With all of my teaching experiences,
including teaching teachers (supervising undergraduate art educators and mentoring graduate
instructors of records), teaching art education courses to general education undergraduates, and
my many experiences teaching art in K-12 (and younger and older), there is a common thread
that ties them together. In every setting, I find myself placing emphasis on critical thinking,
meaningful big ideas surrounding social justice, identity work, and relationships.
My first objective, critical thinking, is an important skill to be a successful teacher, as
well as instill in art students. I aim to push students out of their comfort zone so they can grow
as individuals and as teachers. This is accomplished through a combination and continuous
cycle of exposing them to diverse perspectives and encouraging them to listen openly, then
reflect on their own values, and finally have dialogue with experts in the field (sometimes in
person, other times through research articles) and discussion with their peers. This process
includes asking provoking questions on controversial and pertinent issues, which pushes
students’ perspectives, asking them to critically think about their pedagogy or values instead of
resorting back to what they know or grew up with.
I also stress meaningful art lessons, including utilizing big ideas and concepts
surrounding social justice. I encourage students to develop an art curriculum that connects art
with the world, and is relevant and engaging, through deep exploration of social and cultural
issues. I constantly bring in current events and topics to tie to central themes. I also take
students on field trips, allowing them to connect abstract concepts to the real world. I want my
students to see that art can shape students’ identity and mindsets. It can be a medium for
students to have voice, and communicate their stories and the stories of their communities
through powerful, provocative messages. Art is much more than the elements and principles of
art, and is a means of providing agency and socially responsible critique. New teachers need to
see how they can be powerful agents of change.
For change in perspectives to happen, students need to start with an exploration and
understanding of themselves, or their identity. Many times students are puzzled when I ask them
to write about or create art that demonstrates who they are; they have not been asked this
question before. Assignments involving identity allow students to think through their personal
beliefs in relation to societal/cultural issues. My assignments push students to find their voice
through reflections, journaling, and creating artwork, allowing students to examine and transform
their identity as a teacher and as an artist.
Finally, for critical thinking, social justice, and identity work to be successful, the class
needs to have roots in relationships. Relationships are the key to students learning in my own
class, and the key to their students learning in their future classes. Relationship and community
building in the classroom starts with the teacher. As students have repeatedly highlighted in my
course evaluations, I am kind, approachable and welcoming, consistently smiling, patient, and
non-judgmental. As I am asking my students to be vulnerable, I lead by sharing my stories, my
values, and ultimately being open and honest about my life and identity. I see our relationship as 1
reciprocal, and I pride myself in being a facilitator and remind students that I learn just as much
from them as they learn from me. I take pride in listening to my students and value their
opinions and their feedback. In the end, it is our classroom, not mine alone. Having a strong
community helps when having discussions about difficult topics, such as discrimination based on
race, gender, disability, religion, and class, because students feel safe sharing with me and their
classmates in a respectful but challenging environment.
My commitment to teaching excellence is the foundation for these four objectives to
come to fruition. I show my students I respect their time and learning by being organized and
prepared, available, and willing to help. I model dedication to teaching through a cycle of
reflection and listening to student feedback, showing teaching as a continual learning process. I
share my passion and enthusiasm for art education, and stay curious. Through collaboration with
other teachers from my department and other departments, and with my teacher mentors, through
going to conferences and talks every opportunity I get, and reading research, I stay current in art
education practices, theory, and pedagogy. I view my teaching as research and as an art. My
teaching inspires my research and artmaking and vice-versa. My most recent research was
inspired by learning the challenges of critical thinking surrounding big ideas, strong
relationships, and identity work. Students shared personal issues and trauma with me, which led
me to investigate compassion fatigue and teacher self-care in my dissertation through creating
visual art, poetry, and short social fiction stories.
A part of teaching excellence is reaching all learners. I am committed to reach a wide
range of diverse learners through using a variety of teaching approaches. In a typical class, I
utilize little lecture, and instead focus on student-centered learning strategies such as reflective
writings, sharing with a partner, discussion in larger groups and class-wide discussions, field
trips, showing visual culture clips (movies, T.V. shows, stand up comedy, visual artworks),
activities, having small-group leaders or student panels teach class, class debates, listening to
podcasts, and collaborative creations. I have taken many classes on multicultural issues in art
education at both Arizona State University and The Ohio State University, including exploring
cultural issues in art education abroad in Belize and Jamaica. I have extensive knowledge in
multicultural and global education and culturally relevant and sustaining pedagogies and theories
to inform and mold my own pedagogy.
I also am inclusive to different learning styles through assessment. I give flexibility,
tailoring and modifying assignments and giving freedom of choice in many prompts in order to
benefit each learner. For example, for my students’ final in my visual culture art education class,
they chose a social justice topic we had investigated through the semester and researched it more
in-depth. They then showed their analysis of the topic through a traditional research paper or
they could create an artwork with an artist statement. This resulted in students creating poetry,
music and rap songs, collages, paintings, photography and self-portraits, sculptures, comics and
graphic novels, just to name a few projects. With my art education student teachers, there is a
little less leeway, as they need to learn a specific set of skills pre-practicum in order to be
successful professionals, but students still have a lot of choice in what and how they teach, as
there are many ways of being a successful teacher which grows from each person’s diverse
identity and experiences. As Paulo Freire (1968) explains, “Knowledge,” and I would argue
teaching and art, “emerges through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient,
continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each
other.” I strive to help future art teachers find and improve their individual teaching persona, as I
continually clarify and revise my own teaching persona. 2