There Will Always Be Another Hoop, Until…
Teaching artistry began with mentoring, studying for a long period of one’s life under a master. Then, with their blessing, going out and sharing that wealth of knowledge to another.
It was personalized. It was rare.
That is not the case now. There are a multitude of ways to learn from masters from in-person to online. The blessing has now been shortened and depersonalized into certification, which makes them easier to get, often not even from the technique’s source.
The machine is demanding we work faster. People are expected to get their masters while holding down a full-time job and living a life. How much can we learn from that degree in such a time-scarcity way? It is devaluing it before it is even earned. During my master’s work, fellow artists were already contemplating a PhD because they knew half way through their current program they were not competitive with only an MFA.
The demand is great. The products are lessening. There is a huge inflation in education that is devaluing past degrees and certifications almost faster than we can get them.
We are not assembly line workers attaining, assessing, and then passing down the line the information of our elders. There is no honor in that. There is no respect in that. There is no creative ownership in that. It is purely functional.
The industrial revolution has taken its toll on how we, as artists, learn and teach.
The answer, as we can plainly see, is not to be faster, to be more certified, or to attain the highest degree. We are experiencing the law of diminishing returns.
And only teaching artists can stop it.
First, we must stop competing with each other. We are in this together. The less we compare, the more resources we share.
The only way to do that is to truly own what makes us unique as artists and educators. We must dig deep and ask ourselves: Why am I drawn to this art form? Why do I desire to teach? How has my life path molded how I interpret my art form? How have teachers in my life left impressions on me that I now consciously create and teach from?
The why’s and how’s must loom larger than the what’s, who’s, and when’s: What degrees/certifications do you have? In what? With whom? When?
We must be daring enough to teach beyond the skill. The skill is a means to an end, but what end needs to be consciously designed by you, the teaching artist.
Yes, we defend the arts in education by talking about these ends: communication, empathy, body awareness, critical thinking, collaboration… But are you aiming for those? Are they your horizon? Or are they wonderful bi-products?
You can see what you’re aiming for when you look at how you talk about your work:
Look at your workshop titles. Look at your resume. Look at your class descriptions.
How much is focused on someone else’s skill?
How much highlights you, why you and only you can teach this workshop or course?
That gap must be closed.
Even students of great masters, who solely learn under one teacher for decades, still find ways to make it their own. They must in order to both honor and evolve the technique, the art form.
Knowledge and art are living creatures and the current industrialized model of a teaching artist is not helping knowledge and art thrive, only survive.
We can change that. We must.
And it starts with owning your why’s and then putting them front and center…
Because the revolution is YOU.
- *If you’re curious about how to do this, I’m here to help. I coach teaching artists to help them create unique workshops only they can teach. My last class this year starts May 15.**
(Originally published April 5, 2017 at CreativelyIndependent.net)