Charles R Garoian

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T e a c h i n g   P h i l o s o p h y

I believe teaching to be a collaborative art form; a democratic process that involves teachers and students in exchanging, critiquing, and debating cultural ideas, images, and actions. Collaboration does not preclude rigorous study. The adage, "two heads are better than one," assumes that teachers and their students contribute different kinds of experience, knowledge, and expertise to educational discourse.

As a teacher, for example, I bring to my classroom an academic background, personal memories, and a cultural history. I have years of experience creating art works and teaching art at the high school and university levels. My students also have expertise. They also bring to the classes that I teach personal memories and cultural histories; knowledge and experiences that they have acquired from their families, neighborhoods, communities, and the classrooms that they have attended. What students bring to my classroom from their respective backgrounds serve as significant counterpoints to my curriculum; content from which a critical dialogue can ensue, and personal understanding and responsibility can take place, among us.

As a teacher, it is essential that I create a context for interpretation; a place within the curriculum that acknowledges and enables my students’ personal perspectives on course content. I believe I am most effective as a teacher when I provide my students with a critical voice in the classroom by diversifying my pedagogy; by creating multiple strategies that will enable them to understand and critique what they learn from me and from each other. In doing so, my students learn not only the subject matter of art, but how to become critical citizens and to participate in a cultural democracy.

By lecturing to large groups of my students, for example, I am able to impart academic knowledge efficiently, but my monologue dissuades my students’ individual discussions and interpretations. Their personal identities are hidden and their voices silenced in a lecture situation. By diversifying my teaching strategies, however, I can present lectures among small group activities and individualized instruction to provide my students with greater opportunities to challenge me and each other by engaging in discussions and voicing their personal interpretations about course content.

By shifting my teaching strategies to accommodate different learning styles, my students are encouraged to brainstorm, improvise, and interpret my curriculum from their own cultural perspectives. In doing so, they learn to challenge and transform the academic knowledge that I teach into new cultural ideas, images, and actions that are meaningful to their personal lives.

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