My Philosophy as a Ceramics Teacher in a Nutshell
Q1. What two qualities or characteristics are most important in a ceramics teacher?
A1. For me, two qualities are uppermost: (a) a seasoned competence in the subject at hand and (b) a tangible enthusiasm and pedagogical art for effectively communicating it. The teachers I appreciated most were always those who took me, step by step, into depths of understanding that enchanted me and transformed my way of viewing, of judging, of being in the world. They knew their subject intimately and were passionate about the importance of what they taught. One could feel that they were shaped and transformed by what they taught and, as day follows night, their teaching was infectious for me and my classmates as well.
My best teachers cared for me, listened deeply to me, and were curious about how my inner thoughts and life experiences shaped my understanding. My best teachers measured their success by my successes. They were demanding yet understanding, firm yet yielding, but, in all cases, zealous in the pursuit of truth, even when they discover it from their own students. They lived in action, yet their action was steeped in study, creativity, and contemplation.
Q2. What connection do you see between academic learning in the fine arts and the artistic vocation of your students to discover and to express their own voice?
A2. My own life journey has always been deeply intertwined with my own academic learning, and, in it turn, my academic learning has nourished my self-transformation and my thirst for excellence. Even today, I take consolation in the words of John Henry Newman: "To live is to change; to grow perfect is to have changed often." My tacit prayer before every workshop or class, accordingly, is that I might be worthy to undertake the awesome responsibility of helping those present to discover their own voices and to find a safe place to express their personal journey into those sacred places where their artistic vocation beckons them.
Over the years, I slowly formed the conviction that growth in artistic creativity and resourcefulness go hand-in-hand with an expanded sense of self, of mission, and of courageous self-expression. As a result, when I teach, I always use as my rule of thumb the following two principles: (a) Deep learning occurs best when someone discovers things for themselves rather than is simply told; and (b) Every balanced program of learning must nourish the artistic soul at the same time that it enlarges the participant's ideas/skills. Artistic competence, soulfulness, and transformative learning are thus, for me, intertwined and synergistic.