Just as the body is not separate from the mind, thought is not distinct from emotion. I believe that learning is optimized when students are engaged in a holistic process, into which thought, feeling and experience are dynamically integrated.
My first goal in the classroom is to establish a culture of safety and mutual respect, in which students are free to experiment and take risks, and are encouraged to work with integrity and pleasure. I then present progressively challenging material based upon learning objectives, providing tools and guidance for success. My methodology involves a combination of preparation and spontaneity, differentiated instruction, and multi-sensory cues. In a dance practice class, for example, I will provide biomechanical information, sing rhythms, perform clear visual demonstration, and prompt students to feel the sensation of effective execution. Humor, tenacity, flow, clarity, and enthusiasm are characteristics of my teaching style.
Based on the belief that students learn best through experience and discovery, my classroom is dynamic and action-oriented. In a composition class, this means that students will spend more time creating than critiquing, and that analysis remains secondary to engaging directly with the work at hand. In a movement class, language is used as a tool to connect to embodied knowledge, and students are encouraged to process ideas physically. In order for true learning to take place, the freedom to fail is necessary. Students are therefore encouraged to experiment, and then integrate successful ideas into their knowledge base through reflection, practice, discussion, creation and writing.
More important, perhaps, than teaching style and methodology, is the question of what should comprise the curriculum and learning objectives for any given lesson, course, or program, depending on students’ needs. Over the course of my teaching career, I have taught elite golfers, professional and pre-professional dancers, Hollywood bigwigs, underprivileged youth, cancer patients and people with physical and developmental disabilities. My goal for each of these groups is the same; to assist students in gaining mastery over material while increasing their skill, confidence and autonomy. Underlying the learning objectives of any lesson is my desire to foster lifelong learning, critical thinking, and creative problem solving.
Teachers have the potential for a great impact on society by effecting change through education, a great responsibility particularly given the injustice and inequity that plagues the American education system. Similarly, it is the role of the artist to awaken the senses, provoke thought, question assumptions, and disrupt the status quo. It is essential, therefore, for the teaching artist to critically consider the manner, methods, and mission of education, and endeavor to create a better world through teaching.
I approach teaching from the assumption that student empowerment is the key to a better future. A world of socially conscious, resourceful, intellectually curious, and thoughtful people is a world that I want to live in. I want for my students not only to be prepared to succeed in the world in the world that exists now, but also to succeed in creating a better world that doesn’t exist yet.