06 April 2020
As I am transitioning to an online format for my classes I have been thinking quite a bit about how much relationships affect my success as a student and future educator. My positive relationships with professors in college gave me the confidence to face quarantine head on with a positive attitude. The teachers that were organized, had a game plan ahead of time, and gave empathetic reassurance were the most helpful and influential at this moment in time. I have been paying attention to the teachers who feel that checking in emotionally is important, versus the teachers who do not find importance in checking in. I think this is a really valuable time for educators to evaluate themselves and think about the importance of relationships and how that is affecting their transition to online teaching.
Patrick Fahey often discussed the importance of building relationships with your students to foster a comfortable classroom community--basically the theory behind relationship building, empathy, and importance of community connections. I always wondered how my favorite teachers grew and nurtured such a warm classroom environment. It seems to fall back on this idea of empathy and importance and value of the individual. An article I read from the American Psychological Association stated, "Teachers who foster positive relationships with their students create classroom environments more conducive to learning and meet students' developmental, emotional and academic needs" (Rimm-Kauffman, Sandilos). Our success as educators falls on the back of our relationships with our students. The article also stated some wonderful do's and don'ts in improving students' relationships with teachers.
Empathy and relationships make the world go-round. If we do not have empathy, we lack in skills surrounding understanding, connection, and growth. It is a skill that I am continuing to improve everyday as I work with a variety of students from different backgrounds, experiences, and socio-economic statuses. Many things come into play whenever a student enters my classroom--and I have to be available/willing/prepared to support those students and be there for them emotionally, before I even begin thinking about teaching anything.
For my art piece this week, I have been exploring a new medium to practice being vulnerable and willing to fail. It is vital to model this style of experimental artistic behavior for my students to know that every project, every class, or any life experience may not, or does not, have to be perfect. It matters more to the success of my students to exhibit explorative behavior as their teacher versus trying to be "the expert". This shows that you are on the same level of respect. Just because I am the teacher does not mean I will always do everything right, know every answer, or be the BEST at everything. I am there to support each student's learning by valuing them as unique, brilliant, capable individuals.
Exposing this level of vulnerability in myself opens the door for students to converse about their experiences, especially "failures" or challenges (I put this in parenthesis because failure is necessary for growth--a positive word more than a negative) and view them in a positive light to open up conversations, persevere, learn and eventually grow. This skill can be applied to everyday life. We face many challenges no matter our background. Everyone has their day-to-day struggles; but my classroom will be the place where those challenges are acknowledged, discussed (if that is the support they need), and overcome. I want my classroom to be the place where students can come in with a "sigh of relief" that they have a teacher who knows them, supports them, and is going to support them in anything and everything they do--whether it has to do with my class or not.
My weaving this week (read from bottom to top) starts with a multicolor yarn. I created sporadic fringe to add an element of play and fun--just to experiment. With quarantine bumming my mood, I wanted to work with a more positive color pallet to begin with. This also represents the importance of a positive attitude and willingness to experiment and be creative.
The lowest row of basic weaving stitch (over, under) with the multicolor yarn is representative of moments of happiness and clarity connecting together. I created this design by weaving three separate rectangles together using an interlocking/hooking stitch to connect the wefts. This represents the most positive moments in my teaching/learning experience coming together to create a greater picture.
The second section, also seen on the top-most layer is woven with found materials (ripped cloth and washed dryer sheet) to represent the importance of softness in a classroom--this is where empathy comes in. Students need that comfort in their environment and that is when you start to see their individually personalities peeking through, which is represented by the multicolor thread of my warp showing between the found cloth as I wove them together.
The middle grey section is representative of those cloudy days. Sometimes you may be having an off day, a student might be struggling at home or in another class and there is this looming cloud floating in between everything else. I want to look at this piece as a reminder that all though we all have traumatic experiences, or hard days, there is always a silver lining of positive moments to balance it out. There are still happy moments of color peeking out in between the gray material from the warp yarn--there are happy moments in life even if something is bogging you down.
Finally, the leather ties at the top of my weaving and the leather material holding up my piece is representative of strength. I want my students to find strength in my classroom and their ability to come to me as a supporter.
For more details + documentation of my artworks created to accompany these blog posts, visit my instagram!