SchoolArts Magazine

February 2017

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Page 22 of 66

Legacies of Art Teaching A D V O C A C Y Pam Stephens D id you know that the term "legacy" has changed over the years? Originally, legacy meant "ambassador" or "emissary." Now we think of legacy as being about ideas, property, or financial gifts that individuals leave behind. For example, twentieth-cen- tury progressive educational reformer John Dewey envisioned schools as fundamental to significant and long- lasting changes in society. His expan- sive legacy embraces the concept that human beings learn through doing. Philosophical Legacies Similarly, innumerable artists leave the legacy of their work and phi- losophies. As art educators we build upon artistic concepts rendered by those artists who precede us. Philan- thropists also leave a legacy. This is usually in the realm of financial sup- port or the deeding of property that promotes the well-being of others. Scholarships, grants, and even muse- ums are examples of philanthropic legacies. Gifted Legacies As of late, my thoughts have turned to legacies that were left for me, and in turn, the legacies I will leave for others. To begin, I thought of my second-grade teacher. Her husband worked for the local newspaper and he occasionally visited our class- room. His visits were usually com- memorated by a funny drawing on the chalkboard. What an insight for a second-grader to see that adults could and would draw! Next, I thought of the legacy gifted to me by my high-school art teacher. She encouraged without judgment my attempts at angst-ridden visual expression. Then there was the under- graduate American literature profes- sor who dressed in various costumes and made diverse characters such as Bartleby, the Scrivener and Sam the Lion come to life. F inally, I thought of my graduate school mentor whose focus upon my success was synonymous with his own—an individual whose patience modeled for me what a mentor should be. He willingly allowed me to make mistakes and then rectify them. He was open to alternate ways of thinking and outcomes and able to modify perceptions as circumstances changed. Perhaps of most importance was that he approached life and learn- ing with calm and good humor. After examining the philosophical legacies gifted to me, I identified three important threads: passion for the visual arts, tolerance for ideas or tra- ditions unlike my own, and an ability to laugh when the going gets tough. Consider Your Legacy Today, I am a university instructor. My students are preservice art educa- tors. I try to instill empathy, energy, and humor into my teaching with the anticipation that, like measles, this approach is contagious. I can think of no better ideological legacy than a foundation from which a compassion- ate and enthusiastic art teacher devel- ops—an art teacher willing to laugh at herself and with her students. C onsider your own legacy. Whether you are a beginning educator or some- one nearing retirement, what will you leave for those who follow in your footsteps? Will the legacy you leave be philosophical, something tangible, or both? Pam Stephens is a contributing editor for SchoolArts and professor of art education at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff. Pamela.Stephens@ Whethe ou are a beginning educator or someone nearing retirement, what will ou leave for those who follow i our footsteps? Recycled materials mosaic, a tangible legacy created by art and art education students at Northern Arizona University. 18 FEBRUARY 2017 SchoolArts

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