Notes #1 Robert Evans on School Leadership
“For years now, most of the administrators I’ve met have said they love education, like leading, and can’t imagine doing anything else, but that the quality of life has been deteriorating. Their jobs are, if not eating them up, eating into their lives. They are working harder than ever, longer than ever, dealing with ever greater complexity, sacrificing ever more of their personal and family time to their work. Despite this, they report, they are subject to ever more criticism and second-guessing and unrealistic expectations. They face two key sets of issues. The first is professional: Can I do it all? Can I master all that is now demanded of me? The second is personal: What does it take out of me to do it all? Is it worth it? Can I keep this up?” ~ Robert Evans, Seven Secrets of the Savvy School Leader: A Guide to Surviving and Thriving
Teaching Art and Gender
How to introduce the context of the early feminist art movement to a group of iphone/text message generation teenage female students? I keep thinking in the days before the class, “remind them no websites, no internet, no wikipedia, no scanners or camera phones…” The enormous invisibility of these visionary women and the actions they took to see themselves represented in ways that matter, in ways that took back their sense of agency! Then, almost by accident, I discover on the new documentary shelf at Video Americain, the fantastic !Women Art Revolution by Lynn Hershman. It is the perfect visual tool for the start of this conversation.
Almost all of the artists we will be studying are present in this film. Judy Chicago, Nancy Spero, Faith Ringgold, Mary Beth Edelson, Miriam Schapiro, Ana Mendieta, Yoko Ono…. They come to life - their personalities, their bodies, voices, their arguments and achievements, their lives. Of course, as the film smartly acknowledges in the final sections, who is missing also stands out, as it always does when progressive discourse turns its attention towards those not present in the room, the work, the representation, the privilege…
Notes #2 from Jill Dolan’s Geographies of Learning
“Likewise, in Geographies of Learning, I proselytize for theater as an intensely social, still potentially radical site of cultural transformation. As Bonnie Marranca notes, theater is ‘the only cultural space in which felt speech and concentrated listening and looking is preserved.’ She goes on, ‘In this realm one can discover qualities increasing disappearing from contemporary experience, such as privacy and intimacy and spiritual feeling.’ I, too, believe in this particular, local, perhaps even utopian promise of theater, in which theater communities assemble to look at social relations, to be provoked, moved, enraged, made proud by what human beings can do when they’re set in relation to one another. Performance offers us a practice that lets us rehearse new social arrangements, in ways that require visceral investments of bodies, of time, of personal and cultural history…
Performance often unleashes the desire that flows just below the surface of the settings in which we work.” ~ Jill Dolan, Geographies of Learning: Theory and Practice, Activism and Performance
Notes #1 from Jill Dolan’s Geographies of Learning
“Theater is an ideological project, a place at which resistance is possible. Given the right critical and creative tools, active, rather than passive, consumption of theater and film and dance and performance contributes to a richer conversation about art and its efficacy. Teaching critical reading skills and theory is enormously important, because students need tools to intervene in representation, or even just to consume it critically and passionately…
For those of us versed in contemporary theory, poststructuralism has revised our understandings of what it means to be agents in specific historical moments. We know much more about the complexities of power and its insidious strategies. But we can’t be overcome with cynicism, we can’t finally move people through irony. Our passions, our pleasures, the elegance of our worldviews need to be communicated as values to which belief adheres. We need to teach values, encourage students to make political commitments, informed by global politics, as we train them in skills and knowledge. Teaching values will help reshape how knowledge matters and might allow us to have real effect in contemporary political systems.” ~ Jill Dollan, Geographies of Learning: Theory and Practice, Activism and Performance
Reflections on Teaching Community
“Progressive education, education as the practice of freedom, enables us to confront feelings of loss and restore our sense of connection. It teaches us how to create community.” ~ bell hooks,Teaching Community
I’m reconnecting to the building of community within the academic environment I work, as a major focus for the seasons ahead. This work includes conversations and professional development with faculty, administration, but most importantly, with students and young alumnae. As an artist, this extended work on campus involves a great many hours away from my own practice and studio, but I am determined to hold a greater balance of investment in self to compliment the enormous amount of personal resources with which I support so many others.
So, I’m reading again. One of the places I turn to listen, question, hold contradictions, investigations, inspirations is reading bell hooks:
“Paulo Friere reminds us that ‘without vision for tomorrow hope is impossible.’ Our visions for tomorrow are most vital when they emerge from the concrete circumstances of change we are experiencing right now.”
I picked back up Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope. So glad I did, as rereading (for the fourth or fifth time?), seems all the more timely for the work ahead, the work of right now.
First Day of Classes
Both my classes had their first real sessions today. My new performance class is preparing to study selected works of Anna Deavere Smith, and the course will focus on performance work that explores themes of social justice. Today, they wrote in their journals a list of what they had heard or learned about being female in the world (I teach at a single gender school for girls), and then they created a male character (of any age) talking about girls or women. Each student then performed her piece, and we discussed the patterns, myths, and stereotypes presented of both genders through their pieces. I am excited to see where this work evolves, especially as we move into characters that defy or challenge the perspectives of gender as either boy or girl.
My speech students read excepts from Bone Black by bell hooks, and I am always thrilled to introduce my young women students to her work! They’re writing their own personal narrative speeches as a first assignment.
“…I can tell him, my grandfather who loves me always, that I want to belong—that it hurts to be always on the outside. He tells me there are a lot of ways to belong in this world. And that it is my work to find out where I belong.
At night, when everyone is silent and everything is still, I lie in the darkness of my windowless room, the place where they exile me from the community of their heart, and search the unmoving blackness to see if I can find my way home. I tell myself stories, write poems, record my dreams. In my journal I write—I belong in this place of words. This is my home. This dark, bone black inner cave where I am making a world for myself.” ~ bell hooks, Bone Black
I taught in a coed setting for many years, but there is something so wonderful about the all girl class setting and the conversations my students share with me that remind me, on days like this, why I love my job so much!