In the Presence of Teaching: Reflections from a Project
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
by: Brenda Sorkin, GCFP, Elizabeth Minnich, and Laura Gardner

Section: Professional Develpment

Over the course of our lives, one experience most of us remember is having a teacher who lit up the classroom and made learning a paradigm-shattering experience. Although the space between rote and inspired learning is vast, understanding how to create a vibrant learning environment can be elusive.

Feldenkrais® practitioner Brenda Sorkin spent three years exploring this topic with two other educators, the result of which is the following article, originally published in Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning. We've published the introduction; click on the link below it to download the entire magazine article.


Our Project

Reflecting on Artful Teaching

For three years now—meeting monthly to report, analyze, reflect, and continually, to distill and compare notes, derive and question conclusions—we have been doing something that only sounds simple. We have been asking ourselves what it is we actually do each time we teach. Related to that, we have asked something evidently less simple: What values, what ways of being; are we teaching by how we do it? How do you in your teaching enact, create, embody values you hold to be relevant to, even constitutive of, your field, and appropriate for democratic education?

Among us, we teach art and art education, moral philosophy, and somatics (movement, body alignment, and self-awareness). Despite the evident differences in our subjects, themselves eloquent
of old divisions in Western culture—mind/body; reason/imagination/emotion; thinking/making/moving; analysis/creativity—we have found mutually illuminating the how, and, as revealed through it, the why of this work that matters so much.

We also quickly realized a key similarity: We were interested in the art, the highly honed ways of performing in the moment, that alchemically creates that unique, memorable, enlivening experience: a good class. We remain interested in the aesthetic experience of teaching/learning and the joy of it. These, it has seemed to us, are too often ignored, even excluded as suspect in a scientized age.

So we have been in quest of a grail that is different from generalized, replicable, strictly comparable techniques. We have sought to discern and describe ways of being with the unique rather than the standard—art rather than science. Of course, trying to capture an art in action is tricky. It flirts with the contradictory. On a very basic level, it does so because, paraphrasing Hannah Arendt, human beings are paradoxically the same in being each and every one unique.

Download the article.
An expanded version of this article was recently published in the book Educating for an Ecological Civilization, edited by Marcus Ford and Stephen Rowe, EDS. Congratulations, Brenda!
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