An Updated Teaching Philosophy

Since my account is apparently ineligible for a Scroll of Resurrection (oh the disappointment!) I have decided to do another productive thing and hopefully enter all you dear readers out there.

My teaching philosophy’s changed since I’ve started, and really it’s the result of a bigger picture I hadn’t realized until now.

Credit to Elvert Barnes @ Flickr via Creative Commons.

This started off as a normal homework assignment in our English pedagogy class. Read eight articles and write a short response to each of the articles. Eight short articles is all this was meant to be.

I, being cheeky and so set on not writing things because I was bored of writing fifty-word blurbs that meant nothing, decided to take up my professor on his challenge to do something “creative” and decided to write poetry in response to the articles. But then, I reconsidered. These “creative” poems might just end up being fifty-word blurbs that meant nothing in the end. Everything really should have some level of meaning if you’re going to put time into it, right?

Anyway, I don’t know how exactly these came about but I somehow ended up writing eight different found poems in response to the eight articles I read. Each poem focuses on a key lesson that I learned from the article. This is the first one I wrote:

Copyright 2013 by Andrea Lai. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2014 by Andrea Lai. All rights reserved.

The rest quickly followed, and I guess they became concrete-found poems because I ended up writing them in the form of some very familiar characters:

2013-10-19 15.01.18
Copyright 2014 by Andrea Lai. All rights reserved.

The neat thing about artistic projects is that I find in many cases the project almost creates itself; ideas pop up and meanings attach to form supports and suddenly a whole project is formed. It’s a pretty neat process because things just happen and the artist is the one taken for a ride.

Anyway, a bit of an explanation is in order: I wrote the concrete-found poems in the shape of Chinese numbers (from 1-8, reading from top to bottom and then left to right) because these characters were likely the first forms of writing that I learned as a child. The forms of the poems thus reflects how my cultural background very much shapes how I read and perceive literature. Haha, get it? Shapes? Yeah, I laugh at my own jokes.

I also joined the pieces together with gardening wire, because gardening wire actually has so many interesting uses that I have still yet to explore. Also it was at the dollar store when I was grabbing “things that I thought would work in a project.”

Copyright 2014 by Andrea Lai. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2014 by Andrea Lai. All rights reserved.

The fun part came when I decided to do some more drawing, because there’s a lot more to what shapes my worldview than my cultural heritage. Originally I planned to use more gardening wire and craft something crazy on the back but that totally didn’t happen because I lacked the skills (and glue) to anchor the pieces down. Instead, I ended up drawing with pens… and with colour. That might not sound like an accomplishment to you but it is for me because I am the worst with colours. Seriously. I suck at filling in big blocks of space with colour so instead I cheated and drew lots of lines in an attempt towards shading. Or something. I’M NOT IN THE ART COHORT.

This is the sketch I started with, which then transferred over to the back of the eight pieces. The pencil sketch is pretty hard to see though. The eight pieces were already separated so that actually made drawing / colouring  a lot easier since if the very worst happened to one piece I could scrap it and make another piece without wrecking the entire thing. I did aim for a Chinese-style painting (I was thinking old men by waterfalls at first) but then decided to keep it simple. Lots of Googling of “chinese trees” occurred here because I needed models.

Copyright 2014 by Andrea Lai. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2014 by Andrea Lai. All rights reserved.

Now, before we go on, it’s obvious that there’s a cross in the centre of the image. This reflects the background part of me as well. Having been a Christian for ten years now, and having been raised in a Christian household, my knowledge and understanding of the Bible shapes my worldview to the greatest degree; there is no other one factor that has such an impact on how I read what goes on around me. I also recently came across a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that states that Christ is found at the edges of existence; that is, Christ is beyond me and it is through Christ that my being is interpreted. John 1:1 describes Christ as the Word and I include this (as you’ll see below) in the picture below because for me, this Word shapes all other words I read. Pun totally intended. Here’s what part of the finished product looks like, with a close-up so you can see the pen strokes:

Write_School Project - Responses to Eight Articles-001
Copyright 2014 by Andrea Lai. All rights reserved.

So this is where my teaching philosophy comes in. Thanks to this assignment and to this project I’ve become very aware of my backgrounds; the reference points from which I speak, so to say. The important thing to mention though, is that there are gaps in my understanding, formed by the links that imperfectly join the pieces of this project together. Because I know where I’m from, I can see better where I’m going (hopefully), or at least have a better picture of where I’ve been as I keep growing. I want my students to be able to do the same in my classroom. That is, I want to create an environment wherein my students will begin to find the pieces of themselves. If they ask, I will show them my background as an example for them to understand their own backgrounds. But the important part is that my students begin to put the pieces of themselves together so that they begin to understand the gaps in their lives as well.

Hope you enjoyed (=

Copyright 2014 by Andrea Lai. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2014 by Andrea Lai. All rights reserved.



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