- THE ARTIST
- by: Scott M.
Hathaway, Instructor, English Department
- Hudson Valley
Community College, Troy, New York 12180
- Only in men's imagination does
every truth find an effective and undeniable existence.
Imagination, not invention, is the supreme master of art as of
- From the doorway, I watch my two
year old son Noah with curiosity as he creates a dialogue for his
Playskool little people and stuffed animals. I watch his delight
as he fills their painted mouths with questions, exclamations, and
frightful accounts of a train crash in the toyland of his
imagination. In this particular story, Thomas the Tank Engine has
tipped over, and Winnie the Pooh and the little people must get
together to help get him back on the rails.
- I am caught spying. Noah looks up
and gives me a big smile. "Come play some toys, Daddy," he says,
not minding my intru-sion. "Sure," I say as I hunker down on the
floor to play. I look forward to hearing the end of his story.
Mostly I watch. He is an artist, skillfully weaving plot and
character into a coherent narrative. Desperately, I reach back
into my past, trying to recapture this sense of wonder and
carefree imaginative spirit he shows so naturally, trying to
remember what it was like to be an artist. For a time, it works;
I am a child again, caught up in Noah's world of exploration,
creativity, imagination, and joy. We make up more stories
together, but it soon becomes obvious to me that Noah is far more
accomplished at storytelling than I am. I'm a bit rusty, and it's
harder now. As we play, my mind drifts to a pile of papers that
need grading, and then to the lesson plans for tomorrow's classes.
I begin worrying about bills, leaky faucets and household chores.
Reality has forced its way in again. I think, "What happened to
me?" Why was I so quick to give up creating and imagining? I miss
the artist I once was.
- Too often, we let our imagination
get buried beneath the demands of life, or we let it take a back
seat to our intellects. Child development theorists tell us that
Noah is doing more than just telling stories and playing. He is
learning as he plays. Indeed, he is constructing his own view of
reality, making connections, creating meaning, and in short,
understanding what it means to be alive. I, on the other hand,
know how to do this stuff already ... or do I?
- Thankfully, our imaginations never
really leave us. Imagination is the key and foundation for all
learning, not just childhood learning. It is the imagination that
encourages us to ex-perience life more deeply and more fully. If
we choose to ignore the creative and imaginative side of
ourselves, we deny ourselves a vital piece of the human
experience. Much worse, if we fail to teach students how to
harness the imaginative spirit within, we deny them that side of
themselves that allows for new interpretations, new ways of
thinking and understanding. I am convinced that without our
powers of imagination, we would have no motivation to learn, no
motivation to live.
- I know that to analyze my way of
teaching, I must analyze myself first. I need to look back at my
own learning experiences and identify what worked (and what works)
for me. As teachers, we need to be picking up where our students'
kindergarten teachers left off. At the risk of sounding corny, we
need to let our students explore their "inner child," allowing
them to use their own prior knowledge as a basis for new learning
and creative thinking. Too often though, we find ourselves in a
rut we are reluctant to leave. "After all," we may say, "my way
of doing things has seemed to work fine all these years, why
should I change now?" Change is a scary thing, especially if it
involves taking the focus off of ourselves and concentrating our
efforts on to our students' learning experiences and trying to
understand their views of the world.
- Too, if we want to teach our
students to think imaginatively, we had better teach imaginatively
ourselves. For example, I need to constantly ask myself: What
other ways are there to teach run on sentences? How can I
structure class or group discussions to help students understand
complicated subjects? How can I model effective notetaking in my
class so that it will be more than a laundry list of terms to be
covered during a test? Moreover, how can I create writing
assignments that will both trigger the spark of creative thought
and be practical? It is a daunting task - one that keeps me
- From the doorway, I watch my
Composition students with curiosity as they complete an
interactive dialogue writing assignment to be used in their
personal narrative project. I watch one pair as they talk,
create, and delight in the play of language and the joy of the
- I am caught spying. They look up
from their desks. "Can we do this again sometime?" one student
says. "Sure," I say as I hunker down to their desks. Suddenly, I
make the connection. I guess I'm still an artist after
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