“The art of great teaching is to communicate the sheer joy of learning.”
In a 2004 in-service for Pike County K-6 teachers, Larry discusses the power of visual arts being integrated into the curriculum while sharing an image painted by a Pike County student during the previous year’s Arts Connections II grant project.
I am not sure of the source of the quote above. I remember playing around with this concept clear back in the late seventies – arranging, exchanging, and re-arranging words and terminology as I was trying to put together one of those “philosophies of teaching” that almost all education applications ask for. I am sure that I must have read something similar somewhere that sparked the thought. I think I was also trying to make sense of why, or even IF — I wanted to teach at all (further explanation about that below). At any rate, my sincere thanks and admiration to the role models and mentors that helped shape this simple, but, for me, profound truth.
My goal as a studio professor is to ground students in the fundamental skills and knowledge of working with 3 Dimensional media, with an emphasis on clay. I strongly encourage making connections with the rich history and tradition of three-dimensional art forms, including architecture, and expanding those connections to touch the larger venues of craft, art and culture in general.
As students grow in their confidence and competence in working with tools and materials, I try to help them connect their new gained knowledge and skills with who they are as individuals, to enhance their exploration of what it means to be “human”, and facilitate meaningful self-expression and the development of a personal aesthetic. To be human is to celebrate life. In the celebration of life, I believe, the path to wisdom and learning leads to Truth and Beauty.
My path to becoming an art educator is a bit more “nuanced”. For reasons that I am not sure I completely comprehend even today, I grew up really not liking school and somewhere along the way, became convinced that I must not like learning. It was during my freshman year in college that I discovered the magic of the last part of the above quote. The rest – discovering the art of great teaching — would come to fruition much later. Considering my recollection of boredom, frustration and just general apathy with school in general, it is a wonder I entered the teaching field at all. I remember majoring in art education at Southwestern Oklahoma State University only because my ceramics professor, Montee Hoke, proclaimed as the ‘Dean of Oklahoma Potters’ and whom I deeply admired, told me to. “You might need to fall back on this degree someday”, he explained. So I spent four years earning a degree that I swore I would never use. I turned down my first teaching job three times before reluctantly accepting the position to “just try it for a year”. The fact that I now teach future teachers is absolutely astounding to me.
A true passion for teaching took a good while to develop but I vividly remember the day that the proverbial light bulb came on. It was in the middle of my second semester of teaching. I was straightening the room with students filing out at the end of class, feeling a bit lost and disconnected, wondering, “What in the world am I doing here?”. A young man, who was probably much like I was in my senior year, turned to me as he headed to the door; “Mr. Percy, this class is the only reason I get up in the morning. I was thinking of dropping out of school earlier in the year. Thank you for making learning fun.” As he disappeared into the hallway, the seed for at least part of my mission in life was planted. I vowed that if I was going to stay in the field of teaching, I needed to become that teacher whose class students could not wait to get to during the day…that teacher who could ignite a passion for – and communicate the sheer joy of – learning.