“It is not uncommon for the arts to leave us somehow ill at ease or to prod us beyond acquiescence. They may, now and then, move us into spaces where we can envision other ways of being and ponder what it might signify to realize them. But moving into such spaces requires a willingness to resist the forces that press people into passivity and bland acquiescence. […] To resist such tendencies is to become aware of the ways in which certain dominant social practices enclose is into molds, define us in accord with extrinsic demands, discourage us form going beyond ourselves and from acting on possibility.”
– Maxine Greene 1
Clunk, screech, crash, thud!
“Why do we have to move the desks every week?”
For the last two and a half years of studying Arts Education within the academy, my classmates and I have moved our desks around the room, reconfiguring them in hopes of creating a learning space that is less hierarchal, more inclusive, and more freeing.
This week there is extra bitterness in my voice.
“Rows? If they want to sit in lines, they should have to move the desks!” I grumble as I throw more wire framed chairs into a stack.
Finally, we stand in the open space we have created for ourselves. I exhale and feel the tension leave my body as we begin to play.
We are just a minute or two into a short exercise, marching, singing, swimming, sliding around the room when our class is interrupted by another student at the door.
“You are being too loud,” she says.
We are frozen mid-play.
We do not apologize, but we do accommodate her.
Of course, we all have to use this building, and our classes have different needs, but I feel hot with annoyance because I know that our class’s activity is seen as less important.
“BUT THIS IS HOW WE ARE LEARNING!” I want to yell.
What kind of learning do we encourage by sitting in rows, by being silent, and by taking orders from the top?
Does it nurture students who feel safe in their bodies, who speak with courage, who embrace vulnerability, who engage in honest interaction, who know themselves before leading others?
Today these two experiences exemplified the struggles [arts] educators face every day, even when we know wholeheartedly that a classroom of learners not only sits and listens, but also moves and makes sound.
1 Maxine Greene, Releasing the Imagination: Essays on Education, the Arts, and Social Change (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1995), 135.