Tag Archives: arts education

Stop Moment #4: Resisting Passivity


“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.


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.


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Stop Moment #2: The Drama Students Are Singing in the Bathroom Again

“We have the whole building to ourselves.”
“Can we perform in the hall?”
“Or maybe in the study room? Some of us could stand on the chairs and tables.”
“Yeah! But we can’t turn off the lights in there and we’re supposed to perform in darkness.”
“How about the bathroom?”
“Let’s do it.”

“Alright everyone,” we announce to our audience, the other half of the class, “We’re going on a field trip. Follow us.”

We quickly place ourselves one-a-stall and close the doors.
A drone begins a few stalls over.
A whooshing rhythm joins in.
Our individual sounds build as someone experiments with stomping on the floor. Another classmate hits the wall. I feel inspired to shake my door.
Without centralized direction or visual cues, we listen for our times to add or subtract sound, and slowly, our composition comes to an agreed resolution.

We are fortunate that this kind of activity is encouraged. Because it is the norm, the stakes are lowered.

Although we come to class as artists and educators who are mostly predisposed to practicing outside of the box, we create this environment together.
As Fels and Belliveau write in Exploring Curriculum: Performative Inquiry, Role Drama, and Learning,”The kind of curricular experiences you create with your students reveal your values, who you are as an educator, and how you believe students best learn.”1
Because our professors have modeled vulnerability, we have made ourselves vulnerable.
Because our professors have modeled playfulness, we have space to be playful.
Because I feel trusted, I can trust others.

In this compassionate community of learners, I feel safe and I feel free.

1Lynn Fels and George Belliveau, Exploring Curriculum: Performative Inquiry, Role Drama, and Learning (Vancouver: Pacific Educational Press, 2008), 40.

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