Writer’s Block

by beccaborrelli

Solstice. James Turrell. 2009.

In the past week I’ve started 4 posts, and abandoned 4 posts.

There seems to be less to write about on a teaching blog, now that everything is theoretical.

I’m really loving graduate school. I’m learning a lot… so I’ve toyed with the idea of writing about what I’m learning.

If I were going write about what excites me… I could write about how the Enlightenment and human rationalism shaped a powerful paradigm that led to an extremely unbalanced concept of schooling. I could write about how the field of art education is in a unique position to reorient ideologies regarding schools.

That would rock people’s sock off.


I’ve discovered it really just rocks mine.

Everyone I meet gets the thesis test:

“Let me tell you about my thesis idea!!”

They always smile excitedly until I start talking about paradigm shifts and pluralism. The eyes glaze and the smile turns strained. Usually they’ll say something like:

“I can tell you’re really excited about that…”

Which is code for… I have no idea what you’re talking about… how it’s relevant… or why I should care… BUT I’m your friend, and I support your passion for intellectual poppycock.


Not that I blame them.

As I was eagerly tearing through a potential primary source for my thesis this evening– even as an excited reader I found myself getting hung up on theoretical jargon bordering on pompous. Who is this stuff written for? If some of the most compelling ideas in art education are written  in an academic language so cryptic and bombastic that only .0025% of educators will give a sh*# enough to plow through it… does it do any good? Or does it just perpetuate an elite academic class of art educators that can look down from lofty universities onto cute art teachers making paper mache with kindergarteners and shake their heads whilst lamenting:

“If only she had woven themes of socio-economic  oppression and/or a discussion on cultural bias in this curriculum. Paradoxical concerns of the 21st century are pressing matters for today’s young artist/citizen.”

Just writing the latter makes me want to respond with some teenage kitsch to redeem myself:


To be fair, I love lofty theoretical stuff. I eat that up. Yet at the end of the day I’m taking these ideologies to a classroom of little children. Where’s the bridge people? I’ve heard the arguments for universities to teach theory. They’re all good… but where’s the bridge? How am I going to take this and plunk it down into an industrial model of education that doesn’t give a hoot for conceptual. Parents and administrators don’t want conceptual. They want some pretty art for the fridge pleaseandthankyou. And while yes I’m willing to fight the good fight, I want some tools in my arsenal.

I find myself craving some powerful stories. Some compelling narratives to serve as metaphor for all the multi-syllabic words. I crave a language to bridge the gap between the researchers publishing in journals, and the teachers in the trenches up to their elbows in tempera paint.

But it’s hard to find stories when there aren’t children. It’s hard to find metaphor when there isn’t a physical classroom to speak of. It’s hard to make sense of all the books, ideas, and theories when there’s no little hand tugging at your leg saying:

“John dumped the yellow paint in Beth’s art box.”

I love graduate school. Did I say that? I hope I did because I am not suggesting that I’m ungrateful for this amazing opportunity.

But I do miss the classroom.

Very much.