During the March 2020 closure of university art classes, photographer and professor Betsy Schneider posted a call on Facebook titled “Falling Forward” (a copy is available on the FotoFika site) urging a collaborative approach to teaching photography in the uncertainty of what a next semester would like like.
As artists we thrive in the unknown, we shine as problem solvers and that at this time the solutions will come through flexibility and letting go of preconceived outcomes, of letting go of the mentality that institutions are more important than the ideas or the people who form them. These structures are only as strong or important as those who hold them up. That said we are all having to sacrifice. We will have to work more, we will have to deal with our own disappointments. Some are bigger than others and little good will come of comparing our losses. Everyone has lost something and everyone faces an unknown future.
I will start by admitting my own biases—which I think we all need to do, figure out our own agendas and how they are affecting how we are heading into this.
I am a parent of a member of the entering Freshman class. This is relevant because I am not entirely sure I want to pay the tuition for him to start his college experience online. I am still carrying the sadness of his senior spring and my daughter’s senior spring in college vanishing. So much of what I want for my children in college involves being with people, touching things, small class discussions, lectures, new experinnce, I freak out at the thought of him “going” to college and sitting in front of a computer.
As a parent I am watching to see what his school does. I may advise him to take a gap year and live with his father in Europe. Or I may advise him to go live in Amherst and still take online classes—maybe it will be hybrid? No one knows. But I start this by expressing my perspective as a parent.
As a professor who has taught both online and in person for the past five years—with my in-person teaching being adjunct and visiting professorships– I am preparing myself to possibly a) not have my in person job(s) as I am currently an adjunct at an institution that is not only heavilty studio practice—and I would be teaching a darkroom class and a school that has a large number of students from China. I may not have that job in the fall partly because of parents exactly like me. If my kid were going to art school I would most likely make him take a gap year. –As it turns out that money, from my adjunct class was what I was planning on contributing to my son’s college. – So the cycle goes.
But all kids can’t go to Europe and live with their dad. And even my son might not want to do that.
So what can we as educators do to prepare for so many unknowns. How do we figure out what really matters—to us as artists and educators (and other roles, for me parent) to create as fully meaningful an experience as we can, while not making ourselves insane with work?
These are my suggestions—and like everyone else on the planet I am not entirely sure of anything right now. But most of us have become experts in emergency online teaching over the past month. Let’s try to take those lessons and apply them to not-quite-emergency teaching this fall.
The FotoFika site includes a collection of practical teaching resources such as “strategies for short term emergency teaching photography online”, assignment ideas, and even a gallery of FotoFika All Stars— done up like baseball cards featuring over 200. students who participated in the FotoFika activities.
More Information: https://fotofika.org/