Last week, in Part 1 of the series, I opened with something as simple as a polka dot and how it carries the story of our unique experience. This is the beginning of art, the beginning of self expression. I also talked about how important it is for us to see ourselves in our world, especially for our children of color, and the glaring lack of books currently available for our communities that feel relevant and genuine.
This lack of reflection is a large part of why I base my curriculum around self-portraiture because it is imperative for all of us and especially our children to see ourselves in our world. This creates not only a sense of belonging but also serves to create the direct link between creativity and a sense of self.
In fact, a key aspect of my Claiming Face curriculum uses self portraiture as a tool of self-awareness and empowerment – one of the core competencies of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), or learning that develops students social and emotional skills. A growing body of research shows this type of learning is effective in more fully supporting students not only academically but in life.
- social awareness,
- relationship skills, and
- responsible decision making
are all deeply embedded in the Claiming Face curriculum which uses art and the creative process as an engaging and seamless container for developing these life skills.
Yet while Claiming Face has become a fully integrated philosophy and curriculum, the roots of it arose naturally out of my personal work and my work with children. I teach what I know. I’m very simple. Growing up as a child of color and being an artist are important experiences that inform my work. From a very young age, I turned to creativity to help me cope with childhood stresses. But more than just making a pretty picture, I made images of myself. I affirmed my existence; I expressed parts of myself that were wordless or extremely complicated and layered; I learned about myself and let myself be seen. These were valuable resources for me growing up that only deepened with age.
As I’ve gone into the schools to share about my children’s books, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many children over the years. I work almost exclusively with children of color so I naturally began sharing with them how art had supported me growing up. This evolved and deepened over the years into a full curriculum I call Claiming Face. Writing it all down in an educator’s guide was a relief and a challenge. So much of what I have learned about sharing this work (especially with kids), I do without thought. I had to slow way down and pay attention to myself and what I’ve learned over the years and how to translate and organize that into words and experiences. This showed me the diversity and the amount of what I had learned, how effective it had been for me personally and the impact I had seen it have on kids in the classroom. My greatest teacher is creativity, but I also draw from a number of other influences, most notably: quantum physics, authentic movement and somatic therapy.
It’s very exciting to me to share this. I believe that Claiming Face can help resource our children to know and value their selves more deeply and grow more confident in their power to create. This particular curriculum also holds the context of linking in literacy, expanding cultural capacity, and creating social models of equality between teacher and student (especially relevant for white educators teaching children of color). I see Claiming Face as a valuable resource for ESL education, support for children of color and immigrant children, and for children dealing with other cultural and personal stresses.
It’s invaluable to bring art and creativity back into the classroom. But it’s even more valuable to bring in creativity that best resources our children. Art and creativity come so naturally when we’re young. It’s a perfect place to strengthen our children. Art is made, but Claiming Face is more than art. It embeds deeper lessons in the projects and philosophy. It begins with self and respect, and then expands out globally. Through this blog series, I’ll share the fundamentals of the Claiming Face curriculum. My intention is that whether you have the Educator’s Guide or not, this will be a resource to teach and inspire. I’ll follow a weekly format that explores philosophy with either a related personal exercise or a project to take into the classroom.
We’ll cover the power of creativity, the importance of reflection, practicing presence, the 3 Rules and more. My Educator’s Guide is divided into 3 parts, with the 1st part devoted to exploring the philosophy as well as encouraging the educator to embody the philosophy from the inside, out, making it that much more effective when sharing with students. Included here is the first Imagine & Reflect Exercise from Part 1 of the book to get your started on this exploration of Claiming Face. Print it up and play with it over the next week. Take your time. Don’t try to think too much about the answers instead let your responses rise naturally to the surface. My next blog post will build on the experience of this exercise as we delve into the philosophy and practice.