elizabeth jade rodak

artist + art educator

personal pedagogy

The ability to fail is one of the greatest traits one can have. It is also a quality that our culture deeply fears. Yet I have learned that it is in failure that we find our way. In our failure we must learn to be creative, innovative, and motivated. Failure makes us vulnerable and being vulnerable makes us strong. I believe these lessons are all learned through artistic processes. I’ve never met an artist who hasn’t failed more than they have succeeded.

The only problem is our culture values success, quick decisions, new technology, tough faces, strong leaders, extroverts, rationality, and money. These are not things I value in my art classroom. I want to challenge the current values of culture and insist that failure, vulnerability, story telling, reflection, slowing down, exploration and playing are much more satisfying and pedagogical than what culture is shaping us to think.

In my classroom I encourage failure as a form of art. Failure is a part of the process and it’s not “wrong” it’s just a step along the journey of exploration and play. I teach my students that failure should be embraced and viewed as a positive learning experience. Failure allows us to think differently, collaborate, and problem solve. In the art room, I want moments of failure to occur often so that students are pushing their limits and taking risks. Failure is a means to try again and learn the medium better. The only failure I find to be negative is the kind that doesn’t ever begin to try in the first place.

Vulnerability is assumed to be a weak trait that inhibits a person from making it in the world. I disagree and believe that vulnerability through art making is a safe place to reflect upon our thoughts and emotions. Vulnerability without reflection can be dangerous but when we take the time to understand ourselves and process what is going on inside, we can only come out stronger. Art is a way to process through life and to make meaning out of mundane moments, highly emotional moments, and all other moments. Embracing our vulnerability is a strong quality and we don’t emphasize that enough.  It is only human to feel things and as I teach children, I want them to understand their personal feelings and find their place in the world.

My classroom is one of intentionality and thoughtfulness, therefore I highly recommended slowing down. I don’t want my students to feel pressured by the 45 minute class period. Deadlines are flexible in my classroom because I value slowing down and making things with intentionality. Failure can also make art processes take longer and I don’t believe in rushing to remake something is helpful to anyone. Therefore, I encourage my students to take their time, write about what they are making, take breaks if they need it, and never rush their art making. It takes time to make art and to make meaning.

Lastly, and possibly one of the most important things I value is the ability to play while exploring. In my opinion, playfulness is inherent in children, imagination, and creativity. In my classroom I value taking the time to laugh together as an art community and play with different ideas, mediums, and ways of making. There is an element of risk taking when we play around in unknown spaces and I think that is a valuable quality to have as an artist and a person. I aim to create a classroom that is not afraid to occasionally fail in the art process, make mistakes by playing, being vulnerable in their art, and taking the time to intentionally make what they want.