Creative Solutions through Metaphoric Self-Awareness


I cant begin to tell you how much I have learned about my fellow human beings from being a teacher. I will of course, but please know that teaching has been one of my greatest educations. Sometimes we find ourselves in life situations that may seem to have no immediate solutions. Our side-kick, “the ego” even kicks in during these times and does a good job reminding us of all the other times of uncertainty. With these emotions fueling the circumstances, it can easily effect the course of our days, in this context, Im applying it to going to school and being our best in class. Of course we can become aware of this behaviorally, but its not so easy to begin controlling at first. I decided to examine and reflect upon this idea and see how it applies to me and my everyday life. You can soon do the same, read on please.

This semester officially concludes my 13th year of college level teaching. I am blessed and grateful to have so much continued teaching opportunity simultaneously between the same 4 colleges and universities I started teaching for here in NYC (and right outside the city). Im an Art and Design professor. Teaching courses in studio art, graphic design, new media and now basic web design. I also teach a few other digital art fusion and hybrid related courses (more on this soon). During my reflection about this amount of consistent teaching time it induced a much deeper need to reflect. I made a scheduled appointment with myself. Im serious, I put a day and time on my calendar to simply be with this energy, and write down some notes. I also looked through my past calendars I began experiencing some thoughts. Through teaching at this level I have been given a platform to create new courses, develop curriculum, publish content, install and generate archival course websites, experiment with new technologies, work with amazing people, share my passions, create exhibitions and this list just continues to grow. Wow, a lot happens over the course of 13 years. I could have never imagined what I would have learned and or experienced at this point when I signed up. Something else occurred to me in this thinking / reflecting space.

Stillness = Clarity

I had a very interesting experience in my quite reflection space, a moment of utter clarity, yes, an epiphany! It even dictated that I apply a little bit of math. For the most part I teach between 8 and 9 courses each semester and 3 or 4 over the summers and or winter terms. So that is about 19 courses per year on average. Most classes have between 12 and 21 students per course (most are over 15) On average, lets say that I have about 285 students per year. Lets multiply 285 students per year x 13 years of teaching this way. That is a pretty accurate total of 3,705 college students that I have had in my classes over my teaching career thus far. This does not count the private teaching I do, high school residencies, workshops and other teaching related-ness to other such-ness with students… So lets get back to the number 3,705. On average, each one of my classes will complete between 4-7 individual projects for each course. This means that each student will generate something tangible in each of my courses. This could be anything from drawings, prints, collage works, sculpture, digital art, graphic design, photography, websites, web pages, blogs, GIF animations, video art works and various forms of writing and visual presentations. The fact is, if you multiply 285 people per year generating multiple variations of the same project curriculums and their principles, and this means, especially at the foundation level (students will learn basic skills that prepare them for intermediate level art classes in their selected major) when my students are exposed to even the simplest project of understanding how to use and apply positive and negative space, no two students ever show me the exact same way to understand and execute this process in a tangible form. It only expands into variation.

Yup, thousands of them..

This is not slowing down anytime soon. I face unlimited variations of creativity everyday. Keep in mind, a basic positive and negative space assignment is only one out of the 4-7 projects that each class will work on, so even at the lowest number, if 285 students complete a minimum of 4 projects per year (fall, spring & summer/winter terms) that is 1,140 different examples of executing the projects that I am observing in process from start to finish. This does not even account for the critique dialogs about the works in a presentation format. I am using the lowest number of projects as an example, so if we multiply the estimated lowest number (4 projects at 1,140 examples per year) by 13 years, I have witnessed over 14,820 examples and variations of how these projects can potentially be executed. How can the human brain process this number and amount of awesome creative energetic variation?

When I think about this in this particular context it becomes a great metaphor.

The metaphor is indeed a spiritual one. It becomes “Meta” because it goes beyond my comprehension of something that I thought I had an awareness of. When we look up into the sky we can physically see the incredible vastness of it, but at some point there is that moment when we realize there is not a beginning to it nor an end, it simply continues beyond what we can physically see. You may even take it for granted unconsciously because it is so vast. So here I am pondering, what is my relationship to this as an idea? Over 14,820 examples of creative ingenuity presented to me by my students so far (again, this is lowest outcome based on the minimum numbers.) It is yet another amazing metaphoric awareness for me to take a step back, and realize not only my own potentials, but the creative human potential in general. How can we put this to the test and apply it to solving basic life related issues?

I see amazing variations and solutions to the same series of project expectations, year after year, student after student. There is only an abundance of variety. I can only say, Things can always, always, always be another way. Indeed, sometimes we may find ourselves in life situations that may seem to have no immediate solutions at first, but is this really the case? In what ways are you experiencing something similar to my experience? Are you willing to take a step back to reflect upon your everyday occurrences to find deeper meaning? What is your world showing you each day that you may be missing? The days are speaking to us whether we are aware of them or not.

I will share this story and awareness at the beginning of each and every class that I teach now. How can I not?

How have your own life experiences generated similar evidence? I want you to share them here.