Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Individual Identity

From the time that we are very young, our developing personalities and ultimate identities are being shaped by what we experience. But what each of us, individually experience is related to many factors included in our environment, “constructed through our interaction within overlapping and intersecting communities to which we belong.” (Congdon, 108), all determinant by our culture, our gender and specific roles that each play in a specific society.
This being said, there are many factors that influenced my perspective and individual identity. What that meant for a working class, caucasian, little girl in rural Illinois was that you could plan on attending Catholic mass each and every Sunday, singing with the choir; you were a member of the Girl Scouts, selling cookies and earning badges; you never broke the rules or stepped out of line to become reprimanded and you were allowed to play anywhere within earshot and with anyone as long as they were not trouble makers. Affected by my gender, geographical, religious and familial upbringing, I perceived my grandmother as the all-omnipotent being in my tiny universe. As my parents were very young, I spent most of my time with her, learning all of my gentle habits, creativity and morals from her, mainly caring for others.
However, as I got older and began to question life itself and was sent off to college as the first ever in my family to attend a four-year undergraduate school, a drastic change happened to my environment and my experience as an individual. For the first time, my role in society changed. No longer did anyone know me by name, or know my family personally and I was able to pursue the queries that lay in my head without question or someone looking over my shoulder to judge me on my decisions. A whole new world opened up. 
Initially, I went off to pursue a degree in physical therapy, but suffered a mental breakdown, forced to reassess my strengths and interests, settling on English Literature and art. My identity changed then and there. No longer was I trying to live up to someone else’s standards of excellence, but I had to become motivated to live up to my own expectations of myself and what I could achieve. The college professors then became my trusted family members.
Now, as I look back on the past, and have come back to my home environment, with the knowledge from my experiences outside this area, my eyes wide open to the possibilities that could be, I tend to still question why things are done a certain way. For a creative child, this environment was not equipped to tend to my needs, and so my private experiences have produced in me a need for public action. I now see how the arts in the schools are overlooked and how individual creativity and curiosity are downplayed to athletic and political mentalities. 
With my experience, my choice in curricular matter for my own students then stemmed from those deep seeded roots of not getting what I needed from the primary and secondary levels of education. I wanted to provide for my students the opportunity to explore their own creativity and the assurance that it was acceptable to do so as they shaped their own identities. However, I also had to keep the mindset of the community and what was preconceived as acceptable about art close at hand while we engaged in our learning.
My hope for my students, and for all people that I come in contact with, is that I am able to help shape their identities in such a way as to encourage them to pursue whatever it is in their interest to pursue without hesitation, no matter the consequence. For, if they are forced to wait too long, as I had to, for their dreams to materialize, they may have forgotten what it was that they dreamed that made them happy once in the first place. However, based upon their own experience, they will no doubtedly find new roads to follow that will continue to shape their identity, for better or worse who is to say. 

Contemporary Issues in Art Education; Yvonne Gaudelius, Peg Speirs; Prentice Hall; Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458; 2002

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