After eight years of working in arts education in Oakland, Calif. and Bangalore, India, Arzu Mistry, Ed.M.'08, needed some time for reflection and rejuvenation. Her previous experience working with Project Zero concepts like Teaching for Understanding and Making Learning Visible,
encouraged her to deepen her thinking around the rigor and quality of arts education, as well as arts integration and collaborative learning in schools and community settings.
"Arzu came to the HGSE Arts in Education (AIE) Program with a desire to explore ways of bringing together the worlds of children in the classrooms in Oakland and the streets of Bangalore, India. Throughout the year her commitment to this has forced her to ask really hard questions of herself and of others," says Arts in Education Program Director and Lecturer Steve Seidel.
"She leaves with new ideas about how to bring these worlds together and along the way has provoked and inspired all of us in the program.
Upon being honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for the AIE Program, Mistry answered some questions about her time at the Ed School and beyond.
Did you have a favorite class?
This is a tough one. I enjoyed a lot of my classes for different reasons and they all have had a lot of influence on the work I will do in the future. I felt like I dug deep in taking the Close Examination of Student Work: Investigating Learning and Teaching by Adjunct Lecturer Tina Blythe and got breadth through the AIE core class on understanding the world of arts in education through practice, research, policy, and advocacy and taught by Steve Seidel. Adjunct Lecturer Linda Nathan's class Building a Democratic School was incredible space for conversations and really pushed me to detail out the future education work I want to do in the slums in Bangalore.
What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education?
My year here has renewed my conviction of collaborative learning and creative education. I feel strongly that each group of people can be empowered to solve and work through their own struggles with education in creative ways as long as they have the opportunity to work well, respectfully, and rigorously with each other using collective strengths and working on challenges collaboratively.
I leave HGSE with a renewed and rejuvenated passion for creative education as a way to transform urban poor communities [whether they are] in India or in Oakland. I also now have a deeper sense of the nuances that shape education reform.
Is there any professor who significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School?
I feel that I pushed all my professors and they all pushed me. Tina Blythe really opened up my narrow understanding of the use of protocols and facilitation. Adjunct Lecturer Esther Kateff gave me incredible tools to create community in the classroom. [Lecturers] Stone Wiske and Veronica Boix Mansilla pushed for rigor and depth in curriculum development. Assistant professor Vanessa Fong opened up a whole new world of ethnographic writing, Linda Nathan set me to the grindstone to make my lofty visions of a school come down to reality, and Steve Seidel was always there to listen and push my thinking of what next.
What advice do you have for next year's AIE students?
This year whizzed by too fast and I would encourage people to first make more connections with their peers early on. Everyone one here at the Ed School has done amazing work all over the world and in some ways my interaction with my peers taught me as much or more than my classes. Take two years if you can. In reflection I wished that I had time to do more or do the same in more time.
If you could change one thing about education today, what would it be?
Creativity in education. I believe that creative education can transform communities. Education is not going to solve all our problems, but if we can bring in enjoyment, engagement, and creativity through the arts, and encourage creative thinking, then we are enabling children to be creative problem-solvers in a constantly changing world.
2008 Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award Recipients