Every day I spend a few moments explaining to one of my students why what they are doing in the art room is important. Yes, I love art for the beautiful things people make for our visual enjoyment. There is more to it than just creating beautiful art. Art Education isn’t just about learning how to make really cool things. Art Education teaches about the creative process, risk taking, problem solving, communicating visually, and collaborating with others.
I was reading this article: We Need More Curious Dreamers, Tinkerers, and Makers over at Moving at the Speed of Creativity. The video posted below was very inspiring. I plan to show it to my Art students tomorrow.
The prompt to re-visit my blog and start blogging again is inspired by my last Graduate class before I graduate from Lesley University…… I hope to continue sharing the process, the practice and the thought process of a high school art teacher. To better understand where the heck I disappeared to, please read on.
Once upon a time, I was an Elementary Art teacher. I spent ten years working with K-5 students. Every day was exciting and busy. I arrived at school a little early each day so that I could prepare my materials and be ready for my little artists to walk through my door. I was challenged to teach art to my students once a week for 40 minutes. I worked hard to make sure my lessons were well thought out and executed effectively.
One day, I woke up and felt comfortable with my job. I had established a strong curriculum, had felt successful at teaching 400+ students once a week. I stopped feeling the need to stay after school for long hours preparing lesson plans. It no longer felt challenging and I didn’t feel the charge or inspiration I once had. That was a sign it was time for a new challenge.
When I began teaching, I always planned to one day teach High School Art. Elementary Art was where I wanted to start and it helped me grow and develop my teaching practice. High School was my next stepping stone; my next challenge.
I gave up a full time teaching position to transfer to the High School Part Time art teacher position. The Visual Arts program at the High School had been reduced to Part Time two years prior to my transfer. I was ready to move in and strengthen the program and make it full time again.
The classroom I moved into had 35+ years of history. Not only did the class room look like it hadn’t been cleaned out in 35 years, I found objects, old art works, and dust that was older than me. I stood in the space and felt like I didn’t really belong.
I spent weeks going through boxes, cupboards, drawers and shelves. I sat in that space and absorbed the notion that this was already the start of a new challenge. I learned that art teachers really do hoard anything that might possibly end up in a piece of art. I cleaned, I cried out of frustration, I cleaned more and finally felt that I had created my own space to start my new career as a High School Art Teacher.
This is the middle of my third year teaching at Telstar High School. I used to be consistent with my blog posts because I had established a solid routine when teaching Elementary Art. My weekly schedule allowed me time to post on my bog…..until I wanted a new challenge. My new teaching job didn’t allow me time to post on my blog. I was so busy creating new art lessons, trying new curriculum, re-learning how to manage a classroom, re-learning how to teach. I was learning how to work and teach High School age students. It was all very challenging.
I would be lying if I said these new challenges were all fun. There were days I left and questioned my move to secondary education. There were days I questioned if I was even a good teacher any more. There were days I wondered if I had thick enough skin to handle the High School Student attitude.
I still wonder and question if I am any good at teaching High School. I still love teaching but it is still a challenge. I am half way through my third year of teaching and I am just starting to come up for air. My classroom has finally taken shape into what I feel is a comfortable space. I finally feel like I belong in the room.
A new challenge has been placed in front of me. Some of the challenges of changing grade levels have been won and there are some that still remain. Those that still challenge me, I have kept as challenges on purpose. I don’t ever want to reach that “comfortable” place as a teacher. I want to continue to learn new ways to teach, find exciting teaching tools, and learn just as much as my student do.
I am very fortunate to have time in my schedule where I can teach Gifted and Talented Visual Arts. The downfall, I can only teach it for one quarter at each school. It is better than none at all.
One of the best parts, I think, is the sketchbook assignments that are due weekly even after the GT classes are done for the quarter. It has been so fun to peek inside the imagination and thoughts of these fifth graders.
The above picture is from the newest bunch of GT student sketchbooks. I cannot wait to open them up and see what they have created!
It never ceases to amaze me; I can lose track of time and neglect my poor little blog. We have been busy little artists in the Art room, working away at new projects and finishing up previous ones. If I could have a wish as an art teacher, it would be to have art twice a week. For most, 40 minutes is enough time for one day, but man, only seeing them once a week is tough. Then you have a holiday or snow day thrown in and forget it, we are behind on curriculum and projects that should take 2 or 3 days take weeks. Oh well, if there is a magic genie out there for art, please hear me out. Art should always be in schools and we should meet twice a week. Just sayin!
This was a second grade project inspired by Hundertwasser, we examined his works of art and discussed the use of shapes and lines. Second graders used metallic markers to outline the buildings and construction paper crayons to color the picture in. I think they turned out fabulous!
First grade created the cutest Cardinal collages. We looked at the works of Charley Harper. I find his work so inspiring and my students love it too! We first painted paper with water paints and salt to create the colorful background in cool colors. The next step was creating the cardinal with various shapes. We used pages from a ripped up book I found for the tree. A successful project!
Third grade finished these a while back, but I am just now getting to writing about them. This was a challenge for Third graders, we discussed the way to draw a realistic portrait. We followed the steps of where to draw the eyes (half way between the top of the head and the chin), where the nose is drawn (half way between the eyes and the chin) and the mouth is half way between the nose and chin. We then looked at how far apart your eyes are and how wide the nose is. It was fun, we practiced drawing A LOT and then set out to paint a self portrait. They look amazing, and truly capture each students physical features!
Some years I have huge success with Mouse Paint and the introduction of Primary Colors, and other times it is a flop. This year with my Kinders it was more of a flop. We start by reading the story together and then we do a huge activity with my Interactive White board. We talk about how the primary colors make the other colors in the rainbow and so on. Then we set to work drawing three mice standing in a puddle of paint. I go around the room and place a couple drops of the primary colors under each mouse. From there we use our little fingers to dance in the color and walk it towards another pre-drawn puddle. Eventually the colors are mixed and we have a color wheel.
When I say flop, I mean flop because the kids are way too excited to paint and less motivated to pay attention to the color wheel process. What I have discovered is, I need to do more painting activities before this project so they are not so excited to get messy! 10 years later, I still have things to fix and change about my lessons.
Fifth grade has created some amazing portraits inspired by the artist, James Rizzi. His work is very motivating for this age group. They get his work, they love the colors and shapes and it makes them giggle. We looked at his works, watched an interview with him and another art class and then set to work creating portraits using his technique and style. Watercolors was the final touch to add the vibrant colors.
As part of our learning standards in Visual arts for Kindergarten, each student must be able to draw a circle, square, triangle, oval, and rectangle. We also work at trying to recognize how shapes can be arranged to make objects. To emphasize this, Kindergarten created sail boats using trapezoids and various sized triangles to form the boats. We used buttons to create the port holes on the side of the boat.
The kids really enjoyed this project. It also is a great project to help work on the cutting and gluing skills that take a few months to master. A dot is a lot, a glob is a slob and a thin line is just fine!