Wednesday, March 9, 2016

1, 2, 3, 4, 5...Challenge

1, 2, 3, 4, 5...Challenge!

So I was tagged on Twitter this past week by a colleague to take the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...Challenge.  I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the challenge blogs from fellow Star Academy teachers, as it has allowed me to get to know each of you a little better- even if through written text.

Full disclosure- there is GOOD a reason why I am the kind of "Arts" teachers that is missing the word "Language" before it.  I'll lay my thoughts out here in this blog for you all to read, but no promises that it will be A+ composition, grammar and the likes. I have a major run on sentence problem but what can I say, I love commas.

1. What has been your ONE biggest struggle during this school year?

Truth be told, it was hard to narrow down between two, but if I must choose just one...I would have to say my biggest struggle would have to be CURRICULUM design. Now, I know you are all silently asking yourselves the question right now, "Art has a curriculum? How hard can that be to teach and why is that her biggest struggle?"  Trust me, the teaching part of Art is not the hard part (well, sometimes it is) rather deciding WHAT to teach and where to place value in my lessons, is my big challenge. 

There are millions of awesome art projects out there on the internet, but as I peruse Pinterest like a kid in a candy store, I always find myself asking, "What is more important in art,  process or product and what will my students get the most out of?"  In a nutshell, I can scaffold and develop a project really well (mostly-sometimes) so the end result looks like artwork that is student gallery worthy. Maybe students will grasp the objective being taught by a specific technique or element of art- but sometimes they are so worried about their artwork turning out like their bestie's that they completely lose key components of what is being taught.  

Or.....I can focus on PROCESS (opposite of end result based) and teach my budding artists the proper way to hold and use a paint brush. Or possibly experiment with a new medium, where the final product may look like a gray blob that when viewed on the Artsonia gallery, is the kind of artwork that only a parent could love.  BUT, if along the way, students learn blending, gradient and value scale, is that gray blob on Artsonia just as (if not more) meaningful than the amazing art that was framed?

I also feel a bit of pressure to have my students produce quality work.  Almost like I am validated as a good art teacher if student work turns out amazing. Let's face it folks, some projects rock and some just bomb with a capital B!  Sometimes I feel pressure to create projects that are hallway showcase worthy, otherwise I'm not doing my job as an art teacher. This is pressure I put on myself and need to weigh carefully when deciding on curriculum for each grade level and whether I want to have students create those gray blobs from time to time, and not worry if they aren't hallway worthy. However, in the back of my mind is that little voice saying "Parents want to see polished work." Still working to find the right balance here...

2. Share TWO accomplishments that you are proud of from this school year.

       1. Changing students mindset about art.  Heading in to the year, I had six years of middle school art under my belt and had worked all summer to develop my elementary curriculum.  I was feeling pretty good about things and was ready to take off running- until the first week of school. Kids were crying, not willing to try, acting out -it was a hot mess in the art room. I was hearing tons of the dreaded "I can't do it" phrase that makes any teacher cringe. I was at a loss.  This is art...we don't CRY in Art class!  I was completely floored by how intimidated students seemed to be by putting their drawings down on paper.  The good ol' fear of failure was clearly in charge here, and I needed to RKO it, and fast!

I knew the only way I was going to get anything out of these kids this year was to change their MINDSET about art.  We read the book Ish by Peter Reynolds (best art book ever to start the year off with) and kids began to look at their artwork as "flower-ish" and "portrait-ish" and didn't need to think it had to be perfect.  We began to create a culture of complementing each other's work and finding the creative elements in our own designs that makes it unique and different from others.  We talked a LOT about each of our strengths as an artist and I began to give "craftsmanship" awards at the end of each class, not for the best piece, but for one small thing that I saw in a student's work that I knew was a step in the right direction.  

Do kids still get frustrated or discouraged from time to time?  Of course, changing one's mindset doesn't happen over night, or even over the course of the year for some.  The good news is, I get to continue on with these kids next year, which means continued time to develop that positive art mindset.

     2. Changing my curriculum several times.  I had it ALL planned out by the end of the summer and I was made in the shade heading into this school year. Then September hit...(insert screeching tire sound here).  So many of the projects I carefully planned and units I thought would be great had to be revised or tossed all together.  It took less that two weeks into the year for me to see that I needed to go back to the drawing board for some classes.  I am proud that I didn't forge ahead with projects that I didn't think would be meaningful simply for the sake that they were beautifully linked in my Star Academy yearly curriculum doc.  Let's just say that google doc may as well have paid rent as a permanently opened tab on my mac this year, and I'm proud of it!

3. What are THREE things you wish to accomplish before the end of the school year?

1. Eat lunch in the lounge like a civilized person and have a real conversation instead of scarfing down a quick sandwich at a table that has been coughed on all morning by students and then rushing around like a crazy person to see how much I can get done over my lunch hour. OK - putting that last part down about the tables in writing is probably all the push I need to make this goal happen!  Ewww!  
2. Push out a monthly Art Newsletter via email to all 1st-5th grade families. I know that kids don't always share what they are learning at school with their parents. I want to send out monthly newsletters so parents can be informed about Art class. This will allow parents to open dialogue with their children by asking them to explain what they learned about radial design last week in art instead of thinking that all their children do is make Artist Trading Cards.  Hey, what can I say, those little ATC’s are a fan favorite across the board.  You would be amazed how excited the kiddos get when I give the last 5 minutes of class for them to make those little trading cards!      

3. Try out TAB based learning. TAB is a big thing in the art world and is an acronym for Teaching for Artistic Behaviors. Basically, it is an alternative to every student creating the same cookie cutter art project. Ex: I want my students to learn about color theory so I put out several medium choices, teach them about color theory and then set them loose to create whatever they want, with whatever medium they choose, to demonstrate their understanding of color theory. Why would I ever open my classroom up to this kind of craziness, you ask? ENGAGEMENT and AUTHENTIC LEARNING. I have wanted to experiment with a TAB unit since starting at Star this time is running out. Grateful for this 1,2,3,4,5 challenge to remind me of this goal!

4. Give FOUR reasons why you remain in education in today's rough culture.

1. SUMMERS OFF!  Awe come on y'all, you know you were thinking the same thing but didn't want to put it down as one of your reasons.  All jokes aside, in what other profession do you have the ability to pause, allow your spirit and mind to refresh and reflect, only to have an opportunity to begin the amazing journey all over again a few months later later with a little more experience under your belt, new goals, some things you would change, and welcome challenges for the year?  Such a wonderful thing, those summers are. (Also such a run on sentence, yikes!)

2. The ability to be the captain of your own ship. Well...if you teach at a school like I do, that is.  I LOVE that I get to go to work each day, excited about a new project or art technique I am going to introduce to my students.  I am in charge of the path I choose to travel my kiddos down and if I teach it with passion and excitement, they will receive it with an open mind. Disclaimer- not every day is all kumbaya and coming up roses in the Art room like the picture I just painted you, but I will say that every day is a new adventure that I get to take my students on, and that is all kinds of awesome! 

3. The kids- they are so fresh, eager to learn, open minded (sometimes) and Krazy with a capital K, that I just have to pause when I think of what I do for a living, the audience I am reaching on a daily basis and say to myself, man I have it good. Sure beats being in a stuffy office building all day, if you ask me.

4. The hugs.  I have three children myself so by no means am I running low in the kid hug department, but seriously, receiving hugs all day long from the pint sized variety makes me want to work so hard to provide them with meaningful and engaging projects to make them as happy as they make me (on most days).

5. Which FIVE people do you hope will take the challenge by answering these questions?

  • Marcia Meindl @MarciaMeindl
  • Sarah Hausman @misshkinder
  • Maria Evans @buckeyeatheart
  • Susie Steinlein @SusieSteinlein
  • TJ Fassler @TJFassler
 Have to give a shout out to this little man pictured here... while I was brainstorming how on earth I was going to answer all these questions, I was mindlessly doodling the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and the word "Challenge" over and over again on a scratch piece of paper. My youngest son came over and said, "Mom, you're an Art teacher, you should not draw that sloppy (insert smile). I can help you if you want."  His 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...Challenge drawing is pictured at the top of this blog, and I have to say, is SO much better than what was on my paper. Gotta love it when kids show you up!