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Yes, I know this post is not about art education or art advocacy but I thought I’d introduce you to my one and only Lenny! Leonard, aka: the Lenster, Len-Ben, Lerard Lepardeux, Lipper, and so on, is an off-the-wall miniature dachshund who is the world’s best snuggler when he’s not jumping off couches and begging for treats. We’ve had an awful lot of time to hang out due to all of the online classes I’m taking this summer through Viterbo and the Art of Education. Right now I’m taking Assessment in Art Education and The Element, a class that focuses on how to find your true Element based on the book by Ken Robinson.
This is how sad he was when I told him I had to go back to school in a month.
Recently, a colleague nominated me for our local ABC Channel 5’s One Classroom at a Time Education Grant for $1,000. You can view the video of the SURPRISE all-school assembly my school had for me here! (Warning: I cry like a baby!) I was completely blown away and so grateful for the support I received from everyone! My immediate thought when I was awarded the grant was not to buy supplies for the art room, but to give my students a learning experience that would impact their lives for years to come. I believe that a collaborative mosaic would be an excellent and authentic example of such an experience.
The school I teach in is a very new school and a very large school at that, with an enrollment of over 800 students in 28 sections. Believe it or not, I see all of them for 45 minutes once a week. For the last three years, we have been working hard to define who we are and to build a strong community of educators, support staff, parents and students. I believe this collaborative work will allow students and teachers a venue to express our identity, voice our aspirations and build school pride.
One of the reasons I chose a mosaic mural is simply due to my previous experience with mosaic artist, Concetta Morales, while I was in Junior High. This encounter impacts my life to this day; I remember collaborating with peers to plan a design that reflected our school culture; working with others to create an image greater than what we could on our own; leaving behind a remnant of who we were. That mosaic mural still hangs in the hall as you enter the Junior High; a collection of individual tiles held together by glue and grout, and a metaphor for the community created within school walls.
I hope I can provide a creative experience like that in my own art room; in fact, I am hoping to get the very same artist I worked with over 16 years ago to work with my students!
Have you ever invited a visiting artist into your classroom?
Please share how it affected your students and their work!
What advice can you give about securing and integrating an Artist in Residency experience?
I’ve encountered all kinds of art teachers in my life as both student and educator. Some would never dare to demonstrate by drawing or painting on student work. Others perhaps do not see the harm in ‘showing’ students how to correct or further develop their art.
While in high school, I was able to take a life drawing class at the local Art Center. During one of our sessions, to the melodies of Tom Waits, the Artist in Residence used her charcoal on my paper to explain how to improve my line work. I remember feeling disappointed and that somehow it wasn’t my own work anymore.
During my student teaching experience, the high school Art teacher I worked with frequently corrected student ‘mistakes’ and showed students ‘how to do it’ by taking his pencil to their art. I wondered what students thought of his master and apprentice style of teaching.
I choose not draw on student work for several reasons.
I see student work as a record of personal and creative growth.
When a work of art is created, there is more that goes into it than just paint or charcoal. Self expression, emotion, memories and personal experiences enter the work, let alone the blood, sweat, and tears that it takes to get it done. Art should be truly owned by students. My hands would only take away that ownership.
Lastly, I see myself as a facilitator; I lead and guide students through the artistic process, but ultimately it is the student who must find a way to reach their goal.
How do you feel about making your mark on student work? Can it benefit students? What other ways do you explicitly demonstrate to students?
I’ve always believed an artist should keep a sketchbook…or maybe that was just drilled into my head from the art teachers I had in school. As a matter of fact, I still have my 6th grade SAX ARTS brand sketchbook complete with value drawings of my brother’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figurines and, no, I can’t remember which ones they are.
Either way, sketchbooks are a great tool for student practice as well as collecting and analyzing the creative and critical thinking of your students. In the classroom they can be used to document the development of ideas, plan composition or practice skills.
Are sketchbooks a part of your student’s art experience?
How are they used by students in your room?
I recently watched a video clip of Simon Sinek, an author and marketing consultant, who states that all organizations and careers function on 3 levels: What you do, How you do it and Why you do it. He says the problem is that most don’t know that Why exists.
So let’s get to Why!
Why am I writing this blog?
With arts funding cuts and student contact time reduced to almost nothing it is more critical than ever to ensure that the learning happening in the art room is more than just making “pretty pictures”.
We all know the art room should provide experiences in authentic art making, choice based lessons, rich dialogue and reflection as well art history, and exposure to culture. But as student numbers grow and precious art time diminishes, is this really happening in the classroom? I will be the first to admit that with 800 students circulating my art room in a week it’s tempting to teach unoriginal “copy me” lessons to make my life easier. However, we must hold on to what we believe and continue to cultivate creative minds.
The main purpose of my blog is to build an awareness of and give exposure to the creative and critical thinking processes that take place in the art room; 21st century skills. I am currently working on an action research project to determine the effects of teaching creative problem solving strategies on the achievements and attitudes of elementary art students. My journey will provide me with research in critical and creative thinking in the arts that I hope to discuss and share with you.