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Why Teach

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I recently read this article about what artists can learn from teachers.

I think it is so important for art teachers to maintain a personal practice. It’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your students… and not just by making teacher samples, but by engaging in artistic practices–looking at art and sketching and planing and doing (and re-doing). As a full-time teacher, however, it can be difficult to make time to make my own work. Whenever I meet someone new, and they find out that I’m an art teacher, their second question is usually, “Do you make your own work?” I don’t have a simple answer. It usually depends on the season.

During the school year, especially in the fall, I often spend most of my free time setting up my classroom, planning for the year, experimenting with new lessons and generally getting back into the routine of being at school. During this time, I often spend more time thinking about work that I’d like to make instead of making it. In the winter and spring, I tend to spend less time outdoors and more time indoors, which means more time working on personal projects. Winter in New England is a great time to devote to my own practice. At the end of the school year, I am often busy with our all-school art show, end-of-year events, handing back work, taking inventory, and ordering materials for the following year.

The time ebbs and flows, but the point is that I continue to make time for myself.

One thing I’ve realized over the years is that the less tightly I hold onto one artistic identity (“painter,” “printmaker,” etc.), and the more space I give myself to make–to try new media and techniques–the more I usually enjoy making art. The more permission I give myself to make, the more opportunities I give myself to discover new ways of creating.

This weekend I’ve been snowed in and have spent my time finishing work for an upcoming show I am co-curating at Dorchester Art Project. As February break approaches, I’m excited to devote a full week to my personal practice.

Do you make your own work? How do you balance/schedule your time?

I was recently updating my links and clicking through other teacher’s blogs.When I was on Mrs. Gonzalez’s blog, I rediscovered her series of posts titled “Little Bits of Magic.”

January is a great time for setting goals and starting new habits, so I’ve decided to start looking for (and sharing!) “little bits of magic” that I see in the art room. (The pictures above are from Mrs. Gonzalez’s blog. I’m also going to start using it as a tag on Twitter and Instragram. I’m looking forward to looking more closely and recognizing the small moments.

How to you recognize “magic” in the art room?

Yesterday I went to visit The Magical World of Art (the school where I did my student teaching). It was great visiting and seeing all of the exciting things happening! I can’t believe that it’s been seven years since I worked there! Here’s what students were up to…

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1st graders were painting colorful line landscapes. They had already painted their landscape with black lines and tempera paint. When I visited, they were making edits and adding details with Playcolor Tempera Paint Sticks*. I have never seen these before. They looked like a lot of fun! I’m going to order some and try them out with my students.

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In The Magical World of Art, Mr. D talks a lot about Habits of Mind. He has created a character for each of the 8 Studio Habits of Mind. These kid-friendly characters help students learn how to think about art and express their ideas using age-appropriate art vocabulary. Throughout the year, students can earn habit of mind badges. In order to earn one, another student must nominate you. Here, the Super Storyteller telling his story to the class, “The sun rolled on the ground and made the mountains yellow. And there was cotton candy in the sky.” Does it get any better than that??

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2nd graders reviewed what it means to be an architect and some basic architectural forms. In their sketchbook, students sketched their Dream House or Dream School.

4th graders talked about abstract art. First, Mr. D read My Name is Georgia: A Portrait, by Jeanette Winter. Then students went outside and zoomed in on what they saw in nature. Students drew close-up sketches of leaves, trees, and rocks.

*Here is a review of the paint sticks on The Artful Parent.

well-family-wishkid-master675My department head shared this article with us and I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

“I really want families to know how intentional teachers are about creating a sense of community and creating relationships with kids,” Ms. Schwartz said. “Kids don’t learn when they don’t feel safe or valued.”

What makes you feel valued? How do you show your students that you value them?

 

11392795_10103174113502900_8924072241961112595_nTwo students at my school wrote notes for almost all students and teachers yesterday afternoon and stuck them in lockers and doors (or in my case chairs) so that we would find them this morning. (It took them over two hours.) After a tough week, this was a nice Friday morning surprise. Thanks “anonymous duo”!

My vice principal recently shared a few articles about the role of failure in learning.

What Do Kids Really Learn from Failure?, by Alfie Kohn

Failure is Essential to Learning, by Bob Lenz

The Art of Failing Successfully, by Jonah Lehrer

The Benefits of Failure, by Peter DeWitt

This quote stuck out to me:

So what do you think? How do you think we (teachers, parents, peers…) can create a balance between creating a safe space for students to fail, take risks, and learn from their failures while promoting high expectations and achievement?