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When I first started teaching art, I was hired to teach two days a week. During this period, I also worked with kindergartners at an amazing after-school program. The program often provided opportunities for professional development. At one point, we learned about the Nurtured Heart Approach, a relationship-focused methodology for awakening the inherent greatness in all children while facilitating classroom success. As part of the training, I was given a handout with a list of words I could use to build my student’s “Inner Wealth.”

I photocopied the list onto a colorful piece of paper and hung it up in my office. When I got my first classroom, I hung the list up and anticipated the words flowing out of my mouth. By posting the list, I hoped the words would take root in my subconscious and that I would use the language more to encourage students to begin self-identifying using positive labels. It has worked, to some degree, but lately I have been seeking a way to use the words more frequently and to create a way to provide this feedback in a more meaningful way.

Then I had an idea.

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What if I photocopy the list of words onto Avery Labels and literally labeled students as “kind,” “collaborative,” and “helpful”? I looked over the list of words provided during my Nurtured Heart training and choose a few that I often see, and want to encourage, in my classroom. I have also been thinking of more ways to teach and promote the Studio Habits of Mind, so I added a few words/phrases to the list inspired by conversations I’ve had with colleagues.

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I printed 10 pages of stickers and put them in the positive behavior folder that I keep near my door. So far, I have given out a handful of stickers. A few examples include:

“Leader”: One of my students helped explain directions to another student who came in late from working with another teacher.

“Resilient”: A student made a mistake, got upset and started crying. She was really upset, so I had her take a few deep breaths. After she calmed down, she was able to work through her mistake and find a solution she was happy with.

“Helpful”: A student dropped the entire box of thin Sharpies on the floor. Another student helped him pick it up.

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Sarah Sze, Triple Point

Sarah Sze, Triple Point (Gleaner), 2013

I am taking a PD class through the EDCO Collaborative called Teaching from Contemporary Art:  A Participatory Exploration. The class is lead by Lois Hetland, a professor at Mass Art and research associate at Harvard University. I first heard of Lois’ 8 Studio Habits of Mind in grad school and they have informed my teaching philosophy and lesson plans over the years. As part of my teacher evaluation, I am drafting a goal related to making studio habits more visible to my students, and am excited to see how this class will inform and impact my goals this year.

At the first class, we looked at the work of Sarah Sze. Sze is a New York based contemporary artist who creates sculptures and site-specific installations using common, everyday objects. In 2013, she represented the United States at the 55th Venice Biennale. Lois had traveled to Venice to see the Biennale that year, so our conversation centered around using Thinking Routines to look at and discuss Sze’s installation Triple Point. Here are a few images of her work:

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Sarah Sze, Triple Point (Planetarium), 2013

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Sarah Sze, Triple Point (Planetarium) detail, 2013

04 Sarah Sze . Triple Point (Rotunda) . 2013

Sarah Sze, Triple Point (Scale), 2013

What do you see? What do you think? What do you wonder?