“What’s So TAB…?”

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I often see people asking questions along the lines of “What’s so great about TAB?” Sometimes the question is sarcastic. Other times, you can catch the wif of a true curiosity. Someone who really wants to know why so many have made the switch to this philosophy of “asking what it is that artists do”, and of “believing students are the artists and the classroom is their studio”.

This post is for you…all of you. Both the sarcastic, who *think* they don’t want to know, AND the curious, who *know* they want to know.

There are many things that make Teaching For Artistic Behavior (TAB) great. Many of the reasons are common among TAB teachers, but just as each TAB studio is different, each TAB teacher has her/his top reason for it’s greatness.

Let’s get to it.

  • It’s budget friendly. Whether you have a large budget or a almost non-existent one, since you don’t need class sets of everything anymore, it allows for a wider range of materials and tools.
  • It’s a relationship builder. Because each student is working on a more “independent’ style artwork, you can find out more about each student. Because they are adding more of themselves into each artwork, and because you aren’t policing step by step instructions, you can spend more time talking with them.
  • Deeper Thinking and Connections. I’ve found that when I’ve asked my students to plan the artwork, from the beginning, even with a theme, (instead of me designing the whole unit) my students have gone deeper into the meat of their artwork, and the connections between ideas, themselves and their art have increased ten fold.
  • More Exploration. Letting students decide what medium(s) they want to use and how they want to use them is a game changer in creativity. Students are continually asking me, “what if I?” or “what happens when?” it leads to discovery and conversation and wonderfulness.
  • Differentiation. This one is a big one. Because a TAB teacher is not expecting a student’s work to look like an example, and because we are looking at the underlying aspects of art making (the artistic process, choice making, problem solving, skill building, etc.), it is much easier to meet students where they are, and to help them achieve goals that are suited to them, and not everyone else.
  • A Philosophy, not a Curriculum. TAB is a way of thinking about art education. It’s not a curriculum you can buy on TPT. There are no set lesson plans, no explicit rules to be followed. This allows TAB teachers to be flexible in what they teach and how they convey it to students. It allows for campus and district expectations to be met. It allows for a teachers’ level of comfort when it comes to giving up “control” to the students. It gives teachers flexibility when deciding to follow state or national standards. And it allows for more time to focus on the behaviors of artists instead of only exploring every medium that can be fit in during a school year.

It is that last bullet point that is my top reason for what makes TAB so great. TAB has allowed for so many deep, meaningful things to happen with my students. I’ve seen so much growth and connection making since I changed to TAB. Once I realized it wasn’t about me, but about them, and I changed the way I taught to reflect that…

I have never worked harder as a art teacher than I have as a TAB teacher. Yes, physically I did more work when I taught in a more traditional manner, but I wasn’t as happy. Now, the hard work comes mentally–reflecting on what my students need (which changes year to year, and even from semester to semester), reflecting on my teaching practices, reflecting on myself as an artist and a member of my school community, and how I can bring those things into what I am teaching. It’s draining, but so worth it and fulfilling.

If you are a TAB teacher, what is your top reason for why it’s so great? If you are not, what is stopping you from really checking it out?

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