Category Archives: Students

Corona and Remote Teaching

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I see it has been over 2 months since my last post. And, quite frankly, I’m not surprised. I had some ideas in the works for new posts on the exciting stuff and things happening in the Duck Art Room since January, but then Corona hit, and my spirits plummeted.

I tried with all I had in me to look the “new normal” in the eye and take it on. And by new normal, I mean remote teaching or distance learning or “homeschooling” 🙄🙄🙄. (Don’t get me started on how none of this is homeschooling. I know people that homeschool for a living, and this is not it folks. But I digress.) It was hard. I wanted to be the best teacher I could be, but in truth, I wanted to just paint and drink coffee and play with clay. And I’ve done all that. In fact, by the end of this, I will have a full kiln load of just stuff I made.

One week away from school turned to two weeks; then to three weeks. And now, I’m pretty sure we won’t be back this school year. And at this point, while I want to see all my kids more than anything, I don’t know how we could make the switch one more time with 7 weeks (in my district anyway) of school left — 3 of which we are definitely out for Shelter-In-Place orders.

My district has been remote teaching/distance learning for 3 weeks now. I feel it has all been one big trial and error session. My district finally came to a decision about grading and GPA and class rank–which for those of you who teach high school know that these things are currently important in the world of education and higher education. I won’t go into everything, but we are going to a pass/fail system for the second marking period of the 2019-20 school year. Grades will be assigned with “prominent emphasis on completion and effort”. So, that sounds good right. It sounds as about as equitable as they can get. We are trying very hard to make sure we can meet accommodations and reach students without internet and give grace to those struggling with home issues (siblings, work, etc.) that affect them being able to do school work. Could more be done? Probably. But I know we are trying.

What does this all have to do with Art and Teaching for Artistic Behavior and Duck Art? A lot actually. I said that my spirits had plummeted, and that included my spirit for facilitating meaningful art making situations for my students. Instead, I assigned what I felt was going to be the easiest thing for me to do. Currently, I have about 50-65% participation from my students–some do all of it, most pick and choose and turn in a thing here or a thing there. It made me sad to say the least. I was missing seeing my kids make and create and all those other things that go with being artists.

Earlier this week, I was looking at Facebook, like all who are at home do, and I finally clicked on my friend Melissa Purtee’s post about what she was doing remotely with her kids, and it sparked something in me. I was then reminded of a post another friend had put in the main TAB Facebook group about not forgetting our purpose as TAB teachers–those 3 main tenets of the philosophy. I knew I had to change what I was doing. I couldn’t sustain it anyway. So, I borrowed from Melissa, as she so graciously lets us do, and made a new website for my students–all of my students, no matter the level or the class type. It gives them choice. It lets them decided how to spend their time during the week–instead of a daily assignment, they know what they need to do for the week on Monday and can plan their schedule to meet their needs. It makes them think and decide and research and plan and all those behaviors we have been talking and learning about for months or years. I have full belief in my students and I am hoping that it is what is right for them, and for their situations. I hope they can see art making not as a thing they have to do, but they want to do–because the freedom is in their hands now.

I’ll leave you with this. I’m not sure how I feel about our “New Normal”. I just hope I am bringing a sense of comfort to my students thru art and choice as we navigate this together.

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Restoration of a Practice

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As we enter the third week of the new semester, I thought I would update on my “restoration” of the school year. (Confused? See this post for some clarity.) I know it has been a short time, but I am starting to really feel like I am getting a hold of the school year. Maybe I should say it’s been a long time. I mean, it is January, and we’ve been in school for about 4 months already.

img_20200123_183235_2816965594421370195777.jpg       img_20200122_110002_4556652781830567087963.jpgI came into this semester in a different frame of mind. I realized in December that I needed to change what was happening in my art studio, what was happening with my students. I felt they weren’t getting the best out of our TAB studio. And, I knew it wasn’t really them, but it was me. I was doing what felt right last school year…what worked for last year’s students. I was doing what I thought I should be doing. I wasn’t really seeing what my kids were missing.

So, over winter break I sat down with notebooks and made lots of notes. I figured out what my students were needing, and got to planning.

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We started off with an exploration of the human face. It was very teacher-led, but it was a good way to start off the new semester. It got them engaged because teens love drawing eyes and lips. It helped to build their skills, and it was a nice ease back into art after 2+ weeks of sitting around.

But, it was what I decided to do after that I think is really making the difference. In art 1, we had been working through “The 9”, packets designed by Ian Sands that offer a lot of choice, but on a more basic, general subject matter (landscape, nature, architecture, etc.) These have been helpful, but I felt my art 1 students

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needed more. At one point in my TAB journey, we worked with themes. I felt it was time to incorporate themes again. What I ultimately decided was that students would have a choice of a new packet (this time portraits due to the exploration we did), any previous packet we have visited this year, and a theme. And, so far, so good. Students are much more engaged with the larger choice, and because everyone isn’t doing the same packet, there is much more delving into the ATP (Artistic Thinking Process). Also, the required student-teacher meeting between development and creation has really helped them as well.

I20200116_1003544689872620955959336.jpg am finally fully engaged this school year, and all it took was some deep reflection and a few tweaks to restore my passion for TAB and teaching.

“Lucky” Number 13?

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This year marks my 13th year as a high school art teacher.  I have spent all 13 years in the same district, at the same school.  I have had 3 principals, 3 superintendents, countless colleagues, and over 1000 students.  Lots of things have changed over the years–some sad, some bad, but mostly good.  I have been lucky to have found a teaching philosophy, TAB, that really resonated with me and kept me from giving up on teaching all together.

Through the years I have seen amazing growth and creativity.  I have watched students eyes get wide as they discovered clay or when they were told they could choose whatever material they wanted.  I couldn’t have asked for a better journey.

As anyone who has gone on a journey knows, it’s not all puppies and rainbows.  And, this year has really demonstrated that for me.  I am having one of the hardest years I have had since my first year teaching.  I’ve had one of the hardest groups of students to come through my program.  I’ve written more referrals in 3 months than I did in 10 years of teaching; and if you know me at all, I’m pretty lax when it comes to discipline.  I just don’t write referrals.  Cell phones drive me up the walls, and kids doing homework in my class instead of arting gives me agita.

But, what really gives me pause this year, is the level of thought being put into the work.  And it’s mostly in my Art 1 classes.  Unfortunately, it isn’t a very deep level of thought.  It’s like they feel thinking is the hardest thing they have ever been asked to do. (Perhaps it is, who knows?) Now, I have always met students where they are in their artistic journey, but this is so different that what I am used to. We’ve normally had to work more on skill and less on concept.  This year it is a lot of column A and a lot a column B.  It has made me question how I am facilitating my TAB studio.  I feel like what I am doing isn’t enough to help them grow during their time in my class.

I have been taking notes and reflecting on years past to see what I can introduce to help them snap out of this lazy thing they call high school.  I know it is in there somewhere.  I know I can find a way to challenge them.  I think it’s a combination of the packets, themes, and explorations.  I’m not 100%, and I have more planning to do.

Seeing the Art of Children

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Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.

~Pablo Picasso

This is the ultimate challenge to artists, isn’t it–to hold onto that wild abandon and curiosity when making art.  As we grow up, for some reason that changes.  How we make and view art as adults does a complete 180, and I believe this issue needs to be addressed.  In this day and age as we talk about creativity and how this new generation lacks creativity, we must ask ourselves how did we get here?  Then, we need to figure out how we can change that.

Somewhere along the line, we are taught that the skill to make things realistic is equal to beautiful/good art.  That coloring in the lines is a goal.  That creation comes with a set of directions that needs to be followed.  Things like expression through messiness and exploration through process go to the wayside.  Does this stem from an unconscious connection to the development of fine motor skills (FMS)?  Perhaps somewhere we think that as we develop our FMS, our art should follow suit–that it needs to look sharp and be realistic.  But, I think that is taking away what art could and should be.

The old adage that says “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” comes to mind.   Art could be defined by this, and many people do define art this way.  But, should it be defined by this?  I think this minimizes what art is.  I think children get it right.  For children, art is about the process.  It’s not defined by skill.  It’s not about correctness.  It’s about telling a story.  It’s about making what is in their head a reality.

And, we as adults need to understand that.  We have been told for so long what to do and how to do it that we have lost track of our inner child.  And, as art teachers, we have an opportunity to help create the next generation of adults who can see art and make art as they did as children.

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Art 1 student in-progress work

You have to be in a state of play to design.

~Paula Scher

That is where Teaching for Artistic Behavior can come into play.  (See what I did there?)  Starting at the elementary level, we can not only teach kids how to behave like artists, but we can teach ourselves and our colleagues to see their, the children’s, work for what they intend it to be.  We can stop telling our students what to create and how to create it, and let them tell us what they want to create and how they want to create it.  Each student has her own story and voice to tell it.  We can stop pushing our adult agenda and aesthetics on students and listen to them.

This doesn’t mean we don’t help our students improve their skill.  This doesn’t mean we don’t teach them about composition or color theory or shading or foreshortening or art history.  Those things are important parts of art, and we should incorporate them into our lessons, but should they be the most important or central part about art?  We need to help guide our students on their journey and see their journey for what it is…and we need to look at it at their level.  We need to meet them where they are.  We need to stop telling them what art should look like, but instead ask them what they envision it could look like.

Perhaps a bullet list will help… And remember, these lists are not mutually exclusive and they are not complete and can change with time


What art doesn’t have to be:

  • photorealistic
  • 24 of the “same” image (ie student created “Van Gogh sunflowers”)
  • polished
  • colored in the lines
  • a finished product

What art could be:

  • made of repurposed materials
  • messy
  • unfinished
  • a “failure”
  • a journey
  • outside the lines
  • unrealistic
  • in need of an explanation

What should be your takeaway from this blog post?  That children’s art is NOT adult art.  AND, we as adults need to recognize that and stop judging it like it is.  Does that sound harsh?  Maybe.  But, what if we did just that and helped to make a generation of artists instead of a generation of followers.

 

 

The Re-Do: A Final Exam

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It appears as if I am not the only one to have students revisit an artwork made earlier in the year to re-work as a final exam for high school art.  (Melissa Purtee wrote about it here, and I did take the idea from Ian SandsJanine Campbell did it years ago.)

Anyway, for my art 1 and my art 2: p/d classes, the exam was to take a piece of artwork they had made sometime in their class that they created or started to create and re-do it in one of 3 ways–make it better, make it different, or rearrange it.  We looked at a slide show, I answered questions, and then kids had at it.  When they were finished, I had the students fill out a written reflection about the new artwork, why they chose that piece to redo, how they re-did it, and which was stronger/why.  There were a couple of other questions about the work they did this year as well.   The students had to turn in the original (or a photo of the original) with the new work so I could compare.

I thought it was a great way to finish the year.  Students were able to go back over everything they had created.  Some pieces they hadn’t seen since I put them back in their portfolios earlier in the year, some forgetting even having made the piece.  The reasons students gave for choosing specific pieces varied–from it was my favorite piece to I wanted to take it out of my sketchbook to I knew I could do better.   I am so proud of the work they put into the new pieces.  It really was a good way to show what they had learned over the year–art making skills, decision making skills, and reflection skills.  It’s a final exam I will continue to use in my classes.

I wish I had taken more photos, but I was so caught up in what they were doing and the end of the year, that I forgot.

Year 12: A Review

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I have completed my 12th year in eduction, and coincidentally, my 12th year as a

HS Art Teacher at the same school. It’s been an interesting year, to say the least. Many changes began and will continue in our district over the foreseeable future. Some good, some meh, and some make me say blerg.

Anyway, for the most part, things went really well in my TAB studio this year. This was my 6th year as a TAB teacher–I think. Maybe 5th. Who knows, and it isn’t really important how long I’ve taught under the philosophy…just that I believe whole-heartedly in it.

So, without further ado, here is my countdown (as usual) of my favorite moments of the 2018-19 school year.
7. CHANGING RELATIONSHIPS WITH ART: Not one, but two students (that I know of) changed their relationship with art. Both were freshmen this year and both took their required fine art credit this year to get it over with. About a month or so into the year, I over heard one girl telling her friends that she hated art, but because of they way I ran the classroom, she no longer felt that way. She liked the freedom and the faith I put in her. She liked making what she wanted to make. A while later, perhaps after the midterm ( the Tantamounter–old link, but you get the jist), another boy who was only there for the credit and I had over heard several times say he hated art, saw that he wasn’t limited to 2D work, and he came alive. Anytime he could figure out what to build to satisfy the packet umbrella, he would. He couldn’t wait to get started, and would go into the supply room and just dig and create. I am glad to say both signed up to stay with me in ceramics next year.


6. RAKU: Last year I was awarded a grant to purchase a raku kiln for my program. We finally were able to use it this year. It was so much fun. It was a great experience in building the community of my intermediate/advanced ceramics students, and it was such a learning experience for me…I learned a lot about propane. POST

5. ANOTHER GRANT AWARD: This year I applied for another grant, and after much delay, I was finally awarded at $5100 grant to purchase a pugmill for my ceramics program. We have so much dried up clay, and I just can’t wedge it fast enough. (And, due to our schedule and time limits and space, it is not that easy to have the students do it.) My order has been placed; now I am just waiting for it to arrive.


4. T.O.Y. NOMINATION: I was nominated for our Teacher of the Year award. While I didn’t win, I was happy that at least 2 people (you have to be nominated several times to make the final list) thought enough about my teaching and my presence at school to nominate me.
3. PACKETS: This year was the first year I based both my art 1 and beginning ceramics around “The 9“. The packets were developed by Ian Sands, and he let me use them in my classes. I used “The 9” in my art 1 classes and I developed “The 10” for my ceramic classes. I am really happy with how they worked in the classes.

With my art 1 students, we learned some basics about the topic, then the students went through the ATP (Artistic Thinking Process) when interpreting and creating their work. I found they gave the students a place to start with a broad overarching type of artwork, but helped to guide them in how and what they would make. I have some things to tweak for next year in the consideration questions and my input/talking with the students at that stage. But, overall, using them was a major success. I also thing that it will be a smooth transition to art 2 when we dive more into content of their art.

My beginning ceramic students have their own packets. We started with “The 10” before the end of the first semester, and got through 4 or 5. It was a good place to stop and a good place to pick up in intermediate next year. I think it has been helpful in developing style and interests in ceramic art. I think it is harder for many high school students to communicate in 3D than in 2D, so having the different genres of ceramic arts to guide them is important in the journey. I also think it helps to teach the ins and outs of working with clay. We shared and compiled information in different ways as I tried to figure it all out. But, I made lots of notes on how to proceed with The 10 next year in my large group of incoming beginner ceramicists. I am excited for the next group to come in to the studio.
2. SKETCHBOOKS: Every year I change how we are going to do sketchbooks. For the past two years I bought sketchbooks and then had the students buy them from me. This year, I wanted something more. I wanted their sketchbooks to mean something, since I was going to have the kids use them for everything (except drawing tests and artist Mondays). So, instead of purchasing books–either me or them–I decided to have them make coptic stitch sketchbooks. It was a great decision. We did them the first week of school–you know that time when schedules are finalized and kids are coming and going. It was a lot of prep work, but worth it in the end. Most kids took ownership of their books. It was a mostly relaxing way to start off the year, talk about what was needed to be talked about, and to chat with the kids. Most kids took their sketchbooks home at the end of the year.


1. AP STUDIO ART: This year, for whatever reason, my principal had me teach a section of AP Studio Art. We have only had 2D portfolios in the past, and my partner has taught the class(es) since I had started. I was both excited and scared. I found out before the 2017-18 year ended, so I convinced a ceramic student to do the 3D portfolio. She agreed and they created the class for her. My 2D students ended up not doing the portfolio. I knew they wouldn’t. AP was the only 2D class they could sign up for senior year. But, my ceramics girl…she kept going. She worked so hard, and created some of the most developed ceramic pieces that have gone through my program. She completed and submitted her portfolio with a week to spare. I don’t care what scores she gets because the process of doing the portfolio itself changed her and taught her so much. That’s what is really important. I couldn’t be more proud of her.

That about wraps it up. Not everything was good or easy, I did have a student pass away from congestive heart failure. That was hard. And, I had some rocky friendships with colleagues develop this year. But, I can’t dwell on that. I was lucky to have an amazing group of students this year–kids that made me want to be there for them and be a better teacher for them. Overall, it was a good year in the #DuckArt Studio. I wonder what lucky #13 will bring in August.

The Power of One Challenge

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I had hit a slump.  There were 2 packets of “The 9” left to complete for the year, but I wasn’t feeling either one of them.  I considered doing a watercolor exploration, but then decided my art 1 students really didn’t need anymore media explorations at this point in the year.  So, I did what any TAB teacher would do, I asked my TAB colleagues for suggestions.  It was there that I decided I would create a challenge based on Phil Hansen’s Ted Talk, “Embrace the Shake“.  Thus, the Power of One Challenge was born.

We started the challenge by watching the Ted Talk.  We had already watched it earlier in the year, but I told them we were going to watch it again as it was very important to what they were about to be asked to do.  Next, I gave them the run-down of the challenge.

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I didn’t give much other information.  I told them to think back to the video and the work that Phil Hansen made and HOW he made it.  I gave time for questions, and time for research.  They had a day and a half to look up info needed and to print it out before losing computers.  I limited computers because I have a love/hate relationship with out 1:1 school.  I really wanted them to concentrate on art making without the distraction of games and movies and whatever else it is they do on their laptops.

Some kids got the concept of the challenge right away.  Others took the whole day and half to grasp what was being asked of them.  Once they started, I just sat back and watched them learn, answering questions when asked.  They problem solved.  They were creative.  They all weren’t so original, but that often happens in an art class–one student sees another doing something they feel as cool, so they want to do it too.

I really enjoyed this 2 week challenge.  It gave me time to recoup as a teacher, but was super beneficial to my students.  When I go to do this challenge again, I will change how we present when all is finished.  And, I might change when we do it, and have it be their final exam.

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Watch through the slideshow to see what each artists “1 thing” was.  I am so proud of these kids.

A Week of Clay Exploration

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I’ve been a TAB teacher now for more than half my teaching career, and even I still struggle sometimes with creating exploration camps for my students that are open enough to give kids a taste of “new” mediums. One of these that I struggle with is clay. I know, I know, I teach ceramics, how could I struggle with this one? Giving students a week and a half to explore a medium that takes practice to understand is hard. I wanted to give them as much freedom as I could, but still limit some things due to practical aspects such as the amount of clay I have and the many students I have.

I had planned just on letting 2 of my 4 classes explore, but then decided I was too lazy to have 2 different explorations going on at the same time. And, I’m glad that I had all of them explore. Out of my almost 100 students, I had 95% engagement all week. I had about 3 kids decide they never want to touch clay again and I had several kids say they are signing up for ceramics next year–kids that I thought would stick with our 2D path. So, bonus for me and my program.

How did I run the exploration camp? I showed 2 quick demos on Monday, pinchpot and coil, with lots of finished examples of pieces created using those methods. Then on Tuesday I showed slab building. We talked about the term vessel, a hollow container, and how I was very open to how they could interpret that term. Then I let them go. They were to build a vessel of their choosing with any hand-building technique or combination of them they wanted.

If you have a lot of kids working at once, I would advise creating some damp boxes to help store as the kids work all week. See this post on how to create a damp box. It was a game changer on storage and keeping 90+ pieces workable all week. And, over a weekend for the handful that needed/wanted more studio time. I had been wanting to make some for my ceramic students, but never had time. This week forced me to make them. So glad I did.

I don’t have many pictures to share this time as we were having so much fun, I got caught up and forgot to pill out my phone.

What A Raku Firing Taught Me

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In 2017, I applied for a grant with our local educational enrichment foundation, TEEF, to get a Bracker Raku Kiln and all the needed pieces that go with it. I was one of the lucky few whose grants were funded or partially funded. It was an amazing feeling. I have been waiting since May 2018 to introduce the fun of Raku to my upper ceramics students.

I have a small group this year, which was great for our inaugural firing. The students all made at least one piece out of the special Raku clay. We had a local Potter come and talk to us about Raku firing. Several of the students had witnessed Raku firings at the Texas Clay Festival. We picked a date, set up a rain date, and informed all the people who needed to be there. The students watched video several times and made diagrams. We were ready. It was the perfect time before we were taking g a week off for Thanksgiving.

One thing we did not expect in Texas at this time of year was that it was going to be 32° this morning. Thanks Obama. We decided to press on. We worked in the cold, checking, listening, comparing. It was cold, and windy. But we pushed on. We were able to pull one firing off. It didn’t go perfectly, and we have much to discuss tomorrow in class when we do our group reflection on the process. The second firing didn’t get up to temp. Did I mention the wind? I finally called it during 5th period and we shut it down. The kids understood.

Looking back on today, we learned so much as a group…about the bracket kiln, about how to fire (I haven’t run a Raku firing in over 12 years), about combustibles, and about all the technical things that go with Raku.

But, the most important thing that I learned today came from my students. I was disappointed. I wanted their first Raku to be amazing. And it wasn’t, at least in my eyes. But for them it was a great day. They taught me it was all a learning experience. They weren’t bummed by the wind and the fact that we messed up timing. Or that we called the second firing. They knew we could do another firing; we could finish firing our pieces tomorrow. We have more clay. There’s a whole other semester. They had so much fun today. They came together as a group. I forgot what all this was about. I forgot what I have been preaching in my tab studio for years–that it’s okay to fail and it’s okay to make mistakes and that’s how we learn. And they reminded me of that. And I am thankful for that, and for them.

TAB, Modified TAB, and Other TABby things

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TAB is a huge buzzword these days. I see it thrown around in many Facebook groups. But what is TAB exactly? TAB is an acronym for Teaching for Artistic Behavior. It is a philosophy that has three core values. It asks “What do Artists do?” It believes the child is the artist. And, it believes the art room is her/his studio. It is these three ideas that drive a TAB teacher’s curriculum…how they run their studio.

That brings me to my next topic, Modified TAB. This isn’t really a thing. A teacher either believes in the philosophy or doesn’t. They don’t really pick and choose which of the values they want to believe. What confuses people is the misunderstanding that being a TAB teacher means you are balls to the wall full choice, all day long. Like I said…this is a misconception of the philosophy. When running a TAB studio, no matter the level, there is a spectrum of choice. The amount of choice a teacher will allow has several variables.

  • Campus/district expectations
    • Some teachers are expected to do x, y, and z. And most of us do like to be in compliance.
  • How “on board” a principal is with the change in the art program.
  • Bootcamp vs studio time
    • bootcamps are short amounts of time where the full class will explore a specific topic such as acrylic paints and color theory or copyright. Bootcamps should last a few days to a week tops. Studio time is where the students create their artwork.
  • Needs of the child
    • Each child is different in their learning styles and how comfortable they are with freedom. TAB is differentiation at its best.
  • Have to’s
    • There are certain things that teachers believe every student needs to know. This could be doing an attachment test to be able to use the sculpture center or biweekly drawing tests that have kids focus on the eye/brain/hand connection.
  • Teacher comfortability with giving up control.

Basically, a TAB teacher utilitizes varying degrees of choice throughout the year, for various reasons. But, they don’t utilize varying degrees of the philosophy.

Teaching in a “TAB-like” way isn’t a thing, but using varying levels of choice is. You can offer choice without being TAB, but you can’t be TAB without offering choice. You are a TAB teacher or you are not. There is not a formula as to how to run a TAB studio. There are as many ways to run the studio as there are TAB teachers. That’s the beauty of it. Believe the philosophy and do what works for you, your population, and your admin…as long as you have student Artistic autonomy as a goal for your students.

For more information about Teaching for Artistic Behavior, visit teachingforartisticbehavior.org

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A High School TAB studio with multiple mediums being worked on at the same time.