Tag Archives: reflections

Artists Solve Problems

Standard

Our second in-depth look at an artistic behavior in Art 1 classes was “Artists Solve Problems”.  For this unit, I really wanted to give my students a chance to create some art, while figuring out how to overcome a problem or problems.  I feel this is a very important skill to have for life…not just for art making.

We started off the unit by watching the TED Talk by Phil Hansen, “Embrace the Shake”.  Most students really enjoy watching this video.  They are intrigued by how Phil fulfills his need to create while overcoming his perpetually shaking hand.

Our next activity came to my from my friend and fabulous art educator, Melissa Purtee.  Earlier in the school year, she wrote about game she played with her student on the first days of school called “What’s in the Bag?”  I read her post and thought this would be a great activity for students to begin working on problem solving skills.

I created 6 bags for each of my art 1 classes.  That required my students to break into 6 teams of 4…no one was allowed to work alone. (Working together in a group was another problem to solve.)  Each group picked a prompt from the bucket and then received their bags.  They were given an hour (broken up over 2 classes) to bring their prompt to life.  Bag contents included: a portion of an egg carton, 3 pipe cleaners, a cork, a round plastic piece, 10 popsicle sticks, 2 tongue depressors, some puzzle pieces, 3′ strip of lollipop wrapper, 3 small square chipboard pieces, and 2 rectangular chip board pieces.  They could also use the bag if needed, but it was not required.

After time was up, students were asked to present their creation to the class, addressing the following topics:

  • What was your prompt?
  • Talk about your creation BEYOND “this is my project”…DESCRIBE IT!
  • What was the hardest problem to overcome building your creation?
  • How did you overcome it?
  • What was the best part of this activity?

Lastly, each class took a closer look at the creations and then voted for the 2 they best felt fulfilled the following criteria:

  • Best interpretation of the prompt
  • Best visual appeal
  • Best craftsmanship
  • Best use of materials

I also showed a few other videos along the way for kids to see how real life problems could be solved in fun, artistic ways.  The videos came from The FunTheory site.  Thanks Ian Sands for showing me that one.

Our final activity of this Artist Solve Problems unit was SCAMPER.  I learned about SCAMPER while at a Gifted and Talented training this past summer.  Out of all the different activities we went over at the training, I felt SCAMPER was one that I could actually take back to my classroom and have the students use.

I wanted my students to create an artwork, on their own, but I wanted it to fall under this unit.  I thought with SCAMPER I could kill 2 birds with 1 stone so-to-speak, as I have a ton of old student artwork that I no longer needed or wanted.  So, this was a great time to use them.  Students will pick an artwork from the pile and use it to create a new artwork.  The catch is, they have to choose one of the letters of SCAMPER when creating their  “new”artwork.  Subject matter, medium(s), and technique(s) are all up to the student.

S = SUBSTITUTE

C = COMBINE

A = ADAPT

M = MODIFY

P = PUT TO OTHER USES

E = ELIMINATE

R = REARRANGE

Modify was the letter most used in the activity. But, a few really dug in with combine, rearrange, eliminate and put to other uses.  I wish I had some of the before images, but I don’t.  Oh well.  Anyway, they stepped up with SCAMPER–some students taking the artwork so far off the original…YAY!  One student totally took her piece apart and created a whole new piece.  (The feathered bird above–it was once a rhino.)  One note I did have for myself for next year is to have a wider variety of old artwork for the kids to choose from.  Too many of the same starting image and ending with not changing the image enough.  Thanks DBAE. Live and Learn.

As we have moved on from this unit, I can see my students talking with each other and trying to work through problems on their own first before involving me.  This is huge.  It leaves me more time to walk around and chat and get to know my students.

 

The “No-Grade Challenge”

Standard

Sounds interesting, right?  Well, my good friend Ian Sands nominated me earlier this summer to go “no-grades” this year.  And, after much consideration, I have accepted his challenge…well, mostly. There is no way at the high school level, with the GPA reward system we have going in America right now, that I can not grade. My kids need to have some numerical grade…for UIL purposes (pass to play), for college applications, and for the “ever important” class rank–which if you live in the great state of Texas like me, it is important to those kids in the top 10% (or for some colleges like UT–Hook “Em!!–it’s the top 7 or 8%) for automatic admission to state schools.

Anyway, I have accepted his challenge and plan on grading as little as possible this year.  I know I am pushing it, and it my admin gets wiff of it, I may be up sh*ts creek. But, if I am going to start a change and get people talking and thinking about change in the grading arena and the education realm, I need to start somewhere.

Now, don’t confuse what I am doing in so far as grading with what I am doing in terms of assessment.  THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING!!  And, you better believe that I am going to assess the hell out of my students.  In fact, together we, my students and I, will asses their learning and growth like there is no tomorrow.  It will mostly be informal and occur through dialogue between us–the students and myself.  And, that is what an ideal classroom, at least in my opinion, should be like.  It should be about growth and understanding how to think and move forward in the thinking.  And, in order to do that, things need to be assessed.  Grades have no part in that.

Now comes the part where you say, but how will you do that?   You have to grade.  Why not put numbers to your assessment levels?  Then you can be in compliance and all that jazz.  I answer you with, I’ve done that.  And it works well, but I feel it is truly not a good showing of what a student in my studio has learned or how they have grown artistically–either in skill or thinking or both.  It doesn’t really show growth over time.

Last year I read the book “Hacking Assessment” and I have taken a few things from the book about assessment, like having conferences with the kids and letting them be part of the conversation.  I also went to a fabulous session at NAEA-Chicago with Justin Clumpner who at one point talked about grades and what they mean to each individual student.  I think at one point he even said, I ask the kids what grade they want. Those things really resonate with me right now.  Students need to be involved in their assessment of their learning.  It is a 2-way street.

Now, if you know anything about the program I run, I like to have my kids reflect on their learning and their journey.  We have done that through blogs and, more recently, BlendSpace.  So, it occurred to me, why not combine all these things and thus my answer to the “no-grade challenge” was formed.

I do have to have at least a grade every 3 weeks…one a progress report time and one at report card time.  (Technically I am supposed to have more, but don’t tell my admin, okay?) My plan is to have my students reflect on their learning and art making processes to help them determine their grade for that time frame.  Of course, I have final say if I feel they have either graded too high or way too low.  But, I think this will help shift the focus away from grading and back onto their learning, which is what it’s about….or should be. (Do I say that a lot, because I feel I do.)

Here are some screen shot of the google form they will fill out for this reflection process.

 

Will this work?  I don’t know.  Will it need to be tweaked?  I am sure.  What document is perfect from the get go?  I am confident in what I am about to embark on. I think that it will make a difference; a difference even bigger than when I stopped grading artwork and focused on the processes only.  Keep your eyes out for updates as the year progresses.  And who know, maybe soon you too will also be up for the challenge.

Top 9: 2015-16 Year in Review

Standard

It’s been a week since the 2015-16 school year ended.  I have taken a week off from doing any work, but it is now time to take a moment to reflect on the year. And, what better way to do that than to do a top 10, well, a top 9…close enough. Normally, a top 10 would only be the best things, but I thought I would add some of the not-so-good as well.  I mean, we all like things to be puppies and rainbows all the time, but let’s get real folks…it ain’t.

9. New Ceramics Curriculum…or should I say lack there of.  I decided to go balls to the wall and go full-on TAB with my ceramics students.  This is the last year I will have had any students that were part of my sculpture program–from before I made the switch to “all clay, all day”.  And, if you were to walk into that intermediate/advanced class, you could tell which kids those were.  But, I digress.  For the most part, for my intermediate and my advanced students, they were given complete freedom.  They were allowed to work on what they wanted, in the time frame they needed.  I did have some themes with guiding questions to help them if they were stumped, but they were in no way “forced” to follow those themes. If you are wondering how to do a single-media TAB class….read this!

img_20160526_113212.jpg

The Ceramics Graveyard and Senior Totems Sculpture Garden at THS

I think this was a great decision.  It allowed the students to move at their pace and do what interested them.  Are there some kinks to work out concerning the structure of the class? Of course.  I plan on doing a “Technique Tuesday” type of thing.  I will have a demo day once a week to show different things they could use in their work, like sprigs and molds and glazing techniques.  I also am revamping their technical reader and going to incorporate that more into the class.

8. Braeden, The Beginning Ceramics Student Who Learned More Than Me.  I was fortunate enough to have that student this year that many teachers dream of having.  That student who falls in love with your subject matter so much, that he or she just becomes a sponge and soaks up everything.  Who during their free time spends it watching videos and reading about the subject.  Who is in your room working and learning and creating at all times of the day.  I had that student this year, and his name is Braeden.  I had Braeden in art 1 his freshman year, but for some reason, he decided to stop taking art for 2 years and finally returned to me his senior year for art 2: beginning ceramics.  I often wonder where he would be if he hadn’t taken that time off.   He started off as a normal ceramics student, doing the required beginning projects.  Then all of the sudden, he changed.  He found a passion.  He found what he wanted to do with his life.  He would come in whenever he could to practice throwing. He learned to make his own clay.  He learned about glazes and different types of firing and their temperatures. He attempted to make his own wood ash glaze.  It was amazing to watch his lust for learning about all things clay.  I eventually had to tell him to stop learning because he knew more than I did.  Of course this became a running joke, and I love it when he teaches me new things.  I loved being able to have those conversations about ceramics with him. I will miss that next year.

7. Starting Over, again, and again… Sometimes you think you have a great plan. And sometimes that plan, no matter how awesome YOU think it is, sucks.  This was the case with my art 2: painting/drawing class this year.  I won’t go into too much detail, as I wrote about having to start over with this class here.  But, I will say I learned a lot from that class.  It is okay to stop and rewind.  You HAVE to do what is best for your students, and if that means if what you are doing isn’t working, then try something else.  However, if you are going to “start again”, you have to keep your students informed about what you are doing and why.  I had that tough conversation with them.  I told them I wasn’t feeling it, and that I thought they weren’t where I had thought they should be.  That we needed a new direction, and this is what we were going to try.  They looked at me with puzzled looks, but they were willing to try.  I think in the end we started over twice.  But, they say third time’s a charm for a reason.  By the third start, we figured it out.  We figured what worked for them, what they needed to grow and be successful.

Like my ceramics classes, I do have some things to tweak, like the timeline for the artistic behavior units, the digging deeper sections, and how we get to full choice by the second semester.  I wish I could open the studio to full choice sooner, but seeing as my co-worker isn’t TAB, and my art 2 classes are a combo of his and my students…I have to do a little work to make sure all students understand the TAB studio.  It’s all good though….my kids could probably use a refresher anyway.

6. Two Wonderful Opportunities.  I work hard, both at my job and as an advocate for TAB.  So, it is nice when someone else recognizes what I am doing.  This year, not one, but two different people recognized this.  First I was asked by my friend, Betsy Murphy, to come and speak about TAB at the T(exas)AEA High School Division meeting at the 2015 conference. I was honored that Betsy, once my mentor, now my friend, thought of me in this way–that I had something important to share with my colleagues.Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 10.37.47 AM

Second, I was asked to present at the AOE Winter 2016 Online Conference.  I presented about the assessment model I was working on.  It, again, was an honor to think that something I was doing would be of interest to other teachers.  I hope that it helped people make a connection between assessment and grades.

5. Speaking of AOE…Blog Finalist Here.  That’s right, Me, Jean Barnett, author of Art
Class by Mrs B, was a finalist inRisingStarFinalistHI the Art of Education, Blog of the Year, Rising Start category.  I didn’t win, but I think it is pretty cool that I made the list.  I even got a nifty badge to display on the blog.  Oh yeah!  I write my blog with the hopes of not only documenting my journey, but also of helping another art teacher by sharing with I have learned along the way.

4. Art Club I have been at my school for 9 years.  For 8 of those years, my co-worker “ran” the art club.  Well, I wouldn’t really call it running an art club.  I’m not really sure what it was. This img_20160211_220850.jpgyear I took over art club.  I can’t remember the exact reason why he was willing to give it up, but he did, and finally it was mine.  When we started, the club had no money (in fact the account had been closed due to inactivity), and they hadn’t done anything in years.  I advertised the club.  We met every Friday morning during tutorials.  We elected a president, a vice-president, a secretary, and a treasurer.  We sold popcorn, made Duck Art t-shirts and sold them, and even held a painting party.  Was it the best art club?  No.  Did we do a whole lot?  No.  But we did paint a mural in our computer lab, and I am glad to say that we did have a few hundred dollars in the art club account by the end of the year.  Furthermore, we still had members returning to meetings at the end of the year. So, I call it a win!  Small steps people!  I am so proud of the kids.  Next year will be even better.  I know it.

3. I am Not Invincible, But At Least My Admin Believes in Me. I like to think that I am invincible.  That nothing is going to bring me down, except for maybe myself.  And, that was definitely the case this year.  I won’t go into details, but I did have an incident this year that caused me to pause.  I can’t change what happened, but I can say that students can be unpredictable and retaliate in damaging ways.  Luckily for me, I have some students that know who I am, what I stand for, and what my students mean to me.  They were honest and I commend them for that.  I also learned that I have an administration that believes in me and what I do in my classroom.  My principal understands the climate of the art room, and how it differs from an academic class.  We had a long talk about it, and when I left his office, I knew that finally, I had an administrator that finally understood.

2.  School Art vs. Authentic School Art vs. What the Student Really Wants to Make Art This was something that I had not had a ton of thoughts about until I attended a session by Justin Clumpner at NAEA16 in Chicago.  He was talking about an AP student he had who wasn’t making the work or getting anything done.  Then one day he saw her sketchbook and asked her why she wasn’t creating works like her sketches.  Her reply, “I didn’t think I could.  I didn’t think this was ‘school art’.”  I thought that was an interesting concept…school art.  In TAB, we talk a lot about “authentic art”, and what our students are making is authentic art.  And, I thought that I encouraged authentic art and that my kids were making what THEY wanted to make.

That was until the end of April this year.  I happened to come across a tweet by one of my art 1 students of a painting she had just finished at her house.  I tweeted back to her that I thought she should do that in class.  When I talked with her about it the next school day, I asked her why she didn’t do this stuff in class.  She said she couldn’t figure out how to work it into the themes we were doing.   That’s when the lightbulb went off.  As much as I thought I was empowering my students to bring their own life into their artwork, and as much as I encourage authentic art…maybe I wasn’t doing all that I could.  I don’t have an answer yet as to how to really encourage it more, but I have an idea to work through over the summer.

screenshot_20160605-121236_1.jpg

The Twitter Painting

P1080720

The Final Artwork

And, just as an aside, while this girl in particular worked hard all year, I never saw her work like the way she did on that final painting.  She learned so much and was so proud, and I could tell she was a little sad (but still proud) when I said I wanted to keep it to display in August when we returned to school.

1. Knowing You’re on the Right Track  Deep down in my heart, I know that TAB is what is best for my students.  It keeps them engaged.  It really helps them to grow artistically. And, it makes them think and reflect.  My years of running a TAB studio have been my favorite years of teaching.  But, sometimes, it is hard.  Sometimes you feel like the kids just aren’t getting it.  You feel like maybe the “others” are right, and you aren’t really teaching them anything.  You doubt yourself and your program.

But, then something happens. You assign a completely open final artwork for your art 1 students.  You see 90% engagement. You see growth at its peak. You see that they have been paying attention all year.  You see the research and the planning, the trials and errors, the experimentation, and the pushing forward all come out of the students.  Yes, I was physically exhausted for the last 2.5 weeks of school.  Yes, my room was a constant mess, for which I apologized to Connie, my custodian, on a daily basis.  But, I was happy.  I was proud.  I knew I didn’t need to doubt.  I hope to remember this next year when I will more than likely doubt myself again.  I can’t wait to display all this wonderful art in August.  I did include a few pieces from my art 2 class’ final work, Artists Work in a Series, in the slide show.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hope your year was as good as mine.  After I finish recharging over the summer, I will look forward to implementing what I learned from this year.  And I do want to take this opportunity to say thanks to my tribe for helping me and encouraging me along the way.

FB_IMG_145836013793120100_10207094072213672_364082503752064828_n (1)

NAEA 2016: Chi-Town (part 2: the sessions)

Standard

imag5687_1.jpgWhat is the most important part of going to a National Art Ed Conference? If judging by my first post, Chi-Town (part 1: the intro), you would think it was hanging out with friends.  And you would be right.  But, just a small percentage point behind that is the sessions.  I mean, I did pay to go to some relevant professional development so I can become an even better, more awesome teacher. I don’t want to go too awesome though, I don’t think my students could handle that.  😉

imag5601.jpgSince I am somewhat old school, I wasted a whole bunch of trees and printed out a copy of the sessions.  Yes, I know that I would get a program once in Chicago, but that’s not very helpful to a planner like me.  (Don’t be too mad, I did print them double-sided.)  I sat down in my kitchen with my coffee, my stack of papers, my yellow marker, and my phone.  As I read thru the sessions, I circled the ones that were interesting to me.  Then I would fire up the conference app on my phone and add them to my agenda.  Is this a little more work, maybe, but who wants to carry a quarter ream of paper around the McCormick? Not me.

It wasn’t an easy thing to do.  In case you didn’t know, I teach all TABbish and my interest is finding better ways to run my TAB classroom so it is more meaningful for my students. However, there are a couple of problems that I come across at art ed conferences.  I teach high school, and it seems the majority of sessions (especially TAB/choice) are aimed at elementary. Also, out of the TAB/Choice sessions, many are geared towards getting people interested in TAB/Choice.  I am already interested, I don’t need to go to those.  So, while I did attend one or two of those sessions (my fav being “Lead, Follow, or Get out of the Way”, presented by Julie Toole, Nan Hathaway, and Ian Sands),imag5836_1.jpgI opted against most because I would rather give up my seat to someone who needs to learn about TAB/choice and their awesomeness.  And, I am glad I did because those sessions were packed.  I mean, standing room only, out the door packed.  This makes my heart happy, by the way.  IMAG3327_1

So, powers that be at NAEA who deal with choosing sessions for NYC, we need more sessions on TAB…at all levels and areas of interest (getting to know vs. already am in love with) of TAB.  Obviously it is a hot topic and people want to know.  I, personally, am willing to present a session or two or three about TAB at the secondary level.  I know some others too who would be as well.  Hell, we would even do some joint presenting.  Just sayin’….

Over the course of the 3 days, I attended 15 sessions.  One was not all that, and only 1 did I walked out.  I lucked out and found 13 good/great sessions.  Don’t worry, I won’t go over each session, but I will give you some highlights.

10612715_10107362239544810_1343979125320880173_nI started off the conference with a great session called “Break theimag5692_1.jpg
Wheel”, presented by Chris Wills.  His session was about brainstorming and ways to help students get over the creative block.  It really got me fired up to go.  He had us do a small version of his activity called “60“.  I really enjoyed the activity.
I enjoyed it so much that I brought it back to my classroom and used it already.  At first my kids were all, “what the…”, but after completing the activity, which we only did for 20 minutes, they were glad we did and I think they have some ideas to work from for the next artworks.
After that I was pumped and went to a couple of more sessions that day.  One was a look at the way the AP portfolio was “graded”.  While I don’t teach AP, I was able to take some things away from this.  The presenter talked about looking into the creative process and being able to imag5699_1.jpgcapture the day to day…which is something I am working on in my classroom.  There is so much more to artwork than just the final product, and wouldn’t it be great to allow our students to showcase the process instead of just the end of it?

Rounding out the day was a presentation by Jeff Pridie that made me think about what my program goals were and why my program should be there.  And a session by the Journal Fodder Junkies.  I had seen them before in NOLA and was excited to see them again.  Every year they encourage me to have my students develop visual journals.  Maybe next year will be the year I incorporate them.

Friday started off big as well.  “Art Without Authority” was standing room only.  Presenter Justin Crumpner is an art teacher from Dallas, and he feels the same way about our state VASE competition as I do…so right then I knew I liked this guy.  The more he talked, the more I realized that he believed in the TAB philosophy, but just didn’t know there were others out there like him.  In the middle of the session I texted Liz asking why he was not part of our tribe.  He talked about his realization of moving to student-centeredness when he had an AP student that wouldn’t finish her work.  But, when he saw her sketchbook that was filled with fabulousness and asked her why she wasn’t doing that in class, she replied, “I didn’t think I could do this.  I didn’t think this was “school art”.”  WOW!   Seriously, talk about a way to start reflecting on your teaching practice.  Anyway, he said some things during his presentation that were right on:  “Your (students) work is VALID”; “their voice (student) = your voice (teacher)”; and “create a climate; don’t create winners and losers”. Of course I paraphrased that last one, but still… If you missed his presentation, you can still see it.  He posted it on his blog.  As a final note, we (Liz, Hillary and I) did run into him later on in the conference, we talked over a beer, and he ended up coming to our TAB meet-up.  He has since joined our tribe on the Midwest TAB teachers page.  I look forward to meeting up with him again next year in Fort Worth/Dallas at the TAEA 2016 conference.

I know I am getting long winded and I still have more to say, so bear with me.  I attended Joy Schultz‘ presentation where she talked about choice and her students use of Blendspace.  She had the presenter’s nightmare where the technology was non-existent. But, being the rockstar she is, went on like it was no big deal.  Again, standing room only.

I attended a session on authentic assessment in a choice classroom presented by 2 elementary teachers.  While it was interesting, and it gave rise to a sudden interest in a badge system, it wasn’t anything really new to me.  I am not sure I will use a badge system, but it is something worth looking at–extrinsic versus intrinsic rewards.

Ian dragged us to a session called “New Weird Ideas”.  There were four presenters and they each talked about how they set the tone for the beginning of the year.  And of course, they said the same thing that I kept hearing over and over through out the conference…”Focus on the process and how to make the process meaningful.”  It is at this point I should mention that they presenters were giving away free e-zines and Ian drafted Andy to go get us some…you would think that a 6′-4″, lean guy would be able to leap his way up to the front and procure some, but noooooooo….smh.  No e-zines for us.

Saturday was the last day of sessions.  We got there in time to see “Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way” where Nan dropped this gem, “If there were no grades in art, how would that affect your work?”  Just let that sink in.  Yeah.  Exactly.

I didn’t really have any sessions lined up for the day, so luckily, I was with Ian who did. We went to a session about Shepard Fairey.  There is a lot more to him than I thought there was.  I left with the idea of “post-museum art“, which is art of the people; it’s an interesting concept.  Ian and I also went to a session on maker spaces.  I am now considering trying to get a 3-D printer, some paper circuits, and conductive ink.  For more info on maker spaces, check out the Makelab.

Our final stop of the day was one that Ian and I are very interested in.  It was titled “Stop Grading Art!”  It started off great with ideas like we should moved from being art focused (fixed mindset) to learning focused (growth mindset), and questions like what is the purpose of grading, what are my standards, and what are my learning objectives/goals? Next he talked about looking for evidence of learning.  It was here that it became frustrating and where I wanted to just start arguing with the presenter. He wasn’t talking about getting rid of grading (which is what we had hoped the session was about), and he was basically using assessment and grading as interchangeable terms, which of course they are not.  There was nothing new learned from this, and it seemed that he was pushing grading in art as we know it now, but with a different language.  His example was very simple, and didn’t really seem to assess any learning.  He said the learning objective (from either the state or national standards) was to provide multiple solutions to a problem.  And the evidence of learning was based on how many thumbnails a student created.  There was a cute rubric that went with it too.  How is that really assessing the learning?  That is just grading on how well a student jumped through a hoop.   And, that is what I am trying to get away from.  I walked out of the session frustrated, but with lots to think about; so #winning?  I got stuck on what my learning objectives really are and how to see the evidence of that learning.  So, while I walked out with a new conversation in my head, I’m not sure I needed a session to get me there…I have already been on that path.  Maybe I will figure something out and present on this topic next year in NYC.

imag5798_1.jpg

This post shows just a snippet into some of the notes I took.  If you could see my imag5715_1.jpgnotebook, your head would be swimming too.  I took a lot away from this conference–things I want to bring to my program, things to stay away from, ways to enhance the process more and to bring the kids to “buy in” sooner.  Overall, the sessions I went to and the buzz I heard about other “popular” sessions made me realize that I am on the right path in my teaching philosophy.  I look forward to hopefully presenting next year at both the TAEA [Texas] conference and the NAEA17 conference.  ::hint, hint::  I promise my sessions won’t disappoint.

Year in Review: Part 2: Things Learned and Things to Learn

Standard

In this part of my reflection on the 2014-15 school year, I decided that I would look back over the changes that took place by bringing TAB/CBE into my classroom.  While I have offered modified choice in my room for a while, this was the first year to fully implement the TAB pedagogy. It has been a huge learning experience, both for my students and for me.

I had heard and read about all the wonderful things that have an open studio could do, but to be honest, I was still skeptical.  Could my student population really do well with such freedom?  The answer is yes.

Let’s start with some positives from this year:

  • P1050661Kids worked through artwork until they were satisfied…at times starting a new piece because it just wasn’t working.  This just amazed me.  I’ve had kids work hard on things before, but never with the fervor I’ve seen this year.  They pushed themselves. And it paid off.
  • Kids learned from other kids on how to do something I didn’t teach them.  They would see something someone else had discovered and asked how to do it.
  • Kids tried new things, even when previously saying they didn’t like such-n-such medium. Some would try out a material, such as clay, just to discover they still didn’t like it.  Others would finally break away from what was known to the, only to find a new love.
  • Clean-up/ownership of materials and tools.  I have to clean a lot less than in previous years.  I am not seeing a mis-use of materials (paper, paint, etc.–except for ez-cut.) Trusting my kids to be responsible with tools and materials was probably my biggest hang-up when moving to full choice. But, I was pleasantly surprised when tools got returned, when I still had erasers at the end of the year, and when the majority of brushes were cleaned.  I think that giving the students trust to maintain the studio was a big factor in this area.
  • I am noticing I use the word kids a lot.  My students are in high school and probably wouldn’t want to be called kids, and they aren’t related to me, but they feel like my kids.  This year I have had the most comfortable relationships with students.  I know more (and some things I would like to forget..can you say tmi?) about my students this year than I ever have before.  I think thP1060155is stems from a combination of reading their blog posts and the type of conversations I was able to have with my students.  Because I wasn’t focused on them creating a certain thing or following a specific rubric, I was able to go deeper with them into their work and their lives.
  • Lots of growth happened this year.  Not every student grew.  Some kids are just there for the credit.  They don’t care one way or another, and no matter what you say/do or don’t say/do isn’t going to change that.  There were classes I took in both HS and at my first college where I felt the same.  It’s normal.  It’s okay.  And I accept that.  But, for the majority of students, they did care.  I saw them push themselves.  Some grew in drawing skills.  Others in painting.  Some grew in meaning put into their artwork.  I had a couple that finally stopped copying things from the interwebs and began making their own.  One student who did the bare minimum for 90% of the year finally came alive at the end once he realized he could things in an anime style if that is what interested him.  He didn’t pass, but he promised me that the flame I saw at the end would be there for the whole time next year.  I have a hundred stories to tell about student growth.  It makes me smile when I think about them.P1040736
  • The art making didn’t always stop with just creating the theme artwork.  Many students just kept going.  They wanted to create this or that, so I let them.  Why stop the creativity?  Why make them sit there and do nothing?
  • My school is a 1:1 macbook, and this year I felt I really had the students using the computers in a positive way.  We weren’t using it just because it was an expectation.  We were using it to communicate and reflect.  The website/blogs created by the students and by myself were a great thing, even if their writing needs some help.

While I did change things during the year to better meet the needs of the students, I still have areas that need addressing over the summer.  And of course, there are areas I feel that if I just changed it up a bit, students would be more successful.

  • Helping the students to understand why we do the blogs.  We started out with artist behaviors.  The students wrote about what they were doing and addressing the behaviors.  I thought P1040846they were moving along and understanding things.  So, we moved to artist statements after winter break. Nope. Most students weren’t there yet.  I then gave them the option to either do an artist statement or pick 2 behaviors like we did previously.  After reading their end of year surveys, I know they didn’t really see the point of them.  A handful of students did (and by handful I mean like 5), but the majority couldn’t see the point of writing in art and thought it was just busy work or for a grade. This is good to know.  I know my student population has an issue with writing, and I am sure that our state testing is partially to blame.  They are not good at writing, sad to say.  But, what I gleam from all this is that need to help them to see that artists write about what they do.  That reflecting on the actions they are doing can help them grow as an artist.  And, that writing is not just for English and History class.
  • I did well creating demos for the students, but I feel I could do more.  I feel that I left some things up in the air…like color mixing…and some kids never explored that on their own.  Perhaps if I give them a taste of what color mixing could do…it could bring more life to their artwork.
  • The students have the ideas, they just need a bit more help as to what is possible oP1050608ut there–both in image, media, and technique.  How do I get them to see beyond the typical art room materials?  How can I encourage them to try something new?  How can I get them to go deeper and think further beyond the obvious? I need to address my line of questioning, the way images get shown to them for inspiration, and helping them to make more dynamic composition decisions.
  • This is the first year I had all 3 sculpture levels doing ceramics.  It was a lot of trial and error. While the students were happy with how things ran, it could be better.  I haven’t figured this out yet, but I will…even if every year we change some things to make it better.
  • Themes were tricky.  Ones that I thought would be killer…dropped dead.  I like working with the themes and I think, especially for my art 1 kiddos, they worked well.  Feedback said the students liked to have a starting point for their artwork.  Things I have been considering for next year…giving the entire list of themes and having them pick as they please…but then how would our padlet brainstorming work with that method.  Having the students suggest themes and then having a vote.  Something else?P1060109
  • Feedback and critique needs to change…big time.  I give personal feedback as I walk around, but I feel I miss students or I hit them too late in the process and they have yet to fully understand things can still be changed and you can go back to an earlier stage.  I want to do critiques more…especially mid-project. (And definitely mid-project in ceramics.)  I am hoping that this topic will be brought up at the TAB Institute this summer so someone can help me to suss this out.

I have more questions, but this has gone on long enough.  I feel that I will always have questions and that is a good thing.  I can’t become stagnant and complacent in my art studio.  No one will benefit from that. All in all, it was a fabulous year.  I mean, there wasn’t one day this year where I woke up and said I didn’t want to go to work.  That says something…don’t you think?  And I know that things will just get better and better if I keep putting my students first by helping them to think like artists and behave like artists and create like artists.

Big changes are on the horizon at my school.  Our entire admin staff is changing.  We are getting a new principal and moving from 4 assistant principals to an assistant, an associate, and a dean of curriculum. And, they will all be new people.  I’ve had a chance to sit and chat with our new principal.  He is very easy to talk to.  I told him about all the changes that I’ve done this past year.  I talked aboP1050334ut TAB and choice and the pedagogy.  He thought it was wonderful and that it aligned with something that was talked about at some principals/superintendents conference.  That made me happy and feel that I was doing the right thing.  And, surprisingly, when I said my final good-bye to our current principal, he said something I never thought he would.  We didn’t always see eye to eye, and sometimes I thought he just didn’t notice and didn’t understand.  But, he told me to keep doing what I was doing.  To keep my expectations high and keep pushing the students.  He said that that is what they will remember and what they will appreciate.

And to that, I say, they do.  And I will.

Presenting at NAEA15 NOLA

Standard

11011882_10105906172305230_5830741035496563380_n

On a whim, I thought I would put a proposal in to present at the NAEA National Conference in New Orleans.  The proposals were due at the end of May last year, or something like that, and I cut it pretty close.  I don’t know why I put in that proposal…my husband had recently become unemployed and I wasn’t sure if we could even afford it.  But, I decided we would figure it out if I was accepted.

Fast forward to the beginning of the school year.  I received an email saying I was in.  I was in shock.  I knew many had proposed, and I was honored that I was a lucky one that was accepted.  Now, I had presented before at my state conferences. In fact, my first presentation was as a first-year teacher.  I was presenting a 3-lesson unit I had done during my student teaching.  The room was packed for that and I was nervous as hell.  But, all went well and I was glad I had done it.  Another time I presented I did a hands-on session.  While it was totally fun, I hated bringing all the supplies with me.  However, this was my first National conference.  Things would be different.  The audience base was a gazillion times bigger than Texas.  Talk about pressure.

This time I was going to present about how I have my students create altered books.  I chose to do a lecture-type presentation that would last about 25 minutes.  My session was called “Altered Books: Exploration Around a Theme”.  I created my powerpoint.  I gathered all the photos I had from various years.  And, I packed up a bunch of books my students had graciously allowed me to take to NOLA. I created business cards that had my session info and a QR code that linked to all of my information (website, email, twitter accounts, school website, etc.)  I highly suggest this.  It made it so easy to share things with others.  I was even able to give out at other times to teachers I had met during the conference.

qrcode.28456822  qrcode.28456822  qrcode.28456822  qrcode.28456822  qrcode.28456822

To say I was nervous is to put it lightly.  I was nervous I would talk too fast.  I was nervous no one would show up.  I was nervous I would flub.  I sat in the hall outside my room going over my slide show.  I knew the information by heart.  I don’t know why I felt the need to go over it.  It didn’t really calm my nerves.  Then people started to show up, waiting with me outside the room.  They were there for me.  I was starting to calm down.

I finally got in the room to set up.  I began putting the books on the table and it was like a signal went out the art teachers in the room.  They began to swarm the table.  I felt a sense of calm, and my worries melted away.  The room was full of art teachers–way more than I anticipated.  I began my show.  I was steady.  I slipped in my humor.  I talked with pride about my students.  I didn’t rush.

Basically, I felt I rocked it.  Later, during the rest of the weekend, when random people came up to me and said how much they enjoyed my presentation…I knew I had.

I look forward to presenting again.  I already have the wheels turning, trying to decide what I want to present about.

For those that didn’t attend, here are some files from my presentation.  Message me or comment if you have any questions.  I love sharing.

Day to Day in My TAB Classroom

Standard

DSC_0154

A post on my art teacher’s fb page asking about how a TAB classroom works at the high school level got me to searching my blog for a post on how I do it.  I found numerous posts on why I do it, the themes we have used, and organization of my room.  While those are very helpful, they don’t really talk about how my classroom is run–the day to day.

I have said in the past that my classroom is a living entity, and that is as true today as it was when I wrote about it; and it will be true tomorrow and for years to come.  I have to ebb and flow with the needs and wants of my students.  Otherwise, I am taking away something important from the students and not living up to the pedagogy I believe in.

The basics of running my classroom include: introduction of theme, brainstorming, inspiration, demos, time to plan and work, due date, reflection.

  • INTRODUCTION OF THEME:  This is just that…I tell the students the theme.  At the start of a unit, I turn to the kids and tell them the theme. simple. easy.  Themes we have used this year include:  man/machine, interior/exterior, power, pressure, home, environment, light, sound, surrealism, self-portraits.
  • BRAINSTORMING: A few of our themes have not needed brainstorming–like self-portraits.  But, for the most part, we brainstorm as a class.  We are a 1:1 school with MacBooks, so I have the students use a program called Padlet to help them develop ideas.  This helps in several ways…it allows for multiple points of views, it helps to give a voice to those who are shy, and I can link the brainstorm board for those that need to go back and review.
  • INSPIRATION: Currently I am helping my students get some inspiration.  Many of my students haven’t been exposed to much art, so thinking outside of the box is often difficult for them.  I like to help them see what could be possible within a certain theme.  I create pinboards with a myriad of examples for my students.  I hope in the future to change this by having my students find the inspiration and creating the pinboards.  I’m just not there yet.
  • DEMOS: Part of running the TAB classroom includes giving short demos on various materials, tools, techniques for the students.  When I introduce something new, I do a quick 5-8 minute demo and I record it.  I took a page from Apex High School and created my own media portal.  I post all the videos here so students can go back and reference if they were sick or if they need a refresher.
  • TIME TO PLAN AND WORK: The majority of time spent in my classroom is dedicated to this.  At the moment, I don’t require students to plan by sketching or the like because it is not something I always do.  Some students plan on their own, while others don’t.  I am seeing that the reason for this is that they don’t know how.  This is something I am working on and planning on adding in the future (as soon as I figure out how…).  Many of my students experiment as they go, working through ideas and finding solutions–just like many artists do.
  • DUE DATE: I’m going to be honest here, I like having due dates.  I think they are important.  They help to keep my students with wandering minds on-task.  They are important for future endeavors.  I think it is something they have to learn.  I use a soft due date and a hard due date.  There is a week between the two due dates.  Basically, the day after the soft due date I introduce the next theme and we brainstorm.  During that week, those that have finished with the current theme can move on and start planning/working on the new theme; those that need a few more days can finish up working while thinking about what they want to do on the new theme.  I have found the soft/hard due date works for my student population, and it helps keep me in compliance with a few district/campus policies.
  • REFLECTIONS: During the first semester, each student created a website using Weebly.com.  As a class, we talked about 8 different behaviors that artists have.  Every 2-3 weeks, the students chose 2 behaviors and wrote about how they were or weren’t showing that behavior.  It didn’t matter where they were in the process of an artwork.  It was helpful for them to see that the processes they were going through were what was changing them into artists.  When the second semester started, I introduced the artist statement, and the students reflected at the end of each unit, writing an artist statement about what they just created.  I realized that many were not ready to move on to this and were producing better reflections about themselves and their work talking about the behaviors.  I give them a choice at the end of the unit about how they want to reflect now.

MEDIA CHOICE:  I have set up my classroom so that almost all media is out in the classroom and easily accessible for the students.  We started off the year with b/w drawing media.  From there I added color media.  Next was printmaking, then painting and collage.  Starting in the second semester I opened sculpture and clay.  At this point in the year (10 weeks to go), students are allowed to choose whatever media they want.

I know that not every TAB classroom works like this, but this is what works for my student population and for me.  I hope as I continue with the TAB pedagogy, I am able to allow even more freedom to my students.  I keep a list of running notes of things I think will make it run better next year.  What demos did I miss this year that would have been good?  What if I spent more time on each behavior individually?  How can the students get more out of blogging?  Things like that.

There are never two days alike in my classroom.  In fact, even when I do an intro day, no two classes are ever the same.  It’s a good thing.  It keeps it interesting to me.  It keeps me on my toes.  It keeps me happy.

Let There Be Light?

Standard

Light:    

  1. the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible.  
  2. understanding of a problem or mystery; enlightenment.
  3. (of a color) pale.
  4. of little weight; easy to lift.
  5. gentle or delicate.
  6. (of entertainment) requiring little mental effort; not profound or serious.
  7. (of persona) good; vs. evil (dark)

This was our theme.  Seems like there could be a myriad of possibilities.  I thought it would be “easier” that our previous theme of “Sound“.  Unfortunately, it was much harder than I thought it would be for my students.

I don’t know if it was the theme or if it is just that time of year.  (To be honest, I have hit that proverbial wall that often shows it face in February as we are just on the cusp of beginning the last 2 marking periods of the school year.  But, I digress.)  While a few knocked it out of the park and had some deep thinking and meaning to their artwork, many just went through the motions.

Not everything that came out of this unit was bad.  It helped me to realize some things about my students, myself, and the atmosphere in the room.  My students need a break from computers.  Enter our next theme of surrealism where they will rely on their minds for ideas.  I need a break.  I know we just returned to school, but I feel like I am about to start up this huge mountain of responsibilities and I won’t get to the top until mid-April.  And, finally, my room has become too comfortable.  It’s a double-edged sword really. It’s what I wanted.  I wanted my students to want to be here.  I wanted my students to want to make art.  I wanted my room to be a living thing.  And it is all of these and it is not all these things.  I don’t know how to explain it.  I like the chaos of art making and several of my classes deliver.  But what I don’t like is just general chaos–which other classes are becoming.

So, see, this unit has brought reflection and thought for me.  This is a good thing.

Here are a few more good things that were brought about by this unit.

P1050806 P1050811 P1050814 P1050837 P1050839 P1050844 P1050874 P1050879 P1050882 P1050913 P1050914 P1050923 P1050925 P1050927 P1050974 P1050978

The Art of Being Observed

Standard

Every year it happens…the official observation that one of your administrators must do so you can be evaluated about how good of a teacher you are.  There is always much discussion on this in teacher groups…no matter what subject you teach. Some teachers are all about the dog and pony show–changing lesson plans or adding in things that wouldn’t normally occur on that day.  Others take a more “I’m just gonna go about my business” type attitude.  This is how I teach, come and get it.  This latter camp is where I fall.

Yes, I choose the day based on what we are doing.  And yes, I try to have my observer come in during my best class.  But other than that, I don’t change a thing.  I try to ask for a date where we might be doing something other than just a complete work day, but if I don’t have one of those, I let the observer know and I roll with it.

I don’t agree with the dog and pony show.  I don’t understand stopping what you are doing to show some “home run” lesson. It doesn’t seem honest and authentic to me.  Why would I want an evaluation that isn’t really based on how I am as a teacher?  If it is not something I do everyday, then it’s not me.  I want to show what it is like in my classroom, every day.  I want to know if there are practices I am doing well or practices that need improvement.

I’ve heard some teachers say they show the admin what they want to see so that admin will just leave the teacher alone the rest of the time to do what they (teacher) thinks is good and what they want to do.  This doesn’t make sense to me either. Why would you want others to think you’re something you aren’t?  If you feel you have to change for an evaluation, why is that?  Are you not comfortable with how you run your classroom?

I had my formal observation last week.  I finally received the evaluation on it today.  It confirmed what I had known, that I was doing good things in my classroom.  She saw the learning and creativity that happens every day in room because we ran the room like we did every day.  Nothing changed.  My students did exactly what I thought they would–the participated, they talked, they joked around, they learned, they made art.  They did that the day before my observation.  And, they did it the day after.

The Importance of Art History?

Standard

Admittedly, art history is probably the weakest area in my teaching.  It is something that I have never had an interest in studying.  It was one of the hardest art courses I took at both colleges I attended.  I have never figured out a way to really make the incorporation into my classes fun, interesting, and worthwhile.

It is an area that I am “supposed” to bring into my classroom.  It is part of the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) I must adhere to when creating my lesson plans.  I have skated around it for the past 7+ years saying that I add in art history by doing this activity or that activity.  At the beginning, every lesson had an art history component.  I don’t think the kids ever really made the connection between what we were doing and the artist or genre we were “studying”.  In fact, I don’t think they really cared.  Over time, I changed the activity about 7 times…that works out to be some new way to bring it in every year.  I was exhausted.

So, just how important is it that we teach our kids about what came before them?  As an artist, I usually don’t go looking into the past when working.  I am concerned about the now.  When I read about who artists were influenced by, they are usually contemporaries of that artist.  Rarely have I read that an artist was influenced by another artist that came 100 years before them.  This is not to say it doesn’t happen.  I am sure it does…I just haven’t read about it that much.  Many of the artists that I like were/are pushing the envelope of what was occurring at their time or maybe a few years before them…but still to them, contemporary.

So, it is more important that we drone on about the past or that we introduce them to what is happening today?  I lean towards the latter.  I am not dead-set in this opinion.  Convince me that I need to continue to rack my brain figuring out how to incorporate art history more that showing images of artwork that illustrates a theme.  Tell me why–beyond because it is important to learn what came before.  Tell me that it is more important to know these things for something more than being able to answer questions on Jeopardy or Trivia Crack.

 

“Art needs to be socialised, and you need a lot of context to understand that, and that doesn’t mean having read a few art history books.”                                 ~Peter M. Brant