Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Something Isn't Working Here: Summer Divergent Thinking Institute

One of my favorite parts -other than the people- of graduate school was the constant engagement in educational research. Sadly, right about the time my research got really interesting (I could nerd-out on neuroscience all day and never get enough), my program was over. I never thought to lament the "loss" of graduate school, but I do. There was something really promising about constantly challenging yourself to implement new strategies into the classroom. And, honestly, I miss that.

As you now know, I'm off to a new school next year. My new school is a Title I school, which means a lot of the students are "economically disadvantaged." I have no idea how disadvantaged or what other hurdles they may face in their day to day lives. But, I have worked in a Title I school previously, so I do have some experiences that I can relate and plan my year around.

I was a second year teacher during my previous Title I experience. I was totally unequipped to handle what I faced. Coming from a private school experience, and with an undergraduate degree in Fine Arts (Painting) and not education, I had no collaborative teaching mentors or student teaching experience on which to draw. I tend to be an "all rainbows and sunshine teacher" which means that my natural inclination is to begin from a place of lesser classroom management and then add more as needed. Essentially, we all know that this plan doesn't really work. And, honestly, that was just one of my many learning curves that year.

What I can say about the experience overall is a quote I read (and love) from missionary Rye Barcott (who also works in Kenya): "Talent is universal; opportunity is not."

The other poignant aspect of my previous experience was how overwhelmingly bored and disenchanted my students were with education. I overcame the boredom issue quickly, because I'm a goofy, funny, engaging teacher. . .But, I never quite resolved the disenchantment issue. When students would complain I would remark: "You want to do well, so you can go to college!" And, they would (quite accurately) response with "Why? You went to college and you don't make any money?!" To my students, the amount of money made was a measure of success. And, when you have students who regularly go hungry (as many of mine did at that time), you really can't argue with that standard.

At the time, I took their response very personally and it offended me. Years later, I have to say, that they were right! I went to college, and even got a master's degree and am damn lucky to have a job -any job- lined up for next year. I've been eking by these past five years making less than my friends without college degrees. A college degree, while helpful, doesn't necessarily engender success or quality pay.

I've been fortunate I suppose to teach students these past four years who -from an early age- have been encouraged to value traditional education, college, and learning. These students have been raised in a manner very similar to my own. And, as such, motivating them, engaging them, and yes, teaching them, has been rather easy in a lot of ways.

But next, year, I expect to have a much wider range of diversity and backgrounds in my students, and I want what I teach them to have value.

So, this summer, I am launching the "Divergent Thinking Learning Institute" here on the blog. Lesson Plan Wednesday and Favorite Artist Fridays will be on halt until August. The purpose of the institute is three-fold:

1. Why is teaching Art and Aesthetics important, why should students value it, and how can we demonstrate this to learners, educators, and administrators?

2. To create lessons and learning experiences that are relevant, interesting, engaging, kinetic, and fun for learners because psychology and neuroscience studies show that such experiences are the key to successful learning.

3. To create classroom management plan(s) that reflect collaborative, communal, and group learning which are based on mutual respect between learners and between learners and educators.

Are you interested in joining the discussion? I would LOVE to have you become a part of this!! I plan on blogging about this all summer here, and if I have enough interested teachers, I will develop a wiki site for us where we can all collaboratively share our insights/ideas/lessons/ and research. I will say that one bonus to this, is that you will leave with a classroom management plan, and lesson plans for the next school year. I will be planning for the middle school learner, and the more educators who participate, the more opportunities for other grade levels we will have.

I hope to see you reading/participating soon!

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Jobby Job AND Lesson Plan Raffle!

I signed a contract to teach Art for 6th-8th grades yesterday for the 2011-2012 school year!!! I'm thrilled as the job is a commutable distance to my home, has a wonderful facility, a truly warm administration, AND is in the county school system I attended when I was kid. Crazy, right?!

Sooo, those of you who follow me know what this means! Time to raffle off my lesson plan book! I want to thank you all for all of your amazing, awesome, strong, and supportive comments. Reading your words really uplifted me and helped me to have the "right" and "positive" attitude (especially in moments wherein I felt dejected).

Ten of you put comments on my "call for a raffle" posting, but Ms. Phyl opted out of participating in the raffle because she is so close to retirement. And, I mean seriously, like I would have anything to share with Ms. Phyl?! She is pretty much the most creative, innovative, and amazing art teacher I know. I assigned you each a number based on the order in which you posted (1-9), and then put the numbers into a random number generator.

Our winner is lucky #9 who is SARA! Sara, you posted as anonymous and I don't have contact info for you. Please contact me so I can zip and send you the lesson plans (artful.artsy.amy@gmail.com).

AND, because I'm just thrilled and I LOVE sharing, if you posted a comment on the original post, post a comment on this post, and/or follow my blog please email me and I will zip and email you 20 lesson plans!

Honestly, I LOVE YOU GUYS!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stand Up for Education

Yesterday, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled any charter school approved by the state's "Georgia Charter Schools Commission" instead of the local school board in which is exists to be an unconstitutional entity.

And then, all hell broke loose in education news in Georgia.

This directly effects my local community because the building in which I teach (the one that my private school no longer owns) was leased for the 2011-2012 school year by a charter school -Cherokee Charter Academy- disapproved by the local school board but approved by the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. As of yet, no one knows exactly how the ruling will impact the future for Cherokee Charter Academy, but one this is for sure: they won't be receiving any public funds for their school. The lottery for admittance to the school was this past week, and now parents who were previously excited about this option for their students are now -understandably- reeling.

Much of my community is very enraged and the local online paper is crying-out for pictures and comments from upset parents who intend to rally at the State Capitol to protest the ruling later this afternoon.

You know what? I think the ruling is amazing, awesome, perfect, and much-needed. I shared my thoughts with some colleagues this morning and they were shocked to hear that my opinion was in such contrast to theirs. In turn, I was so horrified by their comments -and what I've read online from people- that I have to respond.

Georgia is consistently ranked in the bottom of United States for education. It is ranked 45th based on S.A.T. scores and 47th based on the average rate of graduation. Obviously, there needs to be a major overhaul in how Georgians think about education, and this overhaul needs to happen soon.

But, is creating a larger gap between the "haves" and the "haves nots" really the answer?

One of my colleagues stated this morning: "I should have a right to say where my tax dollars go! I want them to go towards better education." I absolutely understand what he is talking about, and I understand that he really wants more of a say in where his money goes.

But, the truth is, he already has his opportunity to have a say, and he has done nothing about it. There is a hard truth that a lot of people who bemoan "taxpayer dollars" need to make peace with: You are never going to get a card that allows you to line-item and pick and choose where your taxes go. I'm sorry. It is just never going to work that way.

BUT, you can get involved in local government, become educated, and work alongside non-profits, action groups etc. etc. to have more of a voice in where tax paying dollars go collectively. Unfortunately, I don't see many people who are more reserved about tax dollars involved in such groups. Well, honestly guys, you are missing you opportunity. I'm not saying that is exactly what you want, or the best. . . But, it IS the best option you have.

Really? Are we in war? I think everyone -including the government- wants education to improve. I think we are in a disagreement as to the "how." I think that the above phrase sounds politically good, and it gives the public a "bad guy" on which to focus. But in this case, there isn't a bad guy, there is just a really bad situation: education.

I believe charter schools contribute to the ever-widening gap between affluent students and at-risk students. And, please don't mistake me. When I say "affluent", I mean students who have caring parents/guardians, who can pay bills, keep their children fed and clean. In my opinion if you have all of those things, then you are well-off.

Go and visit a charter school. I've worked in one. The parents are involved, the children are clean and well-dressed. These are students who honestly would be okay in a public school situation. In fact, most of them would excel in public school because they already have much of the recipe needed for success: active parents who are going to demand the very best for them.

The students in charter schools are leaders, they are the students who peer-teach in your class, they are students who help their peers to succeed just by being in class with them. . .And we lose them to charter schools. The students in charter schools don't "need" a specialized environment, instead they have the option for it. . .And, their parents took it.

Today, thousands of parents are expected to descend upon the Georgia State Capitol and protest the ruling on charter schools. When was the last time "thousands" descended on the Georgia State Capitol to protest for public education? Well, it was last year when the State decided to hike Georgia University tuition. . .And the people who protested were the people directly effected: college students. But, when was the last time taxpayers protested for K-12 education in Georgia? Honestly, I have no idea, because I can't remember that ever happening.

So, yeah, I take people to task who want to complain that education needs to be better and point to charter schools as the answer when they haven't even attempted to fix the current system. I said that this morning to my colleagues. . .But I was met with this response: "Oh we have tried that; it doesn't work." Really? No, no YOU haven't tried that. You haven't protested, worked for group to support education. You have sat at home, watched the news, debated the "rightness" of decisions with friends and then done nothing. How can you expect things to improve if you won't accept responsibility for your own part?

Charter schools aren't wrong or bad. I find them interesting, and I don't have a problem with them as a viable option for parents; but I'm not crazy about funding them with my tax dollars since they aren't accountable in the same way public schools are. However, having said that, if my local school board approves a charter school, I'm down with that. This means the county feels there is role the charter school can take in the community, and it also means that I've had an opportunity to check out the charter too, as all this information is public.

Some charter schools do fill much-needed gaps. One in my hometown, Amana Academy, focuses heavily on Arabic culture as part of its charter. The students who attend come from mostly (it isn't exclusive) from Arabic families. The school has a burka option as part of its uniform dress code. I think this school fills a much needed role of providing a safe and common place for a growing Arabic community to have as an option. Instead of being the only girl in school wearing a head covering or burka, you have a whole group of friends who come from similar backgrounds. You have the opportunity to a majority instead of a minority. The school consistently wins awards and performs high on test and academics. In my opinion, it is a great example of a good charter.

But Cherokee Charter Academy, who was refused by the local board of education, serves no such purpose. I attended the community meetings Cherokee Charter had earlier this Spring. The school seems wants to provide great academics and school environment; it really does sound like a great school. But, it seems to me that the purpose of the school is offer an option to public school with the thought that public school is failing children. While education in Georgia isn't great, the metro-Atlanta school districts perform much higher -in general- than the rest of the state. Cherokee County has wonderful school systems and rank high on state tests and academics. So, the idea that parents in this county need a viable option just to have an option is a joke.

And, here are some of the comments I heard from parents in the Cherokee Charter meetings that I overheard: "Are teachers going to have a better attitude?," "are you going to offer [X,Y,Z option]" and usually the option is something that would never be offered by any school in any way. "Why aren't you going to offer busing from all over the county? Is isn't fair that some students will be left out." Basically, the parent comments were all about the inequity of an option that didn't cater to every single one of their requests.

And these were parents carrying nice handbags and driving nice cars. Oh, the inequity of it all!

Along those same lines, private school parents make the same comments and actively fight for their child to have more. I could type you lines that have been sent to me by parents that would appall you they are so entitled and narcissistic. Today, when I was speaking with my colleagues, who are also private school parents, they made some really entitled remarks. When I pointed out the ever-growing gap between at-risk students and everyone else one shrugged and waved me off saying: "Oh, that has always been there, whatever." And, one tried to lecture about how schools were started to religiously indoctrinate people anyway, I attempted to correct her by pointing to the surge of public schools offered during industrialization (to which even Sir Ken Robinson concedes) as an attempt to educate people for jobs in industry. . .But, I know when I am not heard.

Let's talk about inequity. I went on an interview yesterday in rural Georgia. A parent came in to check in her older son (about 2nd grade age) and had her toddler aged son with her. They were all very, very, very, dirty and smelled very strongly of old sweat and body odor. The two little boys were sweet and well behaved. The mother was had to discuss some health issues (I presume about her son) to the school nurse and mentioned her state support cheque and medicaid. Ultimately, the oldest son was sent off to class. He was covered in infected scabs and had on a very dirty polo short and shorts. The polo shirt had a huge gaping hole in the front of it. This was not a negligent mother, this was simply a mother with -for whatever reason- no means. She is doing the best she can by her kids, but she has a lot stacked against her.

How can that boy ever hope to perform as well as students who are well-fed, clean, and wearing intact clothing? That, ladies and gentlemen is inequity.

And, do we honestly think a charter school would answer this student's -and millions like him- problems? Oh! A charter school! All my issues have fallen away and my future is perfect.

But today, while thousands protest for their well-off children to have more, this student will probably eat his one guaranteed meal a day for free in the cafeteria, ride the bus home, help his mom with his little brother, and not have the materials he needs to do his homework.

When those charter school kids graduate and march off to college or good jobs etc. This student will most likely drop out, work menial labor, and repeat the cycle he lived because there hasn't been a viable option for him to escape it.

And, that is my fault, and your fault.

No, I don't think charter schools or private schools are the answer. Those options only ensure that certain types of students get quality education, and I want education for everyone; especially those who need an advocate.

So my question to you is, are you willing to stand up for your vocation and your students futures by taking an active role in speaking out for your kids?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Wherein The Art Teacher Stands Corrected

One of my high school students decided to try the soap resist method using chalk pastels. Since this project typically relies on colored-pencils and art sticks, I was really wary. However, she was eager to experiment and "try it out." I reiterated several times that I thought it probably wouldn't work etc. etc.

Well, she finished. . .And basically, she does soap resist LIKE A BOSS!

What Does Your Classroom Look Like?

I get asked this all the time online. Here is a quick picture of my 1st graders playing with their bubble-wrap printmaking bouncy snakes!
P.S. I hope to get caught up on "Lesson Plan Wednesday" asap!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

End of Year Art Review/Thank Heavens AP Art is Submitted!

I'm not teaching A.P. Art this year. . .But, I know that for all of you who do, you're feeling of relief is palatable. . . The portfolios have been submitted, the work is done, and now the waiting for results begins.

Best of luck to you and to all of your young artists!

In the meantime, here is a fun way to celebrate, review, and giggle with your students!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Baby, I'm an Alien Like You

Tonight, I had the distinct pleasure to attend the Georgia All-State Art Symposium Awards Ceremony. Students drove in from all over the state to see their artwork on display. The work is full stop awesome. I was speaking with a recruiter from Savannah College of Art and Design and we were discussing how intimidating as an artist it is to teach people this skilled. Because, yeah, I'm pretty sure I met the next Diane Edison or Lucien Freud tonight.

The guest speaker, artist Katherine Taylor, had some pretty remarkable advice for students. But, my favorite part of her speech was when she validated the parents in the room. She nodded to the Moms, Dads, Friends, and Family and said (I'm very roughly paraphrasing) "years ago you gave birth to this creative, talented, alien. And, that has been your burden and your blessing."

Wow. So, true. Us creative fools are definitely strangers in a strange land. Her words reminded me of this song, and especially this lyric: "Lift your eyes, and let me in, baby. 'Cause, I'm an alien like you."


Call For Art Teacher Showcases

The Art Ninja emailed me a few weeks ago with an excellent suggestion. Why not use this space to showcase how different art teachers set up classrooms, display artwork, etc. etc.? I have to agree.

I want to show off your classroom! This is a great opportunity for those of you who participate in the online art education community, but do not have a blog, to showcase what you do! Think about how great it would be to show future employers and/or current administrators your work featured on the internet.

And, it is great opportunity for those of you who do blog to feature your awesomeness here and in doing so, create more buzz for what you do.

Here is what you need to do to participate:

1. Take photos of your art room. These can be close-up, or at large. Try to focus on the elements that make your room uniquely you.

2. Take a few photos of art displays if you like!

3. Make sure that students -if in the photos- do not have any faces showing (we want to protect our kiddos!). You can do this by blacking out faces in Paint or Photoshop. . .Or by cropping the photos so faces don't appear.

4. Email me your photos. Include a brief (400 words or less) description of your classroom and what makes it, and you, rock.

6. I'll email you and let you know when you are due to be featured!

Favorite Artist Fridays: Joseph Whiting Stock

Primitive art (often used interchangeably with naieve, self-taught, and sometimes low-brow) is frequently ignored in the K-12 classroom. That, I think, is rather unfortunate. Primitive artists often approach art-making in the same manner as children. So, when that art from is ignored in the classroom, we, as art teachers, are missing a huge opportunity to demonstrate that our students have commonalities to accomplished artists.

It is only within the past 100 years that women and non-Western-white persons have been recognized as being capable for creating art. For many of my students -and probably yours- artists are dead white guys who have little in common with their culture. Teaching about Primitive art offers teachers a chance to incorporate a wider variety of artists into the classroom. It is more equitable.

Joseph Whiting Stock (he is a dead white guy, but still is primitive)

Joseph Whiting Stock was an American painter. The first few generations of American painters were almost entirely self-taught. There were few art schools in existence in early America and artists learned how to draw through correspondence courses and pamphlets. Of course, folks like Audubon and Copley are the exception. But, if you remember, Copley emigrated to Europe and made the statement about American art: “There has not been one portrait bought that is worthy to be called a picture in my memory. Was it not for the preserving the resemblance of particular persons painting would not be known in this place. The people generally regard it no more than any other usefull trade" (ouch).

Joseph Whiting Stock came from a humble beginning and became a portrait artist as a means to support himself. Stock suffered a traumatic injury as a young man that has been assessed by modern medical researchers (because the nature of his injury and life is that interesting) and thought to have been of a spinal-cord variety. He also later managed to accidentally set fire to himself, and then recovered from that too. Ultimately, he succumbed to tuberculosis; a disease that seems to have plagued his family in particular.

Stock supported himself by traveling from town to town in New England and painting small, charming portraits. Most of his income came from painting, oilograms, or death portraits. He would spend the greater part of the winter painting babies in cribs sans faces. He would then take these canvases with him through his travels. When he was commissioned for an oilogram, he would take a pre-prepared canvas over to the deceased's home and paint in the baby's face.

Stock, while prolific, lacked formal training. Often the angle of the baby is not accurate for the angle of the baby's face. . .Which makes the oilograms all the more creepy (which I -and my students- perversely love).

Stock kept a detailed diary of his life that was later discovered by a descendant. Today, it is published and anyone can read it. It makes for an entertaining read as Stock writes about himself in very funny terms.

As a final note, Stock worked with his medical contemporaries to design a wheel chair (sort-of) for himself and participated in medical experiments (using his own body).

I think the most important part to mention to students is that Stock worked both literally and figuratively with what he had. He wasn't very good at drawing hands, so he would have sitters place them behind their backs and hid people behind chairs. My students are always delighted to know that artists are real, just like them, and hide things they can't draw (well) too.

Links about JWS

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Architect Frank Gehry Recognizes the Value of Creative Play

It is no secret that I believe play has an important, valuable, and much neglected role in the classroom.

I came across this fantastic article today wherein Frank Gehry discusses how creative play is valued by artists and businessmen alike.

Research shows that creative transference between the art classroom and other subjects can occur, but that is isn't likely to do so unless an instructor draws concrete examples of it. So, next time you're telling your students how important it is to think creatively in all aspects of their lives in order to be the successful people that they dream of being, just point to the following example given by Gehry:

"If you’re in a corporation and the CEO comes in, and they’re frustrated about some kind of thing that’s happening, they’ll say, ‘Why don’t we get a bunch of you guys and go up to the ranch somewhere and hang out over the weekend and “play around” with some new ideas?’ ‘Play around,’ they always say that. And it’s creative play. So, they understand that. And that’s all we’re doing. We’re saying, ‘I have this expertise. You have that expertise. We’re going to play around and see what we come up with.’ That works. That always works.”

Lesson Plan Wednesdays: Mr. Senecio

This week's Lesson Plan Wednesday is Mr. Senecio. Who doesn't love a great project about Paul Klee?!. I would suggest this project for Kindergartne/1st grade students (I prefer Kindergarten). This is a great way to review shape recognition AND to allow student an opportunity to play and discover color with paint. My Kinders really enjoyed getting to make there Mr. and Ms. Senecios.

**you are welcome to share this lesson plan on your website or blog but please credit Artful Artsy Amy as the source. Please do not re-publish this lesson plan for profit or for a grade.*

****Also, don't forget to comment on this post to have a chance at winning a copy of ALL the lessons in my lesson plan binder (near 300 at last count)!!!****

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Welcome European Friends!

I was linked to today by this fantastic French art education blog, CHD blog d'une enseignante.

And, now, I've had quite a few hits from across the pond, and on the continent.

Welcome, European Friends!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

2011 Georgia Art Education Association Members Art Exhibition

Calling all Georgia Art Educators!

The open call for entries for the Fall 2011 GAEA conference member's art exhibition closes on May 16th!

This year, the exhibition will begin on August 24th in the Sturgis Gallery on the Kennesaw State University Campus. The exhibition will culminate in a reception during the October GAEA conference. This is a rare opportunity to display your work in a high-traffic (and highly respected) university gallery. You do not have to attend the Fall Conference in order to participate in the show. . .Although, why would you want to miss the opportunity to hang out with the 1700-member strong Georgia Art Education Association?!

You must register with the site before you can submit any work. Additionally, you must have current GAEA and NAEA member status in order to apply. When you apply for your NAEA membership, you are automatically awarded GAEA membership (if Georgia is your state of residence). Click here to renew your NAEA/GAEA membership.

If you have any questions about uploading work etc., use the contact information provided on the submission site, OR contact me at artful.artsy.amy@gmail.com.