Tag: art education

Art Lesson: Clay Animal Bowls

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When I was teaching after school gifted art, the most challenging lesson that my students and I did involved clay. I’m no expert when it comes to clay, but it is so much fun to use. So anyway, the theme for gifted art this year was identity and portraiture. For the clay lesson, we made animal bowls (pinch pots became the body of an animal and we attached the rest of the body parts to the bowl). We talked about the personality traits of different animals and then I instructed the students to choose an animal that they related to in terms of personality traits. We made the bowls with red clay, painted them with matte acrylics, and then added a layer of gloss sealer on top. The students did such a great job (although two animals did lose their tails in the process):

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Monkey: humor, athleticism

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Golden Retriever: loyalty, intelligence

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Lion: leadership, strength

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Bear: optimism, loyalty

Cute right?? My pink and gold bear is currently sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to put something in it. Thanks for reading :]

 

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Watercolors with Kids

When I started student teaching in an elementary school last year, I was sort of put on the spot and had to teach a 3rd grade lesson with very little time for preparation. I ended up doing a landscape painting lesson using watercolors. One tip I have for using watercolors with young kids is to have them draw with crayons or oil pastels first. This helps them avoid blending all the colors together and it also helps them see their drawing clearly. It’s similar to the bold black lines in a coloring book. The crayons and oil pastels resist the water in the paint and you can end up with some pretty cool effects. Here is my lesson example:

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This painting is one reason I decided to start painting with watercolors again–I forgot how much I enjoyed it :] Thanks for reading!

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A Whole New World Part IV

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This time last year, I was preparing to go back to JMU for my semester of student teaching and I was beyond nervous. At this point, I was really hoping that I would enjoy it and not suddenly discover that this wasn’t something I wanted to do because it took so much work to get here and it was going to take a lot of work to get through it. So yeah, that was kind of my mindset going in. Not the best one, I admit, but it is what it is.

My semester of student teaching consisted of two 8-week placements. My first placement was at a high school about 30 minutes away. Let me just tell you that my high school experience was fine as a teenager, but I was definitely not excited about going back, even as a teacher. I don’t want to make this too long so I’ll attempt to briefly summarize my time there. I co-taught and taught multiple Art I classes, Art II, Art III (which focused on 3D art), and Art IV. I had a great cooperating teacher to work with who was a practicing artist, used all his resources, got the students quality supplies, and was great to talk to about lots of things, including art. The students were great, but often very unmotivated or troubled by things going on outside of school, so that was a challenge. I also unfortunately noticed that at this school, art was overall not considered a necessary part of the curriculum and so the students generally shared that perspective. Finally, it was winter, so there were plenty of snow days which constantly changed my plans. Here is a list of some of the things I learned at this placement:

  1. Don’t assume that all students have basic skills (I had to spend quite a bit of time showing students how to use a ruler, for example)
  2. You have to spend time proving to the students that they are in a safe place where all questions or comments are welcome and everyone is free to speak, even if they don’t have the “right” answer. This is so challenging because a lot of students seem to become paralyzed by the fear of being wrong or made fun of by their peers.
  3. Things usually don’t go as planned so prepare as much as possible. Include a note in your lesson plan for what to do if students finish early and what to do if students don’t finish in time.
  4. Grading is really hard. Some students worked really hard, but their technique was consistently pretty rough. Other students were very talented in art, but did not take the class seriously and often exhibited laziness and a lack of interest.

Being in this classroom was really eye-opening and I thought of a lot of things that I would do differently the second time around in my own classroom. Here are some images from the lessons I taught. Some of the lessons were very successful and some weren’t as great, but they all taught me a lot and I was able to see what worked and what didn’t.

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 I could go on about my high school experience, but let’s move on to my second placement. For my second and last placement, I actually went to two elementary schools each week. My cooperating teacher worked at one school Monday-Wednesday and another school Thursday and Friday, and I followed her where she went. She was a big help and so enthusiastic about art and teaching. I was more excited about teaching at an elementary school because I have a better connection with younger kids and it didn’t seem as intimidating.

There was a lot less down time in elementary school because the classes were 30-45 minutes each and often back-to-back. It was definitely a challenge to stay on top of things. It was harder to learn names and observe each student because there were so many of them. I got to repeat my lessons several times, which allowed me to tweak them along the way, but it was also tiresome to repeat lessons that turned out to be just okay. The volume of work produced was much greater, and that gave me a better idea of how effective my teaching was.

In terms of discussion, the elementary students were the opposite of the high schoolers. While it took a lot of effort to get a peep out of the older kids, all hands would go up when I asked a question in the elementary classrooms. The younger students were eager to share their ideas and tell their stories and that was one of my favorite parts about working with them. They were very enthusiastic about their work and weren’t afraid to show it. Again, here are some things I learned during my elementary placement:

  1. Be cautious about providing lesson examples because some students will try to copy it, and we want to encourage them to come up with a new idea.
  2. Come up with some kind of signal to get the students’ attention, especially during lessons that require moving around to different stations.
  3. It’s often a better idea to show students what not to do instead of what they should be doing. For example, demonstrate a sloppy printmaking job so the students know to avoid putting too much ink on their block.

I really enjoyed teaching in an elementary school in spite of a lot of challenges. Here are a few images from some of the lessons I taught:

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I came out of student teaching alive, relieved, and ready to teach in my own classroom. The new challenge was to find that classroom, but more on that in the future :] Thanks for reading!

A Whole New World Part I
A Whole New World Part II
A Whole New World Part III

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A Whole New World Part III

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So this series was supposed to be a three-part post, but I thought of some more things I wanted to say so I’m adding a fourth part. The next post will be about my experience as a student teacher, but before I get into that I wanted to talk a little bit about the topic of art across the curriculum.

Art across the curriculum focuses on the integration of art with other subjects. The purpose of doing this is to help students form connections and find meaning in their work. It can help students become more successful in the sense that it addresses varied interests. Interest is a huge factor involved in the success of many students. If a student isn’t interested in learning about history, maybe they’ll be attracted to photographs of famous events in history or poetry about those same events. Integration of subjects takes place in many classrooms. For example, reading and writing are skills that are incorporated into essentially every subject, and this promotes literacy.

Within the topic of art across the curriculum, there is a pretty substantial debate that’s been going on. Some say that when you bring other subjects into the art classroom, you make it seem as though art isn’t enough on it’s own. Another disadvantage that I’ve noticed is that it can take up a lot of art-making time, which is already precious in those classrooms that have short classes.

While I could get into the debate a lot more, I’ll spare you and say that I believe the good things outweigh the bad things if executed correctly, and by correctly I mean in a balanced, well-planned out way. I think it’s important for students to be aware of how things in their world are interrelated and to learn how to take advantage of all their resources.

The semester before I became a student teacher, I took an Art Across the Curriculum class. During that semester, I completed my practicum in a 7th grade math class. I was really nervous about being in a math class, partially because I didn’t know how helpful I would be to the students, but also because I was drawing a blank on how to incorporate art into their current topic of slopes. Despite my hesitation, being in that classroom was a great experience. I was blown away by the relationship between the students and the teacher, Mr. Miller. He was very silly and often joked around with the kids, but he was firm when necessary. This seemed to make the students really respect him, and therefore not want to disappoint him.

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By the end of the semester, my partner and I were finally able to teach a lesson incorporating math and art. The theme was patterns and our featured artist was M. C. Escher. We looked at several examples of his famous tesselations, along with examples of mosaics and photographs of patterns found in nature. The students then created their own “mosaic tiles” by graphing slope equations and adding color to them. After each student had completed several tiles, the tiles were taped up to the wall to create a colorful mosaic.

It was definitely challenging to come up with an art lesson while integrating another subject, but I believe it’s one of those things that gets easier the more you do it. I tried it out a little bit as a student teacher and it seemed to come more naturally as I continued to think about it. Integrating subjects is very much about Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, which states that “human beings have nine different kinds of intelligence that reflect different ways of interacting with the world. Each person has a unique combination, or profile. Although we each have all nine intelligences, no two individuals have them in the same exact configuration” (PBS). When teachers acknowledge that their students all learn differently and then act on that, they are helping each student reach their full potential, and isn’t that what teaching is about?

A Whole New World Part I
A Whole New World Part II
A Whole New World Part IV
PBS article

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A Whole New World Part II

Photograph by Ana Morales // North Carolina Museum of Art

My first real look into art education was in my secondary art education class. This is where I found out why being any kind of teacher is so challenging. Teachers have to deal with limited budgets, long hours, unrealistic school expectations, less-than-ideal environments, and students with a broad range of personalities, interests, and maybe even languages. Depending on the school’s demographics, some teachers will have to pay for things out of their own pocket, be faced with students who are more concerned with satisfying their hunger than getting a good grade, and really struggle to meet testing standards and avoid probation. This is all while earning a pretty mediocre salary considering the need for teachers and what they mean for society.

Art education is particularly challenging largely because many people don’t view visual art as a necessary part of the school curriculum. This inevitably leads to some students taking the class for an “easy A” and then being disappointed when they find out that they actually have to work hard to earn that A. This also means that art programs are often the first to go when money gets tight. One art teacher that I worked with received a teacher of the year award at her school recently, and when asked if she felt respected as an art teacher by her co-workers she said, “I feel like they respect me as a person, but as an art teacher? No.” Hearing something like that can be really discouraging.

To avoid turning this post into a book, I’m going to list some of the specific challenges that high school art teachers face:

  • Motivation: How do you convince/show a student that they can apply skills they learn in art to other aspects of their lives? How do you convince them to take art class seriously when even some teachers view it as a privilege and not a necessity?
  • Interest: How can you provide for a more advanced student who is interested in a career in art? I was the only student taking AP Art my senior year of high school, so I was grouped with a 2D Art class. How can the teacher challenge and support an advanced student when he or she has a whole class of less-advanced students who also need attention and help?
  • Censorship: Where is the line drawn when it comes to free expression? How can you encourage creativity and self-expression while discouraging controversial ideas?
  • Assessment: What kind of grading rubric do you use in a beginning class where skill levels are very diverse?
  • SOLs: How can you get to the more advanced standards when you have to spend time teaching students things they should have learned in elementary school?

I will elaborate on some of these in my next post when I talk about my student teaching experience, but for now let’s move onto elementary education.

In my elementary art education class, I learned a lot about being a successful teacher in general. This includes things like establishing rules on the first day of school and enforcing them throughout the year, learning students’ names as quickly as possible and pronouncing them correctly, keeping the classroom organized, dressing professionally, giving positive reinforcement, etc. It’s important to remember that not everyone has the qualities of a great teacher. Being passionate about a particular subject does not in itself make a great teacher.

Logistically, I think elementary art education is more challenging than secondary art education. I say this because in elementary school, every single student takes art, which means every student in the school is your student for the whole year (or half year depending on your schedule). That’s a lot of names to remember. Classes are also pretty short. When you take into account how much time is spent getting children settled in their seats, distributing supplies, cleaning up, and perhaps addressing behavior issues, all of a sudden there’s very little time to get any work done. Classes are basically back-to-back so you can’t rely on cleaning up after the class leaves. This is especially frustrating when you want to do ceramics or printmaking with the students because the prep and cleanup time is generally longer. I think this is part of the reason why many art teachers resort to “easy” 2D projects using materials such as paper, tempera paint, pencils, crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc.

One thing that was heavily emphasized throughout my time in the education program was the use of themes in lesson planning. Basing lesson plans on a theme is important for several reasons. First of all, it helps connect all the aspects of a particular lesson. Having a theme also encourages students to make connections between art and other aspects of their lives. If the theme is community, for example, the student would be able to relate their artwork to the community that they live in or a community that’s different from their own. Although coming up with themes and writing good lessons based on them was challenging, it was much more challenging to actually teach these lessons. I say this primarily because of time limitations. It’s really hard to get through a theme, technical skills, and a project in a reasonable amount of time. I often struggled with this because I felt like I only had room for either focusing on the art skills or focusing on the theme and meaning behind the work. Both are important, but it’s sometimes easier to justify focusing on the skills. This is an art class right? Students are supposed to learn art skills. But how will students feel a connection to their own work and understand how art relates to the world if teachers are always just focusing on teaching them how to use watercolors or attach two pieces of clay? As with many things, you have to find a happy medium.

While I took both secondary art education and elementary art education, I had to complete a corresponding practicum (about 30 hours each). This means that I had to observe and assist in a high school art classroom and then in an elementary school art classroom. I also completed some hours at a retirement home. Being in an actual art classroom with this new knowledge and perspective as a future teacher and not a student was really eye-opening. It made me excited, but mostly nervous about one day teaching on my own. More on that in the next post though! :p

A Whole New World Part I
A Whole New World Part III
A Whole New World Part IV

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A Whole New World Part I

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To the teachers I had in the past who were awesome: Bravo. To the teachers who weren’t so awesome: I sympathize a little more with you now. Being an educator is easily one of the most challenging jobs out there and teachers do not get nearly enough credit for what they do every day. For the last two years of my undergrad career, I was a part of the JMU Art Education program. Training to be an art teacher opened my eyes to the vastness and complexity that is education. There is so much to learn and a lot that needs changing.

Before I dive into this, let me create a list outlining the content of this topic, which will be divided into three posts:

  1. My decision to get a teaching license / my initial impression
  2. Secondary education / elementary education
  3. Student teaching / my overall experience / the present + future

So let’s begin. In the Fall of 2010, I was a sophomore at JMU. I was taking an art foundations class and there was a guest speaker that came in one day. The guest speaker was Kathy Schwartz, the woman in charge of the art education program. Basically, she briefly explained the program, the process of applying to it, and the benefits of having a teaching license. I had thought about teaching art before (private lessons, for instance), but I never really considered teaching in a school system. I spent the next few days really debating whether or not I should apply to the program. Would I actually ever want to be an art teacher? Is it worth it to do all that work just in case I decide to teach? Honestly, one thought that kept going through my mind at the time was that if I ever ended up teaching, that would mean I had failed at becoming a successful artist. I tried to push that thought out of my brain and tell myself that this (preparing for the unknown) was the smart thing to do. I sought out the opinions of a number of people and I ultimately decided to apply.

It was a pretty stressful application process. This is true mostly because I applied right at the end of the fall semester, and I was getting paperwork and signatures literally right before going home for break. I needed to start taking the required classes the following semester, so it was important that I get all the paperwork done before leaving. Afterwards, there were lots of issues getting me signed up for one of the required classes, but in the end everything worked out.

I will go into more detail about the courses I took in the next post for this series, but let me just tell you that they were really challenging. The work-load was pretty hefty and there were lots of long, stressful nights. I spent pretty much the whole first year still envisioning teaching as my backup plan only. This was bad for me in the sense that it made all the work I had to do seem harder and less rewarding. I often found myself thinking, I’m voluntarily driving my self crazy over something I’m not even passionate about. Not cool. It was a difficult journey, but I didn’t want to quit because I was already halfway done.

As with most things, my persistence and hard-work paid off and I gradually had a change of heart. You may already know this if you’ve read some of my posts from the past few months. It was a real relief to not feel so completely unsure of what I was doing anymore. In my next post, I will go into more detail about the program requirements and my experiences in secondary and elementary art education. As always, thanks for reading :]

A Whole New World Part II
A Whole New World Part III
A Whole New World Part IV

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My First Teaching Job!

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If you’ve been keeping up with my posts recently, you know that I got a teaching license this year and I’ve been looking for a job as an art teacher. I didn’t find a full time teaching position over the summer, so I’ve been keeping myself occupied while I patiently waited for a job opportunity. It’s actually worked out pretty well! Two Mondays ago, I got a call from the coordinator of art for Roanoke County Public Schools. There was an opening for an after school gifted art teacher and he wanted me to come in for an interview! It was very unexpected so I was super excited but also extremely nervous. I agreed to come in the next day.

The interview went really well and I was offered the job unofficially (I still had to do a background check before it could be official). I actually started working the next day! It was very bizarre going from being unemployed to interviewing and working in just two days, but it’s a good bizarre :] This is a part time position, so I’ll be teaching once a week on Thursdays for 12 weeks. I currently have three students, which is a real treat because I’m able to spend one-on-one time with them. I’m really grateful for this opportunity and I’m excited to see what my little artists create! As always, thanks for reading :]

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Matisse/Preschool-Inspired Collages

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A few weeks ago, I started a new body of work exclusively for my Etsy shop. The artwork, which is a series of paper collages, was actually inspired by my time spent student teaching at an elementary school this year. My cooperating teacher and I were doing a lesson with the pre-k and kindergarten students based on flowers in the springtime (it was April at the time). We read Eric Carle’s book, The Tiny Seed, and then the kids were free to create big flower pictures using shapes cut out of paper. I cut endless flower petals, leaves, stems, and circles, but it was worth it because the results were awesome!

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It was really interesting to do this lesson with both preschool and kindergarten. The kindergarten students were mostly very concerned with making their flower look like a generic daisy while the preschool students were much more free with their compositions. The latter reminded both my cooperating teacher and I of Henri Matisse‘s bold paper cut-outs. I loved the way they looked and several months later, I was still thinking about them.

Matisse cutting paper in his studioMatisse cutting paper in his studio

I have a pretty large collection of paper, so I decided to put it to use. I cut out lots of circles, leaves, and petals and mixed them up in a box. When I create a collage, I pick out a few shapes and arrange them based on the best way I think the colors, patterns, and textures go together. Then I just glue it all down and give it some kind of outline in black ink as a finishing touch.

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I’m really happy with the way these are turning out. These pieces are very different from the other work that I’m doing right now, which is very personal and has a lot of symbolism and meaning. The collages, on the other hand, are simply labeled as a series of compositions because I want the viewer to decide what they are looking at. I create them purely from an aesthetic point of view and leave the meaning up to the viewer.

The collages come in a variety of small sizes with the smallest being 8″ x 10″ and the largest being 14″ x 17″. They will go on sale in the next two weeks! Thanks for reading :]

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I Graduated!

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It feels like I just graduated from high school yesterday, but here I am, a college grad. I have mixed emotions about the whole thing really, and I don’t think it will truly hit me that I’m not going back until August when I’m not packing up the car with all my things to move back to campus. It’s bittersweet for sure. A big part of me feels very ready for this next step (whether I can clearly tell you what that next step is exactly…well that’s another story). I graduated cum laude and I’m super proud of my accomplishments. I’m excited to see what opportunities may present themselves to me. I’m excited for something different and new.

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Don’t get me wrong, though, I am pretty nervous about the future. I’m still in the job-searching period of my post-grad life and waiting anxiously for an offer. Right now, I am looking for a position as an art teacher hopefully not too far away so that I can live at home for a little while.

I do miss JMU and the people I became friends with there. I miss the beautiful campus and the feeling of independence I had. It’s kind of sad knowing I’ll never go back there as a student. I’m also not looking forward to paying off my loans… There are definitely some perks to being done, though. I get to be around for more family stuff and spend more time with my boyfriend and friends who live here.  I also don’t have to move all my stuff again (for a while at least). I can hopefully manage my diabetes better now that I’m a little more in control of my schedule and what I eat, etc.

I have lots of plans for the summer to keep me busy while I nervously await a job offer! I have another art show in August in Downtown Harrisonburg, so I’ll be working on stuff for that. I’ll put up more information on that show very soon. I’m also in the process of opening an Etsy store! I’ll mostly be using it to sell my hand-painted clothing, but I’ll probably put some small drawings and paintings there too. I will also post something about that once the store is up and running.

I’ve been contacting local artists, galleries, and boutiques in search of more opportunities to get my work out to the public. I’m kind of unsure as to how I should approach this kind of thing, so I’m seeking advice from those who know more than I do :P

I’m not too sure where I’ll be in a few months, which is kind of intimidating, but I’ll be sure to share my journey with you guys on here :] Stay tuned!

grad15Me and my super supportive parents :]

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