As good teachers are apt to do, whenever you sit down to plan lessons or activities for your students, you keep in mind where they are in their learning. Where do their abilities typically lie? What are students of this age group interested in learning about? What would build their learning and experiences from last year through to next year? What would challenge and motivate them? How can I excite them and foster their curiosity?
All of these questions also come up when we write curriculum. What I especially appreciated when we were examining standards this time was how developmentally appropriate the National Visual Arts Standards are. The writing team must have taken time to thoughtfully consider not only how to scaffold skills in each artistic process, but also where students of each grade are typically at in their physical, social-emotional, language and cognitive abilities and development. When we first started writing curriculum using these new standards, we received a little push back about how we were challenging our kids. We often heard we weren't being "developmentally appropriate" in the tasks that we were asking students to participate. Although this feedback was in reality from a few outliers, when you are trying something new, you can be more susceptible to criticism. "Are we doing the right things for our kids?" "What exactly does it mean to be developmentally appropriate anyway?" "What does that look like for my students?"
Keeping these needs in mind, we can better develop a course that fits the child as opposed to making the child fit the course. The arts truly are integral to allowing students to stretch and grow, if we let them. How do you feel about your curriculum and the way it fits your students? Are you able to meet their specific individual needs while also encouraging and fostering their skill development and growth? I'd love to hear more about the needs of your students and how you structure a curriculum to meet them in the comments below...
Recently, PBS News Hour had a segment titled, "Why teachers selling lesson plans have sparked debate" that started conversations online about the nature of teachers making a profit off lesson plans and materials. As an art teacher, I have had to make many of my own lessons and materials, as I know other art teachers have done. I have had many conversations with high school teachers from other subjects such as ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies, etc. over the years about why I can't "just go the teacher's manual or materials" for the hand out or activity I want to do with my students. Most of the time that doesn't exist. Or I should say, it didn't exist. (and as a side note, most of the time, wasn't the type of thing I was really looking for...art needs way more engaging materials than a fill in the blank worksheet!)
With the rise of Pinterest and social media connecting more and more art teachers across the country, reaching out to others for ideas became easier and easier. Sometimes it is an open request on a forum for help or examples, other times it is a direct ask through email, and an even easier way is by following the ever growing number of blogs and websites run by art teachers that are sharing the fantastic and exciting things going on in their classrooms. So many generous teachers are adding to the collective, supportive environment of art education by sharing ideas and materials openly - without a paywall. Now while I don't begrudge teachers finding a way to supplement their (too low) income by using their professional skills, I am also a big believer in collaboration and putting good out into the world. If we stopped sharing and always insisted on getting paid, the collective strength in our profession would be diminished. We need to be willing and open to give away some ideas, because, let's face it...not everything we do is truly 100% original. We do not work in a vacuum, we stand on the shoulders of giants, influenced by the ideas of others whether that be by artists, other art educators, or our students. Now, do we deserve to be compensated for our time and expertise when it comes to being adept at graphic design, layout, etc. and when we create a reproducible? Sure. But personally, I have always believed that we should give as much as we take. So if I have benefited from the inspiration, help, and materials from others, I should be turning around and offering as much to others.
behavior and even said it makes them wary to share as openly as they do. Does the existence of sites that charge for lessons then unintentionally promote unethical behavior? Do we continue to share as openly as we do, even if it means others may profit without us? Do we band together to continue our virtual PLN and stand stronger together, sharing materials as opensource goods and promoting good ethics and practices in art education? How do we keep each other in the right frame of mind to benefit as many students in art as possible? I'd love to hear others thoughts in the comments.
We are all inundated with year end countdowns, best of lists, and articles about resolutions for the new year ahead. This time of year always has me reflecting on my life, my relationships, and my work. What do I want to focus on? Where could I be more or do better? I implement a couple of strategies to help in making my resolutions stick a little better and stay with me. One is that I have a public resolution that is reflected in a single word. You may have heard about this from various hashtags on social media, #oneword2018, or associated with a couple of different books out there. In short, it is a movement to consolidate your long list of resolutions into one simple word and to look back throughout the year to this one word to remind you of your resolution.
How will you approach the new year? Do you set resolutions to guide your path in the new year? Is this a time you use to reflect? I'd love to hear more in the comments!
Happy New Year!
I'm Michelle. I am very excited to try my hand at blogging and sharing my thoughts and reflections in the field of art education.
Original NAEA Blog Posts
NAEA Blog Posts
I started blogging at the invitation of the National Art Education Association for their Monthly Mentor column. See those original blog posts here.