Inclusion in the Art Room

With the monies I received from the Target Arts, Culture & Design in Schools Grant I purchased 5 iPads for my Art classroom to teach digital art.   One of the lessons that I taught was how to make stop motion videos. The students loved this project. Since there are only 5 iPads and approximately 30 students in each classroom, they obviously have to work collaboratively on the project. I was concerned as to how different ability levels and personalities would work together and be creative. One of my favorite videos was produced by a group that consisted of two non-verbal students. It was amazing to watch how the other students in the group worked with them and help them communicate what and how they wanted to add to the project. They were extremely patient and sincerely concerned about how the learning support students wanted to express their creativity. This was a true success in digital art in the art room, but more importantly, in life skills for all.

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Do you love to teach?

I also am very passionate about teaching.  I work in a full inclusive school and my learning support students hold a very special place in my heart.   I commit a significant amount of time to planning lessons, making adaptations, and supporting these students in special programs ensuring to meet the needs sited in their IEP’s.  I’m not sure why I feel this special akin-ship to my students I just know that I do.

Let me share with you 5 ways I help my special needs students achieve success:

1.       Provide your learning support student with a friendly and safe environment.  Find out before the first day of class if they have any friends in their classroom and sit these students together. Make their friend a “buddy” to help with supplies, remind them of appropriate behaviors, or just provide moral support.

2.       Give the learning support student as much time is necessary to complete the task at hand providing extra time before or after school if necessary.

3.       List the steps of the process involved on a small white board for the student to follow along.  As they complete a task have them erase the step to visually see their progress.

4.       Communicate with the learning support teacher, classroom teacher, other colleagues, and parents.  Know the students likes and dislikes and find out how they respond in their learning environment.

5.       Be flexible.  Some students need more instruction, re-direction, or a simple accommodation.  Make whatever changes necessary for the student to feel success.

Please share your ideas I would enjoy hearing how you help your special needs students find success.

How do you tell a colleague no?

How many times do colleagues ask you to borrow something….every day, every other day, once a week?  It is not usually the question or even the act of lending something that poses a problem.  The problem arises when they want to “borrow” consumable supplies.  Construction paper, pencils, markers, paint are all consumables.  The web defines consumable as “all tangible personal property consumed (used up, drained, absorbed, dissipated, or expended) during the normal day-to-day operation of-

Others tend to view our supply closet as the never ending abyss of art materials just waiting to be devoured.  When we realize that the contents are golden.  Working endless hours to find the best bargains we squeeze every dollar to purchase every scrap of paper, worn out marker, and chewed down pencil stub.    In the era of shrinking budgets and price increases we need to be cognizant of what is expendable in our supply closet and hold onto it with a firm hand.

So, how do you tell a colleague no when they ask to borrow supplies?   A friend of mine gave me this suggestion:

At the beginning of each school year sit down and compose a short memo to the staff sharing the time and effort that you take to make sure you have ample supplies for the school year.  Also mention that your supplies have been affected by the recent budget crisis and times are tough.  Be certain to maintain that you will not be sharing any consumable supplies this year but other non-consumables are available when they may need to borrow (old scissors, rulers, and paint brushes).   End by thanking everyone for understanding your predicament and wish them a good year.

You will be surprised by how effective this technique can be.  Do not concern yourself with those that take the news poorly.  In a few days they will begin to understand.  If by chance someone does continue to ask to borrow supplies, remind them of the memo earlier in the year.   Finally, don’t feel guilty for not sharing.

10 reasons why people say, “It’s just Art!”

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  1. When students don’t want to finish a project.
  2. When students don’t want to make-up work.
  3. When other teachers pull students from your class to make-up their work.
  4. When the nurse calls students out of class for health/wellness testing.
  5. When the schedule is shortened and art is cancelled due to an assembly.
  6. When other teachers are complaining of how hard it is to grade 26 students and you casually mention that you have 400+ students not 26.
  7. When parents pull children early from school for an eye, doctor, or dentist appointment, a visit to grandma, or a vacation to Disney Land!
  8. When guidance counselors ask to meet with students during your class, “So they won’t miss anything.”
  9. When there is ANOTHER fire drill during the same art class.
  10. When a 2 hour delay, due to snow, makes the period 22 minutes in length as compared to the usual 41 and it’s the end of the grading period.

Does anyone ever tell you “It’s just Art!”  If so, tell me how you handle the situation.

Do you need to go to college to teach art?

A few years ago while I was speaking to a group of parents during open house a father raised his hand and asked me, “Do you need to go to college to teach art?”  To this day, I am still baffled by his question.   His daughter was a very talented young lady and really enjoyed my class.  Her father, a professional, was more interested in how she was performing in her academic areas but came to visit me at her urging.  He told me, “She likes to draw” neither realizing nor understanding the role of art or the art teacher in his daughter’s education.

Sometimes I am confronted with the realization that some people, colleagues included, do not value the art education.  Art is looked upon as an enjoyable outlet for students, coloring and drawing for fun.  This is difficult for someone like me to grasp since art and art teaching are my passion.  In my classroom students develop critical thinking skills, innovative thought processes and growth through problem solving.  Along with enjoying art and art-making they use their imaginations and develop creativity.   Isn’t that what a good education is all about?

In this particular instance the father didn’t place any educational value on art or art education. Therefore, he equated that same value to my education.

Entering the world of blogging……

As I enter this new journey as a blogger, I hope to share my passion and conviction that art education is essential in developing 21st century learning skills of innovative thought processes and creativity.  I will share excerpts from current research, inspirations, as well as lesson plans and student work that support and develop critical thinking skills through the creative processes.

I am a novice at this role of a “blogger”  so bear with the pains and groans of growth as well as change.   I am learning as I type.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do not follow where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and lead a trail.”