Can a seasoned veteran still teach in the 21st century?

After taking nine months off for a sabbatical to recharge my batteries, I find myself in a conundrum of wondering, “What do I do?”, “Where do I begin?” and “How do I instill all my new found knowledge into my teaching?” this fall.  I’ve spent the past school year in a much needed respite from the classroom.  Instead I have been refueling my intellect with classes in Technology, Creativity, Common Core Standards, as well as STEM initiatives.

This road to discovery has been full as well as fulfilling.  I’ve embarked on a technological journey of learning that was rigorous as well as enlightening.  I am now able to communicate with students of the 21st century through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Blogging.   And I’ve delved into the recesses of right/left brain thinking, advocacy of the arts, and blogging for educators.

Today educators are required to take students through school to become innovative and creative individuals of the 21st century.  My concern has been if I would be able to lead them effectively on this new path of discovery.  Do I know enough about technology, do I understand the Common Core; am I meeting the STEM outcomes?

The lingo is new, the timing is pertinent, and the students are young and savvy. Has education really changed so much that I have forgotten how to teach the pupils of today?  Merriam Webster defines a student as an attentive and systematic learner.  They are children who are inquisitive and explorative in nature that want to play and create.  They work to achieve goals and praise that builds confidence to become tomorrow’s leaders.

Yes, the buzz words may have changed and some techniques may be different. This is a phenomenon that has happened throughout the history of education – it is ever-changing. But the process is the same.  Therefore, my mission is the same.  Whether it is through Twitter, You Tube, or the latest STEM initiative I will continue to do my job… instill the love of learning.

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.

3 Ways to Provide Art Lessons for Home Bound Students

Home Computer Workstation

Home Computer Workstation (Photo credit: Mrs. Gemstone)

Students get ill. When children are sick they miss school.  How do you teach a student art when they are ill for an extended period of time?    Below are three easy ways to provide art lessons for home bound students?

  • Sketchbook/Journal; Print out prompts for students to glue into sketchbook.  Using any medium available having the student sketch and/or write responses for each prompt. The sketchbook can be turned in and assessed when the student returns to school.
  • Blog; Post prompts on a blog site.  Using a hand-held device the students will complete prompts weekly while they are absent.  Respond to the student and his responses in a timely manner.
  • On-Line Learning;  Make available any power points, Prezis, or You Tube videos that you are using with your lessons on the school district web site and/or blog.  Ask the student to complete the prompts in a word document which can be emailed to your school address.

Look at the approximate time frame that the student will be away from the classroom.  Using your curriculum map for reference develop 5 prompts for each week that the student will be absent.  Use those prompts in one of the above formats.  Schedule a specific day for completion of each prompt. By utilizing technology students can photograph work and submit for grading.

The objective is to make learning accessible for a homebound student and easy for you to assess.

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks aka Blogging in the Classroom

Last year, my teaching partner suggested that we do a lesson using blogging.  She is young, I am not. Obviously I did not concur.  My reasons for not wanting to blog were based on scheduling the always busy computer lab for our students to use as well as my gross lack of knowledge.  Like anything else that is new, the fear of learning and maintaining a certain level of quality made me squirm.  She finally convinced me that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to blog with my students (her opinion) and we could work around the scheduling conflict.

So, since this was her idea, she developed a lesson on ATC’s (Artist Trading Cards) and we entered the blogging world.  The lesson was awesome, I knew the students would love doing ATC’s and we really strived to make it fun as well as interesting.  In retrospect it is one of our most successful choice based lessons.

Using the Kidblog site we uploaded the photos of the students’ ATC’s and gave them five prompts to use when they were blogging.  Five different ATC’s were published and students had to comment on three of them. After completing the assignment they could blog on any or all of the students within their classroom.  They had two rules to follow, use correct English and spelling and any criticism of artwork made had to be constructive.  All blogs by students had to be approved by the teacher in order to be published, leaving us in control of all comments.  The students loved blogging.  It was fun to look at other students work as well as comment on them.  They also liked having their own work posted.

From the reluctant teacher perspective I found this lesson to be very successful.  It was rewarding to see the students get excited about sharing their work and commenting in a non-threatening format.   The editing of work and the scheduling of the computer labs to publish work took more time than I would have liked but the benefits definitely outweigh the drawbacks.  In the future I would just delete work that was not submitted properly rather than edit and now students are permitted to bring HHD into the classroom.

Now that I have become more familiar with blogging and understand the mechanics I cannot wait to blog again with my students.  I am anxiously brainstorming new lessons that will utilize blogging.  Students love using technology, by making blogging a part of the art room I feel that I am developing good writing and communication skills about art.  Also, my classroom has become more current.

It’s not a bad thing to teach old dogs new tricks.


Working with students on a collaborative art project takes a lot of planning and organization on the part of the teacher. While struggling to maintain some decorum of order in the process you need to plan a schedule, supplies, and equipment. Sometimes you have to wonder if it is really worth all of the effort that you put into preparation in order to create a collaborative piece. Here are 5 reasons why I do collaborative art projects every year.

Louise Nevelson Inspired Relief Sculpture

Louise Nevelson Inspired Relief Sculpture

Each block represents a principle of design.

Each block represents a principle of design.

1. Patience: “Patience is a virtue.” Do you remember your mother or grandmother telling you this? It is so true! When working on a collaborative art work students must learn how to be patient. They need to recognize that the work of art is not going to be completed in one day, let alone one class period. Sometimes it can take weeks for a large piece to come together. Also, if you rush the process the end result may not be a success.
2. Learning: Students learn from each other through the process of working collaboratively. They have to make choices, use their intuition, and rely on each other’s strengths. One of the projects that I did with my students required the use of a drill. Many of the female students were intimidated by power tools but the boys were enthralled. This was definitely a time for them to shine. Surprisingly, the boys helped the girls overcome their fear by learning if you use tools correctly there is no reason to be afraid.
3. Respect: Students learn to respect each other for their skill level as well as their work ethic. If someone is not pulling their weight the overall project will suffer. When the work is too difficult they need to respect the skill set of each individual and adapt the process to make it less challenging. There is no room in collaboration for disrespect. All parties must work together to make the whole a success.
4. Team Building: Almost all students understand the nature of team playing. I have found through the years that if I equate the task of a large project to that of a team sport that my students embrace the project with more interest. They know the ground rules and realize that it takes all players to win for the team. There is no showmanship. They also realize that by working as a team the result is greater than if they worked alone.
5. Community: Although you may envision your collaborative project being a work that will enable the students to come together, it automatically becomes a community project governed by its basis. Students share with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles the work that is being created. Word spreads and interest peaks, before you know it the community at large is curious to see what is happening at your school. Don’t become intimidated by the community. This usually works out to the benefit of the educator for parents, grandparents, and the community to get involved.

Sculpture by 400+ 6th grade students.

Sculpture by 400+ 6th grade students.

Overall the benefits of collaborative work definitely outweigh the disadvantages. The work is both challenging and rewarding for both students and teachers. Students gain knowledge, personal reward, and create art work that is large in scale as well as having a huge impact upon the school and its neighborhood.

Recycled plastics used to make an installation.

Recycled plastics used to make an installation.

A Coral Reef

Octopus in the Garden

Octopus in the Garden

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.”