Sunday, February 27, 2011

Student Teachers: For Your Eyes Only

I recently replied to a student (art) teacher's comment on another blog and it got me thinking about my own student teaching experience and all i learned along the way...Sooo, I thought I'd revisit those gleanings as a post for student teachers.
 My advice is as follows:

1) You are a guest.
My dear friend, do not create undue stress for yourself by trying to tackle all of the classroom issues on your own.  This is practice for you, do not tire yourself out for the 'big game' that is your impending career.  I say this as a self-proclaimed intense person.  Please remember that no matter how effective/polished/inefficient/slap-dash/strict/orderly/messy, (whatever!) your mentor teacher seems to you, he/she has found a way that works FOR THEM, and it has developed over a period of time.  It does not have to work for you, take it with a grain of salt.  Try to figure out what led him/her to his/her present methods.  Why might it work/not work for you?  A good house guest makes the bed after themselves and doesn't take the liberties a family member does...Be helpful, but remember you are NOT a student OR the teacher.  It's a learning experience, be there in the moment for that purpose.

2) Observe and Report
If it's not part of your teacher-training, keep a journal!  Write about your Mentor teacher's interactions, style, instructional strategies; compare to what you learn in your ed classes and to your own intuition.  This is a time to reflect on YOU and plan for your future teaching.  When you begin your first year of teaching, it will be hard to find the time to gather such information.  It will also be helpful to have a written record to go back to.  Start lists of websites, inspirational artists, lesson plan ideas, useful bits of info from ed. textbooks:) 

The more inspired you are to teach, the more inspiring you will be to your students.

Knowledge is power, both for you and your mentor teacher.  Be open (but professional!) about your take on strategies, management, etc.  ASK questions, be open to new ideas from all angles.  Be a team, it's an awesome advantage to have TWO teachers in the room!  Use it- devise plans of attack, divide tasks, ask for help. Try to remember what it felt like being in the students' place.  Talk to your students, especially if they are older, about their learning and expectations.  Keep your college professor/supervisor in the loop!  He/she is a WEALTH of information, but super busy, so ASK for resources, and if you need it, guidance!

4) Steal, steal, steal!

Photograph everything- posters, projects, organizational methods, the room.  These are from my own student teaching experience:) Ask for copies, most teachers are happy to share.  I still use the lesson plan template shared with me during student teaching.
*Thanks to Beth Spann, Kristin Plambeck, Christine Hoffman, MaryAnn Popovich, Darlene O'Donnell and Mary Hastings for making my student-teaching experience meaningful.

Friday, February 18, 2011

lesson plan: using a sketchbook

I developed this lesson for several reasons...  First of all I hoped students would form a bond with their sketchbook that they'll be using all semester.  I also wanted them to be comfortable writing, drawing and collaging in the same space.  And as an added bonus, students are exposed to the beauty and wonder of the world outside of their small community in the city through National Geographic.
As 7th and 8th graders I think it's really valuable for to take in new information and be able to utilize it, especially in their ART! 

This is Part One of the lesson.  Students are required to look through National Geographic magazines and find a picture of something beautiful, something weird, something scary and something they'd like to see in person.  Then they label the pictures accordingly and write a sentence or two about what they found.
I really love the thoughtfulness behind this student's responses:)
The above page is Part Two of the assignment...Students select a theme from a list and fill one entire sketchbook page according to their theme, combining words and pictures together.

I stress to students that, "you'll only get out of this lesson what you put into it!"  Some students get more out of it than others:)

Be ready for lots of discussion and noise as students discover weird, scary, awesome people/places/things outside of their comfort zone!  It's so fun to observe!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Not yet a well oiled machine...

What have I learned in my two years of teaching in an urban (art) classroom?
 Be prepared.  Be very prepared.
 I'm posting some pictures of methods I've developed to deal with an assortment of issues.  Like new students transferring students returning from 3, 5, 7 days of 25 students vying for my attention not so students who may not know how to spend free time constructively

I put together this binder of information I go over as a Powerpoint at the beginning of the semester.  I am also making a student information sheet to fill out and that indicates that the student read and understands our rules/procedures.

Students check this binder when they return from an extended absence, read necessary information and complete worksheets, assignments, and/or extra credit to get caught up with concepts and the gradebook.  Reteaching entire lessons and days of instruction became very time consuming when the rest of the class still needs direction, assistance, and affirmation.

I am quickly closing all gaps which leave me open to students claiming they don't what is required/expected.  Saying it is not enough, so I cover my bases!

                                              A daily reminder taped to my desk:) 

How do you stay organized?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Mobile Painting Unit, yes I watch a lot of crime drama

Ok, I love my students.  I really do.  It's just that in part they are MIDDLE SCHOOLERS and they have not been brought to a place where they are eager for independence.  Sooo, I try to come up with creative ways to stave off insanity (mine), disaster (the room), injury (the students), all while keeping up the appearance of age appropriateness.  There are many things that spell the kiss of death, but none so devastating as treating students like babies.
This brings me to the MOBILE PAINTING UNIT.
This is instead of trying to teach a sequence for clean up/set up and then letting 25 students loose at once for 10 minutes and winding up with: 25 students doing it how and at whatever speed they chose, me frustrated, and a mess... because there are 25 sort-of-cleaning-related things going on at once (often in conflict with one another).
So I wheel the MPU up one aisle and down another, students stay seated until I finish my route.  Then, we hang labelled artwork and wash hands.
***this did not keep one student from painting both hands purple and running around like a maniac.
But one out of 110 isn't bad:0

O'Keefe Organic Shapes

Alright, once again I am blown away at the talent of my own students!! I REALLY wanted to enter these into a big local show but they didn't want anything drawn from published photographs:(
Process= We drew apples from observation using oil pastels on newsprint folded into 6 squares.  Draw, take a bite, draw, take a bite, etc.  We learned different blending techniques and concentrated on squinting to see color/value changes...THEN we made view finders from cardstock (with a little measuring thrown in!) and chose a composition.
So happy to see two students in particular who felt their main talent was basketball, begin to see themselves as artists too!

Self Portraits, I'm a proud mama

Ok, I can't express how impressed I am with how these turned out!!  My 7th graders did an AWESOME job.
Process= We all drew portraits of President Obama and learned about observation, facial proportions, shading, etc.  THEN, I photographed each student (letting each kid preview their pic : / ) and printed from my computer printer in black and white.  The background was supposed to tell the viewer about the artist's family and self.
And the 2nd one started as "Man, I'm finished"  (when it clearly wasn't) refusing my proddings to continue working and blossomed into a work of art during the resulting lunch detention. LOL.  The result? We are both happy!

Shoes created by 8th graders.  What a process! Tennis shoes collected by staff:) wrapped in Saran Wrap, one layer of plaster strips, then pulled out through a slit cut up the heel.  Added two additional layers of plaster strips and painted!!
Main ideas= color scheme, designed according to a specific topic, painting skillz

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

so good?

SNOW DAY!!  perfect time for blogging as I am wearing my fuzzy slippers...
A little backstory to my current experiementation in classroom management:  Last year (my first) felt like an incredible disaster.  I know you are saying "duh, EVERYONE'S first year is a train wreck." (And WHY that is, is a topic for another day!)  However I can honestly say that I was challenged each day morally, emotionally, mentally and on occasion physically.  But I also felt like I continued to grow, lurchingly, and learned about my environment and my students.  Each new semester, I try new organizational methods, let go of old ones, try new management techniques, talk to older teachers and take it all in.  Assimilating this information led me to last semester, adopting some methods that seemed, at first appearances, to work.  Other teachers told me things like..."YOU are the adult.  It is YOUR classroom.  Students need to know that they are NOT adults.  They don't run this.  They need to know that you can go THERE."  At the end of last semester, I determined that that is not me as a person or an educator.  I do not have the energy to put students in their place over and over again.  I believe the above sentiments were borne from a perceived understanding of the lives many students lead... So many middle school aged students are living the lives of adults at home-raising siblings, cousins, making dinner, doing laundry, etc.  At school it becomes difficult to act like children.  ("What do you mean I can't go to the bathroom now?") 
My feeling has become that trying to force child-like roles and interactions upon such students is like trying to beat my head up against a wall or bury my head in the sand.  Many students DO react positively to strong authority figures but at what cost?  I don't want students that simply obey me...I want to assist students to become free thinking analytical responsive adults.  SOOO...that leads to this semester.  I am taking steps to listen to my instincts as to how I would want to be treated at that age AND to current classroom management methodology beyond anecdote.
This means balancing consistent reasonable discipline with openly caring for students.  This led me to apologize to a class for losing my temper with a student the day before who refused to follow dress code.  I felt a little embarrassed but asked for suggestions for ways I could have handled the situation differently.  I felt rewarded as students left and kindly offered ideas.  It IS my job to run my classroom, but I can do it with love and dignity.

Classroom Rules (summarized from suggestions made by students on post-it notes)
1. Speak Kindly- no matter who says what first
2. Handle with Care- yourself, artwork, others' feelings
3. Take care of You- don't boss others, do your own work, clean up after yourself
4. Listen to others- when teacher/classmates are speaking and when they ask you to stop a negative behavior