Today was all about process! This past week I was hit with a double-whammy of getting sick and an unexpected personal crisis so there went that feeling of being on top of my workload I mentioned last week. That was fast! Several deadlines converged on me at once and so I found myself in that position no teachers like - feeling like I was letting down my students. We often have tough choices as teachers and at times we must implement curriculum triage. It’s true that there is never time to do all the things we would like. There is only so much one can do, and I think teachers especially, are generally pretty self-critical when it comes to accepting the reality of “good enough”. So could I use this as a teachable moment for my students?
On the first day of the semester, I had planned on discussing the term “curriculum” with the class, especially since it’s in the course title, but it didn’t make the cut due to time. Now seemed might be an appropriate time. That’s because “curriculum” comes from Greek, meaning “race track.” This is how I start class. I mention that there are different sorts of race tracks: a line, a circle, and others, like a spiral. A school year can seem like a race track. There is a beginning and an end. Hopefully we are racing ourselves and not each other (part of my assessment rationale). At this point in the semester, some of us are starting to feel it, aren’t we? We’re starting to get just a little tired. But we have to hang in there and take care of ourselves so we can make it to the finish line. I don’t know if I like the idea of a race track though. Everyone starts at different places. And not everyone is trying to get to the same place. Some of our tracks are straight and smooth at times, and some of ours are curvier, more difficult, with more obstacles, sometimes based on who we are, where we’re from, what we look like, and who we love. For me, the most important point is that we’re always moving forward. If we stumble over an obstacle, we get back up and keep moving.
For me, I mention that being sick and a personal issue were two too many obstacles for me this past week and it put me in a position where I feel like I let them down. We’re all trying to get better, but we all make mistakes or don’t accomplish what we hoped to. But we have to forgive ourselves as well as ask for forgiveness. As teachers we make choices all the time and those choices become our curriculum. We can’t do everything we want to. I had to make an impossible choice between five things. I chose to schedule our midpoint meetings, so that everyone could confirm in class today, complete and submit materials for a deadline for an upcoming conference I’m presenting at, and write my outline for class so that I wouldn’t be panicking in the morning - every teacher knows that feeling. What I had to sacrifice were my personally imposed but publicly accountable deadlines of completing my weekly blog post on time and completing my feedback for their last responses. I hope you can forgive me for not being able to give you feedback yet. I will soon. But life and teaching are all about making choices. Was there a right and wrong choice in my case? No. There were many options and I had to use my best judgment. What more can anyone do? It’s all about the process and having opportunities to make decisions and to see how they play out. That is our theme today as we’re going to be exploring process and making process-based art where you’ll all be experimenting and transforming!
I introduce “monoprinting” or “monotyping” with a brief PowerPoint presentation explaining the process and showing some examples, both photos and some examples I’ve brought, of monoprints I’ve made myself and with children in various settings. View presentation here. One of their prompts as they entered this morning was to Google the terms so hopefully some of them had already seen some examples. Monoprints for me are especially process based, encouraging looseness and experimentation with a variety of methods. Each print is unique yet students often follow tangents and utilize repetition to explore subject matter in depth. I ask them to make connections to the processes of the Art 21 artists they chose and to create at least one print inspired by their work or life. Still trying to make as many connections as possible. I share my struggle with the students about the amount of time necessary for authentic art making and I tell them that we will only be making today so there is no need to feel rushed to display or talk about your work. Today is all about taking your time and engaging with the process. I tell them that they can even stay after class if they want (one student takes me up on it for just a few minutes).
I lead them to the back and walk them through a demo of monoprinting with the materials available. I introduce the tools and supplies and ideas lie writing backwards and making a mask. I should find a video online for absent students or consider creating my own. One of my weak areas is making in class content available for students that miss class. Next semester this will be so much easier with all of the structure online already in place! And I’ve been wanting to make videos for a while but I’ve usually got other things on my plate.
Everyone jumps right in and the classroom has a real studio atmosphere today. Students were busy exploring, trying things, gathering equipment, sharing ideas, and complimenting each other. Each student was trying something different with a variety of approaches and colors and ideas. I bet this was a very different experience for these students and I can’t wait to read their reactions.
We never remember to say everything we want to say, do we? One thing I wish I had emphasized is that a big part of process art is challenging oneself and, similar to physical exercise, pushing oneself and going beyond their comfort zone and moving forward even when they begin to get tired, feel resistance, and want to stop. Usually in art classes, especially at the intro level, students need to work on mental discipline and can get distracted and chatty with their neighbors. That was not the case today thankfully! However,I think one student was only engaged in the process for maybe 20 minutes or so and I’m wondering what they will say about the experience in their response. Should I worry? Ideally, in an art class, especially one that is choice-based, there is no “finished.” But we all get tired and are interested in some proejcts more than others. For the most part, everyone seemed to be thoroughly engaged in the process and it wasn’t until after about 45 or 50 minutes students gradually began cleaning up and returning to the other side of the classroom. I was hoping they all might work right through ‘the bell’ but it wasn’t to be. One can dream. We were pretty much done with 20 minutes left but I spent a little extra time getting cleaned up and so we had 10 minutes at the end to review just a couple of points from the short article on art-integration they had read the for class today. FINALLY, we had at least touched on all the readings they had been assigned!
After class, I was able to go through and provide the late feedback to their responses. The time seemed to go by efficiently and I was also able to go through some late submissions and comment on their posts about the Art 21 artists they selected on the class discussion board. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the students and their interests and it was helpful for me as well because it introduced me to Art 21 artists I wasn’t aware of and helped me brush up on some others. I was pleasantly surprised that it seemed like everyone was able to connect with a contemporary artist! I could see me giving this assignment each semester and continuing to make connections to contemporary artists. It made me realize how beneficial it can be to create assignments were you and your students are able to learn together! This prevented commenting from becoming tedious and reinforced that we were all making connections.
Today I also very briefly introduced the final art-integrated lesson guidelines but mentioned that we would go over it in more detail next class and we previewed their next assignments. I’m especially excited to be discussing Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath which discusses why some ideas thrive and others die. This book was recommended to me by my mentor Craig Roland and I’ve found it to be one of the more important books I’ve read I believe. I feel like making ideas “sticky” should be the primary concern of every teacher, though to thinking of what your students will remember years down the road seems somehow nostalgic or at least counter to current concepts of data-driven and corporatized learning. This will be my first time discussing Made to Stick with education students so I’m looking forward to hearing their reactions!
I can’t wait for our midpoint meetings next week! Despite all of the planning I’ve put into this course already, I had still struggled up until very recently as to how exactly we would proceed for our all important face-to-face meetings and how we would be defining growth for them. I had a eureka moment the other day and I’ve decided that I will ask them to select two habits, dispositions, or lessons from the previous documents on the benefits and characteristics of creativity and artists that they’d like to focus on for improvement. I will have to create a template, but I will ask them to identify the 2 skills, why they want to work on it, and how they will will go about improving. I think this choice will be empowering and reinforce the important benefits of creative and art-based learning. Therefore, to encourage a “creative growth mindset” AND to help them better identify the benefits and characteristics of creativity, we will practice adopting some ourselves!
On a bit of a side note, I don’t see why we can’t evaluate growth and mastery in the same course, but maybe I just don’t know enough about assessment. For mastery, of course, they will be planning and leading an authentic art-integration experience which they’ll receive feedback on and be able to revise and improve to meet the standards established in the categories of the template for instruction and authentic art-integration. To plan, we’ll be using the SUCCESs model to evaluate their ideas for their lesson and make sure they are “sticky,” which we’ll talk about next time - see template. We’ll also be using the SUCCESs model to discuss the artworks they are posting for their assignment, namely identifying the “stickiest” artwork or image in the world. I think this will be a good window into talking about art together.
Another realization I had is that Doodles can be notes taken while students go through the readings as well! This should help students with their Doodles - and I’ll be interested in hearing about their experiences with the sketchbook at their meetings. Any sketching, planning, brainstorming, or notetaking works, but not the projects because those get covered by the responses.
I hope I can make time next class for students to go back into their monoprints, but as usual we have a full plate as we’ll be getting into talking about artwork for the first time, discussing how to make their ideas “sticky” and just getting into more depth with their final art-integration projects. But it is is so typical that teachers plan artmaking and exercises as one shots so it would be important to give them an opportunity to continue experimenting and to go deeper. We’ll see!
Here is a link to my day 5 outline
I'll mostly be blogging about my experience teaching pre-service teachers about creativity and artmaking. I teach a class called Art Curriculum & Concepts for Teachers where future classroom teachers learn about visual art-integration. Among other things, I'm attempting to "Go Gradeless" while also experimenting with a hybrid in-person / online curriculum.