When I think about my desire to teach, I initially reflect on my beginning experiences as an artist. Since childhood, I have aspired to pursue a career in art because of the inspiration and encouragement I received from my educators and family. I always wanted to be an artist, until I then realized in high school that I also wanted to become an art educator. My experience working with various camps and teaching art classes with the Orchard Park Recreation Department was significant in opening this door. This experience allowed me to provide children with the same inspiration and confidence that I had felt growing up around art. I realized how passionate I was working with children and helping them make discoveries within art. My desire to teach began with simply a joyful thought of changing the lives of the children around me.
My philosophy still revolves around changing the lives of my students, but after research and experience in the classroom, I now have the skills and knowledge to truly engage students in art. In order to engage students in different techniques and concepts in art, it is important to provide opportunities for students to express themselves and their interests within the lesson. Students typically find more success in the art classroom if they can find meaning in what they are making, or be able to relate learned concepts to their every day lives. My lessons are always designed with students’ interests at mind. I often facilitate conversations with students, distribute surveys, collaborate with other teachers and research what is relevant in the community in order to gain a sense of what will be intriguing and meaningful.
I am particularly interested in including more collaboration and interdisciplinary teaching in my art classroom. As art educators, we have the flexibility to design our lessons around a variety of topics. Not only can we inspire our students to find meaning in the art that they are making, but we can also help students make sense of their community and other school subjects. Interdisciplinary teaching will encourage students to reach beyond the typical constraints of a single content area, and engage in their ability to think critically and creativity. It will also unveil more opportunities for students to connect new learning with what they know and are interested in.
In order to engage every student in art, I am conscientious of how much experience students have had with a particular medium, or concept before teaching a lesson. Everyone comes into the classroom with different experiences and levels of development, which is important to gauge for student success. By simply involving students in a warm-up activity, an initial conversation about the topic, or having them complete a KWLS chart1, I am able to measure the individual needs of each student. By accessing the prior knowledge of students, I can design lessons to allow students to make connections with the learned topics to previous knowledge. This will allow students to feel more confident in sharing their ideas in classroom discussions and help me monitor their progress throughout the project.
Students will feel more confident in their abilities in the art classroom when a universal design for learning is implemented. I use the Universal Design for Learning2 in my classroom because it helps me provide instructional goals and materials to benefit all students and does not focus on a single, one-size-fits-all solution. I allow my lessons to be flexible so that all students have the opportunity to learn and be successful. In this case, I often incorporate visual, auditory and tactile examples to reach the widest range of learners in my classroom. I also evaluate the range of materials in my classroom so that each student may utilize their strengths to bring about success. When measuring student success, providing a variety of assessment options is additionally important to give students confidence and a different ways to executing their knowledge.
It is my plan to create an exciting art classroom and learning environment so students will feel confident in their abilities. Just as Gene Sizemore has once said, I believe that people are born with the urge to make art. Over time, we may lose this desire due to a lack of resources and confidence. Through my teaching, I hope to provide many opportunities for student learning and success, so that students are constantly inspired in the world of art and can continue to be creative thinkers.
1 A KWLS chart is a graphical organizer designed to help student learning. The letters KWL are an acronym for what students already know, want to know, and ultimately will learn throughout the course of a lesson.
2 Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.