Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year's Goals and Resolutions

Artists Name: Blake A.         School: Fancher Elementary
As 2011 comes to a close, it is easy to get swept up in the promise a fresh start of the new year can offer. This can also become a time where those good intentioned goals get thrown out there without the follow through or support to get it done.

I know I have started many statements with, "This is the year (fill in the blank with any type of goal) will happen," only to end up later in the year feeling bummed that it did not get done.Whether it was my own procrastination or not knowing how to get whatever the goal was accomplished, my hope is that with this post and our online community of support on Facebook and Twitter, we can work together to get our goals accomplished during 2012.

So, here is to the year it DOES happen and here are a few potential Arts Education goals with suggestions on how to stay on track to fulfilling your resolutions.

  • Get Hired! It is no secret that the tough economy has resulted in teacher lay-offs, pink-slips, as well as reassignments. When I originally posted this idea of resolutions our Facebook group, one member responded that their goal was to get a job this year. Although it has been a tough couple of years, there have been opportunities for Arts Ed professionals to get involved and help get their foot in the door. If you are looking for a job, consider ways to help promote your skills and expand your network by volunteering and participating in online forums. There have been various posts on our Facebook group about long term subbing positions; although this may not initially lead to a full time position, the experience and networking could.
  • Get Published! Is there a great lesson plan you have that your fellow Art colleagues have oohhhed and ahhhed over and works consistently with each group of students you have taught? Then share it! We all have used resources from SchoolArts Magazine and Arts&Activities Magazine at one point or another to help gain insight and ideas to deliver and develop classroom curriculum. Make 2012 your chance to contribute. Both publications offer how-to tips with writing for their magazines. If you have ever explained a project to a friend then you will be able to write and get your work published highlighting your classroom. Nancy Walkup, the Editor for SchoolArts is also very helpful with any questions you might have about an article idea. You can follow her on Twitter, connect with her on Art Education 2.0, or follow her blog.
  • Try New Tech! Whether it is flipping your classroom, creating a Twitter account, or even subscribing to some of your favorite blogs, using technology can help you connect with others in your profession and grow to help serve your students. I have only recently joined Twitter (@campbellartsoup) and have made some great strides in how I use tech in my classroom as well as connect with other teachers from across the globe. Art teacher and co-founder of The Teaching Palette, Theresa McGee, shared some great Web 2.0 tools to use, engaging students and delivering content. This takes time, but know you are not alone. There is a powerful educational community out there waiting and ready to support you through any questions you may have.
  • Make Art for Yourself! Art teachers face the rare expectation compared to other content areas. You rarely hear a parent or community member ask a Math teacher what equations they are working on, but you often hear community members ask Art teachers what they have made lately. I am proud that we have a different kind of expectation, but it is often difficult to find the time to make anything when you are planning lessons, preparing materials, and displaying art for a school full of children. I became an Art teacher because I love Art and care for kids. I am definitely not the most productive artist, but I try and create work to help keep my skills honed and up to date. I am recently creating work for a group show and found that if it was not for that show, I probably would not have found the joy I have over break in making the work I have so far. Consider putting yourself into a show to force yourself to make something, or sign up for one of the Summer PD workshops the MAEA organizes. 
Those are only four goals to help you start to think about what it is you want to focus on this new year.  What are some of your Art Education goals and resolutions for 2012?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Expanding Your Resources

During the Holiday season, Santa is not the only one making a list and checking it twice.

For many of us, reaching Winter break is also closely approaching the half-way point of the year and the materials we purchased for the projects planned. Whether you see students for the full year or for a smaller duration, the materials purchased for the year have been used by a good portion of students by now and (if you are like me) you are starting to strategically plan how much needs to be left in order to make it through the rest of the year.

In addition to figuring out how you might make the materials you have stretch out to the end of the year, many of you (according to a per pupil funding poll by the NAEA this year) are working with less than $3 per student. I happen to fall into that category and find that I am often having to choose between basic materials like markers, glue, and paper, forgoing the more exciting materials or projects like printmaking or Raku firing.

In order teach the projects listed above, you need the various equipment or materials to provide the experience. I used to complain and fret, spending hours upon hours doting over every last detail of my start-of-the-year order, worrying about what I was not getting. This mind set put me into a situation where I was looking only to the school district for funds (which have been cut consistently by the State), limiting the materials and experiences for a complete Visual Arts Curriculum.

It wasn't until I worked with my colleague, Jamie Kosmicki on writing a grant that I realized how much control I have over the funding opportunities offered to expand experiences for my students. Since the $1000 grant she wrote to help our High School students experience Raku firing with Paul Flickinger, I have been empowered to do the same.
Paul Flickinger at Byron Center High School, Spring 2010.
From using the resources listed in this LiveBinder, I have been able to have guest artists visit, take students on field trips, as well as buy additional materials and equipment. It has offered me a pathway to expand the resources in my classroom and as a result students have gained insight and skills that would have otherwise been left out.

During this Holiday season, I encourage you to sit down and make a list of the things you have not yet purchased due to the lack of funding. Organize those materials around a project and find the right funding source for you. If you are looking to start small, consider taking advantage of the offer by NEA through DonorsChoose of matching funds.

Good luck in all of your funding efforts to help bring more experiences to your students throughout the year. We are interested in your successes -- please post a project you have had funded in the past through a grant or fundraiser or a project you did get funded as a result of this post.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Showcasing Student Work

Artist Name: Krystan Iazzetto
School: New Buffalo High School
Winter brings with it many things - snowflakes, hot chocolate, holiday breaks, and of course Art Competitions. It seems that this time of year is when students start to get into the groove of making their best works and teachers are making the tough choices of which pieces best represent their school in annual events like the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

If you went to Diane Heath's presentation on Scholastic to AP Portfolio's at this year's MAEA Conference, you would have seen how this teacher uses the opportunities offered through student competition to showcase student work and push students to achieve their highest potential. As a result of participating in programs like the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, her students have high standards and expectations for their work and her program has built a prestigious level of respect.

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is only offered for students grades 7-12, but there are many opportunities for students of all levels to be showcased in Michigan and beyond. To help organize these opportunities, I created a LiveBinder of various sites that hold competitions. Some have passed, like Sooper Yooper which corresponds with ArtPrize in the Fall; others are fast approaching, like the Cray-Pas Wonderful Colorful World Contest due December 9th.There are also various events to showcase students that are still yet to come in the Spring, like the Region shows and the Governor's traveling show as well as shows celebrating Youth Arts Month.

If you are interested in showcasing work beyond the walls of your school building, you can also participate in Artsonia, the largest online gallery of student work.This resource allows students to share their work with family and friends, build and maintain an online gallery over the course of their school career, as well as raise funds for the art classroom.

Whether you are a seasoned veteran or have never done anything like this at all, we can all agree that our main concern and focus is offering opportunities for students to shine. What are some of the annual events that you participate in to showcase students?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pass it On

As Thanksgiving break comes to a close, it is a good time to reflect on the year so far and the things we are thankful for as a result. As teachers, we get to impact the lives of so many over the course of our careers. With that capacity comes the great responsibility to not only teach our content, but also pass on the power that our content has to bring people together and create positive change for others.

During the holiday season, there is a push for many organizations to come together and reach out to those in need. The Arts offer a great starting place for this. From organizing events like Empty Bowls to raise food and funds for your local food bank or participating in the Memory Project to help lift the spirits of orphans from other countries, the Arts have a great way of reaching out to others through service. When we make the choice to do this, we not only do we teach our students about the power of giving to others in need through events like the ones featured in this LiveBinder, but we also show the power the Arts have in bringing awareness to issues and focusing on solutions.

Service-learning projects give students evidence they can do something about things that concern them. By incorporating this type of activity in our curriculum, we empower students with the voice that goes beyond the frame of a piece of art, showing the real-world implications of what they are doing.

Here are a few ways others have incorporates service-learning activities into the classroom:

  • Carrie Jeruzal of Pentwater used the Empty Bowls concept for a CommuniTEA event to raise funds for a local charity. Instead of soup, the event focused on the Japanese tea ceremony and students created ceramic tea bowls to sell. 
  • Susan Chapman of Seaholm High School used the Memory Project in her classroom to connect her students with orphans through art.
  • The Illinois Art Education Association members created "Art to Go" packets for local Children's Hospitals. This allowed sick children to make art while away from school.
  • Byron Center West Middle School students created winter and holiday themed artwork for local senior-citizen assisted living center to be used as decoration for the residents.
If there is a community or service-learning project that you have had success with, please share your results. Imagine the possibilities that can result from the small gestures of kindness fostered through the opportunities while participating in the Arts. This addition to curriculum can enhance any program and create a shared sense of community within your classroom.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In Gratitude: Who Are You Thankful For?

One of my favorite moments at the 2011 MAEA Conference was the Awards Ceremony acceptance speech given by Barbara Rensenhouse. Barbara received the MAEA Distinguished Service Award. She has been a mentor for innumerable art teachers over her many years at Western Michigan University. Retired in 1991, she is well up in age but her words were sharp and on the mark as she urged us to affirm others for their work in the field. As we were honoring her, she was urging us to honor others.

This week I came across an article in the September issue of Art Education (the NAEA Journal) by Elizabeth Delacruz. She too, was giving an acceptance speech for an award, receiving the 2011 Ziegfeld award. In this speech, she lays out four frameworks to guide our thinking as art educators. What resonated with me was her idea that we should “take on an entrepreneurial disposition, referring to both an outlook and a cluster of behaviors. This ability:
    • to understand particular needs in particular contexts
    • to discern meaningful patterns
    • to think big
    • to innovate
    • to envision something new and useful
    • to conceptualize, design, and carry forward concrete plans of action with specific intended outcomes.
These are the skills and dispositions we hope to foster in our students.” These are 21st Century Skills.

Also recognized at the 2011 Conference was Kim Cairy, outgoing MAEA president, who was honored as the MAEA Middle Level and overall Art Educator of the Year. In her tenure as President, Kim embodied these dispositions. She is an exceptional leader. I have been so impressed with her. She is a parent, a teacher and a leader. She moves easily from one role to the other. When she first came into office I still remember receiving a card that she had hand-made urging us to think outside of the box. She is a big thinker and an innovator, yet humble and personally attentive to others’ needs. Thank you, Kim, for giving so much of yourself to the organization.

Who has influenced you in your art teaching and thinking? A mentor teacher or college professor? Someone you’ve never met but whose books or blogs you avidly read? Who do you want to thank?

During this season of Thanksgiving, please take the time to comment below and honor those who have helped shape you as an artist/educator, thanking them for their influence and help.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2011 MAEA Conference Recap and Reflection

It has been a few days since the 2011 MAEA Conference has ended and I, like many others, still have loads of papers, products, and ideas to sort out as a result.

It was an exciting time to meet teachers, artists, and share ideas to help better serve the students of Michigan. As a result of this multiple day endeavor, I was able to meet new people and learn all kinds of tips and techniques that will help enhance the way I deliver instruction to my students.

One topic that has come up in our facebook group as a result of the conference is the cost. In times where many districts are downsizing budgets, it can be very difficult to find funding to allow for experiences like this to occur. The reason I was able to attend this year was through the MEEMIC professional development grant. I was thrilled to use that grant to attend this conference and also present on various grant opportunities available to help bring additional experiences to our students.

Some of the noteworthy workshops include the following: 
  • Presentation by Professor Guey-Meei Yang about the work being done at Eastern Michigan University with their Art History and Art Education Departments collaborating effort resulting in a Wiki we can all contribute to and use
  • Book-sigining and workshop led by James Warhola about his children's book "Uncle Andy's Cats"
  • Performance by book Artist Susan Share
  • Presentation by Kristyn DeMint about how to use Skype to interview artists in the classroom like she did with James Rizzi
  • Collaborative lesson plan share by CSI (College of Secondary Instructors) whose ideas can be seen on our Flickr page.You can also join and upload your pics to the group.
  • Technology integration ideas presented by Molly Marshall
  • 10 contemporary artists you should know, presented by  Roy Reynolds
  • Receptions showcasing the Art Education programs at Western Michigan University and Kendall College of Art and Design
  • Great keynote presentations about Innovation by Mike Schmidt (showing the connection between strong Arts education and innovation in the private sector) and Creativity by Marvin Bartel
  • Great Hands-on learning experiences from the vendors at the conference and artists at the Park Trades Center
  • Conversations with Visual Art Teachers from across the state to discuss important topics like assessment, featured in the blog post by Claudia Burns
If you were unable to attend this year's conference, I hope you can make it to the 2012 conference in Traverse City, October 25-28th. If the issue is cost, you can try to advocate for yourself by sharing the resources in this post with your district administrators as the example of the types of learning experiences and reason for them to help provide this professional development opportunity. You can also find grants to help pay for the experience or you can also keep updated on current topics and resources by following this blog or the facebook group. If you have a resource that you presented or saw and would like to share the link or concept, please comment below.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Swimming Upstream

We're back from the Conference! So many ideas and images are swirling around in my head. The sounds and sights and wonderful experiences of the weekend energize and sustain us through the winter. I can't wait to try out the new bookmaking techniques I learned and experiment with some watercolors and life drawing with my alternative-ed high school students.

But what I'm really eager to try out are some of the new assessment strategies I've been reading about. Really?

I know, it's not media, it's kinda left-brained, it doesn't seem very "arty." But we can use quality assessment to improve instruction and empower students. And, learning how to assess students very well might save your job.

The number of stories I heard this weekend about teacher evaluation, assessment, about "My district is expecting this..." was surprising. But the work has begun and it looks like Walled Lake and Ann Arbor are leading the way. In their workshops Walled Lake and Ann Arbor teachers (and one administrator) described the innovative curriculum that they have been developing over the last few years.

What are you doing in your district? Have your administrators challenged you to validate your art program? How do you use assessment? This is a challenging area for some of us; let's help one another out. Let's swim upstream together.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Transforming Traditional Teaching

With just a few days before the annual MAEA conference, many Visual Arts teachers from around Michigan are beginning to pack their bags and check off their lists full of to-do's before heading to Kalamazoo. Conferences like this are happening all over the country as a precursor to the National Art Education Association Conference in NYC his March.

Conferences give teachers the tools necessary to hone their craft and learn from other experts in their field. It is a time for collaborating, connecting, and creating new techniques and traditions that are then brought into the classroom, transforming the educational experiences provided to students.

As discussed in the previous post, if you are unable to attend this weekend's conference, the type of take-a-ways offered through the interactions offered at conferences can be sought elsewhere. We are lucky to live in a time where we can instantly connect with others to share information that directly impacts educational practice resulting in the improvement in our teaching craft and student achievement.

Something to consider as you get ready for this year's conference --  how has your teaching been transformed as a result of the interaction with colleagues and/or peers? What projects, materials, or ideas have you borrowed and reworked to give your students a new take on an old concept?

One teacher who is keen on transforming traditional teaching methods in the Visual Arts classroom is Ian Sands. This High School Art teacher from North Carolina uses his classroom as a lab for students to experiment, question, and rework what art is and how to make it. The title of his classroom blog, "Beyond the Pencil" is a challenge to students to think beyond the obvious and push themselves to use new ideas and items to explore traditional Visual Arts concepts.

Whether you are able to attend this year's conferences or not, it is a great time to rethink your practices in the classroom and transform a traditional lesson into something that pushes past the ordinary. To help get some ideas, here is the Prezi Ian has made public from his presentation at this year's Art Education Association Conference in North Carolina - thanks Ian, for sharing!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Turn PD into a PLC

One of the biggest teaching challenges can be finding the time and resources to participate in meaningful professional development. Since there are often only one or two Visual Arts teachers within a building (sometimes even within a district), it becomes difficult to find opportunities to connect and collaborate with other teachers who share your content.

Hopefully your district allows you release time and financial support to participate in the annual MAEA conference. Unfortunately (as seen on recent Facebook posts), that is not always the case.

This is when a PLC (Professional Learning Community, also known as a PLN or Professional Learning Network) comes into play. Why wait for release time from your school or district initiatives to give you the opportunity to plan, prepare, and collaborate curriculum? The time often does not come and when it does it can be scrunched in, overwhelming, and without follow through. 

PLC's and PLN's offer teachers an ability to connect with other teachers both within and outside of their content area about topics they decide and coordinate. This revolutionary concept can enhance and expand the walls of your classroom because you have a team of teachers invested in you, wanting to share with you, and offering to help you succeed in the teaching endeavors you face.

One of the most helpful PLC's for Visual Arts teachers is the Art Education 2.0 Ning. This group (brainchild of Craig Roland) is now over 10,000 members strong. Through social networking, it offers Visual Arts teachers an opportunity to connect, share, and collaborate globally.

It is not unusual to see teachers swapping student work across continents, to see teachers offering help through video tutorials and commentary about what methods work best, or to see the offering of advice through the many difficult situations we find ourselves in as budgets are cut and teachers are pink-slipped.

The same can be said about the possibilities found through Twitter and Facebook. Both sites allow quick sharing of resources and topics that can lead to collaborating ideas and promoting educational growth.

We are teaching in a changing world, and we need to be at the forefront of that change with ideas and methods to help our students succeed. One of the best ways to do that is to be collaborative partners with others in our field.

Through the participation of a PLC, you will not only find yourself growing as a result of the interaction, but you will also allow your students to benefit from the learning and resources gained as a result.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cultivating Creativity

Image from A Combo Platter of TAB & DBAE SchoolArts Magazine, August/September 2006
The theme for this year's MAEA Annual Fall Conference is "Cultivating Creative Passion."

The topic of creativity is something that Visual Arts educators deal with on a daily basis. As we make Art and teach our students skills, it is hard not to tackle questions about what creativity is and how it could be applied to teaching.

In Adam VonHouten's blog, he brings up the struggle that many Art teachers face when it comes to teaching. At what point does the teacher give the power and control to the students to be the artists? Instead of modeling each assignment with predictable outcomes, he advocates for student choice and room for exploration with each new endeavor.

The method of Teaching for Artistic Behavior (also known as TAB or Choice-Based Art Education) treats students as artists and give them the freedom of choice when creating work. Instead of the teacher as the model and students repeating what the teacher is proposing, students make their own decisions and explore materials and ideas in their own way.

For some of us (myself included) this concept of a Choice-Based classroom is appealing, but also comes with some concerns. How do we measure success? How do we align a "Choice" curriculum to National and State standards? How do we maintain control when students are all doing such different things? How do we get them away from doing the cliche? How do we know they are learning?

A possible solution to this dilemma is an artful combination of student choice and teacher direction in the lessons that you already teach. Stephanie Corder addresses this in a 2006 article from SchoolArts Magazine. She contends that teachers still need to teach students concepts surrounding Art History, materials, methods, criticism, and design, but students also need the freedom and choice to explore and create using ideas and methods that interest them. Whether it is selecting the material, or subject, or having complete control over the content, students need to feel invested in what they are making in order for it to be meaningful.

When giving students choice, the conversation changes. Students' attitudes change about what their role is in the class. They can no longer say they hate an assignment when they are the ones who have chosen the subject or material or both. They made the choice of what to do and as a result, they must take ownership of the decision and become an active stakeholder in the classroom. As the teacher, you still foster an environment of learning by showing students methods of working or artists of interest, but you allow them to explore and create in their own way.

Instead of relying on students regurgitating information, Visual Arts teachers get to be the ones that ask students to problem solve, take risks, and pursue their interests while making something new. Our classrooms can offer a chance to be different, engaging, and inclusive. In a time of memorizing facts and standardized testing, we are the ones who get to be creative!

So, the challenge is this - take one assignment and turn up the choice, giving your students creative ownership. Whether it is the material or the subject matter, give your students the opportunity to be creative and cultivate their passions.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Be Your Best Advocate

In a time of decreased funding and support of Arts programs, it is easy to get swept into the whirlwind of despair. I have seen the results of layoffs and pink slips and changing faculty as a result of tough budget cuts where "extras" are trimmed and as a result students are short changed.

Although this is a challenging time for Visual Arts teachers because these classes are often viewed as being an "extra" part of the day, it is also a great opportunity to show how critical this subject area is to fostering student success and achievement.

Every day our students walk through the door, we expect them to show what they know. Through application of skills and concepts, students manipulate media and visually express meaning.

Why not apply this thought or expectation to ourselves?

In the Art:21 blog, Joe Fusaro makes a great case for being your own best advocate by documenting what happens in your classroom to share with others. This can be done in traditional ways like annual art shows; it can also be done through classroom blogs, websites, online portfolios (like Artsonia), and video sharing sites (like Vimeo or Animoto).

One teacher who does this exceptionally well is 2011 Illinois Art Teacher of the Year Tricia Fuglestad from Dryden Elementary. She employs digital media to involve the community in her classroom and as a result she builds support for her program and her students. I have been following Tricia for the past five years and I feel personally connected to her classroom even though I have never stepped foot inside. Her ability to document and share - to show what she and her students know - is something that makes her a wonderful advocate for her students and Visual Arts education.

To get to the point Tricia has with her websites, videos, blogs, and more takes time. Instead of trying to do it all at once, decide on one goal at a time. Maybe it is to make a video using Animoto of your favorite assignment, or starting an online gallery on Artsonia. Both sites offer great tutorials and easy guides to get started.

As times change, we adapt. In this time of challenging budgets and program decisions, we need to take the opportunity to show what we all know - that Visual Arts is critical to student success and achievement.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Welcome to the MAEA Blog

In an effort to stay connected and informed, the MAEA blog will serve as a source to members who are looking to collaborate, communicate, and create with other Visual Arts educators from around the State.

As the new MAEA Digital Editor, I am hoping to bring my love of technology integration to members of the MAEA via this blog. I am Janine Campbell and I have been teaching since 2004. I currently teach at Byron Center Public Schools and here is my classroom blog.

Blogging offers an instant communication tool that can connect students, parents, community members, and other teachers to each other through the few quick strokes the keyboard. Hopefully this blog will help serve as a tool to connect our MAEA community and allow teachers to find collaborating partners when so often we find ourselves as the loners in the end of the hall in our buildings (maybe I am just speaking for myself, but I have a strong feeling that is not the case).

Also feel free to connect via the MAEA group on Facebook! We are over 200 members strong and this is a great resource to connect with other members instantly as well as check out great art competitions, grants, contests, and giveaways!

We would also like to know about your blog/website! Please email the links to be featured on the blog.