Thursday, July 26, 2012

Getting to the Core of Arts Standards

As the summer winds down and another school year starts, many of us are looking for new and engaging lessons that both capture our students' attentions as well as teach them valuable skills that they will use to grow as an artist and person. When I am developing lessons, I use many factors to determine artist, material, and subject being covered. I consider what is being taught in other content areas as discussed in this past post, I also consider the student population and what they are interested in learning through the use of Google Forms discussed in this past post, and I pour over the Michigan Content Standards and Benchmarks that can be found here.

Just as all subject areas are moving from various State level Standards and Benchmarks to the Common Core, the Arts are also being revamped through the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards. This group consists of teachers from various Arts disciplines who are working together to create "the Next Generation Arts Standards." In addition to including videos and documenting the progression of their work, the group is also looking for contributors to add to the discussion. You can find more information about this on their wiki as well as see that Michigan is being well represented in the Visual Arts group by 2012 NAEA Middle Level Teacher of the Year, September Buys.

Some pieces of information I found particularly helpful when looking through their site was the draft for the Overarching Framework as well as the Review of State Arts Standards. I highly recommend giving them a look if you are as interested in developing curriculum using outcomes as a guide via backwards design.

Even with these guides, the possibilities are endless as far as what and how we teach Visual Arts. It is hard to know what is the right way because there are so many different ways to do it. What are some things that you use to help guide you through the development of lessons? What lesson do you do each year that you feel is able to hit all of the marks both with content and artistry? If you have any helpful suggestions on how to create and execute lesson plans, please share below.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Lifelong Learning

Artists Name: Stella Lee
School: Northview High School
I recently engaged in a relatively short discussion with @wmchamberlain (one of many teachers I follow on twitter) about lifelong learning. The discussion started with a question he posed asking what people were learning over the summer and I responded by describing that I have spent the summer teaching myself how to sew (with the immense help of both youtube and books ordered from Amazon). He shared that he was experimenting with art making. I pointed to a website that I thought might help in his journey and he gave me some encouragement, too.

Even though the "conversation" lasted a few lines back and forth, it has got me thinking about the concept of lifelong learning and how we engage students in this. It also got me thinking about how I engage in my own learning and what motivates me to want to learn new things.

I have always had an interest in how things are made. It is one of the reasons I wanted to be an artist and it is also why I wanted to be an art teacher - I also enjoy teaching others how to make things. I have had a sewing machine since 2006, but did not start using it until about a year ago. Why did I not learn to sew earlier? It might be because inheriting the machine was the result of my mother-in-law's passing, it might be because I didn't want to pay for a class when I had other bills and monetary concerns to think about, but it was probably because I wasn't ready to learn how to do it yet.

You can lead a horse to water, right? Anyway, whatever the reason is for me not wanting to learn how to sew then doesn't matter now because I am engaged and interested and as a result have not only created things that I am proud of but have been able to share those creations with others.

As I reflected on my own process of learning (and the fact that a lot of it involved failure, frustration, retrying things, research on the internet, and some help from experienced experts), it got me thinking about my classroom and how I can infuse this experience there. If I want my students to experience learning the way I did then I need to create an environment where experimentation, investigation, and following interests are important. If I want students to be engaged, then I need to be open to the fact that they are all in different points in their learning careers and even though I may lead them to water, it is up to them to figure out when they are ready to drink... I also have to give myself a break (and my students, too) when they are not and realize that just because something doesn't work out once doesn't mean they (or I) should never try it again. The most important thing I will bring to my classroom from this experience is my story. I will share with my students how I learned to sew and how I taught myself by doing research, failing, taking risks, and finally achieving my goal.

There is a great lifelong learning opportunity coming up August 5-10 through the MAEA Summer Professional Development Institute. Today is the early registration deadline and if you have been putting off learning something because you weren't ready yet, hopefully you will take this opportunity to learn in a community of experts that will guide and encourage you along the way.

If you have a learning story from this summer, or have taken a workshop in previous Summer PDI's please share your story below.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Getting Hired

I have been very lucky in my educational career. When I graduated from college in 2004, I was able to secure a job by the end of May. When I needed to make a change because we were moving across the State, I was able to find employment well before school started. And even though I was pink-slipped three times in the course of a year, I was called back each time.

Everyone who has been hired has a different story for how it happened and having been on several interview teams, I have seen the inter-workings of what goes on when potential teachers are being vetted. I am not guaranteeing that these tips will get you a job, but here are some things that helped me get mine and what I look for when we hire teachers to be a part of our team.

1. Make contact with a mini-folio. A mini-folio is a short version of your larger educational portfolio that has copies of your cover letter, resume, certification, transcript, samples of student work, samples of your personal work, and letters of recommendation. This is the highlight reel of everything you have done in under 15 pages (my larger portfolio has well over 60). Most schools post that they only want you to fill out the online application, but from my experience, if you want to stand out against the horde of online resumes, put on a suit and personally deliver the mini-folio to the specific school where you want to teach. I did this for every job I have ever applied for and once received a call for an interview within 15 minutes of handing it off to the secretary.

Diana G.

  Stoney Creek Elementary
2. Show and tell. Now that you have an interview, it is important to think about what you are going to say to the many questions. As an interviewer, I am not just interested in what the candidate says they do in a classroom. I am interested in seeing how they engage with us - are they smiling, using eye-contact, energetic, and passionate about what they are saying... How you project yourself is just as important as what you are saying. Having confidence and conviction in what you say is important and it can give insight into what you might be like in front of your students.

3. Use your portfolio, please! It always amazes me when I have to ask candidates to see their portfolios. I remember taking that class where we put it together and not being able to wait to show off the hours of work I spent curating the collection of student samples and lesson plans. It is one thing to talk about a project or lesson or idea, it is another to show it in action. Make sure when you are answering questions you are thinking about something in your portfolio that illustrates the point. If they ask about a cross-curricular lesson, have your portfolio organized in a way that it is easy to flip to and point to the answer (it might be a good idea to practice this first). As an Art teacher, Visuals are important. When I am a part of an interview team I need to see what students have done as well as the candidate's own personal work. This helps me see evidence of what this candidate can bring to the team.

4. Do your research. Usually at the end of the interview, you will be asked if you have any questions about the job. Make sure to do your research about the school you are wanting to work and ask questions to clarify any specifics not already discussed. You can ask about schedules (like grade levels or amount of buildings you are in), classroom budget, participation in outside PD, technology concerns, or even use your knowledge to comment on something you know about the school. I always ask a question about the school's vision for the future of the program. It is important to see what they think about what you are teaching and how they see that job or department looking down the road. This gives you insight into your future as a part of that team.

5. Don't forget the "Thank You". After the interview is done, be sure to send "Thank You's" to the teachers and administrators involved. It is a nice gesture that can also give you a chance to recap something you discussed during the interview. This can be done via email or by hand. If you do it online, you can also use it as a chance to send them a link to your online portfolio or professional website. Even if you do not get the job, it ends the process on a congenial note.

 These are just some ideas that worked for me and I hope will land you the job you have been waiting to secure. If you have any interview tips that worked for you, please share. This is a very exciting time to be a teacher and good luck in your search!