Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Getting Good At Failing Big

As I was beginning my ninth year of teaching high school art I spent a good deal of time this summer reflecting on how the past eight years had gone. What were my frustrations? What were my successes? Which of my frustrations could be addressed and hopefully resolved and which needed to either remain on the backburner for another time or could be focused on and hopefully turned into successes. I deciding to tackle the concept of failing at creating art. The fear of failure is something we all face at various points in our lives. It can either stop us in our tracks or it can push us to new heights. I have faced this myself as an artist as well as almost daily in the classroom with my students. How can we get kids to stop worried about failing or ruining a work of art? Often the hardest part seems to be starting for some whether it’s a fear of screwing up something that doesn’t even exist yet or not even knowing where to begin. My new mantra this year has been “Trust your gut” and “Fail Big.” I have found that when I follow my intuitions I have the most artistic, as well as life, success. This has become an important lesson for me to pass along to my students. I encourage them to allow time to think about what they’d like to create within the guidelines of an assignment. Ask leading questions to get them thinking about all the possibilities out there. And when in doubt start with the first thing that comes to mind. This generally gets them started.

Inevitably they will all get the point where they are afraid to continue on with a work of art for fear of ruining it. That’s where the “Fail Big” philosophy comes in. It’s sad to admit this but it took thirty-three years for me to embrace this in my own art. I had this piece I was painting last spring that I loved. Then all of a sudden I did something where I hated it. I had a choice. I could stop there and let the piece of art die or I could give it some time, some thought, and with a deep breath I could find a way to fix it. After some experimenting and some courageous cutting I ended up with a mixed media collage that I love. I realized that by forcing myself to problem solve and find a way to make the piece work I ended up with an artwork that never could have existed without forcing myself to push through the hatred phase of creating.

This seems so difficult for students. They are so ready to claim a work ruined and discard it or stop working on an artwork before potential ruin could happen. Think of all the amazing works that aren’t getting created because students are letting fear stop them or letting failure stand in the way of finding a way to fix something. In an age of 21st century skills and the need to help our students develop into problem solvers this seemed like a much-needed focus for my classroom. I hung a large sign over the door that says “Fail Big!” and that’s what we’ve been working on ever since. I introduced the concept the first day to all classes and received many skeptical looks. I created a Fail Big place for artworks that were going to take a time out rather than allowing “ruined” works to go into the garbage can. This could allow some other student to come along and see a future for one of those pieces or for it’s original owner to reclaim it one day and give it new life. This step of the process hasn’t happened yet but the other results of implementing this have been astounding. We now celebrate failures as experiments. The students know that when they try something that might not work it’s a chance to learn something new that could be used in future artworks, even if it isn’t necessarily successful in this piece. When someone adds something to the pile we cheered at first as they gradually accepted the idea of embracing art failures. And now I hear all over the classroom students discussing ideas for how each can problem solve their way through an artwork, encouraging each other to push through toward success, and when something truly doesn’t work discussing how that technique or idea could work in a different art context. It’s amazing! And the art that’s coming out of this is so much more creative and daring than it had been in prior years. All in all I’d say that we are succeeding at failing and I hope future semesters of kids embrace these ideas as well as these groups have.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Conference Season: What to do if you can't make it

Artist Name: Amanda R
Every Fall I look forward to attending the MAEA conference. I know I will walk away feeling energized and full of ideas gleaned from sessions that are both relevant and will have great impact on my students in my classroom. Unfortunately, I am not able to attend this year's conference. If you are like me and staying home this weekend, here are three ways to plug into what is happening in Art Education even if you cannot always make it to the conference.

  1. Check out Online Conferences. With the use of Webcams, Screencasts, and Videos, there are several websites that are offering conference experiences for Visual Arts teachers who may not have the funds or flexibility to travel to their State or National Conferences. Websites like The Art of Education (which is offering a Winter Conference featuring a variety of sessions) and The Education Closet (which offers monthly Master Classes that are hosted by Arts teachers on various topics in Arts Education) are making it easier for teachers to catch up on Professional Development without having to leave their homes. A free conference that has resources from a variety of content areas that I have also presented for is the K12 Online Conference. Dating back to 2008, you can search through their videos and catch up on a variety of hot topics in education with several sessions created by Visual Arts teachers from all grade levels. Although this does not replace the time spent face to face with other Arts Educators from across the State, it does offer an alternative for those (like me) who are missing out this year. 
  2. Turn to Social Media. Even if I am not there, I can follow along with my colleagues and friends through their news feeds and capture bits and pieces to be inspired by through the magic of Twitter and Facebook. Although it might seem like you are being a secret stalker, take to your feeds during conference weekends and examine the pictures of demos, projects, and quotes that your friends are sharing. If something piques your interest, then favorite/like it and make note to ask more questions of your friend once they return from the conference. I have already gotten a lot of great ideas from friends in Indiana and New Jersey, whose Art Education Conferences were held earlier this month. Even though I was not there, I was able to share in some of the highlights through interacting with my attendee friends in our Social Media connections.
  3. Plan for Next Year. It may be too late to attend this year's conference, but it is a great time to start planning for next year. In 2014 the conference is going to be in Lansing. Don't wait until the last minute to decide to go; instead, use the year to start saving and planning and getting ready to learn and share next Fall. 
If you are going to the conference, please share your resources below so that others can learn along with you, too! What makes for a great conference and what are some of your favorite MAEA moments of year's past?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

You're it!

Last May I had the opportunity to attend the TEDxGrandRapids Livestream for Education event at Kentwood Fine Arts Auditorium. As we prepare for this school year, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on one particular speaker that has stuck with me throughout that day and over the summer.

The theme for this year's event was "Tag, you're it!" That feeling was all around as we were encouraged to engage in conversation throughout the breaks in the day, participate activities like decorating lunch bags for the Kids Food Basket, or while listening to the speakers illustrate the power of being "it" for someone.

Although I took away great messages from all of the speakers who discussed ideas both big and small, it was Simone Ahuja's story of Mansukh Prajapati that had the most impact on me.

Rather than write about it, I think it is best watched here:

I am sure that there are moments within this that stuck out to you, too. As an art teacher, clay is a media we use for so many things. We use it to make decorative sculptures, molds, functional items... but not until I saw this story of how this material was "reframed" did I see what an impact it could have on a community and change their lives.

As I prepare for the start of school in the next few weeks, I am going to think about this story and how I can reframe my own situation to include innovative and creative solutions that help students find their potential and explore their ideas. I am going to share this story with my students and encourage them to embrace the moment they are tagged to be "it" for somebody.

What are you doing to prepare yourself for the upcoming school year? What pieces of motivation are you bringing with you to help foster learning in your classroom? How are you going to be "it" for your students this school year?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer PD


The Michigan Art Education Association in collaboration with Western Michigan University and Finlandia University invites all Michigan art educators to participate in the Summer 2013 Professional Development Workshops, recognized in 2009 as an NAEA Co-Sponsored Academy.

Running from August 4 - 9, participants can select from seventeen 1, 2, and 3-day workshops with topics that range from studio practices to pedagogical innovations. In addition, we are honored to collaborate with the historic Pewabic Pottery in Detroit, location of a special workshop on once-fired ceramic techniques for the classroom.

Earn SCECHs or graduate credits, or come to simply renew the artist within and share ideas with art teachers from across the state. SCHECs will be awarded at three times the usual rate, so each 10 hour workshop will yield 30 SCECHs that can be applied to certification renewal or professional advancement.

For links to a detailed catalog of workshops, online registration, and lodging information please visit the MAEA homepage:www.miarted.org. For the best deal, take advantage of early-bird registration through July 9.  

For more information, please contact Bill at william.charland@wmich.eduregarding workshops at Western Michigan University, or Melissa atm_hronkin@hotmail.com regarding workshops at Finlandia University.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Make an Impact

MAEA 2013 Elementary Top 15: Gabriella R.
Washington Elementary

In many cases Art is the first on the chopping block when school budgets are tight; it can be easy to fall into the trap of anger over the cuts like the ones that were made in Lansing Public Schools. For many kids, Art is their time to shine and express the things they cannot in any other way. Art is the place where students can apply the learning that happens in other classes and give their learning meaning. And it is not enough to just get a class called Art - Arts-specific teachers are necessary to the development and implementation of Arts instruction that fosters the creativity and development of the whole child. When decisions are made that undermine this, it can be both frustrating and disappointing.

Instead of getting into the same arguments about this, I am going to propose something else. Get involved with the public review of two major Arts education documents that speak to the power of the Arts and give clear pathways to achieving quality programs. 

1. Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment Blueprint Public Review: 

This Blueprint outlines the Gold Standard in programming for Music, Dance, Theatre, and Visual Arts. The document is open for public review until June 30 and you can help shape this document into its best possible vision for the future of Arts education by filling out the survey with your ideas and input to make it better. 

2. National Coalition for Common Arts Standards Public Review: 

The public review for the NCCAS work will be available on June 30th here. You can read an overview of the framework for developing the new standards here.  To get started thinking about the new standards, you can view many informative resources including this Matrix that outlines the Conceptual Framework for Arts Learning.

One way to move forward and build stronger programs is to chart new pathways to get there. How do you think these documents will help Arts programs moving forward?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

One thing... NAEA 2013

I have never been to a National Art Education Association Conference. Now that I have, I can completely understand why people go back year after year, saving up their dollars to try and make it happen. It was a great experience with wonderful presenters, sessions, and workshops and time to speak and learn with teachers from across the country.

Although there is plenty to share from the conference, I am still trying to process through it all. So, instead of giving every last detail I am going to select an image and share the big idea from the presenter/workshop/session. I hope to have time to delve a little deeper into some of the themes I am going to share, but I think this is a good starting point:

Craig Roland, Ian Sands, Tricia Fuglestad, and Elizabeth Delacruz presented on being a part of a PLN (Professional Learning Network) through the use of online tools.Big Take-away: Being Connected allows you the chance to share and learn from anyone at anytime and grow professionally. 
One of the many stations in the Vendor Hall.Big Take-away: There were lots of chances to try out new and interesting materials - Apparently they make such a thing as watercolor  crayons! 
Teachers sharing about the Heart Houses/Haiti Houses projects.
Big Take-away: It is important to connect with teachers from around the country to see how they work with similar or different ideas, materials, and teaching situations.  

Ian Sands and Robert Sandagata's presentation on New Weird Ideas.
Big Take-away: Failure and risk-taking are a part of being creative and making art; do not be afraid to allow your students this opportunity in the pursuit of making something new.

Transfer Printmaking

Learning about monoprinting with Julia Healy.
Big Take-away: Interesting process to create portraits and investigate people's histories within a community.

Jesus Moroles speaks about his work as a sculptor.
Big Take-away: People don't know what they want; it is the job of the artist to show them.

Discussion with Wayne White, artist featured in the documentary "Beauty is Embarrassing".
Big Take-away: Art should flow between media - a sculpture is a drawing, a drawing is a painting, a painting is a puppet, a puppet is a performance - and it is all connected to experiences. 

Michael Reyes with his High School Art Teacher who entered his work that received a National Scholastic Award.
Big Take-away: Art teachers have the power to change people's lives and help them realize the power they have within. 
Brandon Foy spoke about how his National Gold medal from Scholastic changed his life and prepared him for his future as an artist and creative.
Big Take-away: Don't be afraid to work hard and put yourself out there; his viral YouTube video landed him a job with Microsoft in his early 20s.

New Leadership team for the NAEA
Big Take-away: There are a lot of exciting things to look forward with NAEA - including the next conference in San Diego, 2014!

If you have a favorite moment from the 2013 conference, please share below with a link to images/posts/resources. What did you think of the event? What were some of the things you learned and how will they help you back in your classroom?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Flipping Art Education

Flipped instruction is something that has been gaining interest in my district for the last couple of years. Flipped instruction is when you use a combination of online and face-to-face interaction to deliver content. There is a variety of methods to this and rather than re-explain, you can see them here.

One question that comes into play when thinking about Art Education, is how can you flip it? Or maybe better: Why would you want to? Art class is so hands-on, what really can flipping instruction do to benefit instruction in an art room. Here are 3 ways to Flip Art Education:

1. Sub plans: Nothing is worse than trying to prepare Art sub plans. More likely than not, the person coming in to take over has little to no experience using Art materials and the students are probably going to have a hard time figuring out what to do without your guidance. A couple of ways to combat this through the Flip model is recording a video of yourself explaining what needs to happen for the Sub to show students (or if the kids have access to computers, they can watch it at their own pace). That way they can see what you want them to do and the expectation is more clear than a sub trying to decipher your notes. I also tell students to email me when I am out if they hit a snag in a project and I try to talk them through it via email. It makes the students feel in control and me at ease when I am not there.

2. Snow Days: Today was the 5th one in my district. I am not complaining, but it does mean that I have lost a week's worth of instructional time with students. Instead of completely giving up on a lesson or presentation that you were planning to give on a Snow Day, you could create a video recording of it and email it to parents/students to view before returning to class the next day. I try to keep videos like this to ten minutes or less. It never takes the place of me being there in class and not all students will take the time to view it, but it does offer students the opportunity to get prepared for when we return to class the next day. Those students who do view can then take the lead in explaining the process and help others get on track with what we are doing.

3. Differentiate Pacing: What do you do with the student who is always ready to move onto the next assignment? What about students who are gone on vacation or sick? One thing you could offer is the resources for the assignment online. I house all of my projects on our Moodle page and students can check out what we are going to to do next when finishing their current projects. Sometimes I will make videos available that showcase an artist or go through a presentation I or other students have prepared. This allows students to move ahead when they are ready or get caught up if they are behind.

Imagine less time lecturing or presenting about Artists in class and more time for making Art. What might happen when students share their learning with parents by watching those presentations at home? Think of the potential this type of model offers the Art classroom when it is employed effectively. There are many tools you can use to create screen castings or videos. Two I frequent are Camtasia Relay by TechSmith and Quicktime on the Mac.

If you are interested in learning more about this type of instructional model and would like a chance to talk technology with other forward-thinking teachers, check out the upcoming PD at the GRAM this Saturday - it is only $5 for MAEA members. If you have used this type of instruction in your classroom, what are some tips or tricks you can offer others? If you have not, do you think you will? What are some potential issues that you see from using this strategy?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Transforming Minds

Happy New Year! Even though I say I am not going to, it seems like every year I get sucked into some type of resolution. I start out with good intentions and usually somewhere around March realize I had gotten off track.

A couple of years ago, I started my class blog  as a New Year's goal. It has been my most successful New Year's venture to date. I find the documenting of student growth and work to be a great reflective tool for myself and something my students enjoy as well. That is why I was excited to spend my first Saturday of the year with Art teachers in Oakland Schools, talking about technology, assessment, and how they can work together in the Visual Arts classroom to meet a variety of needs.

Claudia Burns also presented at the Transforming Minds conference on the topic of assessment. Her helpful resources will soon be available on the MAEA website.
Claudia Burns presented at the January 5th conference in Oakland on the topic of Assessment.

As we move into 2013, the topic of assessment is going to be more and more prevalent. We have to figure out how we are going to document student growth that will be put towards our evaluations. Claudia has really helped get the conversation going, by providing examples of assessment tools and sample assessments that could be used in the classroom. I hope to add to the conversation by providing examples of how the use of technology can aide in our effort with documenting student growth through my collaboration on this blog and others.

In addition to blogging, I also document the efforts in my classroom through Artsonia. This online gallery offers teachers a place to house digital images of student work over the course of their schooling career. Imagine being able to have students go back after years and reflect on their progress in various aspects of art making. I also use Google Forms and Moodle to create tests that help me quickly assess student knowledge, without having to spend time manually grading them. If you are interested in learning about any of these tools, you can find me at the January 19th Flip Teaching Conference at Byron Center High School. The event is free and lunch is provided - what more can I say!

If you are interested in helping shape the future of Assessments in the Arts in Michigan, you can apply to participate in the Michigan's Model Arts Education Instruction and Assessment Project. The deadline for application is January 21st.

What are some ways you are using assessment to document student growth. What are some tools available that help you show student growth?