Trying something new.

12 10 2015

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This is the year to stick my neck out a bit more and to challenge my artists and myself to strive for a clearer voice.  With the new choice based studio launched and a few months under my belt managing the new system it is time to evaluate the progress.  It is grading time and I have been reading my students evaluations and reviewing the documentation on blendspace links.  It has been an eye opener for me to see what my students want to express.  This week we will host what I hope will be a new series of artist talks on campus.  I am calling it Arts Reveal Night and it is happening this Thursday featuring six talented and creative artists.  All of them have a range of experiences and points of view.  Some of the students have been with me for four years and one for only a few months.  It will be interesting to see how they choose to express themselves and discuss their own artistic journey.

Art Reveal Night invite  copy

I had three of the students over on Sunday to bake cookies to serve at our event.  We made shortbread cookies drizzled with chocolate, caramel, and lemon flavored glaze.  We cut the cookies into shapes for the Fall season including leaves, acorns, and pumpkins.  I am also the Culinary Arts advisor so having baking be a part of the event is not a huge stretch for me and it served as a great bonding experience for me and for the artists.  The house smelled amazing and the cookies are works of art.  Of course a few broke so we had to taste them and they are very tasty.  One of my artists is learning how to throw on the wheel so she will be serving tea with her tea bowls.  We have two teapots to finish up before Thursday but we think it will all get done.  The evening will be a mix of students adding their talents to make the evening a success.  I have bright and talented Broadcast students who will be recording and producing the art talk.

The bottom line is we are stepping out and striving to expand and that is the most important part of the evening.  I can say I am a little nervous but that’s always a good thing.  I will post images and the link to the Arts Reveal Night when it is all completed.

Choice Based Studio Copy

Grading…grrrr.  It is a necessary element of the teacher’s life but not a favorite.  I am navigating between my spreadsheets and the individual students blendspace links to get a complete reflection of the process to then write a written evaluation for the artist to review.  It is a time consuming process but I learn a lot from the process. Including what I can do to support my artist’s experiences and how I can challenge them further down the line.

There has been a lot of discussion about the students who struggle with the open studio format vs. the teacher directed studio.  I have experienced similar behaviors from a few of my students too.  I have students who are frozen as to what to do.  I provide a variety of online exemplars and resources but some students still need a nudge to get started.  It is not many but they do exist and as the educator you need to decide what will work best for each student to get them moving.  I have paired some students together to work side by side to motivate them, I have set up a specific challenge for the artist to tackle with materials they already feel comfortable work with, and I have helped them select media or themes to branch off past successes from the studio experiences.  It is not an easy task if you are striving not to be so directive.  I still feel at times that I need to get in there and just propose a project but I am pulling back and letting the student struggle, think, play, and experiment without too much pressure.  The amount of time you let each student stay in this cycle is hard to measure.  At times, I feel the student is not focused enough and needs a push and other times, I feel I need to let it follow a natural pace.

It often feels like a crazy fast paced space that could benefit from a second art instructor and other times it is an easy beautiful flow of artistic movement.  No two classes are the same and day-to-day it changes.

Anna F landscape

I have been following discussions on Twitter and on the Art Teachers forum about TAB and choice based studios.  I have also been reading the different ideas and philosophies from a variety of educators from a wide range of experiences.  I feel for the educators who feel pressured or in a “free fall” of how to understand or process the information out there.  It would be so confusing to me too if I wasn’t in the middle of it and had years of experience.  I caution anyone not to adopt a program or system that someone else has designed.  I feel you need to know what are your own strengths and what is your community culture.  Don’t feel you need to flip the whole show and jump in.  It’s okay to wade in and sample bits and pieces.  I think most of you will know what was successful and maybe you will be able to build a better program from what you experience.  I don’t like it when too many labels or others judge when they don’t have a full grasp of a particular art teacher’s environment.  I believe we are striving to serve of field of art education the best we can and it takes time to navigate through it all.  So take stock in what you are doing well and push into new directions but don’t do it all in one big step.  YOU need to feel confident and your confidence will carry your studio to where you would like it to be as an art educator.

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