The Opening Matters

20 08 2017


We all want to start on the right foot.  We want our students to feel confident in enrolling in the art course, the students want to know they can be successful and gain new skills.  In a Choice/TAB studio class it is important that students grasp what is student agency.  What is required of them to be successful in the studio?  I started this past week with a collaboration project and also an icebreaker piece.  I build in assessment tools for me to gauge what the confidence level, skill set, and interest is in the course.  I believe in launching into using all the terminology and techniques needed to establish the expectations for the work. For some of my students, I might as well be speaking a different language, but I assure my students they will pick up the information quickly.


Here are my goals for the first week of class:

#1 Create a safe environment and work on a collaboration to help set the tone and share procedures.

#2 Set the expectations about original works and how to achieve independence and skill building evidence.

#3 How to document and research effectively for success.

#4 What is success in a Choice Based Studio? How are you assessed?

#5 Know the WHY in creating.

I am in the middle of setting the standard for creating original works and how to document progress, plus demonstrate skill building.  We are still using to document and I am requiring more written reflections within the portfolio documentation.  Artist Proposals with Artistic Targets will help the artists set goals for the concepts they choose to create and Themes will also guide the concept shape.  I created student based assessments to help each artist decide to what degree they would like to develop their levels of content on the Sway link.  I am striving to support my student artists to be as independent in their process as possible so I can spend my time scaffolding their learning to level up their skills.

IMG_1624I have curated content on my student learning management platform to support the development of each project. Because my courses have multi-level students, in the studio at the same time, I also utilize studio mentors.  I find this to be very empowering for everyone.  It is exciting to see students engage in helping others achieve an individual voice in their art work.  We are off to a solid foundation and I cannot wait to share what we are creating.

This week we are dedicating student works for our school permanent collection with a wonderful reception.  I’m excited we are beginning to collect works from our talented artists for the history of our school.  This year we are going to make a call out to alumni artists to participate in an art show in the winter.  The school will then select a few for purchase to add to our school art collection.  Hoping to capture a few current works from our talented alumni.

Good luck on your start of the school year.  Enjoy the eclipse!



Spring Time Fun

14 04 2017


I really love seeing all the evolutions by students create from the choices they make in the art studio.  Offering choice through themes and artistic targets allows my students the opportunity to select areas of interest, materials to explore, and levels of inquiry.  I have witnessed students repeating the motif, materials, or theme to dig deeper and improve skills.  When the lesson was teacher directed, my students did very little connected thinking from one piece to the other, and often didn’t get another opportunity to explore the media a second time.  Now, I have students perfecting designs, experimenting, and pushing all kinds of possibilities.


I’m loving how independently my students find their supplies and move forward on their art work.  My students ask very good questions about the work such as “why are you doing that?, “why are you using that?”, “what does this mean?”.  My students expect the artist to know why you are creating, what is the purpose, and is it original.

I am excited about the possibilities of seeing my youngest students evolve within the choice based art program.  I have seen an increase in application of their knowledge that they researched to achieve goals they set for themselves to complete an artistic target.  In one semester the growth in student independence and initiative has grown.  The confidence to speak to the class about their ideas and possible creative solutions is gaining strength.  I’ve noticed an ease in which my students now preform tasks in the studio that required so much direction and set up; to a simple rhythm in the space.  In other academic areas my colleagues have noticed the cross-over and blending of our curricular areas merging them closer together.  This merger is being promoted not by me but my students.  My students are experiencing, seeing, and talking about the connections.  The importance in offering choice and self-directed learning is beginning to take hold.

Ben Triggered

The school year is quickly coming to a close and it will be time to celebrate all of our accomplishments.  We have done very well this year, claiming many awards, scholarships, and accolades.  I am most content in seeing my students happily working independently, caught up in deep thought, and working through a task they designed.  I love that several of my students have embraced an entrepreneural spirit, when thinking about their art.  They have taken to setting up websites and controlling their own social media brand showcasing their style of art.  I could not be more excited for the possibilities of this new found digital platform control, mixed with an ambition, expressing their voice, sharing their ideas/passions,  balanced with a creative drive…..there is not stopping them.  Art can change the world to be so much better.

I believe it.

Top State Art Awards and the Highs and Lows of an Art Teacher

2 03 2014


It’s been a busy couple of weeks and they will only get more intense as results of juried art contests, scholarship awards, and exhibitions begin.  My art program at my current school is starting to catch air under itself.  I work very hard and dedicate a lot of time alongside my dedicated art students.  I have modeled what it takes to be successful as an artist and my students are exceeding most of my expectations.  Yes- there are a few who could work more but they are who they are and … I will keep working on them and not give up but I choose to focus on my achievers.  So my motto is “Get on board!!!  This ship is moving forward and you have a seat but you need to take it, it’s not reserved seating, and it may get taken by someone else if you don’t occupy it now! ” 

I take pride that my art classes don’t just encompass the gifted but all students with all kinds of skills and interests.  My demographic is pretty even for boys and girls, athletes and scholars, and I like it that way.  Art should be available for everyone to try it on and see where it will take them.

Recently, a series of seniors have been praising what the visual arts program has done for them in front of the whole middle school and high school.  They all mentioned how it is hard to be an artist but well worth all the time and effort with failures and successes.  One student in particular mentioned her experience with me in my studio for five years.  She was placed in my class as an eighth grader and has never left.  I was touched by her description of who I am and about what I have done for her.  I didn’t realize how much of myself I revealed to them. 

 NO- not anything crazy but she picked up on my kindness and support I give to students when they are struggling to be a teenager, to all the charity work I do, and a few quirks that she finds engaging.  I just do these things and I don’t really think about how much my students see or think about what I am doing.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because she is an artist and has keen observational skills but for some reason it surprised me.   She mentioned my work as an art advocate, my work with local charities, and my global efforts to help Haiti.  She stated that observing this has helped her see artists can and do make a difference.  It helped her decide to NOT listen to people who tried to discourage her from going to art school.  I nearly melted into a puddle of mush as she spoke about how she learns differently and it’s okay because she is an artist and can see and perceive the world differently.   I felt my heart skip a beat when she so proudly shared her path to become a secure young lady through the arts. Her success in the art studio helped her become more successful in other classes.   It was one of the very best speeches for the purpose of art education and what we do as art educators.  We do so much more for young people; more than teach our students to create wonderful art pieces- We create strong, healthy, positive, curious, creative people.


This year has been full of positive energy, honors, awards, but also challenges.  Most recently, I have felt that I need to pull out my art advocacy file and defend the Fine Arts program.  It is truly scary to think there are people who cannot see the value in a Fine Arts education.  I know it looks like we have lots of fun and it may even appear easy but I assure you it is not.  If it looks easy it’s because there is a heck of a lot of work upfront to support success.  I wish someone would wear my shoes for one week….be me!!! See how you handle all the different challenges that we as art teachers deal with all day.  I don’t sit in one spot and I do not have a correct answer to offer to satisfy my student’s questions.  I do offer more questions to propel discovery, I support self-discovery, I assist them to collaborate, try and try again, I help my students reflect, and learn.  I also ask them to show what they learn so everyone can see what they have struggled to create, question, think, and solve.  

This has been a strange couple of weeks where I should have been at my highest high, but found myself going into defensive mode instead.  It’s sad when the joy you deserve is tainted by someone else.  I am looking forward to the National Art Convention so I may steep myself in positive energy with other artist/art educators who understands the struggle.   Until then…. I will be in my studio matting all the latest art pieces who have landed in the top places in the state.  



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