How to fit in.

2 06 2018

Interesting thoughts have been churning in my mind.  I’ve been reflecting on how many years I have been teaching and how much has changed in education.  I find myself thinking less about my career as a single subject and much more about educating and exploring individual growth of my students beyond a single subject.

As an educator approaching almost 30 years of teaching, I see my role much differently than I ever did in the past.  I’m wondering why I am feeling this way.  Is it that I am a Choice Art educator, my own multiple interests in learning, or my desire to expand?  Then I am left with questions of: How do I expand? What would this look like?  Is it possible?  In what way does this fit with my current position?  Can I push this into an actual idea? 

I do have many ideas on how it can be possible but to get the current structures of a school schedule to adapt to my ideas is very challenging.

I’m very interested in expanding into curricular areas that merge with arts in a real way.  I envision a large lab setting with outside access to nature like a field, trees, garden, and water.  I envision an outdoor class shelter with equipment available to construct, plant, and build. The educators and the students create criteria based on benchmarks that need to be met for graduation.  Students then turn to their imagination as to how to demonstrate and make their learning visible.  I see real life problems being solved and movements being carried forward; lead with student voice and choice.  I see corporations and organizations supporting and helping to elevate the students’ ideas into reality. 

I know it will be hard work but I can see my students intrinsically motivated to perform the work and that extends beyond the class period. I can envision students collaborating and creating solutions and designs to propel further good works. 

Great ideas are not created while sitting still.  Ideas percolate over time and arrive while actively creating or doing something.  Some of the best ideas happen while doing things like gardening, showering, walking, and playing.  Why can’t we accelerate that by providing larger amounts of time to focus on a concept and fiddle around with it?  Offer up a couple of educators to guide the process and support the ideas by providing experts on the subject.

Will students be more engaged and confident in striving to do the research, proof out ideas, fail and try again, apply divergent thinking, and learn how to communicate the ideas?  I believe the answer is YES. 

Does this mean we need to let go to traditional classroom physical walls and schedules?  YES.

Do educators need to pair up and organically work with each other and the community to bridge the unknown?  YES.

Do stakeholders in the school community need to find pathways to help support the learning experiences for the students?  YES.

Raising and educating young people isn’t the task of the school system alone.  We are to work as a community of parents, leaders in the area, and exceptional educators.  We need to all take an interest in what is working in the system to inspire young people.  What education looked like when their parents attended school is not how we should be doing education now.  Our schools should be one of the most vibrant hubs in the community where everyone wants to be a part of and everyone knows what is happening. Communities need to go to school functions hosted by our young people and hear, observe, and learn.  We need to do our best for the most important resource we have and that is our young people.

I have witnessed and experienced the power and enthusiasm of young people.  Our current world events have forced our young people to be more active in the world and they can do it.

I want to be a part of this kind of learning and doing.  I am much more interested finding inventive ways of creating this type of system.  I believe this is how I should be spending the rest of my career.  Now.  How do I make it happen?



Busy times…

13 11 2017

Arts Reveal Night 2017smWow!

I have been so busy and I just wrapped up on the Arkansas State Art Conference.  I presented two sessions, I assembled three sessions which included ChoiceArt educators meeting up to greet each other, offer grade division specific sessions, and to get the ChoiceArt educators signed up for a shared folder for content.  I also presented on Design Thinking on a topic that I feel many art teachers found direct application for their classrooms from the session experience.

Getting back to my life at home, I took time to make a few magnolia leaf wreaths and bake some sour dough bread from a starter.  This always relaxes me and I need it because I will be hosting a NAEA webinar on the ChoiceArt Studio.  I am very excited to present and show how teaching Choice can be implemented in a classroom.   On my school agenda; I am hosting a recycle fashion workshop, a parent coffee about the Visual Arts program, and launching into our next Arts Reveal Night.  Presenting is important for so many reasons.

Just as attending conferences for our own development and learning so is presenting.  During my presentation at the AR conference, I stressed the importance in sharing and presenting what and how we do our practice.  I know it is more work and it is scary but we need to move past this if we want to get better.  We can only become better at what we do by sharing how we do it and reaching out to each other.  Art educators are notorious at being extraverts when it is necessary but then retreating to our safe spaces when we can.  I do this all the time.

I am perfectly comfortable with my students and working with them brings me so much joy.  I am not the most comfortable in front of a large group, writing and publishing my thoughts, and basically always pushing out my thoughts.  I am a very cerebral person and I process my ideas for some time until I am comfortable with it before letting it out.  I am getting better at it and I keep pushing on through it.

I make my students present for this same reason.  You know yourself better and why you do what you do, when you have to tell someone about it.  Artists do love to share their accomplishments with like-minded people.  Standing in front of a crowd and explaining your ideas or process is much harder.  But I want my students to do it because it will make them stronger and much more confident.  I know this because it has worked for me.  I believe in modeling what I ask my students to do and then supporting them to do it to.

I was sitting next to Dennis Inhulsen an accomplished art educator and school principal and now, the NAEA Chief Learning Officer. At the conference luncheon, we chatted about the Arts Standards that he helped to write.  He admitted that he was never a great writer but he got better by being put in the position to have to do it.    Now, he represents the NAEA all around the country and presents to educators the importance of the Art Standards.  Presenting is one of the new standards that is emphasized in my studio.  I also balance presenting with writing/reflecting on the process.  It is essential for student growth and confidence.

I walked away from my sessions and I hoped that I clearly expressed the importance of connecting with other art educators and sharing what they are doing in their own teaching practice.  I feel my role as the Co-President of the ChoiceArt Interest Group is to encourage individual voices to gain volume and confidence.  It’s not my own voice that always needs to come forward.  I want other educators who are working through how to teach with offering more Choice to their students to share.  The teaching theory of ChoiceArt embraces individuality and voices.  We help our students find their passion and elevate their voice….We need to do it for ourselves too.

Join an organization, sign-up for an interest group, write a blog, participate in a forum, post content you created and share it….just do it!

Please join the NAEA Webinar on November 15 @7-8PM EST when Nikki Kalcevic and I present Teaching the Visual Arts Through Choice. NAEA Virtual Art Educators WebinarScreen Shot 2017-11-12 at 8.24.29 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-11-12 at 8.24.17 PM.png


Fall Season Has Arrived

15 10 2017


The first quarter has already flown by and I am measuring how all of my courses are functioning and developing.  This semester, I am teaching full choice tri-level drawing, painting, mixed media, convergent technology, and a AP Studio Art course.

Jessica H. stormy sea

I am a very reflective educator and I routinely look at my student’s art work and written reflections.  I feel I have delivered on the “how” and “what” for my students to be successful at managing the student lead learning.  The routine is established and the push to grow is evident in the research and progress documentation my students create.

 I am constantly sharing new artists with my students to help them open their minds and to challenge them to think deeper about their choices.  There are days I want to capture all of my students for a much longer time.  Time seems to evaporate too quickly when we are in the studio.

Seriously, I want to bleed one hour into another to keep the flow going.  The disruptions of fire drills, field trips, and testing has impacted these past two weeks and I feel the momentum slipping away.   Thankfully, I have established the Sway documentation and research links so we can quickly get reacquainted with our focus and dive back into our thoughts.

Caroline H. Rock View

I am so proud of the growth and confidence my students have already gained and demonstrated in class.  In our Convergent Technology class we hosted our first viewing of our collaborative stop animation for a critique.  Since we had a captivated audience, we also pitched a few of our independent film ideas to get some advice.  We appreciate the critics comments and it will only make us better.

One very important aspect of a Choice Art is to make sure students are individually growing and developing.  This can be one of the most important pieces of a successful program for student artists.  First, students need to be able to develop a sense of what they want to target to improve and also have a concept of a direction/voice they want to establish and communicate.

I received a comment from a parent who is new to our school, she said that I manage my class so differently and I focus on the intent of the work so much more than any art teacher before.  Her child appreciates the thoughtful approach I instill in the purpose of creating art.   That is a win in my book.

I’m preparing for our State Conference and getting our Choice Art/TAB teachers all together.  I hope we will all be able to connect and start sharing strategies to help us be more successful in offering a quality choice art programs. I’m also presenting Design Thinking at the conference with a focus to solve a problem many of us deal with every school year.

 I’m so looking forward to Nationals in Seattle.  It will be a beautiful area and our Choice Art Interest Group is HUGE!  I cannot wait to attend as many of the sessions that I can get to; so I can glean new methods to adapt for my studio.

Ryan W stain glass

Heading into second quarter and striving to push the limits.

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.

My Summer Professional Development- Self Imposed!

30 06 2013

ImageYes- I purchased REAL Books and I am reading them in between fishing trips, gardening, teaching fashion illustration classes, baking, cooking, painting furniture, and helping the local animal shelter.  My summers are about redoing lessons, finding inspiration, and fueling my passions.


I have four books read already and each one has been helpful in my quest to create Project Based Lessons.  I have to say Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess was my last book to pick up. I am so glad I did.  This book reads like how I think and how my mind creates new lessons.  I am creating ideas while I am doing all the above activities.  Truthfully, my mind never really stops striving to do a better job.  My motivation is an internal drive for self satisfaction not for praise, $, or recognition.  I do it because I do feel dedicated to the groups of students who are in my studio.  I love what I do:  writing/designing lessons, thinking of projects, and creating examples for lessons.  What I do isn’t really work.

One of my favorite parts of the book written by Dave Burgess is when I read the chapter on Passion.  I am a passionate teacher, artist, mother, wife, and art advocate. I cannot separate them.  I then read the next chapter about Immersion and I recognized me.  I am often hard to find in my studio because I am right along side my students. I’m into it!  You can find me dancing, singing, playing, laughing, and learning with my students.  I want them to love what they are doing as much as I do.  Yes- my students think I am “crazy” but they keep coming back!

I love the quote- “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


The list of ideas to craft a lesson was excellent.  I do several on the list but now I am striving to support the ideas more and achieve a few on the list I have not tried.   I have a list of ideas already created and a few lessons to start the year right.


If you are feeling like you need a boost I would assign yourself some good books to help ignite your passion.  Here is the list of books I read so far:

  •  The Passion-Driven Classroom- Maiers and Sandvold
  •  Catching Up or Leading the Way- Zhao
  •  What Great Teachers Do Differently-Whitaker
  •  Teach Like a Pirate- Burgess


Here is a link to another blogger who has identified a few more books to help inspire you too.  Check it out.  


ARRGGGG!  Feeling Like a Pirate Already!

%d bloggers like this: