Stock© Nik Macmillan, Some Rights Reserved, Unsplash

Today was my cooperating teacher’s father’s funeral, so I substituted for her again. Thankfully, today was an expected absence for my cooperating teacher so everything was planned out and operated smoothly. I don’t feel like I had any major issues today and am pretty proud of my performance.

It’s always just the Art I classes that I have to worry about. In AP Art, there are only four students to account for and because they are Advanced Placement, there is little instruction and a great deal of freedom. They’re able to create whatever they’d like in whatever medium they’d like and my cooperating teacher doesn’t really do much with the students. She gives them a theme to follow, tells them to create a piece of art within that theme, writes a deadline on the board, and lets them have at it. Because of this, this class period feels more like a conference period to me than an actual class. In Painting III/IV, it’s very similar. These students are also mature and advanced, so again, they’re allowed a lot of freedom, given little parameters, and don’t receive much, if any, instruction. This is another class that feels more like a conference period to me than an actual class. There is one more class, other than Art I, and that’s Painting II. While this class doesn’t feel like a conference period, it certainly doesn’t require as much attention and management as Art I. The students are much more well-behaved and are also given more responsibilities. It’s really just the Art I classes during 2nd, 3rd, and 5th periods that I need to devote a lot of my energy in order to manage.

For some reason, the Art I classes were not as difficult to handle today as they have been all week. The students were less rowdy, less noisy, and overall easier to manage. Without my cooperating teacher here, it’s odd to me as it was only myself managing them, yet it seemed easier. I’m just thankful that I felt like I retained control today and that the students made a good deal of progress with their work.

I began each Art I class with an in-depth agenda of the day and a simple demonstration on printmaking safety. I felt I delivered the information efficiently as I asked students what was due today, how to staple their evaluations to their artworks, and where to turn their artworks in. I repeated the criteria for the linoleum assignment and questioned the students on the purpose of a bench hook, how many sizes of linoleum cutters there are, and which are the biggest and smallest sizes. I asked several questions and made sure the class knew what was expected of them that day. I was also surprised to find that the Art I classes behaved better than they have all week. They were mostly working throughout the period and were much easier to handle. I felt that many students, even problem students, completed a lot of work today. I really feel proud of what the students and I accomplished today.

The last class period, Painting II, was the best, though, as it made me just love being a teacher. The students were continuing their abstract watercolor self-portraits, so it was just a workday, but I felt that I got through to a lot of students.

You may remember me talking about one student in particular who has not done anything since I’ve been Student Teaching here and whom the teacher seems to ignore. She does not expect anything from him and jokes about the fact that he doesn’t complete any work. I spoke to my university supervisor about this student in particular and how to reach him and she suggested that I just sit down with him and start showing him how to paint. I took her advice and started speaking with him. I asked where he was with the project and he said that he hadn’t started. I asked where his photograph was and he said that he didn’t have anything to take a photograph with. I offered him the classroom camera but he didn’t seem interested in taking any photographs. I gave him many, many different options of getting a picture of himself, but he didn’t take to any of them. I gave him some time to think and came back to him a few minutes later. I asked him why he was so unmotivated and he told me that he has given up on art because he never makes anything he likes.

“How about you just start painting?” I offered. “I know the assignment is to paint a face, but why don’t you just start painting? Don’t try to paint anything in particular, just play with the watercolor, see what you can do and don’t worry about what it looks like at the end.”

“Yeah, I could do that,” he said.

I was stunned! He was actually going to do something!

I offered him some watercolor paper and told him where the brushes and paints were. I was completely shocked when he took the paper from me and retrieved a brush, some paints, and a cup of water. He returned to his desk and actually started painting. This is a major breakthrough! I let him be and checked on another difficult student in the class.

This student is incredibly discouraged in his abilities and is always too afraid to start his artworks. He’ll redo them or just give up. It’s hard to get him to work. I find that I have to really help him out and encourage him to keep working. Today, I found that he was staring at his blank watercolor paper. He had traced his self portrait onto the paper, but he had no paint on the paper despite him grabbing the paints and paintbrushes about 10 minutes previously. When I asked him why he hadn’t started, he started explaining that he was too afraid to start, he didn’t want to mess it up, and that he wanted to like what he was going to paint. I had to keep encouraging him to let go of these feelings and just start painting. Watercolor is very loose and its easy to let it do its own thing. This assignment in particular allows the students to use a messy technique. They can include drips, drabs, blobs, splatters, and many colors. I sat down with this student and walked him through starting his painting. He seemed to really enjoy my help and benefited from my aid. I helped him learn how to control the watercolor and every time he exclaimed, “Oh no! I messed up! It’s ruined now,” I would walk him through how to change it or explain that it wasn’t a bad thing. After I felt like he was comfortable, I gave him some space and helped other students.

When I checked back on the student who never completes anything, I was amazed to find that he was painting a flower shape. When I talked to him, he said that he was actually enjoying painting and that he liked how his painting was turning out. I was so excited and just encouraged him to keep working. I gave him some tips to add some contrast or to pull some of the colors into other parts of the page. He was eager to try my suggestions and keep working.

There was another student who was also not working and I had to keep egging him to get out his artwork. Once he pulled it out, he was painting throughout the entirety of the class, as well. All of the students seemed to need my help at some point and many of them were afraid of starting or didn’t know how to continue. They all seemed to benefit from my assistance. This class just made me feel so awesome. This is one of the best feelings I’ve felt as I feel like I helped so many people. I feel like I broke through to some students and really made them want to paint. I hope that I can keep doing this. If I can be a successful instructor and inspire people to learn and grow, that will be the best. This is what I want to do. This is why I want to be a teacher.


1 reply
  1. EK
    EK says:

    “Grading color wheels is no fun!”
    Grading anything is no fun if the students do not know the rubric BEFORE they start and WHILE they are working, because they don’t have a chance to meet expectations.

    “Because I was unable to keep the students managed when my teacher asked me to, she had to pull herself away from the Special Needs group to yell at them.”
    And why should they bother to behave? Obviously there were not rules and consequences – until the consequence of the coach managing the students. I think I would have had a quiet talk with them about similarities in art and sports – the need for practice and self-discipline. I might have told them I would check with their coach to see if they were on task and working hard in sports and, if so, I would expect them to do the same for me because I could not help them learn to do something they were not sure they could do if they would not cooperate. They might not respond, but always, having a clear rubric, helping students find a way to make their work personally interesting to them – and helping them make their work look better with your suggestions, helps minimize off task behavior (most days anyway).

    “How do you accommodate for Special Needs students who complete their assignments so quickly?”
    Like I said when you folks were writing plans for my classes, always have extra activities for those who finish early. But criteria can help keep many special needs students working a little longer and more carefully. Also, having activities that involve choice and decisions and problem solving on their level is important. I have seen that 4th grade level plans often interest them and allow them success.

    “I fear that there may be injuries with the linoleum as it is harder to cut and more difficult to work with.”
    If you can supervise having an iron set up in the room, heated linoleum is much easier to carve.

    “because their hands were directly in front of the blades”
    Tell them my first year teaching experience – A student almost cut all the way through her hand. It took 42 stitches to close the cut.
    Don’t touch their blood. Get them to hold clean paper towels against it and apply pressure.

    “I can’t imagine not wanting my artwork.”
    It had no worth for them. It was what the teacher wanted. When you can let them incorporate things they want, and coach them to make it look the best possible, they are more likely to keep the work. Very few of my students ever left their work and, in 21 years, I never saw anyone throw work away. But you have high school kids and mine were only 1 – 8th grade.

    “Another thing that upset me was the fact that some students were unhappy with the grades that they received and some even addressed me about it again. You can’t make a rubric after the students have completed the work.”
    Right!! RUBRIC BEFORE and while they work – just like you keep saying – then evaluate their work with them prior to letting them turn it in.

    “There is a lot of artwork sitting in the bottom of that trash can right now.”
    Some teachers keep a recycle bin for unwanted art work and it gets torn up for collage projects. Like you, I would rather not have any discarded. If students are proud of what they did, regardless of the grade, they will keep it.

    “because they are AP and advanced there is little instruction and a great deal of freedom.”
    I have heard studio profs gripe about this practice. If it AP art, they feel the students should be doing college level assignments, not whatever they want. What constitutes AP art seems to be at the whim of the high school art teacher. UT offers a class on AP art history in the summer for teachers to try to get some uniformity there.

    “It is really just the Art I classes”
    and art I classes are usually all rookie teachers get if there is more than one teacher in the school.

    “I am just thankful that I felt like I retained control today and that the students made a good deal of progress with their work. nd made sure the class knew what was expected of them that day”
    Behavior definitely is intertwined with knowing what is expected and pride in work.

    “When I asked him why he hadn’t started, he started explaining that he was too afraid to start, he didn’t want to mess it up,”
    I would have let him (and all students) trace the drawing using tracing paper so he would be assured that it would be easy to do several versions, one of which was bound to be acceptable to him. I also would have assured him that we learn new things by getting mistakes out of the way first and that there was plenty of paper for him to try to apply what he learned and try again. I also would have told him not to destroy any of his “mess ups” because often they looked great when worked over with oil pastels, sharpie or acrylics.

    You have good teacher instincts.


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