Today was a pretty tiring day. Both my cooperating teacher and I felt exhausted by the end of the day and felt ready for the weekend. At least we’ve got a four-day weekend after tomorrow!
Our weekend won’t be quite a four-day weekend however, as V.A.S.E., the Visual Arts Scholastic Event, is this Saturday at San Marcos High School. I’ll be working the event from 7:30am until the end of the day, so it will still feel like I worked five days this week. I’m excited for the event, however, as I’ll now be witnessing it as a teacher instead of a student. We have two students from our AP Art class entering the art competition, so I’ll be there to show my support. I am quite surprised, however, at how lax my cooperating teacher and the students seem to be about V.A.S.E. My teacher keeps asking the students if they are prepared for V.A.S.E. and they keep saying that they aren’t. They haven’t filled out their forms, matted their pieces, or figured out transportation plans. My teacher has told the students that they are on their own when it comes to matting their pieces. This was different from when I was in high school and my teacher mounted all of my pieces for me. I do think that the students should mount the pieces to get the experience, but I’m not sure how they’re going to if my teacher won’t help them. She has stated that she doesn’t know how to mount pieces, herself. I was also surprised at how unkowledgeable about the forms my teacher was. Twice she told one student that she had given her the wrong forms to tape to the back of her artwork and had to give her new ones. V.A.S.E. is a large art competition, so I’m surprised it doesn’t seem to be taken as such with this teacher.
When I was in high school, my teacher made a big deal out of art competitions and encouraged many of her students to enter. She excused students who were entering V.A.S.E. from assignments so that they could work on their V.A.S.E. submissions during class, would mount their artworks for them, be on top of the paperwork, and make sure that students understood that it was a big event. She even required students to complete submissions for other contests, such as the Battle of the Flowers art competition, though it was the students’ choice whether or not to actually enter their drawing to the competition. I feel that because of this encouragement, I really grew as an artist and it may even be the reason why I’m an art major and want to be an art educator today. I had originally planned on being an English education major, preparing to teach English, but because of the positive art experience I had at my third and final high school, I changed my mind. All of my V.A.S.E. works received perfect scores, I placed at the State V.A.S.E. level, I placed every time I entered the Battle of the Flowers competition, and was even featured on the news for my achievements. These were all major boosts to my confidence in my artwork and showed me that art is a professional option. I feel that the AP Students that I’m Student Teaching with might be missing these opportunities or not realizing what they could achieve. I heard one AP Student lamenting that all of the artwork at V.A.S.E. is phenomenal and she never advances to State. My cooperating teacher agreed with her and stated that she’s never had a student advance to State. Perhaps with more effort and attention put into the competition, her students could be more successful. I’m excited to see what I witness this weekend.
I’m sure that the rest of the day was exhausting because the Art I classes were continuing their prints and many more students started printing. Some students are still carving their linoleum plates and there’s even a few students who are still drawing their concepts for the prints, but several students have now finished carving and are working on printing. Again, the students are using my cooperating teacher’s unusual method for printing which requires a great deal of space and materials. I find it difficult to manage as the students fling around several materials, look for hidden materials, and try to find a good amount of space to work with. It can be difficult to wrangle these students and still assist students who need help with carving. We also had several more cuts, today, some from students who had downright defied using the safe methods to cut because they felt they knew what they were doing.
During the Painting IV and Painting II classes was when I felt lifted. Today, I decided to propose several ideas to the two classes about what lesson plans they would like me to write for them. Today my cooperating teacher told the Painting IV class that although they had until next Friday to complete the current assignment, it was now due tomorrow. The class was split as some students cheered and other students were shocked. Because the class seemed disinterested in the assignment and several students hadn’t even started working on the assignment, my teacher decided to end it early and allow me to take over with a new lesson plan on Tuesday. She said that she would simply take a participation grade on this assignment and encouraged students to finish the assignment on their own time if they desired. I’m not sure if I agree with my teacher’s decision because I feel that it rewarded the students who haven’t been working on anything since the assignment has been given and really put stress on the students who have been working on it. One girl in particular was very upset about losing a week to work on her painting as she’s been working hard at it each day.
She then turned the class to me and I proposed my ideas. I wrote a list of ideas I had on the board and introduced each one to the class. I explained that I wanted them to guide the next assignment. I wanted to teach them something that they wanted to learn and I wanted them to paint something that they actually wanted to paint. We didn’t want another failure on our hands. The students were incredibly excited by this and were very interactive with the discussion. I asked for input and suggestions and gave my own insight. One student then asked for examples, so I put up images of my own artwork from the Internet that illustrated some of the ideas I had. The students loved seeing my own artwork and really enjoyed the examples as I talked about each one. I was excited to finally see the students interested as they haven’t been interested in the class assignments since I’ve been here. I took a vote on what the class would like to do and they decided on illustrating a pet with a style I offered. I had proposed the idea of drawing a squiggle through an image and coloring the image normally on one side of the squiggle and using the complimentary colors on the other side of the squiggle. The class fell in love with the idea and was excited to start the lesson. One student, however, asked if we could have a choice of complimentary colors or achromatic on the other side of the squiggle, and I agreed. I am excited for this next lesson and hope that the excitement continues. I was really pleased with the outcome of this discussion.
For the Painting II class, I did the same thing, but the choices were much more limited. I offered four different options, talked about each one, and showed examples from my own artwork online again. The class, again, enjoyed the interaction, the discussion, and the ability to see artwork. That class has a group of Special Needs students and they seemed to really enjoy the ability to talk and interact with me. In that period, the class voted on the What’s Your Problem? lesson, an activity I actually learned from Dr. Evans-Palmer from the art education program at my university. The students will be instructed to illustrate a problem they have in an abstract way. I will be sure to include precise criteria to help the students find success with their compositions.
After voting, I explained to the students that I’d be writing up the lesson plan over the weekend and we would start on Tuesday. Immediately, one of the Special Needs students’ assistants requested that I send her my lesson plan once it’s written so that she could modify it to accommodate her students. I thanked the class and instructed them to begin working, and then addressed her in person. “I’ve already got ideas for accommodating,” I explained and told her my thoughts. Because some of the students have very limited mobility and cannot verbally communicate, I thought that illustrating a problem in an abstract way may be too advanced for them, but I felt confident that they would be able to create an abstract composition. I explained my procedure and asked for her input. She was ecstatic and said that my ideas would work perfectly. “Wow, an already accommodated lesson plan!” she said to one of the other assistants. This was quite a boost to my confidence and was quite a good end to my day.