Today was the beginning of my second week acting as the primary teacher as if my cooperating teacher was not in the room. I found that I was much more comfortable and confident today and felt as if I’ve been the actual teacher the whole time. I’m not sure why that is since I’ve only been the teacher for about a week, but maybe it’s because I have substituted for my teacher at least 5 days. In a way, this is my third week as the primary teacher!
This week is primarily a work week for all of my students, so my job will be mostly classroom management and helping students personally. I found that it is still difficult to assist the Art I classes as students need clay, printmaking materials, ideas, inspiration, personal help, management, so many things! I am finding it difficult to bounce from one student to the next and having to tell students that I’ll get to them in a second as I help another who’s called for help. This is increased in difficulty when a large number of Special Needs students is in the class as I must greatly modify for them and aware their assistants of the day’s agenda and procedures. I literally feel like I’m teaching two classes in one during those class periods. Thankfully, my cooperating teacher has been assuring me that while the class may seem chaotic, I’m actually succeeding in keeping the students busy and well-managed. Whenever she says this I feel a lot better as I find myself with sore feet, just about out of breath, and feeling a bit defeated after the Art I classes. Perhaps I just need to build more self-confidence and assurance. I may just need to adjust to this hectic and busy job.
Today I learned a good deal more about the Painting II class. Last Wednesday we started a new painting assignment, “What’s Your Problem?” an assignment that the class voted on. I was expecting the assignment to take the full two weeks that I would be teaching but after a day or two I quickly realized that the students were working much more quickly than I anticipated. I set a deadline for this Wednesday, but still found that almost half the class was finished on Friday. Because of this, I needed to quickly come up with something else. Today, I decided to hold a miniature critique with the students who had finished. Those who hadn’t would continue on their projects and wouldn’t participate in the critique. We aligned all of the completed pieces along a table and I had all of the completed students gather around. I explained that the point of the critique was to see how successful the pieces were and to suggest ways to make them even stronger. I reminded the students that they had until Wednesday to make any changes and make their pieces incredibly strong.
I gave each student a rubric and we began judging each piece off of the criteria. “Is the piece abstract? Is there a variety of line? What kinds of lines are there? Is this piece strong? How so?” I would ask. I found that no matter how prompting I was, however, students would not speak, or if they did they wouldn’t be very open-minded.
“I think it’s perfect and I don’t think it needs to be worked on any more,” one student would say.
“Okay. What about it makes it perfect for you? Why do you think it’s strong?” I would prompt.
“I don’t know. I just don’t think she needs to work on it anymore. It’s fine how it is.”
It seemed to go this way with every piece we evaluated. I would prompt and ask and barely get anything out of the students. Many of the pieces were strong and on some I truly felt that they didn’t need any improvements. There were some, however, that could have used a boost in contrast, but when I suggested this improvement everyone seemed to disagree. After the critique, I asked the students to take what they learned from the critique and use the time remaining to improve their artworks, complete an evaluation of their pieces, and turn them everything in. By the end of the class all of the artworks were turned in without any changes done to them. I felt as if the critique was a bust and that they didn’t benefit from it. My cooperating teacher told me that she never does critiques with her students, besides AP, so it was a new experience for them. Perhaps if I were to integrate frequent critiques with my own students they would become used to the practice and benefit more from it. I’m really not sure whether I should try critiques with my own students or not.
The day ended for me with an interesting experience. We have one student in our Painting II class that is identified as Special Needs and has serious behavioral issues. He has been removed from the class for violence and we haven’t seen him for weeks. Today, I was asked to go to the Core Special Needs room and work with him one-on-one. On my way to the room, his assistants warned me, “If he says he’s done, don’t question it; he’s just done. Be careful around him. He’s violent and has attacked teachers before. Thankfully, today’s not one of his bad days. Don’t forget that he’s non-verbal, as well.”
I entered the dark room with several low lamps around and found the student at a computer looking at a picture of puppies. The assistant cautiously approached him and signed “Would you like to come paint? Miss Brooks is here to teach you.” We spread out his watercolor, paper, and cup of water and I began explaining that I was going to help him paint an abstract composition using shapes, lines, and colors. After I explained, he picked up the paintbrush and began adding color to his paper.
Thankfully, the lesson went incredibly well. The student was well-behaved and listened to me perfectly. When he began painting leaves on a tree using brown and green, I urged him to add different colors. “Which color would you like to add?” I asked.
“Orange,” he responded, shocking me with his response.
He continued to paint with my help and ended up creating a landscape piece with a tree in the grass. With my assistance, though, he created a sky full of blues, oranges, reds, and violets. His tree was rich with greens and oranges, and his grass was lush with texture. The assistants in the room commented on his noticeably calm demeanor and explained that he loves to paint. I was proud to help him create a successful piece and find peace at the same time.
I returned to my classroom and explained the experience to my cooperating teacher. She was thrilled and excited for the student. That was a good ending to my day and I learned more about working with students with serious needs. Hopefully I’ll be able to reach all of my students in some way when I begin teaching.