All I ever needed to know I learned from teaching art.

I started this blog post November 2018. As I sit here it is April 2019. So much time has passed. So many things have happened, but still - this truth remains. I learned so much from teaching art, engaging in the process of planning, working with students to make creative decisions, to help them to think critically about their own process and ideas. I plan to expand on this in the future through this blog, and hopefully in a full length book. The book is inside me just bubbling and waiting to come out.

What is below was started in November, with some April edits….

Now that I am away from the role of a classroom teacher, I miss it. When I was doing it, of course I could always find things wrong with it - because the grass somehow is always greener. I often wonder, if I didn’t have that problem, if I didn’t always think “the grass is always greener”, would I still be teaching today...most likely. Teaching art was second nature to me. When I decided to go back to school to get my certification, my life fell into place like the plot of a predictable movie. My grades were great, and I became the model student...I got an award, for crying out loud!

When it came easily to me I questioned that. A lot. I thought there was something WRONG with that because school never came easily to me. When I was praised for a job well done, I figured my professors didn’t care or something? When I continually had good classroom observations I thought, “I want some negative feedback!!” …What??  I have learned since then that is just not true. They actually let me be myself, let me take risks and it paid off … I thrived. The gifts I was naturally given made me a successful teacher.  The experiences I had as a student make me an empathic administrator, and for that I am so grateful. Cathy Heller, one of my favorite podcasters, said something the other day that really resonated with me. (She says a lot of things that resonate with me, this is one of them) she talked about how her uncertain upbringing, although difficult, nurtured a deep empathy for others in her, the need to be sure everyone around her was/is ok - which is a blessing and a curse. This deep empathy has been my gift as a teacher and also as an assistant principal. The whole “don’t smile” thing…that always seemed like a load of nothing to me. So I just didn’t do that. Young people need empathy. Plain and simple. When I am feeling like smiling, I smile. Don’t hold back. Be your authentic self and do not apologize for it.

So below are a few of the things art teachers, and art in general teaches us about life, education, and everything else. More to come after this…I promise I won’t wait 6 months until I hit publish this time.

Lesson #1: embrace your gifts, don’t fight them. 

If you’re good at something, heck yeah, do it all day every day. 

When I was teaching I could plan a lesson like no body’s business. I always started from the project...what are they going to make, and how are they going to get there?  What are they going to learn along the way? What questions does this raise? How can we make connections to real life? The student’s life, the lives of those around them and the greater good?

Lesson #2: plan backwards  

It’s true, UbD may have put backwards design on the map, but art teachers have been doing it FOREVER. Growth mindset - yup, we did that too... You might think it’s all about mastering a paint technique or a photoshop tool - it’s not always about that. More often, it has always been about how much does a student grow in your class? When they entered the room, where were they, and where are they on day 10, 20, 30….are they asking new questions, taking new risks? Are they thinking critically about what they are making? This is the good stuff. There is no test, we create our own benchmarks and determine ways to assess growth through observation, conversation, and relationship to the media, subject, and most importantly, the student. It is a great place to be and there is a lot to learn from the arts. More to come on this….

As promised. I will be back with #3, #4.....Thank you for reading, sharing, commenting - (I’d love to hear your thoughts!),  and being amazing everyday. <3 to you all.