Q & A
extended teaching philosophy
What are your three most important reasons for wanting to be a teacher?
1. I have always been involved in educating. It began with teaching flute lessons in middle and high school. It continued into my jobs as an art camp instructor, rock climbing instructor, employee trainer, and even a full-time nanny. I love not only the feeling of seeing a student have that "OH, I GET IT!" moment, but the continuous studying I must do to always be one step ahead. I not only love teaching, I love learning!
2. I enjoy being involved in my community, as well as impactful on the future. I think the best way to do so is by being involved in the lives of the people who will one day make up both of these things. My goal is to focus on skills and strategies that will open each student's mind to all that they are capable of, leading each one to become a well-rounded citizen in tomorrow's society.
3. I have always been the art kid. The earliest thing that I remember is asking for printer paper rather than coloring book pages so that I could create my own drawings. Creativity has always been my comfortable place. I want to provide that comfort for the students like me. Ones that too might make a career out of it that they are passionate about.
When you think about your students, in what major ways do you most want to influence their lives?
In today's society, there are countless forces trying to form each student into a cookie cutter, one-size fits all, overall generalized person.
My goal is to be one of the people in their lives that celebrates their individuality, creativity, and ideas. The art room tends to be this safe place for students away from the standardized test stressors, bullying, and limitations. Yes, there are obviously some limitations when it comes to what can be created in a school, but the allowed options are endless.
Describe the kind of environment you would find in your ideal school.
The environment that I would find in my ideal school would include (but would not be limited to) the following qualities:
Full of open-minded people that want to collaborate and help each other grow.
A general freedom for creativity throughout several different facets of the school/district. This creativity could include the freedom of working a bit outside of the box with curriculum, making the school physically more beautiful with artwork, collaboration with the community, and more.
Teachers that are excited about what they are teaching!
What technology-related skills can you contribute to a school district?
I utilize every bit of technology that my district can provide.
I use a Doc-Cam that is connected to my projector for demonstrations. It is not ideal to show demonstrations with all of the students crowded around a table. Using the Doc-Cam is much easier, and demonstrations are also easily recorded with the camera so they can be uploaded to Google Classroom for students who were absent during the demo, or for anyone who needs to review it at any time.
In my previous district, we were 1:1 with Chromebooks. This allowed several opportunities for incorporating technology into my classroom. I utilized Google Classroom in order to keep all unit materials and resources accessible and organized. This was incredibly helpful, especially for my unorganized students.
On a regular basis I preach the phrase "work smarter, not harder," and with this comes finding valid shortcuts through using technology. Things like digitally putting grids over images for proportion drawing projects, researching specific fonts, using photoshop to change coloring before using as a reference photo, etc. These are all skills that might not be used again, however they open the mind to realizing that there are options out there for going about completing specific tasks in a "smarter" rather than "harder" way.
In the realm of software understanding, I am confident in my ability to teach using the following programs:
Adobe Creative Suite
Google Classroom + Apps
Microsoft Office Programs
What do you need to know in order to begin your lesson planning for a class?
The basic things that I need to be aware of before planning a full unit are as follows:
1. The tools and materials that I have access to.
2. The 504 and IEP accommodations that need to be met.
3. Available storage space. (Usually if it is a 3D project.)
4. Technology that I have access to use for instruction.
5. Technology that students have access to for research/etc.
What four key components do you believe you must include in your plan?
In no particular order, the four key components included in each of my unit plans are:
1. Skill Practice - There are always 1 or 2 skills/techniques that are learned and practiced at the beginning of each unit. This is important because through practice, students gain not only another art-making skill, but are seeing improvement in themselves - thus creating confidence.
2. Research - I implement both historic and contemporary art research into each unit. There is always an element of research that students are expected to do, whether it be a guided research handout, an artist analysis, or even a mini research paper for more advanced classes. Regardless, proper researching is a tool that can not only be utilized in the creation of artwork, but in any other discipline as well.
3. Brainstorming - After a student has practiced the new skills and/or techniques and researched relevant artists, it is time to brainstorm an original idea. This is always tough for students because they typically want everything to be easy. Because of this, I create several guided brainstorming activities to get the original creativity pumping. Originality is not a focus in many classrooms, so this is one of the most important parts of each of my units. The brainstorming methods that I provide are not only applicable in an art-making setting, but in any setting.
4. Reflection - Finally, after a student finishes their artwork, it is important for them to reflect. Yes, there is always room for improvement. However, there is also always room for acknowledging accomplishments. This is a good habit to get into so that you can always improve by looking forward into the future, but also remembering your experiences in the past.
What applications of current research on effective teaching do you utilize?
The subject that much of my college and current research focuses on is the Conceptual Framework method of teaching visual arts which originated in New South Wales, Australia. I studied and personally observed this method in 10 different schools within the New South Wales region. It is a style of teaching that focuses on 4 main "frameworks" that can overlap and intertwine with each other depending on the unit.
These 4 frameworks are:
This style presents ways for students to create, present, respond, and connect to the world of art and art-making. It helps students to make meaning of artwork, engage in critical analysis, explore philosophical and ethical issues, understand cultural and historical contexts, and realize that the making and study of art can be approached from a diversity of viewpoints.
I utilize the Conceptual Frameworks in each and every one of my units.
What do you think it means to be conscious of race and culture in an educational environment?
I think it is important to express interest in the ethnic background of my students. I try to encourage my students to research and share information about their ethnic background as a means of fostering a trusting relationship with myself and fellow classmates, especially through their artwork. It is a fantastic way to let students express their culture, traditions, and beliefs.
Another way I try to create a nurturing environment for students is reducing the power differential between myself and my students. Students in a strict, authoritarian style classroom may tend to display negative behaviors; therefore I would act more like a facilitator than an instructor. I like to provide students with questionnaires about what they find to be interesting or important, providing them with a measure of power over what they get to learn, motivating them with connectedness to the material.
Something else that is important when being conscious of cultural diversity is to maintain a strict level of sensitivity to language concerns. In traditional classrooms, students who are not native English speakers often feel marginalized, lost, and pressured into hiding their native language. Diversity of language should be celebrated, and incorporated into the materials whenever possible.
Culturally responsive curriculum is both inclusive in that it ensures that all students are included within all aspects of the school and it acknowledges the unique differences students may possess. A culturally responsive curriculum also encourages teachers’ understanding and recognition of each student’s non-school cultural life and background, and provides a means for them to incorporate this information into the curriculum, thus promoting inclusion.
Schools have the responsibility to teach all students how to incorporate cultural differences into their knowledge base, in order to facilitate students’ personal and professional success in a diverse world. A curriculum that is conscious of race and culture helps students from a diverse background develop a sense of identity as individuals, as well as proudly identify with their particular culture group. Teachers can play a big role in helping these students succeed through the establishment of culturally responsive classrooms.
How does an awareness of race and culture impact your work with students, colleagues, and families?
As mentioned above, when I am aware of the race and cultural background of my students, I can design my curriculum to not only include relevant and relatable information, but also opportunities for them to share their cultural identity and voice through their artwork. Art is a wonderful way to let students express their background, thoughts, and opinions.
Nobody has ever walked the same path as another, so it is very important to take those differences into account for each person you come into contact with. This includes not only students, but colleagues, parents, etc.
Taking the time to listen and to understand someone before passing judgement is a virtue, and it is very important for teachers to have it.
How do you organize your classroom to maximize the time available for learning?
As an art teacher, procedure understanding is extremely important to both the dynamic of the classroom and for maximizing the time for learning and creating.
These procedures include reading the board for bellringer instructions, getting the required supplies out and ready to go at the beginning of class, turning in assignments to designated spots, cleanup procedures, etc. Learning time is also maximized when my lesson plans are completed before starting. This is important so that I know what is needed and all the necessary materials for the day are ready and available.
I think it is important for information to be extremely accessible for students in and out of the classroom. I make sure to have several extra handouts/worksheets/etc. available for students to take if they need them. I also make sure to keep the online classroom up to date each day with new information and/or documents so that students can keep up as well as parents, even if a student is absent from school.
I also prefer to group up students so that they can not only share materials, but also each other's ideas during discussions or critiques.
What is your current thinking about equity, and how has your thinking changed over time? Specifically, how are you looking to grow in your practice of leading/teaching with a racial equity lens?
I actually began to advocate for equity in arts education as an official platform when I began to recognize the significant disparities in school art programs across Illinois. All students deserve the opportunity to take part in the arts no matter their socioeconomic status, race, or geographical location. This is the fuel for not only my advocacy work, but for my teaching practices.
Something that is great about being an art teacher is that I can easily integrate long term strategies for promoting a racially equitable classroom. Some of these strategies include:
• Continue to learn about the history of race and racism in the United States. It is a very relevant topic in contemporary art - therefore it can be integrated into lessons and projects. Discussions are very important in these types of units.
• Create intentional opportunities to discuss the impact of race and racism.
• Create structures that will help with accountability around issues of race and racism.
• Form alliances within your school community (across and within racial groups)
• Connect to a larger network of racial justice educators, organizers and advocates.
• When exploring curriculum, ask yourself: Whose story is being told through my curriculum? Whose stories are not being told?
• Apply a racial equity lens when discussing disciplinary policies, opportunities for youth and parent voice, and professional development offerings.
Overall, it is incredibly important to be mindful of how institutional, interpersonal, or internalized racism is manifesting in the particular situation, and how the students may be consciously or subconsciously responding
as a result. Applying a racial equity lens allows for uncovering the structures, policies and behaviors that sustain unequal outcomes for students based on race.
I am always looking for new ways to grow in my practice of leading/teaching with a racial equity lens.