Stopping whatever preparation for the day I’m immersed in and putting on the traffic cop fluorescent vest, finding the stop sign and heading outside for the 15- 20 minutes of busses and moving along kiss and go-ers. Then at the end of the day same song, second verse; cleaning up must wait, get on the traffic cop vest, find the stop sign, walk out side, stop students from running and playing with a firm (hopefully loving) reminder that they should be watching for their ride instead of jumping into in an ad hoc rugby scrum with someone’s lunch bag.
Bus duty wraps its buzzing arms around a day.
Other duties unassigned.
With all the rest of the segments of each day at times it is a stretch to think of the practice of teaching as seamless, as a study and not compartmentalized. This thing over here starts and then stops. These students come, those leave and that other group completes the task, and so it continues. But the paradox is this, it is seamless; practice and work in teaching and student action does overlap from one studio practice to the next, from one group of students to the next. And it is messy, chaotic and changing.
Because our work is fluid, when we are challenged with muscling through content that parcels off actions about instruction it feels artificial. It feels like we need someone to tell us what to do, so we can do it right. Or we compartmentalize it into a checklist. Only by creating a checklist of these actions we are short cutting the quality and the art of teaching art.
Consider the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) Visual Arts Translation Guide (http://www.caeaco.org/Resources/Documents/VATeachStandardsTranslationGuide.pdf). Consider also that the Visual Arts Translation Guide language was culled from the Visual Arts Observation Guide (http://www.caeaco.org/Resources/Documents/VAObservationGuide.pdf), which was collaboratively written by your colleagues in CAEA and CDE (Karol Gates, Connie Stewart, Patrick Fahey, Vanessa Hayes-Quintana, Dale Zalmstra, Anne Thulson, Liz Buhr).
Even though I had the honor of being a part of this group, when I am standing in the middle of my studio classroom, traffic cop vest off, stop sign put away, I have to slow down and think carefully about how and what the content of the Visual Arts Translation Guide is guiding and helping me as an art educator to aspire to fluidly practice.
For example Quality Standrad1: Teachers demonstrate mastery of and pedagogical expertise in the content they teach. The elementary teacher is an expert in literacy and mathematics and is knowledgeable in all other content that he/she teaches. The secondary teacher has knowledge of literacy and mathematics and is an expert in his/her content endorsement area(s).
Element b.) Teachers demonstrate knowledge of student literacy development in reading, writing, speaking and listening ALL TEACHERS.
Evidence in Practice
- Teachers provide opportunities for students to create original work, and exhibit work in public and community settings.
- Teachers facilitate students’ critical response to one’s own work and the work of others.
- Solves problems posed by materials and apply art techniques with age appropriate level of fluency.
Reading this through my bus duty lens I might interpret: To demonstrate knowledge of student literacy development in reading, writing, speaking and listening I will exhibit the students’ artwork. Really? OK.
This is when I have to break down the box and think: How do literacy and art making align with exhibiting art? Will my students write about their process? Am I allowing time in the process for discussion about ideas and materials? When appropriate, am I intentionally guiding this discussion?
The heavy lifting comes when I think about how do these two pieces (literacy and art making) align, meaningfully. Reflecting on and assessing how students are thinking critically about their work leads my thinking to how students at all grade levels are talking about their art making, writing about their process and (most importantly) how is this integrated with purpose into their studio practice. Is all this ‘stuff’ helping them become skilled thinkers and makers? If not, then what might I change?
Also up for reflection might be: Am I stretching the types of materials and concepts my students and I work on in our studio practice? How have the students and I created an environment for them to gain their own visual vocabulary to the extent that they have a fluent problem solving language?
Ok. How about Quality Standard 3:Teachers plan and deliver effective instruction and create an environment that facilitates learning for their students.
Elements c.) Teachers demonstrate a rich knowledge of current research on effective instructional practices to meet the developmental and academic needs of their students.
Evidence in Practice
- Implements formative assessment during art making experiences for students to reflect on the art making process and participate in their own growth as makers and thinkers.
- Scaffold and build on concepts.
With my traffic cop vest on I might think: You bet I have ‘rich knowledge’, I have been teaching forever. But when I take the compartments out of my compartmentalization, I can think about rich knowledge of current research on effective instructional practices as looking like I am making intentional choices about my professional development, reading and research that will help me better understand the visual arts learner in today’s world. Not only am I seeking workshops and courses out but also researching new contemporary artists and applications. A next bridging action might be am I making efforts to bring my research and learning back to my students, and my studio classroom.
Other reflective questions bubble up, for example: Have I been using formative assessments, and providing opportunity for students to reflect on their art making processes and guide their own choices? Have I met developmental and academic needs of my students by building (scaffolding) into and out of concepts with intentional planning? Where is this in my practice?
Learning to de-compartmentalize what is fluid is stepping back and slowing down to see where quality is happening and where improvement can be made and we as learners might continue to learn.
Using the Visual Arts Translation Guide for a reflective practice is an excellent way to gain a deeper understanding of the Quality Teaching Standards and quality teaching in the visual arts.
It is not bus duty however, it might just be our new other duty unassigned.