Arts Appreciation Special Education Class with General Education Mentors
Teaching this class was one of the most influential semesters of my teaching career thus far. Interacting with severely disabled students was a challenge, but more importantly, fostered immense growth and empathy. Peer leaders from general education worked in pairs to develop lesson plans to teach to the special education students. Each project was designed to provide unique opportunities for students to practice, learn, co-teach and discover a variety of social, motor and cognitive skills through art. All students in Arts Appreciation built meaningful relationships through daily interaction both with conversation and art creation. We culminated everyone's hard work with an art show in the school gallery.
Cultural Dance Literacy Lesson Study Collaboration
I worked with an English teacher colleague to create a lesson study. Students created artworks inspired by a cultural dance and then wrote complementary artist statement stories. Students shared meaningful memories, traditions and details about their individual cultures. The lesson was a wonderful activity to celebrate differences and the diverse backgrounds of our students.
Black History Month Equity Project
Students worked in pairs to create artworks celebrating Black History Month. Each pair chose a Black artist to use as inspiration and created an artwork in that style. Some student artists chose to explore racism and social justice in their pieces while others celebrated black culture.
I have gone through Courageous Conversations Beyond Diversity, SEED and regularly do equity work. Discussing race, systemic racism, white privilege and other sensitive topics is necessary to prepare our students for a successful future and to be productive members of society.
The Memory Project is a global organization that invites advanced teenage artists to create heartfelt portraits for children around the world who have faced poverty, neglect, family loss or other challenges. Students are given photographs with a name, age and favorite color. The young artists turn the photograph into a realistic portrait that reflects a strong likeness and incorporates their favorite color into the background. I have my classes vote on the country they want to create portraits for and usually they choose one where a lot of our students grew up or have family relations. It is a very meaningful way to use artistic skills to benefit others.
Mental Health Awareness Contest
Mental Health America of the North Shore holds an art and writing contest each spring that coincides with Mental Health Awareness month. Students create artwork that follows the contest theme. Past themes include self love, growth and staying true to oneself. Throughout the last few years, my students have won first, second or third place. The project's process brings up powerful conversations that lead to self discovery and confidence.
Raku Guest Artist Experience
Each semester I hire a ceramic artist to do a special Raku firing for our ceramic classes. We set up outside in the parking lot and students participate in the unique glaze firing process throughout the day. On top of ceramic skills, students learn cooperation, safety procedures, following directions and how to thrive in group dynamics.
EXPO Chicago Artist Inspiration Field Trip and Project
I took students to a large art expo at Navy Pier in Chicago. Students interviewed artists and gallery owners in order to choose a favorite artist to be used as inspiration for a future art project. While conducting interviews students practiced communication skills, professionalism and questioning techniques.
We the Future Inspired Project
We explored a project called "We the Future" that is comprised of "young leaders at the forefront of change, and they’re building organizations and movements all across the country. They are are drafting and passing legislation. They are working on climate justice, criminal justice reform, voting rights, immigration justice and immigrant rights, disability justice, gun reform, queer rights, and literacy, and they are changing the world." Several artists created portraits of these young leaders. I decided to instill my classroom as a room full of young leaders. Students created self portraits and surrounded their faces with language and images to support a meaningful cause. Students felt empowered and energized to make a change.
Classroom Management Practices
Designing easy to follow procedures within a hyper organized setting is essential to a smooth flowing art classroom. Below is a list of some of my best practices.
Labeled turn in bins for each class period
Personal drawers for students to store flat in progress artwork and sketchbooks
Personal shelves for ceramic students to store works in progress
Framing and matting station
Labeled cabinets, shelves and containers
Material check out station
Glaze test tile wall
Rotating clean up jobs (wedger, table washer, etc.)
Greenware and glazeware carts in the kiln room
Wedging table with clay recycling bucket that students manage
Individual tool buckets with slip containers and other supplies
Letters of Recommendation for Colleges and Scholarships
Each year I write several letters of recommendations for college admittance as well as scholarship opportunities. I give students a form to fill out. The form requires students to reflect on their goals, attributes and skills. They trust me to help them reach their goals.
National Art Honor Society (NAHS) Fundraisers
As the NAHS sponsor, I help student leaders create and execute successful fundraisers throughout the year. We collectively raise money for the school chest, a common charity that changes each year. See examples of our fundraisers below.
Friendship bracelet making station
Flower crown making station
Handmade button sale
Mini painting sale
Mask design and sale collaboration with Student Government
Freelance Student Artists Commissioned by Staff Members
Faculty members kept asking if they could purchase student artwork. I saw that as a fabulous fundraising and scholarship opportunity for students! Students created marketing pages showcasing their skills, and then staff members commissioned those student artists. To work through legalities, our parent organization (Fine Arts Parents and Patrons) created commission scholarships. Staff who commissioned students paid the parent organization, and then students were awarded the funds as a scholarship. The best part? Students gave half of their earnings to charity! Students learned professional and real world artist experiences like working with clients, deadlines and giving back.
Future Vikings Art Show Coordinator
In order to celebrate our incoming freshman, we created a "Future Vikings Art Show" where each of our feeder schools showcase many artworks and we have an awards ceremony. Each feeder school art teacher gives a presentation and we award student artists with a certificate and a photo with their artwork. This is also a time when we do art department tours led by our student leaders.
Parent Art Night
In order to build community and trust with the parents, myself and another art teacher collaborated to create a parent art night. Parents and guardians came into our art rooms and experienced materials and processes similar to what their children do in school. The event was full of creativity, laughter and community building.
Wellness Committee Leader
I really value wellness and when our district started a wellness committee I jumped on board. I took the lead in organizing a corporate gym membership to Lifetime Fitness Health Club as well as a nutritionist initiative. We hired a nutritionist to speak to our staff members as a group as well as one to one healthy eating habits meetings.
Literacy Committee Member
I am the Fine and Applied Arts department literacy liaison. I attend monthly meetings and work with a literacy coach to improve literacy lessons, projects and programs within our department. My literacy skillset and knowledge has grown and literacy is ever more prominent within my curricula.
Students often keep in touch and come to visit me once they graduate high school. They enjoy sharing their new college experiences and reminisce on how amazing their art experiences were in high school. Some students ask to volunteer for special days like the Raku firing or other field trips.
The Art Room Feels Like Home
My students fall in love with working on their art projects. I make the art room a safe, comfortable space and allow students to come and work during their study halls and lunch periods. Each year I have new "groupies" who practically live in the art room! Students build a healthy relationship with me as an adult and with one another as peers in a fun, supportive community.