John Post on thu 28 apr 11
Hi Sue, Kathy, Gayle and Randall,
Thanks for the kind words about my teaching style and posts to clayart.
I am experiencing a very strange year in regards to be an art =3D20
teacher. When I am in the classroom I am so busy that I get totally =3D20
immersed in working with the kids. But at home, I have never felt =3D20
lower or more despondent about being a teacher.
The governor of my state outlined many lofty goals for education and =3D20
teachers yesterday, all the while slashing 37 million dollars from the =3D2=
school district where I teach. I spend part of every evening being a =3D20=
political activist, writing letters and encouraging parents and other =3D20=
teachers to become more involved in the process. I know my wife and I =3D2=
will be financially able to get by with less money and benefits next =3D20
year because we live small and save.
But it is very disheartening to see how all of this will effect the =3D20
kids we both teach. ...and every teacher I know is tired of being the =3D2=
target of all that is wrong in our culture.
Here is a quote from an education reporter this week, "Eighty percent =3D20=
of Grand Rapids Public School district children are not reading at =3D20
kindergarten level when they enter school." Here is a reply one of =3D20
my friends sent to me after I shared the quote with him. "100% of =3D20
babies born are unable to walk immediately after childbirth. Polls =3D20
suggest teachers are once again to blame."
One of my state legislators asked for written testimony from teachers =3D20=
about how cuts to school funding will effect their classroom and their =3D2=
students. Here's what I wrote...
I teach the kids who can=3D92t be measured. As much as legislators and =3D=
schools try to measure kids' learning by having them fill in bubbles =3D20
on a standardized test, this isn=3D92t how all children grow and become =3D=
successful. One third or more of kid brains learn best by doing, =3D20
touching, seeing and moving. These are the right-brain creative-type =3D20=
kids who live for art class. Sir Ken Robinson points out that in =3D20
divergent thinking tests that assess the ability to think creatively, =3D20=
kindergarten students score at the genius level. Every year of =3D20
education after kindergarten sees students lose their ability to have =3D20=
divergent, creative thoughts. Going to school actually makes people =3D20
become less creative. As a society we are educating the creativity =3D20
out of our kids. This is in a time when all we hear about is keeping =3D20=
up with every other nation in the global economy by being innovative, =3D20=
smart and creative.
If you ask an elementary-age kid what day of the school week it is, =3D20
they don=3D92t say Tuesday or Wednesday, they blurt out that =3D93It=3D92s =
day!=3D94 or =3D93Gym day=3D94. This is because these are the classes wher=
feel like they actually get to =3D93Do Something=3D94. Kids are all about =
doing. If schools started with the idea that kids want to touch, =3D20
handle, manipulate and play with things in their environment and then =3D20=
taught them using methodology that capitalized on these types of =3D20
behaviors, kids would be more engaged learners in school. Instead =3D20
most of the school day is spent listening to the teacher. Walk down =3D20
the hallway and peek into classrooms and you will see that in most of =3D20=
them the teacher is the one doing the talking. Listening is probably =3D20=
the most passive thing to engage in as a learner, yet that's what many =3D2=
kids are stuck doing everyday.
That=3D92s where I come in. I teach elementary art. I teach 800 kids in =
32 classes a week. I teach about ancient history when we make clay =3D20
Egyptian time capsule mummies filled with autobiographical poems and =3D20
writing. I teach about mathematical forms when kids roll cylinders, =3D20
spheres and cones while making clay animals. I teach about how to =3D20
generate ideas and give critiques to other students in a way that is =3D20
constructive and provides critical feedback while discussing =3D20
individual works of art. I teach about how to compare and contrast =3D20
ideas when we look at paintings of the same genre but from two =3D20
different artists or cultures. Art is the one thing that is part of =3D20
every culture on the planet and so the range of topics I get to teach =3D20=
about is the most expansive in the entire elementary curriculum. And =3D20=
it's the most engaging because the kids get to talk, make and most =3D20
importantly - do things.
-continued in part 2
Sterling Heights, Michigan