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Lesson Plans

Re: elementary generalists and art specialists

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Sandra Hildreth (shildret)
Tue, 21 Jan 1997 20:04:07 -0500

I'll jump in to this discussion with my two cents worth.

Yes, regular elementary classroom teachers can teach art, and some do very
well. However, from my own experiences, what is inadvertantly communicated
by the generalist with little art background often has a greater impact
than the lessons. What I mean is a general tendency to like and praise
things that look nice, or cute, or neat (as opposed to unique, different,
unusual). Elementary teachers often spend much time in their classrooms
developing order and conformity - all the kids line up for lunch properly,
keep their desks neat, do their worksheets when they're supposed to, etc. I
know this order is needed to run a classroom smoothly, but it frequently
gets transmitted to art and other projects. Young kids start to believe it
is not good to be different, that they must do and be like everyone else in
order to get the teacher's praise and recognition. Creativity gets the back
seat to conformity. When I taught elementary art, I worked very hard
getting my students more comfortable taking risks, trying different things,
being unique, but its hard when they get the opposite message from their
classroom teachers.

Some solutions: Discipline based art education, or the inclusion of talking
about, looking at, writing about art activities as well as doing art is one
thing that helps. If nothing else, talking, looking, and writing are things
the generalist may feel more comfortable doing because it's closer to
things they do in other subject areas (like talking about a book in reading
class, etc.). It really doesn't require any kind of above average art
skills either - but it does require some training. The other solution is to
work with the art specialist - teaming up on projects that relate to units
of study in the regular classroom; recognizing that the art specialist is
the one who is really trained for all types of instructional activities in
the arts and demonstrating an appreciation for those skills. It was very
frustrating when an elementary teacher brought her class to my art room and
I could overhear her say, well, you worked hard all morning, now you can go
and have some fun in art. I would rather have heard you worked hard all
morning, now you can develop your creative abilities and learn about things
through interesting art activities.

Other teachers, administrators, school boards, and parents will never
understand the unique value of the arts specialist unless we make our
voices heard - or more importantly, let our visions be seen.

Sandra Hildreth <shildret>
C.L.A.S.S. (Cultural Literacy through Art & Social Studies)
Art 7-12, Madrid-Waddington Central School, Madrid, NY 13660
Art Methods, St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY 13617