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Lesson Plans


[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Mark Alexander (mamjam)
Sun, 11 Jan 1998 22:41:31 -0500

Dear ArtsEdNetters,

I've been following the recent posts about art teacher training. I thought
I might add to the discussion with some thoughts about my art teacher
training. I have a lot to say here, so just delete unless you're really

First, some background information about myself. In the mid 70's I studied
art at the Montserrat College of Visual Art, in Beverly Massachusetts,
north of Boston. At that time it was a non-credit institution without any
degree programs. I didn't think there was any need for fine artists to earn
college credits-artists needed training, but not credentials. After about
18 years of balancing an art career around an odd assortment of jobs, I
realized my life was lacking. I needed to make a change to something both
more financially and personally rewarding. Having children was one
deciding factor, and many in my family were lifelong teachers, so it was a
natural step to become a teacher. There was much more to the decision than
that, but in a nut shell, teaching art would tie together many important
aspects of my life.

I chose the Central Connecticut State University for my BS and teaching
certificate. After a lot of deal making and schmoozing, I was awarded two
semesters worth, or one years worth of transfer credits for my four and a
half years of study at Montserrat. The reason I was unable to get more
credits, was that there weren't any more art credits required for the
undergrad degree and art teacher's certificate program.

At Central I did take a few art classes, including life drawing and
painting, but I was faced with a battle every semester because the
University felt I shouldn't be awarded credits for a course that my
transcript said I had already taken. The University felt I had already
learned life drawing so shouldn't take it again. I still find that amazing!

When I finished my degree requirements, I had taken more required courses
like math, language, phys. ed., science, and other liberal arts classes
than I can count. But in my opinion, at Central there weren't enough actual
art courses required for art teacher training. When I completed the
program, I felt I needed more printmaking, more ceramics, more drawing,
more painting, more art history, and more sculpture. Design theory was
covered in the foundation classes at Montserrat, but to my knowledge there
was no design theory offered at Central. When I graduated I felt I had so
much more I needed to learn, yet I HAD ABOUT THREE MORE YEARS OF CLASSIC
ART TRAINING than any of the other new art teachers finishing the same
program! Most of those new art teachers I graduated with could not draw
with confidence, unless they learned it before they got to Central.

There was a crafts class that I was required to take that could have been
good, although the professor was extremely disappointing. Most of the fine
art classes at Central were super, especially the ceramics, painting and
drawing classes. I found the professors were high caliber artists, but not
necessarily high caliber teachers. If approached with articulate questions
and the right attitude, they had a lot to offer in the realm of technique.
Otherwise there was very little teaching, especially about the elements and
principals of design. The classes for the most part were set up to provide
an opportunity for the art student to practice and develop on their own.
These professors couldn't help us figure out how to teach a third grade
class, because they didn't have any experience or interest in k-12
teaching. As an older student I was a contemporary of most of the
professors, I found myself being asked to help other students, which was
especially rewarding. I'm still amazed how much I learn every time I teach.

The Art Education department was pretty good, although there was a great
deal of redundancy because they were separate and isolated from the
Education Department. In one class we learned about DBAE, but we also did
brainless projects like making paper snowflakes, paper dolls, and pulled
string paintings. In retrospect I think it might have been better to use
that time learning how to teach design theory, learning about Lowenfeld's
levels of artistic development, how to make the most of art history
examples, how to sequence lesson content, how to develop and lead aesthetic
discussions, how to plan budgets and write supply orders. All these things
were mentioned, but I was left to find out the details on my own as the
need arose in the classroom. And I have since found there are books and
books full of cute projects I can dig up any time I need them.

There was a great art ed. practicum called Saturday Morning Art Workshop,
which provided an opportunity to experience the whole range from lesson
planning, classroom management, and actual teaching. Local 6-13 year old
students came to the University and were taught by us pre-student teaching
art ed. We actually taught by ourselves in a classroom environment about
four times. We prepped and debriefed as a team that consisted of another
art ed. student and a student teacher. I know I learned a lot from that
experience, even though the Saturday Workshop students weren't an authentic
sampling of the real American art classroom-most were enthusiastic art
students who chose to be there. While student teaching, we were required to
come back for another semester of Saturdays and act as supervisor to
another team of newbie art ed. students, which I felt was less rewarding.

The Education Department went into education theory-how to talk the teacher
talk. Again, I don't understand why, but they seemed to have no
communication or connection with the Art Education Department. Although the
education professors were good over all, many of them were excellent
examples of how NOT to teach. One teacher was so scattered and
disorganized, we always started class twenty five minutes late. She was
also very unaware of the special needs an art teacher has and she had the
offensive habit of referring to us as arTEEsts, in that exaggerated fake
French accent!

Practice teaching to your fellow students really sucks. Although it is good
lesson planning practice, they are not at all like k-12 students, and the
experience doesn't resemble a real classroom. I found these almost weekly
exercises to be a huge waste of time. The dynamic professor who taught the
History of Education was interesting, but I fail to see how Dewey could be
considered more important for an art teacher than printmaking, drawing or
art theory.

There was a one semester Special Ed. overview course, as required by the
state. It was an over-booked lecture class in an under-sized and
unventilated room. The professor was boring, and the course content fell
far short of offering the amount of information an art teacher might find
useful. Even if the conditions and the professor were better, one semester
simply isn't enough time to learn what we need to know to meet the needs of
our special ed. students.

My student teaching experience was much better than most. I got eight weeks
in k-5 then eight weeks in 9-12. Both of the schools and the cooperating
teachers were excellent. It was a fortunate coincidence that both of my
cooperating teachers had family emergencies about ten days after I arrived
in their classrooms for my student teaching. The first cooperating teacher
was absent for a week, and the second cooperating teacher was absent for
almost two weeks. Because I was just shy of my undergraduate degree, the
school systems were required by Connecticut law to hire a substitute. I
chose to teach the classes, so I had the substitutes cutting paper, sorting
supplies, and running errands. It was a good way for me to learn how to
teach while keeping classroom helpers busy at the same time. My university
supervisor was scarce, because like many state employees she was underpaid
and over worked. She said she spent more time with her student teachers who
were having trouble. However, she was an art educator and what time I did
get with her I found to be quite fruitful.

Looking back, I find that the greatest responsibility for an art teacher's
training lies with the person who wants to be the art teacher. I think
every good teacher I have ever known, regardless of subject area or grade
level, has also been a good student who was intent on continued learning
and sharing. One of the absolute best art teachers I know has had very
little formal teacher training, but always seems to be studying something
on his own. From his undergraduate and graduate and private study he knows
a lot about the subject he teaches, but he also has the intelligence,
compassion, patience, and determination necessary to teach. In spite of his
lack of a teaching certificate, he is a dynamic art teacher and the
department chair overseeing a very progressive art department at a private
prep school.

As for art teacher training programs, certainly some are better than
others. Mine had many strengths and flaws, some of which I've touched on
here. But to be fair, I took what I felt I needed, and left the rest. In
hindsight, there simply wasn't enough time or money to cover everything.
Also, I underestimated the value of some parts of my training which I
should have paid more attention to. The most valuable training I've had has
been on the job training. I figure I'll have to continue filling the gaps
in my education forever.

If you went through this program or teach at CCSU, I sure don't want you to
feel offended by my view. If you feel I'm misinformed or blundering in my
recall of the program, it's probably because my memory just doesn't seem to
last as long as it used to. Or maybe we just disagree. At any rate, I'd
like to hear your comments.


Mark Alexander, 1-8 Art
Lee H. Kellogg School
47 Main Street
Falls Village, Connecticut 06031

"The object of education is to
prepare the young to
educate themselves
throughout their lives."
Robert Hutch