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Innovations in Art Education (long)


From: Judy Decker (jdecker_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Tue Jul 15 2003 - 09:55:34 PDT

Victor has asked ArtsEdNet several times now for "Innovations in Art
Education"....I can't get the topic off my I guess I might as
well post to the lists.
I have REALLY been blasted for my opinions on art education and what is
important to me in the past - so I am hesitant to "speak up" on this issue.
Those who disagree - just send a personal reply to me instead of telling the
whole world you think I am a "wacko" ( I don't think the
world needs to know your opinion of me - but it does help me to know your
opinion of me (then I can work to "improve"). I learned how to be the best
art teacher I could be from raising my son to appreciate art. Everything I
know that is important in art education has been written long ago (ask off
list and I will try to come up with the book title). Someday, someone will
rewrite it an get the message out to everyone. I personally have a hard time
keeping up with "innovations".

1. I believe art is the most important subject in school.....and I let my
students know that all the didn't matter to me what other people
thought of art.

2. Allow kids to make mistakes - there are LOTS of ways to do things right.
When a student is working on art - do not tell them they are doing it
wrong - find a way to make their way right. I had objectives for every
lesson and I would talk privately with the student to tell them how their
work was not meeting the objectives and we would come to an agreement on
what grade the project should receive - A grade the kid was happy with too.
Value the student's time....There does not have to be a "bell curve" in art.
I would not allow my students to fail. They only failed if they refused to
do the work (I recall only two failures in twelve years of teaching -- God
knows I tried with those two kids)....If a student will not make art for
you, someone along the way has told him or her that their work was not good
enough for them. You have to "un do" that.....and don't wait until that
child reaches high school - by then it is too late.

4. Let kids really believe it is OK to be average in art - the important
thing is doing the art - Not if it is the best.

5. Give kids the time they need to finish if finishing is important to you.
I do not regret any of those hundreds of hours spent after school helping a
child finish their work. The work my own son is most proud of is that his
teachers allowed him finish (he was so excited about a ceramic project one
year -- and the school's kiln broke - he never could bring that project
home - she reclaimed all of the clay). My son is not gifted in art - yet he
always brought his high school art projects home to work on. He needed the
quiet time to work. His high school art teacher was really very good at
helping Matt be successful in art. My son got satisfactory grades in
elementary art -- but got A's in middle school and high school because of
his attitude and class participation. He is very bright (I know you have all
heard it before)

6. Make the "big ideas"most important - there is just too much knowledge out
there. Never make a kid try to do something you can not do yourself (I can
not remember all of those dates and people's names myself -- teach them to
want to find knowledge and what tools to use. I use the Internet to find my
"knowledge"....and have lots of books).

7. Find ways to make art fun again.....Kids loved art in kindergarten. What
have "we" done to ruin that interest? Why do we have to "un do" the "I hate
Art?".....That goes back to making the students way of doing art right from
time to time.

8. Remember "Everything I need to know in life I learned in Kindergarten" --
In art we can teach students that what they learned in Kindergarten is
indeed important.

9. Teach then that ALL world religions are good - and right for those who
practice those beliefs. Find the good in all religions - it is NOT the
religion that is bad. We are the one subject that can get that across to
kids.....yet many do not even try (Don't dare mention religion in school).
Right now there is NOT one religion that is superior - yet there are those
who will try to make us believe that. Beliefs and values of a culture were
very important in my lessons -- those were the big ideas I talked about
everyday. Those are the ideas I wanted my kids to remember. My home is a
celebration of all world religions....I have African religions, Native
American, Hinduism, Buddhism, ancient Chinese ancestral worship all
represented in my home - along with my angels and Nativities that are up
year round....My web site is a way to share my beliefs with everyone.

10. Put character education into your classroom -- try to add it into every
lesson. Use artists whose character you admire - along with their art.

Art teachers can fix what is wrong with education today -- one child at a
time. Keep raising the bar and many kids just shut down. We know this to be

In closing - I would like to copy and paste this message posted by Gail to
ArtsEdNet - she sent it as an attachment:

                                    NEW TEACHER

After being interviewed by the school administration, the eager teaching
prospect said:

"Let me see if I've got this right. You want me to go into that room with
all those kids, and fill their every waking moment with a love for learning.

And I'm supposed to instill a sense of pride in their ethnicity,

modify their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse

and even censor their t-shirt messages and dress habits.

You want me to wage a war on drugs and sexually transmitted

diseases, check their backpacks for weapons of mass destruction, and

raise their self esteem.

You want me to teach them patriotism, good citizenship,

sportsmanship, fair play, how to register to vote, how to balance a

checkbook, and how to apply for a job.

I am to check their heads for lice, maintain a safe environment,

recognize signs of anti-social behavior, offer advice, write letters

of recommendation for student employment and scholarships, encourage

respect for the cultural diversity of others, and oh, make sure that

I give the girls in my class fifty percent of my attention.

My contract requires me to work on my own time after school,

evenings and weekends grading papers.

Also, I must spend my summer vacation at my own expense working

toward advance certification and a Masters degree. And on my own

time you want me to attend committee and faculty meetings, PTA

meetings, and participate in staff development training.

I am to be a paragon of virtue, larger than life, such that my very
presence will awe my students into being obedient and respectful of

authority. And I am to pledge allegiance to family values and this

current administration.

You want me to incorporate technology into the learning experience,

monitor web sites, and relate personally with each student.

That includes deciding who might be potentially dangerous

and/or liable to commit a crime in school. I am to make sure all

students pass the mandatory state exams, even those who don't come

to school regularly or complete any of their assignments. Plus, I am

to make sure that all of the students with handicaps get an equal

education regardless of the extent of their mental or physical handicap.

And I am to communicate regularly with the parents by letter,

telephone, newsletter and report card.

All of this I am to do with just a piece of chalk, a computer, a few

books, a bulletin board, a big smile AND on a starting salary that

qualifies my family for food stamps! You want me to do all of this

and yet you expect me NOT TO PRAY?"

Judy Decker - Ohio
Incredible Art Department

P.S. for anyone who has read this and thought it a waste of your time - do
accept my apology. It took me a long time to write it - and it still doesn't
say exactly what I want to say....but enough for now. From now on - no one
needs to tell me that my posts take you a long time to download and delete -
Just delete them I have already taken those opinions to heart (and am
working on ways to improve). I use Mailwasher now - it is great! Thanks to Maggie White.