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[teacherartexchange] Curriculum Writing


From: Jean Womack (jeaneger_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun Jul 03 2005 - 11:44:40 PDT

I think of curriculum writing like writing one's marriage vows. One might
choose between love, honor and cherish, or more appropriately, love,
communicate and cherish. One would not write in marriage vows that you
promise to serve supper every night at 6 pm or even be there for supper
every night at 6 pm., that you will never wear tennis shoes to church or
whisper during the service, and that you will always be polite to your
inlaws, although it seems that if one wanted a happy marriage, that would be
the diplomatic thing to do. You usually don't have to write that down and
swear to it in order to get married.

I, too, was asked to write a curriculum for three classes, and given two
weeks to get it done, in addition to teaching those classes full time. I
guess they were trying to find out what it took to make me quit, but I
didn't quit until one of the students threatened to kill me. He didn't
really threaten, he just said he could have a gun to my head. I replied, if
you did that, you'd really be in a lot of trouble (more trouble than just
threatening). (There's some kind of legal definition of threat that I
learned so long ago that I forgot it, like it can't just be an empty threat,
there has to be the means to carry it out.) However, my master teacher said
that if a teacher got in a fight with a student, the student was going to
win, because the students have more rights than the teachers do. That
particular student needed that class to graduate, they told me. So I decided
to get out of there and asked to go back to substitute teaching, where I
have learned a great deal about teaching and met a lot of wonderful
teachers, administrators and kids. But of course, I am not making anything
like the kind of money a regular teacher makes. Luckily, I have a husband
to fall back on.

They told me they liked it when I took the kids out in the courtyard to
draw. They liked it when I put up art displays in the case outside the
office, they liked the masks, they liked the rainsticks--the music teacher
asked to have the rainsticks, even though I was unable to get those high
school students to do anything creative with those rainsticks, like put
branches on them or whatever. They wanted to see the finished product that
they were supposed to produce. (Sigh, slow tears sliding down creativity
teacher's cheeks.) There are so many art possibilities for musical
instruments and that is such an important part of African-American culture.

We didn't have any textbooks in that high school classroom. I went all the
way through a BA, and MA, and the teaching credential program and never ONCE
saw art textbooks, of which there are some great ones, like THE VISUAL
EXPERIENCE, by Hobbs and Salome, published by Davis, and INTRODUCING ART, by
Mittler, Unsworth, Ragans, and Scannell, published by Glencoe; and
PORTFOLIOS, by Robyn Turner, published by Barrett Kendall.

Sometimes I think, well, I learned all this the hard way, so why should I
put all that information out on the internet so some young teacher can avoid
all the turmoil I went through when I started out? If your parents were
teachers, they would know all this and they would have brought home a
textbook for you to look at. But I didn't have that advantage. As a
teacher, I am not in the business of keeping secrets, I'm in the business of
telling what I know that works well. I don't have to tell everything I know
on the internet, but if art teachers don't help each other out, who will?
We already are the low man on the totem pole just because we are teaching


To get back to the topic of curriculum, one of the more successful things I
did was to write down all the projects I could teach and ask the students to
rank them in order of the first ten projects they would like to do. I
wanted to know what they wanted to do and also give them some choices. I
thought that if I taught them what they wanted to learn, I would have more
success as a teacher. There was a lot of support for that in my teaching
credential program--it's called student directed learning, I think. You
don't give the whole control to the students, you just let them make some of
the choices, within the bounds of the state-mandated standards. That's what
art is all about anyway--making choices, of what subject matter to draw, of
what color to paint, of what texture to create, of whether to draw it in
front or in back, and so on.

I know a child, who when he was growing up, was asked what his choices were
in order to find out what he wanted, so they woudn't give it to him, they
would give him something else. That's a way of breaking a person's will and
bringing the person into submission. It's not a good thing to do to a
child, because it renders the child easily controlled, and helpless to
resist bad influences.

Jean Womack
Richmond, California

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