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[teacherartexchange] Being a New teacher


From: Patricia Knott (pknott_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Fri Jul 14 2006 - 12:28:05 PDT

The one thing I hear from new teachers is "I really wasn't prepared
for....." I won't begin to list the "was-nots"
Mostly it is routine stuff, that many of us take for granted.
Many school systems have mentors for new teachers , but from what I
read, I suspect many new teachers are set out to fend for themselves.

I wonder what is not happening in our pre-service programs. ? I
know that there are a few on this list that direct student teacher
programs and do excellent jobs with being on top of the latest and
best information. My experience with student teachers is that they
have no idea how to handle all the day to day on top of creating
lessons. And it is my opinion that the first year of teaching is so
overwhelming as to procedures and management that being creative with
lessons becomes something there is little time for. Scattered,
unprepared thinking in lessons only creates management problems.
Trust and rely on stuff you are sure of, even if the lesson is not so

But, constantly there are stories on this list about people coming
from places that may not be so new. I'm thinking about Staci who is
knocking herself out trying to learn a skill that she is unfamiliar
with. She is getting tons of support from this list, but what is the
"in-school" support? When she spends her summer learning the skill
and then gets into an unfamiliar place with an unfamiliar curriculum
(If I recall Staci said this a magnet school with an IB curriculum)
with an age group she isn't accustomed to, who will be there to help
her with the day to day which is often the down fall of new
teachers? Being prepared is much more than conveying the skills.
Being prepared is understanding the needs and interests of the
students and conveying that into meaningful lessons with purpose and

I started teaching after many years in an art career. I thought I
knew about art. I wasn't sure about teaching art. My 14 years have
been filled with constant preparation, I barely slept my first 2
years and I barely sleep now. It's not the "stuff" that keeps me
awake now, it's the methods of conveying the stuff. Every year the
kids are different, every year they are more or less of something,
but every year there is that bunch of faces hoping I will give some
reason for why they are sitting there.

My best advice for new teachers, is don't pretend anything ---- be
honest when you don't know and make it into an experience. First
and most you need to establish a class environment that makes every
kid feel safe and free to explore and make mistakes and investigate
at their own pace and expectations ( and that includes your own
safety). Make every day a new day. The luxury of teaching art is
that the pace and expectations can be choice based.

It really concerns me that there are still conversations about the
"artist as teacher" and those that still say "those that can't -
teach... "
That attitude totally demoralizes the motivation of those of us that
want to teach and disregards the reasons we teach. My skills as a
teacher come very much from from how I learned to be an artist. And,
one does learn how to be an artist. Gifts,skills and talent are not
enough. What I think artists that teach bring to the classroom is
the "process" -- how do we get to ideas and communicate the
idea. I'm lucky that all my artist/teachers knew how to ask the
questions to make me think. I can cajole and manipulate thinking
about technique, but the best thing I do as a teacher is ask WHY?

  I still can't throw a pot and I don't care to. But I love hand
building and don't disregard what I can do with a slab. Does that
make me less of a ceramic artist? I was always penalized because
I don't care about pulling a shape on the wheel. I don't want to
make a mug or a vase. But I can take ugly stuff and combine it with
other techniques and make something out of it.

So what processes do we value? And how do we let kids know that we
value the exploration even when the product may not be an "A?"
I'll end with what Woody says:
> Most of our students will never go into art as a profession. We
> need to teach
> all students to appreciate and understand art. Don't neglect the
> serious ones
> but teaching art should be with a very broad brush.
A broad brush indeed. ... that gives kids lots of opportunity to
make, and to appreciate, and plenty of opportunity to question.


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