I have two stories for you about meeting the needs of kids with
disabilities. We all know how often special needs students are
placed in the artroom, so my stories may be of use to you. Like
most art teachers, I had no classes in dealing with special
needs students - we still have to learn it through experience.
When I was teaching middle school art, a girl who was born with
no arms and legs was placed in my class. I was unsure of my
ability to meet her needs, but she had never had an art class
before and really wanted to take art, so I agreed to take her.
It turned out to be a positive, meaningful experience for all of
The student was accompanied by an aide who served as her hands
for things like using scissors - Sara directed the aide, so the
ideas were always from Sara. She could also draw better than
most of the other students in the class by holding a pencil or
pen in her mouth. I treated her just like any other student -
she did the same assignments as the others. The students in the class
were very helpful and respectful towards her, so I think they learned
quite a lot by interacting with her. I probably learned more than anyone -
about the need Sara had to be treated like everyone else and Sara's
courage and the effect it had on the other students.
Sara also was a great example that students can appreciate,
learn about and think about art, without being an "art star." She
was so proud the day the principal bought one of her artworks for
display in the office.
My second story is about having high expectations for all
students. Again, in middle school, I had a class that included
six Down's Syndrome students, a number of behavior-disabled
students, and some kids who were really interested in art. My
solution was to use my standard lessons and to expect all
students to work to the best of their abilities. The Down's
Syndrome kids had never been allowed to take an art class
before but they surpassed all my expectations. The most amazing
thing to me was that they were able to draw recognizeable still
lifes from actual objects.
I guess the lesson from these two stories is that high
expectations for all students are important and that we should
never assume that students cannot perform to the best of their
I just thought of three more incidents you could pose as problems:
(1) I had a second grader expose himself in class to another boy
and (2) my student teacher caught a high school boy masturbating
in class (not my class), and (3) in one of my middle school classes, a
openly gay boy put his hand on the crotch of the football player next to
him; the footabll player jumped up, slapped the other boy, and
ran out of the room.
What would you do in these situations?
In the first incident I was furious (because he was exposing
himself to a boy who was very quiet and shy, and because he
dared do it in my class!) and immediately took him to the office.
Unfortunately, I don't think the principal did anything productive
like call his parents. I did talk to the counselor and it never happened
In the second situation (the masturbation incident), the student
teacher took him to the office) and in the third, I just tried
to calm down the class and get back to work. Most of the
students thought it was funny.
If you need more, Craig, just let me know - I have lots of
stories (the time when I was hit in the head by a ceiling fan,
fights - the only two fights in my career both involved
elementary girls, etc.).
> Hi everyone,
> With the school year approaching, I'm planning to introduce "case studies"
> into my art methods class here at UF and was hoping that some of the art
> teachers on this list would be willing to contribute a "real life" story or
> two. If you have a few moments and can think of a classroom situation that
> you've encountered that might lend itself to discussion among preservice
> art teachers, I would greatly appreciate it if you would share your story.
> What I'm looking for is a sort of "What would you do?" dilemma. This might
> involve anything from a disruptive student to a lesson that went haywire.
> It might involve a "funny" situation or a "frightening" one. If an appropriate
> situation comes to mind, please describe the context and what transpired in
> a few paragraphs followed by a brief explanation of how you handled the
> situation and the results.
> I realize that a teacher's decisions are dependent on a range of factors
> and that we can't completely re-live the moment in the classroom. Also,
> I'm not looking for something that has "one right answer." Rather I'm
> hoping to use these stories to generate discussion among my students who
> will soon face "real life" in the classroom as art teachers.
> You can send the story to me directly by using the reply button...or you
> can post the story on the list. That might generate discussion among list
> members and prove interesting.
> Depending on the response, I will compile the stories and post them on the
> web so that other art teacher educators might make use of them. Of course,
> I will credit the source of the stories unless someone requests that s/he
> remain anonymous.
> CRAIG ROLAND. Associate Professor-Art Education.
> Department of Art, FAC 302, University of Florida, Gainesville Florida.
> 32611-5801. (352) 392-9165 - Art Ed Office (352) 392-8453 - Fax
Nancy Walkup, Project Coordinator
North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts
PO Box 305100, University of North Texas
Denton, TX 76203
940/565-3986 FAX 940/565-4867