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Re: Is art education dead?


From: Sidnie Miller (sidmill_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun Jun 09 2002 - 09:24:42 PDT

Hi Peggy--my pottery 2 class ran as a constructivist class--although I'd
never heard the terminology. The kids were all signed up for independent
studio which the counselors had fronted for pottery 2. They didn't want
to have any assignments--worked pretty well each day--set up challenges
for each other with me goading them along and helping them with thoughts
and ideas--presenting examples--inspiration from magazines and books etc.
They went from throwing 3 inch bowls to stacking and reorganizing pieces
to carving and adding parts--eg. a 3 foot piece with cast hands moving
through it to really challenging things like thrown pieces connected by
tubes which went through slab boxes.. I really thought it was fun and
exciting and the kids all loved to come in--snuck in throughout the day
for a bit more time. Grading was a constant problem because I didn't have
any kind of paper trail and the admin would have had a fit to see my
gradebook which was essentially empty. The kids thought I should just
give them all A's which would have made senses for most of them, but some
just came in and sat and talked to others--some didn't really have any
skills but their friends were all in there etc. At the semester I
realized how indefensible my grades were so I handed out a page full of
requirements for the 2nd semester--general stuff like, you must organize
and advertise and set up a show, you must do at least 10 projects, you
must set up a powerpoint of your work, you must show responsibility in
cleaning up and helping others, you must make a glaze. The class
generally degenerated in the 4th quarter. They were all seniors and got
really sick of school--started working on making senior mugs, ignored
about half of the requirements, and since they all did it, was I going to
give them all poor grades??? I had them write in defense of their
grade--basically just go down the list of requirements I had given them
and tell how they had satisfied them and tell me what grade they deserved
and why...they all wrote A.

Sooo, next year I will tighten it all up. I will get more
structured--this year it was a constructivist class because I didn't know
what to do--every year from now it will get more tight and teacher
controlled, because unless you are willing to give everyone a's, your tail
is really in a crack if they talk to if they turn on you for
whatever reason. Our sysytem requires a big paper trail for our own
protection. That seems to be the big fallacy about constructivism--once
the teacher is really knowledgable on the area, they either have to feign
ignorance or be in charge. After a few years you really know all the
outcomes with pretty good certainty. There is no question that you can't
duplicate the enthusiasm you have when you give a new project and neither
you nor the students know how it will go and all the problems etc. and you
work them out together..this is fun for everyone(unless the project turns
out to be a disaster because your techniques failed) To keep up this
level of interest you would have to have new and different assignments
each and every time. ok, let's see, I have 6 different preps each
day...times 7 periods......

 I have to comment that in my own classes which I am
almost always paying for, I expect and demand that my teachers know the
outcomes first and have long, detailed answers to my questions--not just a
bubbly, gee, I don't know, Let's find out together!!

# Sidnie Miller #
# Elko High School #
# College Avenue #
# Elko, NV 89801 #
# 702-738-7281 #