Ellyn, you might also be interested in reading any of the work of the late
great Dr. Demming on management theory. His opinions about quality, quotas,
rewards, competition within workgroups, etc. have, I think, great potential
for application in the school. Unfortunately, it would only really work if
the whole "system" applied his techniques, not just one classroom.
I agree with San D about competitions and awards. I aspire to someday
accomplish what she has accomplished with her students.
As an artist, when I should have been the most fulfilled - the quality of
shows, the "importance" of the artists with whose work I was being shown,
the "right" people buying my work (for this area, anyway), I found myself
with a very empty feeling. It confirmed my belief that the fulfillment, the
"meaning" of being an artist for me was not external validation. I want to
teach my students to be artists whether or not anybody is watching, and
certainly whether or not anybody else likes the art they are making. I want
them to yearn for serious insightful criticism. I believe that is how to
become an artist-for-life, to not stop making art when the awards stop, when
they get the art job, or even when they get tenure. For me, a sustainable
art life is not about attention, it's not about rewards, it's not about
producing a marketable commodity.
But awards are a part of our system, and how to deal with them is the
challenge. Downstairs from my office is a statewide student art show. I
strongly disagree with which pieces won awards, and I wonder why the big
prize winners are mostly from the school of the art teacher who organized
it, just like last year (at least this year she didn't give her own child
grand champion). I seriously doubt the long term educational value of this
exhibit. The students didn't choose which pieces to enter, they didn't cut
the mats, they didn't put up the show. Whose needs does this exhibit meet?