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[teacherartexchange] Professional Development

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From: Jean Womack (jeaneger_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun Oct 29 2006 - 21:41:54 PST


Dear fellow teachers,

I attended the CA Art Education Association conference this weekend. What a
fabulous experience. First off, it was held in Fresno, very centrally
located in CA, only a four hour drive for me. Fresno is big farm country in
the central valley of CA. It's flat. The city has wide avenues, not much
traffic, and huge public buildings. It is such a different landscape from
what I am used to.

This is the third CAEA conference I have gone to. Now it seems as if the
other people are starting to want to get to know me a little bit, since I
won't go away, I guess. The people I sat next to, generally were willing to
have a conversation, thankfully. I make an effort to be sociable too. I
was able to share two really good art ideas with the people sitting next to
me, so I did not feel like a complete leech. The conference organizers
seemed to be happy and cheerful, which made me feel good about being there.

We had a great opening workshop in which we made clay animals and clay
rainsticks. The clay rainsticks that Barrie showed us sure sounded a lot
prettier than the paper mache ones I taught about five years ago. Just make
sure you poke a hole in the bottom so it doesn't blow up in the kiln. The
clay work provided a happy ending to the conference as well. We made sea
creatures stuck to a rock.

I attended two master classes taught by Cris Guenter, who gave me a great
role model of excellent classroom management techniques, along with basic
colored pencil techniques. I learned some hand motion techniques to keep my
students awake, and catchy phrases to painlessly make me shut up and keep
working, like "We only have 20 minutes left in the class."

Stanford professor Elliot Eisner was present on Friday to receive an award
and be roasted by the officers. One presenter told us that textbooks were
not curriculum; they were just textbooks. But she did not tell us what
curriculum was. We were treated to a slide show of the lovely, imaginative
illustrations of James Christensen.

Ken Vieth, author of ENGAGING THE ADOLESCENT MIND, autographed books and
spoke at the closing session. He balanced a funny story about cutting a
colleague out of a plaster bandage cast, with admonitions to plan and
reflect for all of our students. Here are some of his gems: vary media and
instructional materials for greater impact (i.e., teach art history first
one day and last the next day); create a safe environment; give students
choices and ask them to estimate how long it will take them to complete a
project; consider art study as a form of work; be a risk taker--do something
new once in a while; do projects with your students which will elicit
meaning; finally, consider teaching character education through art. For
this last project he showed communication of character traits through the
kind of clothing we wear, which is almost garanteed to stir up a lot of
controversy among art teachers. His students' interpretations were putting
character trait word labels on certain types of clothing, like a basketball
players jersey, an umpires uniform, and so on. How many years ago was it
decided that we could not make judgements about people from the clothing
they were wearing? I guess if a person was wearing a uniform, one could
make some assumptions...so anyway, you get my drift. It looks like a good
scupture lesson and discussion to me.

Although the conference itself cost quite a bit ($325), and I paid extra for
the master lessons and the awards breakfast; the rest of it was very
reasonable, at least for me, because my husband has a job. I got bargain
prices on textbooks I plan to use for teaching private lessons in my home,
like ART 1, drawing, painting, and sculpture. We got at least $20-$30 worth
of art supplies at the master classes. We got a lot of ribbing about asking
for free stuff, which I didn't do, except, since I have not been working
full time, I asked about a semi-retired rate, but they wouldn't go for it,
because my husband still has a job. It's unprofessional to keep trying to
get free stuff, I guess. Like, if I really can't afford it, you won't see
me there. I didn't go anywhere for years, when I was younger. Like, you
heard of an army of one? My son and I were a ghetto of two. Sorry if this
doesn't sound very professional.

The food at the hotel was reasonable. Thanks to travelocity.com, I was able
to find a clean, quiet motel about seven blocks from the conference site,
which cost a lot less than the hotel. That was better than the youth hostel
I stayed in for the San Jose conference, that was a half-hour drive away.
It's just a little bit unnerving to see signs on the walls everywhere
announcing "We're your friend. We will be here for you. Giant Bail
bondsman."

For $150 extra, I signed up to get 3 units of credit from CA State U.
Fresno. I guess I will soon find out what else, if anything, I have to do
to earn it. So then I went to ALL the events, which meant I had to skip a
couple of meals, God forbid.

I wish I had seen more African Americans at the conference, but there were a
few there, along with a few Latinos and a few Asian-Americans. They weren't
all past-middle-age white women like me. I'm glad some of the young
teachers are willing to have a conversation with me. Maybe they will come
to next year's conference in Pasadena. See you there, I hope!

Jean Womack

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