I teach K-8, and grades 3-8 have letter grades as they do in all their
other subjects. I hate grading art but feels it's necessary since not
having grades would undermine the subject. The students'
enculturation is that grades reflect how smart they are and how
achieving as well. Academic subjects have tests that can be scored.
I use rubrics showing creativity, use of time, and solving the
creative problem that I assigned. I also ask for sketchbooks each
term having at least ten drawings, collages, photos or whatever medium
is chosen. I ask for that pieces of art show the same attention to
effort and creativity as classwork. My school is urban and some kids
cannot buy sketchbooks and that is okay. They can take some photocopy
paper and make their own "sketchbook" and pass that in. Failure to do
this assignment means the student cannot receive an A for the term.
When students ask if they have to do this assignment, they get a
question from me, "how good do you want to be?" Simply put, motivated
students from any economic group will go the extra mile to do their
best. My demands often result in high quality responses. My
students have won more Scholastic Art and other art achievement awards
than any other school in my large urban district.
For the most part I enjoy interns and have no issues with the college
programs in my area. The leading sources of my interns are Lesley
University, Massachusetts cOllege of Art and Design, Tufts
University/Museum School, and Boston University. While all of the
above have different degree requirements, they all must align with
Massachusetts frameworks, and they all produce excellent interns.
Just the same, when I am asked to intern someone, I insist on meeting
them first and ask them to spend a day with me to see if will be a
good match. One prospective intern did not stay because she said she
would never seek a job in an urban system. I insisted she find an
internship that matched up with a teaching context she would
eventually want. The fact is an internship may lead to a position in
that community since many department heads like to hire familiar
faces. Some things like kiln-loading do not phase me-I have no problem
showing that and feel it can be taught in one session. I do expect my
interns to be prepared for the assignment and do not allow them to be
complacent. I insist they jump right in and work with the students.
Note taking is for later. These assignments usually have perks for me
in the form of free classes or some money. I like having interns
because it keeps me connected with the latest trend in preparing art
teachers and gives me a chance to "give my stuff away" -I am getting
older and will not be in my classroom forever. It took me years to
develop my ideas and strategies and I feel my efforts will have more
impact if I spread around my ideas.
It's never been easy. I get $2000 for 500 students. I also ask for
stuff that I may or may not get but have gotten lucky in the past.
Local companies have helped me out by giving me fabric, poster board,
and lucite. This of course takes time but it's worth it to me. If I
can get stuff outside, then my budget can go toward other stuff. I
agree that recycled art is most fun when you are not doing it because
there's no choice. I also feel that the current economic climate
suggests things will get worse before they are better. One year my
supplies did not arrive till November due to unbelievable mix-ups.
Nobody noticed although I was frantic. I took a trip to the beach and
filled buckets with beach rocks and crab shells. We designed gardens,
created "rock stars" and made petrographs. We did nature drawings and
designed crab cartoon characters. The kids loved these activities -but
it's always more fun when doing these activities for reasons having to
do with choice than necessity. It also makes people feel undervalued
when their budgets are cut and others are not. We will always have to
be ambassadors for the arts I am afraid. I am so used to it that I
don't question that role anymore.