As an art on the cart teacher, I prefer the classroom teacher to leave the
room. They usually leave on their own, but when they don't I try to ignore
them. My style is bound to be different than the style of any other
teacher, and I am fortunate that the teachers in my building generally
respect that. If the classroom teacher ever has any comments to make, they
are usually made to me in private and they are usually positive comments.
If you are a volunteer, rather than an official teacher, the classroom
teacher might feel that their presence in the classroom is required.
This is especially true when there are students in the class (usually the
case) who are having a hard time with following directions, or having a
hard time controling their behavior, or both. There are many obvious
reasons for asking students to follow directions. The classroom teacher may
have been working all week with this student on listening and following
directions. Perhaps your presence simply provided an opportunity for the
teacher to work one-on-one with this student concerning chronic issues.
However, in art class there is a fine line between creative exploration and
simply not following directions. This is why it is a good idea to present
the lessons in such a way that there are a few important instructions which
must be followed, around which the student is encouraged to explore other
possibilities and find creative solutions. These important instructions
should be simple, clear, and few. Model these instructions clearly, then
list them visually on the board or in a handout. Require they follow the
instructions, but enthusiastically encourage elaboration, tangents, and
cool ideas. While they are working, mingle with them, exclaiming verbally
about all the different possibilities you see developing in the room.
Quietly clearify the important instructions as necessary for students who
are not following them. The teacher should follow your lead, and if not,
speak with her about it later.
One good reason for asking students to follow directions is so they learn
the concept being taught. If they learn the concept, they will be prepared
for the next lesson which will build from previous learning, and they will
also be enabled to later explore other possibilities on their own. I
sometimes hear students say, "but this is the way I like to do it!" I try
to be respectful of their preferences, but suggest that out of these few
steps they learn today, they may discover a new favorite way to do it. I do
not think we are teaching art in school only to provide a time for students
to express themselves. Creative expression happens in the best art lessons,
but the primary goal should be to provide the knowledge or tools necessary
to expand future possibilities for creative expression.
I suggest you have a private talk with the classroom teacher about the way
you see your classes going. As long as classroom management isn't a
problem, perhaps more autonomy could be worked out for you. I hope this has
Mark Alexander, 1-8 Art
Lee H. Kellogg School
47 Main Street
Falls Village, Connecticut 06031
"The object of education is to
prepare the young to
throughout their lives."