I had the pleasure of facilitating a session of Professional Development for other like-minded, fantastically fun ART teachers in Sun Prairie. This happened over a week ago, but it was just what I needed to finish off the year with some oomph! Go ahead and pan/zoom your way through this Prezi.
Shazam! That's how we do it... no repeats needed (thanks Pete & Repeat for going on that boat ride!). The big question is, are giving our students opportunities to engage on different levels in order to meet the four human drives of mastery, interpersonal, understanding and self-expression? This article has been my ah-ha moment for the school year, as I strive to create student independence.
I like to draw while listening to speakers. I take their message and illustrate it in a way that makes sense for me. While I may appear to not be listening to the speaker because my head is downcast and my pen is always moving, I'm truly engaged in the teaching. The drawing grounds me. It focuses me.
I had the honor of sketchnoting while Susie Larson shared her messages of faith, perseverance and freedom "Through God's Eyes" at the Appleton Alliance 2016 Women's Retreat.
(You see that? ENGAGE YOUR HEART.)
I admit, I smiled to myself whenever I heard Susie talking about being engaged. While she was using the term as a reference to being accessible to God, I was making a connection to my classroom environment where I'm always talking about having students "engage and persist" in their art-making. I want my students to make art with confidence. I want them to engage their heart and care about what they create.
I actually went to a session on this type of visual note-taking while at the Wisconsin Art Education Association (WAEA) conference in October 2015. It's called sketchnoting. I never really thought about teaching it as a skill to my students until I went to this session and heard all the supporting research. Even EdWeek.org has a post from January 2016 about The Benefits of Using Doodling and Sketchnoting in the Classroom. Written by Deidra Gammill, Ph.D, who suggests to start slowly:
Get comfortable with your own sketching so you can share your work with your students. I make a habit of including images in my note taking at conferences and meetings, which helps me grow and provides an example for my students to follow.
Well, there you go. That's what I'm doing. Sharing my work so others can be inspired to give it a try. My meandering doodles may not make sense to you, but I look at them and I remember Susie's words.
So many of her messages would be beneficial to my middle school students, such as the desire to be part of an imaginary inner (social) circle. Even adults need to be reminded that the inner circle does NOT exist. Be brave. Be free from that notion.
In all honesty, the lemonade stand is a long stretch in relation to the main concept of Susie's message. She made mention of a lemonade stand and I thought "Oh! that is fun", and I began to doodle. I wove the image in as part of her apple/seed analogy that led into a reminder that we should all live a fruitful (full!) life where we laugh more and cherish our purpose.
THEN... at our final session with Susie, she talked about taking risks. Once again, I made a connection to my classroom. Are my students pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone with the art materials? Are they taking risks with their ideas?
I dare them to.
She also mentioned the importance of finding those friends who accept you without judgement. At which point, I nudged my sister-in-law sitting next to me. I've heard that statement from her mouth a many of times: "We won't judge!". Thank you, Jenn, for bringing me along for another wonderful, spiritual retreat, without judgement.
Speaking of judgement... last year at retreat, I embarrassed my sister-in-law by posting a photo of 19 Crimes wine with a "Praise Jesus!" on the FB. Sometimes I think I'm funny when I'm not. I blame my fun-loving parents who took my siblings and I to reconciliation at church, followed by an evening of family bonding playing Bull Sh(oo)t! because it's a game of lie, cheat and swear. You know... because we all just came clean with our sins, so we had to celebrate somehow. (Praise Jesus!)
Welcome to the New Holstein Middle School art STUDIO, where my students are called ARTISTS.
That's what happens when Teaching for Artistic Behaviors (aka: TAB). In a nutshell, it's a choice-based curriculum. It's where students get to choose their materials, develop their own ideas and struggle through the process. Isn't that what artists do?!
That's a really big nutshell.
(I am a bit of a nut. A good, fun nut. I think it's in the job description for being creative.)
Do you think creativity is important? I've adopted a mantra in relation to that topic, inspired by Sir Ken Robinson:
SShazam! I am no longer the "art educator". My new title is "Creative Leader".
So here's the deal. I'm trying really hard to create a classroom culture where new ideas are praised and all artistic abilities are celebrated. The emphasis is on building a portfolio of artwork that includes reflections that tell me what they've learned. How did they challenge themselves? We've been practicing this on a smaller scale through a Google Form (survey) that students fill out when they complete an artwork. It's based on the Studio Habits of Mind.
On a larger scale, students are also blogging about it - when I assign it. In the spirit of choice, this quarter I plan on giving options: a written blog post, a video blog or a live presentation to the class... because sharing ideas is fun.
Then I don't have to grade the artwork! (I once observed an art teacher who took artwork, compared them to each other, and then sorted them into an 'A' pile, 'B', and so forth. I was flabbergasted by that grading system!)
Instead, the artist (aka student) and I can focus on the learning instead of the quality of the skill displayed in the final product. If you want to get technical about it, it's called Standards Based Learning, or SBL, because education and acronyms go together like nuts and... squirrels. Yes, squirrels. Or do you prefer pea(nut) butter and jelly? Even better, a squirrel eating a peanut butter sandwich...
... and this is how ideas develop. One thing leads to another.
... and this is how topics transition.
I once did a tshirt design for a coffee shop called The Chattering Squirrel. We're close friends with the owners and this guy that runs the place is a social squirrel. To me, that means that he's fun, energetic and has a heart of gold.
There. I just invented a new slang term AND gave you a definition for it. Are you reading this, Urband Dictionary? Social Squirrel. Don't forget it.)
So, his wife asked me to draw a caricature of him as a squirrel, holding a cup of coffee. I'm still unsure if I like it as a tshirt, but it was fun capturing his personality in the design!
Chattering Squirrel © 2011 Caffeinated Designs, LLC
I want you to know that his wife requested the 'hey, LADIES' wink. I love that couple.
So there's your proof that idea development is an important real-world skill to practice and develop. You never know when you're going to be asked to draw something nutty. Wink.
I had an intriguing conversations with a colleague today about our reflecting practices. We were happily working away on our self-review as part of our Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness process. I reached Domain 4a: reflecting on teacher practices. I was all ready to rate myself as "proficient" with a rationale of "if you could only see inside my head." Scary. Like Spongebob scary.
That's when I start talking out loud, to anyone sitting around me who will listen: "You know, I'm always thinking about my teaching practices. I'm thinking about it on my commute. I'm thinking about it while I'm mulching leaves. I'm trying to not think about while practicing yoga." Mrs. Tomchek was kind enough to listen and started raving about this video by Simon Sinek who explains that the biology of our brains doesn't allow us to express those things into words. Uhhh.... WHAT? I made her show me, because let's be serious, if biology says that our brain is holding us back, then I can't expect my students to do the same. Why would I try to start this blog? So she proceeded to play this little video - ok, not little, it was LOOOONG, but she showed me an itty bitty clip to prove her point. The main message that Simon Sinek communicates in this video clip is: The goal is not to do business with people who need what you have; the goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.
While I like that message, he proceeds to explain the biology of the brain, specifically the limbic part of brain that is responsible for our feelings. Those "gut feelings" have no capacity for language. Did you read that?! No capacity for language. I hope you heard him say that this is not his opinion. This is based in biology. (I love how he says that a few times. ..a few times. ..a few times.)
If you're one of my students reading this, I forsee this conversation is going to come back to haunt me.
Now let's connect this with art. I expect my students to explain the art-making process. What did you do? What materials did you use? What were you successful with? What did you struggle with? Why was it important for you to make this?
According to Sinek, it's difficult to explain the decisions we make in the art-making process because it stems from the limbic part of the brain that causes things to just "feel right". It comes from the heart. From the soul. From the Force. (My kids are watching Star Wars while I'm writing this; I couldn't resist.) "Always in motion, is the future," says Yoda. Dang, I like that little dude. I kind of wish I could carry him around in a backpack all day so he could whisper words of wisdom.
I bet that Yoda and Sinek would get along. I bet that they would do business together because they both believe that you need to "Start With Why". In order to motivate my students, I need to explain WHY it's important to write and reflect in art. Let's be honest, it's been a cause of debate and I've realized that many of my students don't see the value in doing it. So I'm searching to speak to the limbic part of their brains and it is going. to. BLOW. THEIR. MINDS.
Like Yoda + Ewok = Gremlin.
Or this artist, Nathan Shields at Sai Pancakes who uses pancakes batter to cook up some art.
This guy puts my husband's R2D2 pancake spatula to shame. In the meantime, I'm going to eat some pancakes (gluten-free... ugh) and think of some more ways to amuse you all with fun art. How would Yoda say that? "More ways to amuse you all with art, I will think of."