Exploring Choice


Do you remember when you learned to swim?  There you were, standing at the waters edge with your “floaties” on with your mom (or dad) gesturing for you to jump in. You shook your head vigorously and chose instead to dip a toe in, and then back in slowly over the edge of pool.  Or, perhaps you chose to ease in one step or ladder rung at a time.  Or maybe you bravely dove in?

I have been testing the waters with TAB, or Teaching for Artistic Behavior, and choice in the art room.  Diving in, exploring choice, and co-constructing learning seemed scary to me.

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The steps started small.  Still cleaving to my DBAE, or Discipfile_000line-Based Art Education, roots, I offered choice and by variations within a project or having student input when designing a project.  For example, this fifth grade Artist Guitar project:

OR this second grade Britto project.

For this project, student interest and input designed the lesson – we sipped cocoa (sugar-free, of course) and students chose color and patterns.

All well and good, but student choice (and voice) was still limited.  I went to NAEA and took every Choice workshop I could, and started to wrap my head around it and really flesh out my goals.  I love how Anne Bedrick describes her goal in her essay (and book) Choice Without Chaos.  She says:

I teach the way I teach because I am keeping my eye on the end game, the adults that I want to help build… the innovators, the ones who persevere, the ones who ask questions and see possibilities, the ones who are able to be self-directed, organized, and can manage their time.  I want to help them realize that the key to success in anything is their trust in their own judgment.

As an art teacher, I am educating people.  Whether or not my students grow up and continue to make art is not the most important thing to me.  I hope that they will continue to make art, but if they grow up able to recognize problems and see possibilities in situations, then I will feel that I have succeeded as a teacher.

-Anne Bedrick, Choice Without Chaos

I had the chance to meet Anne at the NAEA convention, and I could not help but feel inspired by her passion and experience.   That is my desire – to create an environment that builds a well-rounded person who have the skills for jobs that don’t exist.  Yes, they will learn and develop and build things – and they will be wonderful because they created them – but, I – I am in the business of building up people.

Since then, I have begun swimming in the TAB pool.  I started with the younger students, and deconstructed a project I have done in the past and turned it into a “skill-builder”.  The students explore art materials and after that design a project.  Sometimes it has been more in-depth with art history embedded into the the skill-builders.

Art History and Image Resources (1)I have also begun curating digital resources.  Our district is going 1:1 with devices, so I have begun organizing videos, instructional resources, art history content connections, and image banks to help facilitate blended learning.

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What I love about this whole experience is seeing the the A-ha! moments – hearing them describe in great depth their thinEdTech Resourcesking and problem-solving behind the framework of their composition, their design choices, and choice of art materials.

NAEA: Reflections

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the National Art Education Association’s National Convention in New York City.  Amazing would be an understatement of my experience.  I struggle to find the words to describe it, but I will try.

Along with over 7,000 other arts educators (this includes EC-12, higher education, and museum education), I soaked up the learning, the contacts, and of course, the sites.  I had the opportunity to hear from professional artists and educators from all over the globe – 34 countries were represented at this conference.

This was my first time, and I love that I could curate my own learning experience.  Some of the areas I focused on were Teaching for Artistic Behavior (choice-based arts education), Studio Habits of Mind, instructional/educational technology, GSuite for Education, gamification, and virtual reality.  It was also wonderful to expand my own PLN (personal learning network) and learn from some of the top educators in the field.

Some highlights:

One of the amazing things I happened upon when walking through three (THREE!) levels of the exhibit halls was Doodlematic.  This app turns your physical drawings (and that of your students) into digital games.

I was excited to learn from many fabulous educators, one who discussed meaningful, practical ways that she has blended her art room – and three others who have integrated virtual reality into their art rooms as a means of exploring the world, creating empathy, having students create virtual gallery spaces to globally communicate, and create their own multimedia art spaces by designing their own augmented realities.  I felt empowered and encouraged (who doesn’t need that?) after hearing from Cassie Stephens, Anne Bedrick, Jessica Balsley, and David C. Driskell (among many others):

“A rising tide lifts all boats.” – New England Chamber of Commerce

I thoroughly enjoy professional development because I am passionate about learning.  Hearing from other educators from all over the world was rejuvenating: I left New York feeling refreshed and excited to explore these skills, approaches, and ideas.  This is why I love education (specifically public education) – because as educators we get to teach each other and build each other up.  We rise because others rise and pour into us.  We rise because we share and reflect and grow because we want others – our students, our colleagues, our community – to grow.