Talking about visual literacy at the secondary literacy symposium. Not only do art students engage with traditional texts like books and articles, they are also learning art language to develop abilities to decode and encode the visual world.
Add to my recent post that educators need to have courage! Principal Dawn Hendrick and her staff at Woodlawn Elementary certainly demonstrated courage when they decided to dedicate an entire day to CARDBOARD!
A few of the teachers, including art teacher Angela Noland, started playing with the idea of doing Imagination.org’s Global Cardboard Challenge with some students at the school, and before they knew it, it was a whole school event. That’s right! Every student, in every classroom, grades K through 6 spent the entire day building with cardboard and then had a fantastic time sharing their creations with the school.
While there was a great deal of flexibility, upper grades were challenged to design games that others could play. This required them to think creatively and critically, collaborate with others, and be goal directed and resilient. There was a lot of talk, too, about how this challenge really called on the students to apply their understanding of STEM disciplines, and there is certainly no denying that Art was involved.
Where’s the A in STEAM? At Woodlawn, that’s where!
Kudos to the staff at Woodlawn for having the courage to give your students an experience they learned from, and will not soon forget.
Several very busy days have passed since, but I don’t want to lose the opportunity to acknowledge and reflect upon the fall art teacher in-service.
There is nothing more exhilarating than a back-to-school kickoff event with over 300 art teachers in one place! Now, before you conclude that I must have a very boring life, let me clarify. I don’t mean exhilarating like when you ride a roller coaster or something like that — but having this many like-minded professional educators in one place just before the start of the school year does create an atmosphere where the excitement and anticipation are palpable. And this year, everyone was feeling a little extra enthusiasm because we arranged to meet at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
We were able to take care of business in a general session, had an excellent presentation from our hosts (Thank you, Briana and Elizabeth!), provided opportunities for collaborative teams to meet, and had some much valued time in the galleries.
The day before the in-service, I asked a question of one of my colleagues who was preparing for her own teacher meeting.
What is your goal?
I think I asked this question for myself as much as any reason. Our in-services are only a short half-day and our big opportunity to influence the direction for the whole coming school year within our discipline. Many times in the past I have felt overwhelmed with the number of topics that I felt too important not to address during the meeting, but the reality is most teachers will come away with just one or two ideas they will really carry into their classroom.
With this realization, I have tried to focus these professional development days, and design them with one goal. By happy coincendence, the presentation from the museum staff reflected this line of thinking for teachers. The session was organized first by asking the teachers to consider what type of people they want their students to be in the future, then connecting to those ideas through the discussion activities, and encouraging the teachers to consider their goals for their students as they interacted with the exhibitions.
So, what was my goal?
I kept it simple this year. My goal was for teachers to feel inspired and excited for the new year. Spending time with the art teachers certainly motivated me, and I hope they found some inspiration in the activities and artworks they encountered at the museums!
I have had the privilege of attending our local leadership conferences for years and have always felt that it was a shame that all teachers in the division couldn’t be there to hear the message that would drive so many decisions in the coming year. That feeling is compounded when we have a new superintendent. It may not compare, but I hope some of you can appreciate those messages shared here through my mental filter.
Dr. Brabrand shared his expectations of all of us. Not just the leaders in the audience, but every last employee of the school system. His expectations are:
- Love kids
- Love teaching
- Be professional
Even those employees who don’t work with kids must love kids. Kids are why we are here.
I especially appreciate that he clarified that this means loving learning as well. Teachers must love and seek out opportunities to learn more about teaching to continually improve their craft.
Dr. B has a high standard for professionalism. He will hold us to that standard, and he expects us to hold him to that standard as well. We are role models for kids!
Check out the first Leadership Conference post for more.
A Leadership Conference marks the beginning of each new school year for the school and central office administrators in our school system. This year’s conference was our first real opportunity to hear from our new superintendent, Dr. Scott Brabrand.
One of the prominent ideas he spoke about was mindset, which he illustrated with a personal art example. Dr. Brabrand shared his efforts to challenge his own mindset regarding his drawing ability. Any artist or art teacher has probably had to listen politely to hundreds of people explaining that they can’t draw. (Read a related post HERE.) Dr. Brabrand recognized his own mindset on his ability and set out to challenge it.
First, he spent 15 minutes drawing a cat, with unimpressive results. Then he asked an art teacher to help him for one hour, and drew another cat. This time, the results were quite impressive. With only an hour of instruction, he was able to grow from a child-like line drawing, to a well-defined, natural form of a cat including value, shading, and texture. Well done, sir!
So what’s the point?!
As educators we must consider our own mindset around teaching and learning. That means we must, first, recognize our mindset, and second, be willing to challenge and change that mindset. We cannot expect to be successful, as educators, if we don’t believe in the human ability to learn. And we won’t meet our mandate to reach every child if we have anything less than this growth mindset for each and everyone of our students.
If you’re interested in reading more about mindset, check out these posts:
I don’t usually talk directly about where I work, but today I am feeling particularly proud to be part of the Fairfax County Public Schools art program. I have been communicating with an art teacher who left our school system a while back to live in another part of the country. She is excited to finally have a Fine Arts Supervisor in her division and has been talking with this supervisor about some of the wonderful things we have been doing here in FCPS.
Our new fine arts coordinator shared several goals she has for the future of our program. They all aligned with what FCPS is doing or has done. She was thrilled to hear more about my FCPS Fine Arts experience.
This supervisor is especially interested in supporting new teachers, and would like to emulate some of the resources we provide to our new teachers and the way we share resources to all art teachers through our blackboard organization. Nothing of that kind currently exists in that school system.
Another common interest was found in an art teacher exhibition. Many of you have read about our annual Artist Teacher Exhibitions through this blog.
Another big change for this year is a Art Teacher Exhibition, which she was unsure if/how it would work but wanted to give it a shot. I told her I know that it would work because I have seen it and showed her an article and youtube video of your last FCPS Exhibit that solidified her vision.
While it’s wonderful to think of all of these supports and programs being emulated, it was especially good to hear her views on our curriculum.
She also noted that all FCPS curriculum and lessons I use and have shared with her are very rigorous and I shared that it is easy to teach with rigor and many moving parts when you aren’t creating every single piece on your own. The resources, training and support make all the difference.
She repeatedly told me that she couldn’t wait to meet “these amazing people” and is curious to learn how they built this program and all of these resources… I am inspired by her hopes and vision for our program.
Working within a system like FCPS can make you hyper-aware of its challenges and shortcomings, but notes like the ones from this teacher are a great reminder of how good we have it. Despite any criticism we may have or hear, FCPS is still providing a world-class art education for its students, and other school systems are trying to get to where we are. I’m proud to be a part of it!
Congratulations to the many students, and their teachers, recognized at the Technology+Art=NOW reception yesterday evening. The artwork is stellar, and you should be incredibly proud!
I also want to thank — and congratulate — Arts Herndon, the organization that organizes this program. I want to thank them for recognizing our artists for excellence and for providing monetary scholarship awards to encourage these students in their endeavors. That may all make sense but it may seem less clear why I would want to congratulate them as well.
I want to congratulate them for their vision. Arts Herndon recognizes that significant advances in creativity and innovation are happening at the place where art and technology intersect. The Technology+Art=NOW program is a clear demonstration of this belief, but the really impressive part is that they have been doing this for ten years! Kudos, my friends, Kudos!