Monday, August 30, 2010

What I Teach

Little Girl Dreaming With PC

Want to know a secret?  A deep, dark secret that I've kept off this blog for over a year now?  One that will shock you?

Well, too bad.  I'm going to tell you anyway.


Here I go ...

I'm not a part of my school's Art Department.

Yeah, that shocks me, too.  Here's a guy whose screen name on an umptillion of Web 2.0 sites is "The Art Guy," who may or may not have been the first art teacher podcaster (at the time I started I couldn't find another one ... that's far from the case now of course), who isn't even a part of his own school's Art Department.

How'd THAT happen?

It's a bureaucratic issue, to be honest.  I teach in a computer lab in a K-8 Arts Academy.  If it was a high school, I'd be a Computer Graphics teacher.  Unfortunately there is no course number for such a class in middle school, let alone elementary.

Instead, I teach a class called Technology Concepts.  It's a fun class to teach, if you're as geeky as I am, but it's not inherently an art course.  Therefore, I  have no reason (on paper, at least), to be a part of the Art Department.  Instead, I'm a part of the Enrichment Department.

It's not so bad...

I recently was chatting online with a former coworker from a previous school, and she lamented my change of departments.

"I'm so sorry," she said, "You're far too talented to not be teaching art!"

At that point I puffed out my chest and my head swelled with pride - and not just because she said I had talent.

"Oh, I'm still teaching art.  Do you honestly think I could stop teaching art if I tried?"

Of course she could not.

I'm an art teacher. I teach art.

Your definitions may vary, but in my book, ART is anything that involves creativity.  I don't care if it's a painting, story, play, song, dance, or video game.  An ARTIST is anyone who creates art, and an ART TEACHER is anyone who teaches students how to be artists.

I'm a teacher at a Creative & Performing Arts Academy.  Whatever subject is taught by any teacher, they had darned well better be teaching art as well or they don't belong there.

Math is art.

Science is art.

Social studies is art.

Reading/Language Arts is art to the point that the R/LA Department should be part of the Art Department as well!


Does it sting a bit to know I'm not part of a department named for my degree and certification?  Yes, yes it does.  But it doesn't change what I teach.

Art is universal.  Only the styles and media change.

And I'm an art teacher.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Return to Technology Concepts

School starts on Monday.

No, no that's not true.  For me, School started several weeks ago when I came in during the Summer to put my lab back together.  (The custodial staff needed me to break it down so they could move the desks and wax my floors.)

I found out only recently that many of the students I had last year will also be returning.  I met this news with mixed feelings.  First, I had some awesome kids last year.  There was more than one time that I took student work to my principal and said "This is why I need majors."  Seriously, we're an Arts Academy.  We have dance, drama, visual art, chorus, media production, band, AND orchestra majors - why not computer graphics, too?

That may happen in the future, but for now the red tape is in the way.

Unfortunately, for every student who was absolutely thrilled to have my class there was another who was only there because the Guidance dept. needed to give them an elective.

I don't fault students for not being thrilled with technology.  It's my passion, it doesn't have to be everyone's.  I was, however, concerned about credit.  There have been two other occasions where I've had students put in a class after they had already earned credit.  In one case discipline problems were a concern.

But then again, I've been assured that if the students couldn't get credit for taking Technology Concepts a second time the scheduling software wouldn't have let them into my class.

And it's not like I'm teaching all the same lessons again, either.  As technology and my own skill sets evolve, so do the projects I assign.  Granted, some lessons will be repeated - every class starts with students using PowerPoint to introduce themselves to the class - but others were already on the chopping block not because they were old news to the students (I didn't know I'd have returning students yet), but because they were old news to me.

The media we use will still be the same.  Students will still create animations, avatars, wallpapers, posters, and more.  I don't think I'm wrong for repeating those things so long as there's something new about them.  After all, I doubt the chorus majors will be saying "But we sang songs LAST year!"

I just have to keep things interesting, but you know what?

I think I just might be able to do that.