Happy New Year
"I decided that this year, I will change my perception and think of winter as a time to rest, recharge, and prepare for spring."
Recently I noticed articles and posts that shared how January 1st was not always meant to be the start of the new year. Many cultures celebrate in March, after the vernal equinox, which marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. This got me thinking about how I frame the passage of time, and my experience with typical New Year traditions. I previously posted about not being great at making New Year's resolutions.
Winter has always been a difficult season for me. I don't particularly enjoy the cold temperatures, despite living in the Midwest. The days are gray, and without much sunlight. When the sun is out, I often miss it while I'm at work. Early in my career, I noticed that almost every February without fail, I applied for a new job. (I discovered this because online applications like AppliTrack would tell me the date that I last logged in).
I decided that this year, I will change my perception and think of winter as a time to rest, recharge, and prepare for spring. As I shared in my last post, I feel the need to make a career change. I plan to spend the next few months seeking out and preparing for new opportunities. My eyes are set on this spring to make some big changes.
Back to Work, Back to Basics
I came to work on Monday and had a pretty great first day back. I began each class with a review of expectations and consequences. I added one new expectation after break: that students will begin cleaning up 10 minutes before the bell, instead of only 5 minutes.
Right now, there are two reasons for implementing this change. One, many students have trouble pausing on their work, and try to work "just one more minute." This means they hold off on the cleaning up part, and then inevitably the bell will ring, and they leave the room a mess for my next class.
The other reason is that many of my classes are just terrible at cleaning up in general. This extra few minutes built in will allow me a chance to make sure things are put away properly, and also model the correct way to clean our supplies. I think some of my students have forgotten the proper procedures, and some may simply not know. This gives me a few extra minutes to help them.
I also made a deal with each class that whatever leftover time they have after PROPERLY cleaning up, they can use as a social time to visit with classmates who may not sit at their table. They really liked this idea, and at least for this first day, it really motivated students to clean up more efficiently.
Starting New Units this Month
Starting Anew in Spring
"Someone once told me that "true growth comes from discomfort." Right now I'm working through that discomfort to figure out what's next."
This winter, I plan to focus my energy on what I love most about teaching: creating inclusive curriculum and helping my students grow. Beyond that, I will give less attention to school initiatives that are out of my control. I want to use these next few months as a time to strengthen my skills and passion for teaching, so that I am prepared to take on new opportunities this spring.
Someone once told me that "true growth comes from discomfort." Right now I'm working through that discomfort to figure out what's next. I've taken the necessary time to consider alternative paths for my career, and ways that I may grow as an art educator. I'm excited for new possibilities and challenges in the near future!
David Gate, a poet and writer, shared:
"I do not plan to start anew
that is for spring
this is the night
in the dead of winter
where I pare back excess
to reach the bones of my life
so when I am reborn
I am reborn as only
my most essential nature"
"I love seeing students gain confidence as they create a work that they're truly proud of."
I made changes to my curriculum that helped improve student work and engagement. These changes also helped me to become more organized and efficient. One change that I made was planning units to loosely fit the calendar, one unit per month, with some flexibility. This has helped me prioritize skills and concepts, and pace out lessons and activities. I know as I approach the end of the month, students should be wrapping up their end-of-unit projects.
The other change I made was redefining what I wanted each grade level to learn and accomplish. I built on what has worked in the past, but some changes have brought new life into my teaching. For example, I used to structure 6th grade curriculum to learn about Ancient Civilizations. Students enjoy these projects, but after awhile I noticed less engagement with lessons learning about art from the past.
This year, I've kept many of my Ancient Civilization projects, but I follow each unit with a contemporary example from the same region. After students created projects inspired by Ancient Egypt, the following month, students learned about contemporary Egyptian artists, Fathi Hassan and Hossam Dirar. This has led to interesting discussions comparing old and new, and seeing how heritage and history are often referenced in work by today's artists.
Another part of my curriculum that I am particularly proud of, is 8th grade. As the oldest students that I teach, I structured their curriculum to focus on a new skill or technique each month. After learning new skills or media, I give students a teacher-directed project to complete for practice. Once they demonstrate an understanding, then students are able to create a project of their choice.
One of the most rewarding aspects of my job this year, has been helping students learn new skills and find that they can be successful. I love seeing students gain confidence as they create a work that they're truly proud of.
"When I'm doing what I love, I am energized by the work. However, this year I feel disconnected and drained."
I recognize that every job has its challenges, and this is certainly true for art educators. This year, I faced many barriers in the way of teaching art. Much of my workday required me to complete tasks that had nothing to do with art instruction. My passion is to teach students about art and inspire creativity. When I'm doing what I love, I am energized by the work. However, this year I feel disconnected and drained.
I've looked for opportunities outside of the classroom to recoup some of that energy. The IAEA conference was a great boost of energy for me at a time when I really needed it. I would love to lead an after school program, or create an occasional weekend art activity in the community. These would absolutely fulfill a sense of purpose and reconnect my passion for teaching art. The problem is I simply don't have the energy to pursue additional responsibilities on top of my normal teaching schedule.
While the year has been draining and discouraging, I cherish the moments where I am actually creating art with kids in the classroom. I just find that I am pulled away from this more and more.
Plans for the Future
"I know I need a big change, and I'm ready to put the hard work into discovering what my next path will be."
Like I said before, I've never been good at setting New Year's resolutions. I keep myself rooted in the present, but I've been thinking about the future more and more. I know that I have a passion for teaching art, but I question if the classroom is the best place for me to make an impact.
Many of you know that I've worked to help art educators by creating professional development opportunities, writing articles, and developing inclusive lesson plans. I like to think that in doing so, I've positively impacted a number of art educators, but also all of the students they teach. I've enjoyed doing this work. I find it rewarding and purposeful, but now I am considering other ways that I could potentially use my skills to make a difference.
I have a number of ideas on how to proceed. I would love to provide art opportunities for youth in the community, write another book, or support art educators in some way. I'm taking some time this winter break to consider my options. I know I need a big change, and I'm ready to put the hard work into discovering what my next path will be. I'm excited to embrace some unknowns and rekindle my passion for art education in new ways. Stay tuned!
Mr. DeWilde's Blog