"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