Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The End (for now)

Over the last 6 and a half years I have been on a teaching journey. Little did I know back when I was in college pursuing my dream of becoming a teacher that I would start my career in such an interesting way, teaching students online. In my first year, I tackled translating the visual arts into the online setting with help of those who had been doing it for years before me (my AMAZING co-workers). Like my students, I found this type of education to be exciting, fulfilling, and innovative.

Every day was an adventure and I felt a part of a community of educators doing something special, something amazing and different. I was helping students reach new heights, find themselves, and along the way, I found myself as an educator. My love for my job was all-encompassing, my love for my students and my colleagues and everything we were working towards was off the charts. I was not only able to be a teacher to my students but also found ways to teach other teachers, leading professional development, pioneering new technology in my classroom, writing my Master's Thesis project, creating my own Art TV show, and sharing my love of art with thousands. Teaching online has given me more opportunities in 6 and a half years than many teachers get in a lifetime.

It was with great sorrow when I lost my position several weeks ago when my school closed. I am mourning that loss. The loss of something special. The loss of a community. The loss of my students. More than anything, the loss of my opportunity to teach. A job loss can affect anyone negatively of course. Financially it is a blow; finding health insurance, searching for a new job, rebuilding networks and connections are all difficult. For a teacher, it might also feel like losing a dream, losing a calling, or even losing a sense of self. Who am I if not, "Art Teacher"? It is hard to feel complete when one's mission in life is put on hold. However, I have always taught my students to never give up and that life has a way of working out even when it seems hopeless. Each day we must start anew, hold on to hope, and push towards a better tomorrow. I don't know where my next journey will lead, the online classroom, brick and mortar, or higher education, but I know for certain that education is where I belong. Thank you for joining me on this journey, and know if you are struggling with a loss, you're not alone.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Creating Community and Engagement with Video

Much has happened since my last post. I have a year of Graphic Design under my belt, a new show for my school's Live Stream channel, and lots of new tricks up my sleeve. It has been a wild ride and I continue to love teaching online!

Last year, my school introduced EPAC (ECOT Public Access Channel), a place where students can attend field trips live from home as well as view educational content. Color Me Happy was then born, an art show that is accessible for all ages. In our district, we do not have a stand-alone art course that students take in elementary grades so I wanted to give students a place to get some art making instruction. Check out one of my episodes below!

In addition to Color Me Happy, we continue to explore areas of interest involving Art around the state of Ohio. As always I find video to be a great way to engage students and build community.

I have big goals for this 2017-2018 school year including a use of new technology tools like our 3D printers, vinyl cutter, and laser cutter. I can't wait to give my Graphic Design students a taste of professional design equipment later this year. Stay tuned for more updates!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Course Creation and Project Based Learning

This summer has felt like a blur! I'm sure I'm not the only teacher who is feeling that this year. I was up to something really exciting this summer though. I spent the summer writing a brand new course: Graphic Design! I've written and edited courses before on painting and drawing several times, both for summer school and semester schedules. This project however was much larger due to it being newer subject matter for me and I was writing it from scratch. I was also given free reign on what technology pieces I would like to teach in the course, including the entire Adobe Creative Suite, so I was feeling both incredibly lucky and overwhelmed with choice.

I started with a mind map of what exactly I could cover in a course that would be the only level of graphic design we are currently offering at my school. I found a wealth of resources online and also consulted the library (where I checked out so many books I could barely carry them out). Once I had a plan, looked at the Ohio Visual Arts Standards and started thinking about assessments.

For this course, authentic assessment and project based learning were goals of mine because of the career-based subject matter of the course. So, I created a graphic design “company” and framed the course around my students being a team of designers working for our clients and myself as the team leader.

The beginning of any online or traditional course can benefit from a “Getting to Know You” activity of some sort. This course is a bit special because I started students with a job application for the design company.

Each assignment in the course describes a story of the client who has approached the company and what they need from the team of designers. I'm excited to see how students respond to this ongoing theme of on the job training and real world situations. More to come! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Collaborative Class Project in Art Club Online

For years I have dreamed of creating a mural or other large artwork with my students. Logistically this can be a bit of a challenge with my students being scattered all over Ohio without the ability to converge in one location very often outside of graduation and perhaps prom. So this year I set out to make my dreams come true with a collaborative project for my Art Club students.

First came first, choosing a theme. For this one I was inspired by "The Eye Project" (above, more photos here). I liked this project because it shows the diversity of students but also ties them all together into one composition. Myself and the other Art Club facilitators held a meeting with students to discuss how eyes express ideas and emotions within artwork. We provided tutorials for creating eyes and encouraged students to think beyond a typical realistic eye if they wished.

Second, I had students sign up so I could mail them the materials they needed for the project-in this case that included a letter of directions and a rectangular piece of watercolor paper. The students chose what media to work with for the project, created their compositions, and mailed them back to me. Then, I had a blast putting it all together. See below!

The final product!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Art Day: Intervention and Supplemental Opportunities

Last year, I had a crazy idea to meet one of my failing seniors in the library and work with him to complete the art projects he needed to pass and graduate. It worked! He successfully completed art right in front of my eyes. At that point I thought it would be great to offer this opportunity to more students. Lots of organizing and paperwork later, Art Day was born!

Yesterday, myself and 3 other teachers on my team, met at our school headquarters to facilitate a day of making art with failing students, many of them seniors. We each invited our struggling students and set up a room with 5 different stations for various projects in Art 1. We provided lunch, materials, and instruction. The result was awesome! The students really enjoyed working side by side and creating artwork. They are also now all passing and I am hoping Art Day will give them the confidence to continue working on their own.

On Art Day, we also had the opportunity to invite our advanced students to paint ceiling tiles for our headquarters building. Selected students from all levels of art were invited to paint the tiles and I am so impressed with their work! It was a really great day and fun to get both groups together for a day of artmaking.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Aiming for Higher Achievement

Over the past 5 years, I have written about my passing rate, reluctant learners, and working to increase the number of students successfully passing my Art 1 class to earn their fine art credit. But this year, I have grown tired of pulling teeth for my students to achieve the minimum. I am tired of begging for students to do work when I really want them to learn more than the minimum, try more than the minimum, and achieve more than the minimum. So, I wrote a goal on my whiteboard that hangs in my office this year, "Aim for A's, not just passing."
Until this semester, I believe I have been aiming too low at times for my students. So, this semester I have been working through some new strategies to increased achievement, rather than simply pass rate. And, it is working!
Here is what I have been trying:
Page 1 of the catch-up packet

  • Emailing all students who are missing assignments from the previous week every Monday morning with helpful strategies and scaffolding worksheets when applicable
  • Increasing my phone calls by an average of 20 more reaching out calls per week, encouraging students to complete their work and addressing any questions
  • Freeing myself of the "passing packet" and replacing it with a catch-up packet (click here to download) which includes more weeks of art projects, better directions, and is marketed towards improving a student's grade with no promises of receiving a passing grade.
Surprisingly, students seem to gravitate towards the catch-up packet far more than they ever did the passing packet, and it doubles as an intervention tool for students with an IEP or who simply prefer to work in a worksheet-style method. It works well as a way to help students who were added late to the course get caught up as well. 
We are only halfway through the semester and already I am seeing an overall 10% shift to higher achievement (letter grades) than at this time last semester! 
With 2% more A's and 8% more C's (and 8% less D's) I am over the moon. Go students go!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Process and Progress Checks

I think one of the biggest challenges I have teaching art online is helping students mid-project as I would if I were walking around a brick and mortar classroom. Of my two courses, Art 1 is the most fast-paced, and I am able to see a student's growth and process as they progress from project to project as well as through practice sketches and one-on-one sessions. However, I rarely see an "unfinished" project before I see the final one. This is because students are generally completing one project per week and students often do not choose to show me what they are working on in this condensed time frame. Art 5 is much slower paced with artwork being created over many weeks as they are higher level, more independent, and aimed at portfolio development. Thus, this course became my guinea-pig for developing ways in which to see a student's artistic process.
This year I have instituted progress checks for Art 5 students where they check in several times throughout the process of creating a piece of art. It is important in an online environment when working with students individually, to plan out structured checkpoints and have clear expectations. Each project begins with a brainstorming sheet such as the one below.
Following the brainstorming sheet, students have a progress check dropbox where they submit their project at least once before the final project. Though I only require them to show me one time, my students have all chosen to show me their work multiple times for each project. These progress checks give me an opportunity to give each student detailed feedback through screencast-o-matic and dialog about their artwork on the phone or via email. Below are a couple examples of progress checks and final work.
The conclusion of this process is reflecting upon the piece and self-assessment. In Art 5, students are encouraged to grade their own work in order to develop their skills of selecting work for a portfolio. They are also asked to answer reflective questions which differ based on the goal of the project. An example of one is below.

Adding progress checks to my Art 5 class has been very successful so far and I am receiving higher quality work from my students and having more conversations about their goals for each piece and how they are effectively communicating their ideas. How do you encourage process-oriented thinking in your classroom?