Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing some of my answers from the 2018-2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year Candidate Application (I didn’t win Georgia, but I enjoyed representing my county as the district-wide winner!). Although I’m no longer in the public school classroom, I enjoy continued learning in the field of education, specifically that of Visual Arts and how I can apply methods in my personal studio lessons.
I also believe that the ideas presented in this post are applicable beyond classroom walls.
Describe a content lesson or unit that defines you as a teacher. How did you engage students of all backgrounds and abilities in the learning? How did that learning influence your students? How are your beliefs about teaching demonstrated in this lesson or unit?
I think that emotional well-being is a prerequisite for effective student engagement within the classroom. It becomes difficult for a student to learn when their mind is preoccupied with troubling thoughts and anxiety. When students are experiencing any number of circumstances at home, the last thing they feel prepared to do is complete an assessment to their full potential. I believe that equipping these pupils with an individualized and creative outlet should be a top priority, and in turn, can potentially bolster their ability to learn and retain information. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs serves as evidence for how full potential or feelings of accomplishment cannot be met if basic physiological and safety needs are not being met first. For these reasons, the lesson that defines me as a teacher is entitled My Life in Color.
Upon arrival on the first day of the lesson, students are asked to answer the following question for an activating strategy: “If today was a color, what color would it be and why?” This encourages students to think of a seemingly concrete idea such as color in a more abstract and emotional context. I then teach students about artistic masters in the areas of Abstract Expressionism and Color Field technique. We analyze and critique works ranging from Jackson Pollock to Mark Rothko. For critiques, the Feldman’s Model of Art Criticism is used and students are asked to identify motifs, themes, and meaning of various pieces of art that contain no realistic imagery, but rather are comprised of abstract shapes of color. Finally, students are asked to self-reflect on various aspects of their lives by answering the following questions: “What color describes your family?” “What color describes your culture as a whole?” “What color describes your best memory?” “What color describes a difficult situation that you have been involved in?” “What color describes how you are feeling at this moment?” Once students have answered these questions, they create a symbolic self-portrait using their chosen colors to represent their lives. Finally, with the exception of the question concerning a difficult situation they have been in, students are asked to complete an in-depth written statement explaining how and why each color is representative of each aspect of their lives. For the exceptional question, students can share as much or as little as they wish within their comfort zone.
To know that one matters and can make a difference is of utmost importance. Providing student choice and multicultural connections within this lesson celebrates students of all backgrounds and abilities, and lets them know that they are loved and important. A challenging phenomenon of the human experience is overcoming the tendency to compare our lives to everyone else’s seemingly perfect existences. I imagine this phenomenon is amplified for our youth since they are able to carry a ubiquitous snapshot of people’s lives around in their pockets by way of social media on cell phones. This project provides whole-class opportunity in that every student is asked to pair colors with certain aspects of their lives, but what they come to realize once each person begins applying color to their individual canvases is this: We all struggle. We all experience happy moments. We all have a culture and heritage. But what matters is how we use these truths about ourselves to improve personally and collaboratively. I want my students to be able to celebrate their heritage, families, and all the things that make them so wonderfully unique! Furthermore, I strive to provide them with the understanding that each facet that makes them so individualized can have an incredible impact within our diverse world.
Following this lesson, I observe a greater appreciation for artwork that we analyze during class and I also notice that students are enthusiastic about being emotionally connected to their own artwork. In addition, students show evidence of an understanding of what makes art so powerful to the human experience. Connecting with and expressing our personal emotions and understanding how others do the same is a step towards more sound minds for our youth.
Art business owner journaling about my artistic adventures.