Monday, September 1, 2014

Pleased to meet you!

My name is Jean King. I am the visual art teacher at St Stephens Episcopal School-Houston.

I believe that learning happens best by doing. There are simple forms of learning that involve rote memorization and these have their place: the multiplication tables in math and grammatical rules in language are excellent examples. In art we use the basic knowledge of the elements of design as our building blocks. The principals of design are  the way that put the elements together. 

And then, there is the “ah ha!” moment, the cry of “Eureka!”. This is the moment when the light comes on, the sudden spark is seen in the student’s eye, when it all connects and there is the realization that the sum is more than it’s parts. 

Mastery in the creation of art is the point when the artist, student or master, becomes aware of choice. “I paint this way or I attach this item to that in this manner, because it is the appropriate choice, not because it is the only way I know.”  With choice comes responsibility. 

We don’t create in a vacuum, rather we build on what came before. We look to our  environment and surroundings, but we also look to the history of art for our inspiration. We learn from those who preceded us, whether they pecked out petroglyphs, painted Renaissance masterpieces or worked in advertising.

I believe that successful learning is evidenced when the artist synthesizes what they have learned. Learning in art is most in evidence when the artist hits the point of transference, when they are able to take what is learned in one setting and apply it to another. I believe that this is true whether the artist is a child or an adult, whether they are just beginning or at the peak of their creative career.

I believe that my job as a teacher is to be a guide. I point the direction by choosing a project or an artist to study.  I share my knowledge of the discipline. I introduce them to the language and materials. In the beginning I may act as a coach, but there comes a point when I become an observer.  As the students become involved I step back and allow them to find their way. When called on, I may step back in and guide the student by the use of questions or demonstration, but the path they follow is their own.

I am an evangelist when it come to arts advocacy. 

I believe that, if I am successful as a teacher, I will make myself obsolete. My students should be able to go on without me. Hopefully I have given them the tools to use what they have learned in whatever field they choose to go into, whether they become artists, accountants, mechanics, or captains of industry. 

I want my students to be able to express themselves in imagery and in writing. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but there are times that words are the best means of expression. It is important for students to be able to express verbally, either in spoken word or in writing. 

I want my students to be visually literate. We are visual creatives living in a highly visual society. We are barraged every second of our day with visual stimuli both natural and manmade. I want them to understand the elements and principals of design and how these effect them and others.

I want my students to question what they see and to understand how and why it effects them. I want them to be media literate.

I believe in teaching using whatever is at hand. My classroom is full of resources, but so is the world around us. Learning from looking, studying masterpieces and really seeing our surroundings are all equally valid. I use posters, books, transparencies, magazines, CDs, DVDs and more in my classes. Current events involving art are helpful to involve older students. I love it when students stop by my class to share something they saw, read or heard that involves things they have learned in the art room.

I believe strongly in the use of technology in the art room. I’m not talking about technology for its own sake, but technology that enhances my students’ learning. I have an interactive white board, a document camera, a projector, several computers and laptops, ipods and a variety of cameras. Each has its place in my students’ learning experiences.

When I travel I do not only take photos and bring back souvenirs to my classroom, but I search for DVDs that are interactive. My current favorite is a virtual tour of La Sagrada Familia, Antonio Gaudi’s still unfinished masterpiece in Barcelona, Spain. This DVD has a virtual tour of the interior and exterior of the church, short video clips about all of the various workers it takes to build a cathedral, and several games including memory/matching games and games about symbolism.

I believe that peer tutoring is a marvelous thing. In the case of technical skills, I find that students learn faster from each other than they do from adults. I enlist the students in the teaching process.

I enjoy working with students of any age. I find special joy in sharing information and inspiration. I think of education as a dance, as long as both partners are engaged the dance is a joy to behold. Anyone entering my classroom would see me going from table to table, unless it is one of those rare opportunities when I take a seat and the students come to me. I love teachable moments, those times when one plus one equals - you fill in the blank and we’ll go from there! I want to work with students because I learn so much in the process, from the research that goes into a lesson to the inspired creative leaps my students take as they begin and then take the lesson further.

I teach art by whatever means necessary. This means using everything that is available to me. I am fortunate to teach in a large city that is full of incredible art. The Museum of Fine Arts Houston offers Evenings for Educators with lesson ideas, an opportunity to tour the exhibits, and resources such as CDs of images. I use a variety of sources, materials and inspirations in my teaching. From the simple inspiration of found objects and serendipitously located materials such as magazine articles and television shows to my PLN on Twitter and FaceBook, I take whatever I can use in my teaching.

Part of the difficulties of teaching in an elementary school are the number of students that I encounter in one week and the limited amount of time that I can weekly spend with each class. I try to maximize it all by being ready to jump into a lesson and using art flash cards, video clips, slideshows and other materials for review.

Grading  in art, particularly with younger students, can be problematic. My grades are predominantly based on effort, engagement and participation. I have students who come in to my class miles ahead of the others, confident and capable of drawing at an advanced level, and then I have students who have little or no experience with such simple materials as paper and pencil. I observe my students, looking for progress in their technical skills and in their knowledge and reasoning abilities. I look at their work to see if it exhibits their understanding of the elements and principals of design. 

I find that my use of social media and technology lead to my growth both as a teacher and an artist. Friends share student work, ideas, along with the new information and resources that they come upon and I share back. Webinars and podcasting, wikis, nings and other things keep my idea bank full and challenge me to stay current. In addition, I follow a variety of museums, artists, and arts venues. As technology keeps advancing I find it easier to keep up, even while it is easy to get overwhelmed. 

I don’t neglect the real world, real time art community. My hometown is full of museums and galleries. There are generally too many arts events going on at any one time for me to even begin to attend them all.

I keep an eye out for classes of all sorts. These opportunities feed my soul, my mind and my teaching. Museum offerings such as Evenings for Educators and the Educators’ Museum District Open House are balanced by classes in beadwork, knitting, geometry, and the ecology of Galveston Bay.

My goal is to continue teaching and creating until I drop. Teaching energizes me. It challenges me. I have an insatiable curiosity. I read and research for fun. Teaching keeps me involved with the world around me and gives a focus and direction to my curious leanings.

Here I am presenting at the National Art Education Association Convention

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