So this is a serious sort of post, ruminating on some topics that have been rambling around in my little head, under this mop of silver hair. I'm thinking about a bunch of stuff about my post-retirement plans that I haven't told you about yet, but it helps to know my background a little, which brings me to my hippie education.
I went to a very hippie-dippy college north of NYC, in the early 1970's. I was an art education major, and my education textbooks were those pictured above: Teaching as a Subversive Activity (no I am not kidding); Crisis in the Classroom; And Jill Came Tumbling After: Sexism in American Education; The Open Classroom, and a completely incomprehensible book on art criticism. We were so busy doing sensitivity training activities in art ed classes, or discussing the difference in meaning between "sensual" or "sensuous" (in art crit class) that we learned very little about actually structuring lessons, or how children learned, or what the real world of teaching and education was like. I learned virtually NO education theory or jargon, and keep in mind, I was a good hard-working student, who went to all my classes and gave my best effort. It simply wasn't taught there at that time; I think the professors were as busy being hippie-types as we students were, and it didn't fit into the general philosophy of the time. The exception was the required art education class that used the textbook Creative and Mental Growth by Victor Lowenfeld.
This was the only book from my education classes that I ever referred to again after my college days were over. I was so thankful to have learned something concrete that I could actually use to help me when I got a job.
Fast forward to the end of this June 2012, when I will retire after 36 years teaching. During those 36 years, I've seen various philosophies of education and all sorts of jargon come and go, from Bloom's Taxonomy to to Multiple Intelligences to the Reggio Emilia approach to my district's allegiance to Learning Focused schools - well, I'm sure you can name them all better than me. I've never actually studied any of this stuff other than during random professional development days where there was rare or no follow-through or connection for the art educators. And usually a year or two later we moved on to something else anyhow.
And then there's all the associated acronyms (you know, the associated initials for everything under the sun). I'm not going to list them all here because then I'd have to remember what they stand for. And that jargon - when did a teacher example or sample become an exemplar? Or a chart become a rubric? (I'd been teaching at LEAST a dozen years before I ever even HEARD the word rubric!) 'm telling you, I did NOT learn these terms in undergraduate OR graduate education classes. I did NOT learn about curriculum mapping. I did NOT learn assessment strategies. There were no Standards. We talked about grades, not about assessment. Lesson plans did not have anticipatory sets (oh, actually they did; we just didn't have a fancy name for it). Everything I ever did was done by figuring out for myself what worked, or by asking those I worked with, or by looking at what was left behind by my predecessors. (A side note here: an art teacher friend who attended college with me, years ago considered suing the college for the lack of appropriate training.)
So you may wonder why I am thinking about this now. It has to do with the irony of something I have agreed to do upon my retirement. A part-time/sometime job.......
Earlier this winter I was approached about a teaching position with NYSUT ELT. NYSUT is the NY State United Teachers, our state union, and ELT stands for Education Learning Trust.
ELT provides professional development under the umbrella of NYSUT. The concept is one of teachers teaching teachers. I was approached because:
- Someone knew I was retiring who evidently thinks I'm a good fit for the job;
- Our region does not have any ELT instructors with background in the arts; and
- I have been very involved in my union throughout my teaching career. I spent 10 years as local union president, and many more in various other leadership roles, negotiating contracts, dealing with grievance issues and more. So I am comfortable with the association with the union.
I will be attending training this summer. First I will be trained as a new ELT instructor (with others from all over the state), and then later in the summer I will be trained in a specific course I will offer for inservice credit. Each summer I will be trained to teach another course, adding to my repertoire. At this point I have no idea what the courses might be - I'm hoping there will be something offered that has to do with creativity or the brain, but there is no guarantee.
I've taught lots of workshops at my state conference before, so I'm comfortable with the idea of teaching adults. But this will not be teaching art. I will not be teaching someone how to make a papier-mache mask or how to use math and art to fold and design a trihexaflexagon. It's a little out of my comfort zone.
I could also be called on to facilitate professional development workshops at various regional school districts. But there could be lots of jargon. And acryonyms. And an assumption of understanding of various educational philosophies and terminology that have passed me by over the years. Definitely out of my comfort zone. I'm afraid I'll be discovered as a fraud. But nevertheless I have said YES and I'm hoping I will be successful and not embarrass myself or my union.
Meanwhile, I will also be looking for an avenue in which I can still do some art with kids - maybe running an after school or weekend arts program, or vacation art 'camp' or something of the sort. I just know I'm not done with papier-mache with kids!!! I'd love to pick the brains of those of you who already run such programs. If you teach art classes that are not part of a school program, here are some questions for you:
- Where do you hold your art classes? (My home does not have space for this, so I'll need to find an external venue.)
- Where do you store materials/work-in-progress?
- Do you have a venue for displaying student work?
- What are the insurance/legal issues?
- How did you decide what to charge?
- How do you solicit children to sign up for your programs?
- Anything else you think it's important for me to know when starting up?