Common educational terms used these days simply did not exist or were not used yet in the ways we know them today. When I began teaching, for example, I had never heard of or been exposed to these terms: rubrics (hey, we called them charts), curriculum mapping, portfolio assessment (at that time, the term "portfolio" meant a folder filled with artwork, and instead of the word "assessment", we usually used the word "test"), authentic assessment, vertical alignment, benchmarking, and many,many more. And many disorders didn't exist, or, I should say, hadn't been identified yet, at least as an acknowledged "thing", when I started teaching: Asberger's Syndrome, spectrum disorders, attention-deficit disorder, and so on. As a matter of fact, we did see a film on autism in a required undergraduate Intro Psychology class, but it basically showed institutionalized non-verbal children banging their heads against walls. Things have changed, a lot.
I had been teaching 10 years before I ever encountered a child labeled as ADD or ADHD. I had been teaching probably 20 years before I first encountered a child labeled as having autism, and actually, his initial label was not autism, but instead was Sensory Integration Disorder. By the time I retired, it had become quite common to have students labeled as having ADHD, or autism spectrum disorder, or even Oppositional Defiant Disorder, integrated into regular classes at all grade levels. Were all these disorders there all along, but the kids were simply unlabeled, with unusual behavior? Maybe a few, but honestly, I do not believe that kids with these disorders existed in the huge numbers that they do today. I would have noticed.
If you've been reading this blog for a while, perhaps you've encountered some of my other discussions on similar topics. You can find these posts in the following links: from March 2011 there's "They don't tell you this in your college art ed program"; from April 2012, there's "Ruminations - my hippie education and retirement plans"; from June 2015 there's "Jargon-du-Jour or Jurassic Jargon?"
If all my talk of independence and decision-making this sounds like TAB, you'd be wrong. My classroom did not have centers, for example, like most TAB classrooms. All students worked on the same projects or assignments at the same time, using the same materials, but had the ability to make choices within those parameters. I believe I'm not meeting my responsibility as an educator if I just let students explore whatever they want, without specific direction and limitation. I don't think someone can become an artist simply by being given the "stuff" of art and told to use whatever they want. I know in TAB, the focus is on making students artists. But I don't think we can become an artist unless we can become confident and skilled at and knowledgeable in the "stuff" of art, any more than a student can automatically become a musician without learning how to make the instrument respond properly and how to read music, and so on. The learning needs to come first. A doctor isn't a doctor just because they want to be one. They need to learn anatomy and chemistry and biology and all of it, and also need the education and hands on practice to properly uses the tools of medicine. Am I making sense?
I'll admit I don't know everything there is to know about TAB, since I've never been trained in it, so perhaps you may think that I'm speaking from ignorance. And I suppose you might be right. A little aside here: I attended a workshop on TAB at my state conference a few years ago. The presenter had us push aside the chairs and sit in a circle on the floor. I was turned off immediately. My not-young body is not happy sitting on a floor and even more unhappy at the prospect of figuring out how to get up. And nothing she said during my 50 minutes on the floor convinced me that teaching by letting students make all their own choices was the right way for me to teach, or that it would even be allowed in my school, or that it would in any way protect my job and my program. So I am sorry for all the wonderful TAB presenters and teachers out there, that they were represented in this way.
I think structure and limitations can be a challenge and also a bonus. Figuring how to to create within the framework of some limitations will encourage creativity, not discourage it. I relate it to my book club. We currently have 10 members, and different person picks the book we will read each month. We don't just read whatever we choose. In this way, I've been exposed to authors and genres I would never have chosen on my own, often opening my eyes to something really exciting.
Does this mean my projects, before I retired, were cookie cutter? Hell, no!!! As I said before, my students made many independent choices within the framework of the assignments I gave. I think that is the key.
Does my lack of training in DBAE and TAB, my lack of a master's degree, and the fact that I've taken no fancy certification tests mean that I've been a less effective teacher than those trained today? I think if you ask the administrations I worked under, my students, and their parents, the answer would be NO. Some of the most beloved and effective teachers I know were those whose educational backgrounds were similar to mine, in the era before jargon and acryonyms and labels and over-testing became so popular. All the fancy terminology in the world won't make you a good teacher unless you can take your knowledge base and put it to use effectively with your students. But this doesn't mean that I haven 't been open to learning. Please don't presume that I'm cocky and think that I know better than anyone else. I don't. I'm talking about my own personal experience and what has worked for me. Your situation could be totally different.
Was I perfect? No. Sometimes I was disorganized, even after extensive planning. Sometimes I was frustrated by a behavior I didn't understand. Sometimes I lost track of time, and sometimes I came up with ideas that didn't work as planned. (Actually, that happened again today; but that story is for another blog post.) But my students were joyful and productive learners, and created art that they were proud to display for others to see.
By the way, also more recent than my college education and my earlier teaching years are The 8 Studio Habits of Mind, Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences, and The Madeline Hunter Model of Mastery Learning, to name a few of many teaching models, programs, and theories I've encountered in past years. Have I ever been officially trained in all of them? No. Oh wait! I've left out Bloom's Taxonomy! That's because, that's one thing that has actually been around long enough to have been learned during my college years. Though I admit, I still like calling it Bloom's Taxidermy....
Then there's concepts and techniques like Big Ideas, Bell-Ringers, exit tickets, graphic organizers (including Venn diagrams), think/pair/share, and so on. These all come and go with new names every few years. But you know, this constant flux isn't only in art. When I first switched from teaching high school to elementary school, the elementary reading teachers were all gaga over Whole Language. A few years later, they had moved from a literature based program back to phonetics and grammar, and then a few years later another change.... And the math methods have changed tons of times too.
My point here is that new ideas and concepts and methods don't necessarily mean the previous ideas and concepts and methods were all wrong, and don't mean that the students that were taught using them didn't get a good education. I could include a discussion of technology here, too. All of us who were educated in the age before the internet and fancy technology may have learned differently, but that doesn't mean it was inferior. I believe that I got a good education. I believe that my son, now 27+ years old, got a good education, enough to make him a confident intelligent well-rounded professional, socially conscious young adult. And I hope that we do whatever we can to make sure our students today get a good education too. And occasionally, that might mean you become a theoretical renegade like me!!!