Final student teaching reflection. Wow. What a journey it has been to get to this point. I have worked for seven years to earn my degree. This is truly the beginning of a new chapter in my life. It feels sublime. Beautiful and exciting, but at the same time, terrifying as I realize my small self among the vastness of the education and art world. And yet, I stand ready for the journey ahead.
CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT AND CULTURE
One very important element to a successful classroom learning environment and culture is for the classroom to feel predictable, caring and positive; this is so much easier said than done. There are several factors that affect this feeling of security and comfort in an art classroom.
One factor is language. The way the teacher and other students talk about art within the classroom will set the tone for the classroom’s environment and culture. For example, a classroom in which the teacher points to specific student’s work and says “I love it, great job,” without giving specific feedback becomes a classroom in which doubt, shame and pride will thrive. As an alternative example, a classroom in which the teacher points to a specific students work and says “wow, I am very impressed with your progress. I can see you are working hard,” becomes a classroom in which a growth mindset, perseverance and creativity can thrive. The way we discuss student’s work, the work of other artists, and art as a whole will change how students view the art classroom. This requires an educator to also listen to their students. How do the students talk about each other’s work? How do they talk about their own work? Finding ways to coach students into speaking about art with positivity, an open mind, and emphasis on process learning can be a very difficult challenge, but one surely worth the time. During student teaching, I had several students who would often talk themselves to a halt in the work; they would reprimand themselves for their mistakes and consider their artworks awful and ugly. I often hear “I can’t do it,” or “my art sucks.” When hearing these types of comments from my students, I try to help them reset their minds and prepare for art making. I remind them that being able to make art the way you want takes practice and point out aspects of their work that show promise. This doesn’t often change their mind when stated once; however, with perseverance on both the student and teachers part, the students attitude toward failure can change!
Another factor in creating a encouraging classroom environment and culture is a respect for diversity. I believe respecting diversity starts with acceptance; in order to fully acknowledge the different needs, perspectives and thinking of each of your students, you must first accept them as they are. To generalize a class and presume that because they are all in the same grade or class that they should all be at the same level in their education, that they have the same questions, that they think similarly about problems, or that they will understand the same types of instruction is ineffective and unfair. To respect diversity as educators, we must learn about our students and accept them for all that they are. This is such an important starting point because it will help so much in evaluating them. If you know your students, you can provide feedback and grades that are specific their individual growth, effort and performance For example, in a 1-4 assessment scale, a 4 for one student will look different than a 4 for another student. The teacher must take into account where that student started, the growth that they showed throughout the art making process, and the evidence of their learning. If students are not starting at the same place coming into the classroom (which they won’t), it will not help them develop a positive relationship with learning to grade them evenly with their classmates. I had one particular student in my first placement who was very advanced with his graphic arts skills. Grading him was very different than grading students in the class who had never practiced graphic art before. Although I graded him for the same criteria as his classmates (growth, risk taking, process and reflection), in order to respect his ability and thinking before the class, I adjusted my expectations for the levels at which he could reach. My feedback was specific to his needs and goals rather than generalizing and giving him an advanced grade regardless of how much he challenged himself.
Looking back at the reflections I have made throughout my student teaching experience, I am both excited and saddened. In some of my earlier posts, I enjoy seeing myself questioning the philosophy of education and how I fit into this complex world of education. On the other hand however, I can see my posts becoming stagnant after time. Although I have been learning so much and enjoying my time teaching, there has been a looming tragedy throughout my time here: BURNOUT. That said, I know I have grown a lot during this journey and will continue to do so now that this chapter of my life comes to an end.
I have learned that I am POWERFUL. I have the creativity, passion and drive to persist in dark and difficult situations. I can find laughter and joy in my work.
I have learned that I have a PURPOSE. I am meant for this work because I am meant to help people. I feel strongly that my purpose in life is to help others see beauty and hope even in the darkest of times. This purpose sometimes manifests itself in helping a child feel a sense of pride, confidence and happiness in their ability to create. Sometimes this purpose is fulfilled when I listen to a child tell me about the hardships they face each day and remind them that they are powerful and important in my eyes. And sometimes this purpose comes from my attempts to show others how important expression, thinking, and growth can be to changing the world.
I have learned that I am perfectly UNIQUE. I have many interests, many goals, and many ideas for my future. I want to always strive to be more than I am. I think we need more leaders in the world who are dedicated to being life-long learners. When I show that I am still growing, I can model for students that they will always be changing throughout their lives. Where they are is not where they have to be. They have the power to make change.
For my artwork this week, I made a pixel animation (gif) for my artwork. I wanted the movement in the image because I feel my life is entering a transitional stage. As I mentioned before, graduating school is the start of a new chapter for me. The previous chapter is ending and my life will continue to morph and change. The colors and marks in the animation are a metaphor for the transformation of my life, gradually flowing from one experience to the next. I look forward to all that this change will bring.