Saturday, January 19, 2013

Keep Calm and Create

I realized this week, with mid year upon us, that I haven't posted much of anything about the high school classes I am teaching this year...

I think the main reason for that is because I feel like I am struggling. This is my fifth year teaching, but for three hours everyday I feel like its year one all over again. This time there is no supervising teacher to give me feedback or a department head to give me guidance. Its tough to reach out in the short time I am at the high school each day, and I've tried. After a whole half a year of "making it work" I'd like to know that its working.

I've been discouraged by the lack of enthusiasm from what feels like the majority of my 76 students. Its really hard to motivate 30 high school kids (in a room with 24 desks... that I can't re-arrange everyday into groups because its not my room) at the same time. Students are stooping to the lowest common denominator because they see what others can't/won't/aren't doing.

I also struggle with the cell phone issue and back talk. Music helps me focus, so I allow students to listen to music while working. However I am constantly policing, looking at screens when I should be meeting with students. That parts on me and with a new term there will be a firmer hand!

Its not all bad though.
My saving graces have been two groups of people: my co-workers and my Art Two students.

My co-workers at the high school who share the other art room (which is my co-homeroom, we still don't get how that worked out) have my back. At the beginning of the year, I asked millions of questions and they always helped. Not ordering ANY of the supplies for this year myself, they are always willing to show me where things are and share what they have. Most importantly, they listen and we talk. I suppose they know that I'm "making it work" and in some ways, I know they are struggling with the same things I am, they just have a couple more years of practice on me.

My Art Two students remind me everyday why I wanted to teach high school.
There are only sixteen students and they are totally a Breakfast Club kinda group. Each student is individual and its been shining through their work. And we're not even working on expressive stuff in class yet! The group as a whole is hard working and willing to grow with me. I am able to conference with each student and talk to them about their work on a real level.
I can't wait for us to finish up a unit of study we've been working on since November. Unfortunately I don't have picture yet, but its been a process! We took recycled materials and made objective or non objective sculptures. After spraying them white, we did color studies under lights and now students are working on canvas board color harmony acrylic paintings. The final step is to take the sculpture and paint that however they want.... I am hoping for some cool patterns, textures and graphic stuff, but we'll see.

For now,
found here


  1. High school can be rough, especially if you're switching from younger kids to older kids on a daily basis. The cell phones will a l w a y s be an issue, unfortunately, and the back talk kind of comes with the territory. My first year teaching high school was much how you described, but it does get better. By June you'll know all the things you'll do differently for next year, and the confidence you gain will be seeping out of you next September. The kids will know you're "seasoned" with high schoolers and the back talk and cell phones will be much easier to deal with.

    I haven't had many back talk issues this year, but when one does arise, I'm very blunt with them. I usually say something like, "Really? We're in art class, where I'm asking you to draw and paint and collage, and you're going to act like this? Go ahead and waste your own time, the rest of us are going to enjoy ourselves." A little bit of shunning goes a long way. High school kids hate to be left out of the fun.

    Another thing you can try is if the cell phones are really an issue, make a new rule: no phones out at all. Since most kids just use their phones for their music, have the kids write down 5-10 artists they like, make a playlist of a bunch of them and play it during class for everyone to hear on Pandora or your ipod. That way they "chose" the music, but you're in control of it.

  2. Thank you for your advice!
    I start my days at the high school and end at the middle school. I don't mind the transition (in fact I think it makes me push my m.s. kids even farther), its my second year there and the kids are awesome. I already have a list of ideas/projects/ things I will do differently next year if I am asked to keep my position at the high school. I am still the newest art teacher in the city, certified K-12, and could be asked to move. In a sense, I am covering someone who took a leave of absence and he could come back and take his job. At the end of the day, I LOVE my middle school and feel blessed to be doing a job I love. Its just been a challenge!