I have to admit, I wasn't super jazzed about starting school this year. I don't know why. Maybe because summer was so short and we did a lot of traveling? Not enough beach time? Either way, it was very out of character.
A week or so before classes started though, I was on Pinterest, per usual, scanning for ideas, and came across a book recommendation. A Retired Art Teacher Tells All. I have purchased other books about teaching art before, so I was a little skeptical, but this one was specifically about teaching high school and the Kindle edition price was right! Now having read most of it, I wish I had had a hard copy to mark up, but I have my little composition book of notes, and a couple weeks' worth of experience to prove it was worth the $7!
I followed the author's suggestions about the first few days of classes, within my comfort level. I would have loved to do alphabetical seating assignments, but with students adding and dropping the class like its going out of style, I couldn't commit. (Although after one class in particular, which is bursting with 27 students, I had to assign seats. It worked to my benefit to wait, if only to see who could handle sharing a desk, since I only have 24.)
There is still however no great way to go over the nitty gritty of expectations, guidelines, and grading. But I think that by keeping it simple and asking students to sign the course overview, like a contract, we started off the year with a great mutual respect.
My course goals were straight from the book:
By the end of the school year, every student will:
1) Improve his or her artistic abilities
2) Improve in his or her ability to express ideas and feelings through art
3) Expand his or her appreciation for all forms of art
I tried to stress that we are all coming to the art room with varying abilities and that the end goal is not to compare ourselves to the person next to us, but to where we started out. And to find out where we started out, we drew. And drew and drew. For the first four or five days, without much instruction from me at all. More on that later...
GUIDELINES FOR THE ART ROOM
· Keep a positive ATTITUDE.
· Be RESPECTFUL of yourself, including your own work, of others and their work plus Ms. Art Teacher, and of the environment, which includes the art materials and classroom.
· TRY your best. Effort counts.
By drawing on the very first day, after signing the course overview, students realized (I hope) that this is a serious class. From day one, they heard me cheering for them to think positively and to try their best. Now at the end of week three, I am still impressed with their focus and drive and could not be more excited to keep teaching.