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Haystack

September 18, 2012

A trip to Haystack for professional development

I had the privilege and time to attend the Maine Art Education Association annual fall conference at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts this past Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I participated in the Basket Making session with 9 visual art teachers from different parts of the state. It was FABULOUS! Most importantly for art educators who attend, other than during the time teachers take to sleep, it is a continuously opportunity for professional development.

The weather was beautiful for most of the weekend and extra special on Sunday morning. I was up until long past midnight on Saturday night completely engaged in creating my 3rd basket. I woke up Sunday morning at 6AM and popped out of bed anxious to get back to the studio to start a 4th basket. I was distracted by the light on the ocean and had to make my way down to the rocks for a few minutes to reflect on my good fortune. To be able to spend time creating in such a beautiful place is a special gift. And to be with a large group of art educators committed to learning is unique!

When I attended Haystack as a teacher and would return to my classroom my students would be so excited to see what I had made and I was equally excited to share. I would attempt to explain to my colleagues about Haystack. Anyone who has been there understands the Haystack experience. What is Haystack to art teachers? What does the experience provide? Why is it important? What is essential to communicate with students, colleagues, and perhaps parents about the experience? Do art teachers have a responsibility to communicate about the experience?

Here is what the opportunity offers me, still, after all these years (I think I’ve attended the fall conference 28 times out of the last 32 years)…

  • I am put in the position of “learner” and understand  how students feel
  • Sometimes I am pushed to the edge and it is uncomfortable, I am stretched and sometimes stressed
  • I experience the creative process and I am engaged creatively and use my creativity
  • My time is limited – I want to do more and tell myself that I can sleep when I am dead
  • Being in an environment I love motivates me and engages all my senses
  • I have the chance to ask art teachers questions about their work as educators and listen to their ideas, questions, excitement, disappointments, and concerns
  • When they get excited about the work they are doing with students it tells me how fortunate Maine is to have such great teachers who not only care about students but are willing to go deeper to become better teachers. Their passion comes through loud and clear!
  • I connect with others and their work when I visit the various studios and see what they are doing. I learn from each of them as they explain their process, their challenges, their ideas and on and on.
  • My soul is nourished in every way and all my senses are awakened and reaching their potential
  • I forget about what I have to do (my lists of work tasks back home) and do what I want to do (create)!
  • I reflect on my work, articulate my learning verbally, put it in writing, share in the critique process, problem solve, integrate my thinking, depend and build on my past learning, and go to the next level.
  • I feel a great deal of pride!
  • I know that this learning opportunity mirrors the work of teachers and is an essential part of professional development opportunities that I have.

As I traveled towards home on Sunday afternoon I tried to imagine what my life as an art educator would be like if there was no Haystack in my world?! I wonder what I will tell my colleagues about the experience? Will I describe the three days and will they understand? Will I be fortunate enough to attend next year?! I sure hope so.

Thank you to Maine Art Ed Association for organizing the conference and especially to the co-chairs Holly Houston and Lynn Wildnauer and the registrar Deb Bickford for their time and commitment to the planning.

Thank you to MDI art educator Charlie Johnson for supplying many of the photos for this blog post.

One comment

  1. Argy, thank you for this post. I will be sending this along with Dans letter to our curriculum coordinator. Im not sure that I could add much more to the argument that THIS is why our fall conference is vital to our profession. deb



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