Archive for June 5th, 2012


Another Arts Teachers’ Story: Audrey Grumbling

June 5, 2012

Featuring one teacher’s journey as an educator

This is the 12th in a series of blog posts telling arts teachers’ stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

Audrey Grumbling currently teaches K-5 Visual Arts to 460 students at two elementary schools: Kennebunkport Consolidated School and Mildred L. Day School, Arundel. She originally taught K-8 Art in Arundel beginning in 2001. In 2006 the school became a K-5 school and later consolidated with RSU 21. Her work includes teaching two Talented Artist Program classes each week. Audrey has been with the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative as a Teacher Leader in the first phase.

What do you like best about being a music/art/drama/dance educator?

I revel when I see the children’s joy as they work with materials and express themselves visually. Seeing them tap into their own creativity and get into their “flow” zone – that’s the best. While my discipline is visual, I am passionate about ideas, and I teach for that spark, that “aha” moment, when a child makes a discovery and grasps a concept.

Tell me what you think are three keys to ANY successful arts ed program?

As arts educators, we are entrusted with the important work of providing children opportunities to directly experience the language of human expression and understanding.

  1. A successful arts education program needs passionate educators who find joy in their own work.
  2. A good arts program helps students practice close observation and build skills that lead to creative problem solving and critical thinking.
  3. It’s no accident that the highest level of the new Bloom’s Taxonomy is “to create.” It’s the quality that businesses, think tanks, and the world most need to nurture for our future. It’s what the arts are all about!  Getting this message out beyond the “choir,” that’s essential to a solid program, as well.

What specific way(s) do your assessment practices tie into the success of your program?

As we found repeatedly throughout our Arts Assessment Initiative, we need to focus on “formative” assessment – immediate feedback that students can apply to their work and teachers can utilize to adjust and differentiate instruction. It opens up a trust, a dialogue, a conversation that helps students grow while they create. Ideally, they learn to reflect, revise, and create (and reflect again). Teaching students the process of metacognition provides a lifelong skill for any discipline. Learning how to revise and change and modify is a key skill, whether one is planning a mural, writing an essay, designing an app for a smart phone, or developing a fuel-efficient engine. The arts do it!

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

Through the MAAI, I met some amazing, talented, and passionate arts educators. We experienced a journey of discovery and sharing as we studied and reflected on our own practice together. At our state Assessment conference, we established a dialog with our colleagues, both presenters and attendees, and shared in ways we rarely have a chance to do. I especially enjoyed collaborating with Laura Devin of Bath to present two sessions at the conference.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I treasure those undocumented moments of joy, pride, and “aha” sparks I’ve witnessed over the years.  It is gratifying to see children realize they can make a difference in the world with their art (whether through exhibitions, gifts, collaborative works, or service learning).

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

I am frustrated that I don’t do enough to educate the self-named “non-artists” in our school community about the importance of the arts to build adults who can think independently, solve problems, collaborate, and communicate within our world. The current single-minded emphasis on test scores is a narrow view of what children need to succeed. In 2007 I spoke with university educators in Japan who said they were long “past” that way of thinking, and the schools I visited were, indeed, intensely invested in the whole child. Despite ample confirming research, somehow we get stuck on the test scores.  Of course, there is always the big issue, TIME, or lack thereof. Lack of TIME with children, lack of TIME for research and teaming with other educators, for coordinating that collaboration across disciplines that really cements learning.

Apple or PC?

Both, but with MLTI, more Mac these days.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

I have found community partners to host whole-school art exhibits in their museums and galleries. For each of my students to see themselves viewed by their community as “artists” in a “real” gallery is priceless. I am also really proud that Arundel was named one of six “Imagination Intensive Communities” in the state during the first year of that program. This recognition represented amazing whole-school collaborations and integrated learning that involved our entire staff, something that suffers when test scores become the prime measure of a successful education and planning time for collaboration is squeezed. When I created integrated units of study for the Portland Museum of Art, the Farnsworth Art Museum, and the Lincoln Center International Institute for Creative Learning I was able to bring world-class professional development back to my students, and when published, to the reach the wider education community. Finding funding to bring in working artists from down the road and across the world has also been an exciting part of my work over the years.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Hang on to your ideals, find outside experiences that stimulate and support your work, and find some supportive colleagues with whom to collaborate.  Also, educate your administrators, school board and community about the essential relevance of the arts in the life of a developing young person who can solve problems creatively, think critically, communicate within our rapidly changing world, and, by golly, be a happy, contributing member of society. It’s the world I want to live in.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

Wow! A financial bonanza would help me bolster my own children’s creative endeavors out in the world (a filmmaker, a poet, and a molecular physicist). I’ve always wanted to fund an artists’ colony, where young artists can live and work and inspire each other. I’d like to work on ways to educate communities, administrators and school boards about the both essential and vast benefits of a solid arts education.

Thank you Audrey for telling your story!

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