Another Arts Teachers’ Story: Shalimar PoulinJuly 17, 2012
Featuring one teacher’s journey as an educator
This is the 18th 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.
Shalimar Poulin teaches at Wiscasset High School (RSU 12), grades 9-12. She has been teaching for 18 years. Prior to Wiscasset High School for the last year she taught at Gardiner Area High School for 8 years, 3 years at Hyde Schol in Bath, and 6 years in suburban Philadelphia. At WHS she teaches Draw/Paint, Printmaking, Art Revolutions (Art History- inspired Art-making class), Digital Art, Ceramics, Sculpture. Shalimar has served on the leadership team for the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative.
What do you like best about being an art teacher?
It comes naturally to me, always has. Harvesting the belief that all people can practice creativity, can learn the skills of making quality art, and one does not have to be talented to enjoy art-making. This belief is something that works best when discovered first hand; however, learning vicariously through one’s child can change limiting perceptions of art making.
Tell me what you think are three keys to ANY successful arts ed program?
- Community attitude towards art (including administration, teachers, staff, students, parents and community at large). One does not necessarily need to be 100% gung ho art, but must have a curiosity, positive learning attitude, and a willingness to accept changes in art education.
- Art teacher dedication, commitment, quest for doing one’s best.
- The establishment and maintenance of a flexible learning environment where teacher and students learn together, where guidelines are clear and open to interpretation and the door is open for extended-learning and community visitation.
What specific way(s) do your assessment practices tie into the success of your program?
I can’t be sure that it is successful. Right now, it is a lot of work. I hope at some point to better manage the long out-of-class hours I spend on creating quality assessments, modifying quality assessments, providing quality evaluation and feedback to students, and the one I am least successful at- timely feedback. The assessment tools I use are: (1) project rubrics (that ask students to self reflect on their work, modify project goals to suit their interest, and clear teacher and peer feedback for improvement), (2) bi-weekly exit slips- a substitute for quizzing, including: comments about learning and activities, class participation and effort, teacher and self ratings, art language exercises, hopes for upcoming weeks, feedback for teacher (3) start-up questions- discussion questions posed to students to answer individually, in pairs, or groups depending on the pre-start up activity. Usually there is an out-of-class expectation of sorts- read a google doc, visit a blog, do an activity to reinforce learning such as a 10 minute or less class start-up questions. (4) artfolio development and presentation checklist and rubrics (photographing, writing and revising student artist writings and storing, filing and posting of electronic files to student g-site artfolios), (5) critique preparation, discussion, and reflection
Next year I am going paper-less with all non-art activities. I am using an on-line classroom called Canvas (supported by our tech integrator). I am looking forward to this practice and I believe it will improve student’s tendency to resist “paper-work” and “academic” activities in art class. I also am certain it will stream-line evaluation such that the required time will be reduced.
What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?
Collaboration- sharing stories, problem-solving together, shop talk. Working with leaders in Maine State Arts Education- kind, thoughtful, energetic, movers and shakers.
What are you most proud of in your career?
The life skills I share with students by example and through the making of art: work ethic, problem solving, commitment to completion, risk taking, development of creative self, allowing a project to take time (not everything we do need be instant gratification). Turning kids on to something they believed they had no aptitude for- the skills of art making.
What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?
A growing epidemic of the failings of the education system being blamed on those of us in the trenches- teachers. The lack of parent involvement in the lives of their children. The failure of educational consultants and school administration to interview and honor their greatest resource- teachers. The troubled economy and instability of arts place in the future of education. Students who make it their main mission to defy authority (who fail to see we have their backs and want the best for them).
Apple or PC?
What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?
Nothing. It seems all that I have perceptively succeeded in has come from hard work, determination, working with others, and intentional moving and shaking. I will say, I have been lucky to be invited to work in some interesting schools and I have had the privilege of working with some amazingly outstanding students. These blessings were not a function of my efforts, they are providence.
Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?
Please don’t consider art an exception to the rule. When our peers in the core disciplines are asked to make changes, meet new standards, jump through hoops, JOIN THEM- be an example of change. Validate what we do as being part of current educational trends. Expect our administrators to include us in all requirements.
If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?
I would ask for more money because 500 is a spit in the bucket. Then, I would build and open a state of the art after-school arts center for children ages 4-18. I would include disabled adults as well. This center would be the equivalent of a magnet school for the visual and performing arts- only less formal. It would offer students enrichment, a place to be after school, and the opportunity to create life-time habits in creativity. It would have all the ideal facilities I have ever dreamed of and never had. I would link it to a community center (YMCA maybe) that also offers exercise programming. I would close it in the summer so that I could continue to devote time to personal art-making. Besides there are so many great summer programs already established for young people. I would have a massage once a week, schedule my loved ones for a once a week massage and hire a personal chef and a sherpa. I would establish a college fund for my nieces and nephews. I would by a place on the water.
Websites that Shalimar recommends:
Thank you Shalimar for sharing your story.