Archive for October 9th, 2013


MacArthur Fellows

October 9, 2013

Committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world…

Screen shot 2013-10-09 at 10.46.17 PM

What do a dancer, choreographer, composer, photographer, and playwright have in common? They’ve each been recognized and received the distinction of 2013 MacArthur Fellow. You can read their fascinating stories by clicking here. They might provide inspiration and encouragement for you or your students.

Thanks to Suzanne Goulet who sent me the link and said: “I enjoyed the Materials Scientist, Craig Fennie …….he speaks to the importance of creativity…..”. Perhaps we should ask him what he thinks of STEAM!


I’m a Teacher, An Educator, A Professional!

October 9, 2013

Essential to Education

Screen shot 2013-10-08 at 9.26.05 PMSusan Beaulier, K-12 Art educator from Ashland was honored last year by the Maine Art Education Association as the Middle Level Art Educator of the Year. She served as a teacher leader during the second phase of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative. Recently she has expressed to colleagues her displeasure with being called and referred to as a “special”.

My question to all of you is this: Since when is something “essential” considered “special”? This post was written by Sue and it is posted here with her permission. My hope is that you think about her words and realize the passion that not only Sue, but many arts educators have for their commitment to being a teacher! Thank you Sue for your contribution to the blog and your dedication to your students providing each of them with a quality arts education.

When asked my occupation by people whom I’ve just met, I reply, “I’m a teacher”. That usually prompts the question, “What do you teach?” I then explain that I am the PreK-12 Visual Arts Teacher and Coordinator of Gifted and Talented Education for our district.  A brief discourse usually ensues regarding my work, and then moves to the life of the person with whom I’m talking. No big deal, just polite conversation.

To people outside the education field, I’m viewed as a teacher, an educator, a professional.

I have never had anyone in the general public question my role as a ”real” teacher”.  That task is left to my colleagues, who refer to me as a “Special”.  Despite my college degrees, years of training and experience, and full certification including several endorsements, many still don’t see me as an educator… and I am not alone. The Music/Performing Arts and Physical Education teachers are viewed as  “Specials” too. To our colleagues, what and how we teach really isn’t that important;  after all, we only do the “fun stuff”. To my regular classroom colleagues, “The Specials” are but a break in their very busy day.  They don’t view our time with students as integral to education. Rather, we provide a respite for them so that they can prepare for the REAL job of educating students. My role is to supplement the important and necessary teaching that they do…the real stuff.  

I guess that I should not, then, find it surprising that they frequently keep students from my class to finish up missed homework, or as a punishment for some misbehavior in the “REAL” classroom. In response to this, I invite my colleagues to step away from the photocopier or the coffee machine, and discover the learning that really happens in the art room, the music room, and the gymnasium. I invite them to join their students for art class, music class, and physical education class. Given the opportunity, we “Specials” might educate our colleagues about the teaching and learning that occurs during the course of OUR very busy day. Perhaps the REAL teachers might garner a few tips on how their classrooms and the content they present could be made “Special” too.

My classroom is special because…

  • Learners are encouraged to meet learning goals rather than finish assignments.
  • Divergent thinking is valued; even mandatory. There can be several solutions to the same problem; much like life.
  • Students are able to express who they really are, define their individuality and embrace those differences rather than try to fit into the same niche as everyone else.
  • Learners talk to each other about their work. Sharing “answers” is not considered cheating.  We call it  reflection and collaboration.
  • Learners perform both independently and cooperatively, everyday.
  • Learning is not rote.  Lectures are few.  Hands-on, authentic experiences allow learners to learn by doing.
  • Those who are often afraid of being judged, feel safe in the art room, because individuality is celebrated. Thinking that appears silly, absurd or off-task often provides a jumping off point for learning.
  • We’re not afraid to make mistakes. We teach and learn from them.
  • Criticism is constructive. Assessment is provided for improvement, not punishment. There are always chances for re-dos until one is happy with his/her work.  
  • Practice doesn’t make perfect…practice makes better. I also recognize that everyone doesn’t get better at the same time, no matter how much they do or don’t practice.
  • A textbook manufacturer does not determine the pace or delivery mode of instruction.
  • The ability to question is considered more important than the ability to answer.  Experimentation, discovery, risk-taking, flexibility, and trial and error are practiced every day.
  • Learner success is measured by individual growth, not their class standing.
  • Differentiation is inherent. The learner dictates it. I facilitate it.
  • I tailor my lessons to address the interests of my students while still imparting content knowledge.
  • And yes…I try to make learning fun… because it is.

I am a teacher, an educator, a professional. My classroom is a reflection of what I’ve learned, experienced, and believe about learners and learning.  Art education is not “special”.  It’s simply good education…



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