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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Melanie Crowe

June 3, 2014

Marshwood Middle School Art, Eliot

This is the tenth blog post for 2014 and the third phase of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI) of this series sharing arts teachers’ stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to learn from and about others. Melanie has been a teacher leader during phase 3 of the MAAI.

croweMelanie Crowe teaches painting, drawing, printmaking, book arts, multi-media, and sculpture at Marshwood Middle School where she has been for 11 years. During the course of the school year, Melanie has the honor to work with approximately 400 students, sixth through eighth grade.

What do you like best about being a visual arts teacher?

The best part about being a visual arts educator is the unique opportunity to engage with students during the creative problem solving process. For me, it is during this stage that is so rewarding. Challenging students to push the envelope of creativity and exploring ways to see the common, uncommon – is a beautiful moment. In the art room, students know they have a safe place to challenge one’s self and to take risks – when students move outside of that comfort zone – I know I’ve done my job.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

  1. Communication and support from administration, school community, and local community.
  2. Student connection – creating genuine, authentic relationships with kids, to show them their thoughts and ideas are valued and we are all in it together.
  3. Creation of real life connections for students is key to their understanding of how the Arts are so important in everyday life.

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

Using rubrics along with self assessments, students take the learning ownership directly into their hands. When it is clear what the learning objectives are and students can clearly see what they are to know and be able to do, takes all the guess work out. As a newbie teacher, this was one area I struggled with. Now after my first decade, I see the utmost value in reflection as a tool for assessment along with clear ways to present rubric information.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative?

Without a second thought, the greatest benefit has been getting to know, work with, and learn from such an AMAZINGLY TALENTED group of arts educators. I have also gained new insight to my own teaching practices along with many ideas to try out in my own classroom. I now feel more a part of a bigger community and that is refreshing. Knowing that there are others that may have the same concerns, ideas, or suggestions and we are all just a few keystrokes aways from each other is liberating.

What are you most proud of in your career?

My students and their accomplishments.

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

Time – never enough always wanting more!

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

I would have to say almost everything – the more hard work you put into anything it may appear effortless to those who may not have gone down the same road of struggle and determination.

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

“Be the change you wish to see in the world”. This was told to me by one of my professors in life and I do “life” by it. If you have the desire to work with students in challenging them to open their mind up to the “what if’s” in the world then teaching is the right place for you.

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

I would build / open a community printmaking studio where students can come, create, hang out and learn the art of lithography and letterpress. There are so few places for just students to showcase and sell their work that I would like them to have a place of their own. Letterpress and Lithography are two forms of printmaking that I hold near and dear and do not want to see disappear. I love technology, but the beauty of ink on paper from a lithography stone is pure magic, I want to share this experience with as many others as I can.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

No. All paths have taken during my journey in life have brought me to this space in time, for that I am thankful.

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