Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Samantha Davis

March 10, 2015

MAAI Teacher Leaders series

This is the fourth blog post for 2015 on the Phase 4 Maine Arts Assessment Initiative’s (MAAI) Teacher Leaders sharing their stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to learn from and about others. You can learn more about MAAI at http://mainearts.maine.gov/Pages/Education/MAAI# and learn more about all 61 of the MAAI Teacher Leaders at http://www.maineartsassessment.com/#!teacher-leaders/c1qxk.

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 4.53.33 AMSamantha Davis is a visual arts teacher for grades 6 through 8 at Molly Ockett Middle School in Fryeburg, Maine. She is in her first year in this position. She teaches all students at Molly Ockett Middle School, which is approximately 240. The students have visual art for one quarter – 5 days per week, 50 minutes per day (and then rotate to Physical Education, Health, or Music for the next quarter(s)). Prior to teaching in Fryeburg, Samantha taught visual art at the high school level at Sumner Memorial High School in Sullivan, Maine from 2010-2013. She obtained her B.A. in Art Education at the University of Maine in Orono in 2010.

What do you like best about being an art educator?

I like being a part of my students’ experiences of discovery and creativity; of their excitement with exploring media and engaging in their varied artistic processes.

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

  1. CONNECTION – Arts educators collaborating with one another, administration, parents, and most importantly, students!
  2. RISK-TAKING – A willingness to try something new and different…and do it often.
  3. ADVOCACY – Getting others on board with believing that the arts program is essential to the educational experience of all children.

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

Assessment has taken many shapes and forms in my classroom, but it consistently keeps me grounded. As a teacher, developing assessments requires me to reflect on what is truly essential for my students to know and be able to do as a result of being in the art program. Developing my units, lessons, and projects around assessments keeps everything focused on the end goal. Having clear assessments steers my classroom away from the “opinion-based” or “judgement-based” grading that many students have experienced, and drives it toward meaningful conversation and reflection, authentic learning, and measurable growth.

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

By far, the benefit that stands out in my mind the most is that of connection. In my short career as a teacher, I have already discovered how detrimental it is to be isolated in this field (in particular, as an arts educator). Being a part of MAAI has brought me to the heart of what I do, and that is connecting with others through meaningful collaboration, shared experience, team-building, constructive feedback, and all of the other fruits of being connected with other people who are passionate about what I am passionate about.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I cannot point to a single event or achievement in time, but I am proud of my “spark.” I crave new learning about my field. I am excited about trying new things and I continue to work toward improving myself as a teacher and artist. I am a big-picture person, so I am continually thinking about the vision for my classroom and the art program in my district. I am excited about things to come and I think my “spark” will take me to places I can now only dream of.

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

I think many things get in the way of a becoming a better teacher. First and foremost, I think a teacher can get in his/her own way. I know this to be true from experience. Self-doubt can be crippling and it can have a domino effect.  Teachers also need to take care of themselves (eat, sleep, play) or their work will suffer. Lack of support from administration will most certainly get in the way. Lack of connection with other educators will, too.

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 a difficult time thinking of something that I have done that would be considered due to luck or circumstantial, but what I will say (that is somewhat related to the question) is that we teachers (especially arts educators) do a lot of background/behind the scenes work that is not obvious to others. We have to prep materials and space, practice  skills with our students outside of regular class time, test projects before assigning them to students, and the list goes on! What is visible to others is not always the full picture of the work that was put in!

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

Keeping reasonable expectations of ourselves as teachers is important. Celebrating small accomplishments can keep teachers excited and motivated. Fixating on seemingly large shortcomings can set huge obstacles and does not lead toward improvement, but rather more self-doubt and criticism. Being kind to ourselves is necessary before we can be kind to others we work with – especially our students.

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

I would like to expand the art program at my school by obtaining the following: a ceramics studio,  photography equipment, printmaking equipment, standing tables, full-size easels, and funding for field trips.

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

I think I will always have small regrets in life, but in general, I do not have any major ones. I see a life fully lived and many dreams fulfilled. I see many lives I have touched, but most importantly, many lives who have touched mine.

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  1. Beautifully voiced Samantha! I am so proud of you! I personally think art is one of the most important thing any school can have! Especially all the diversity you are trying to provide for your students! I think the creativity of art in our young is a great way to really find yourself! Art has so many different avenues to vent too! I am so happy my son chose art as one of his most important lesson he has learned in all his school years so far! And has opened up a whole new world for him! Art is something that never fades away…And can be used in so many different ways to keep your mind sharp and explore a world of culture….excitement…change and fun! I am very grateful for teachers like you that see the importance of keeping art alive! Best to you Always! Love Kathy!

  2. Thank you Kathy for your first hand information on the impact Samantha makes as a teacher!

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