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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Sarah Gould

April 7, 2015

MAAI Teacher Leader series

This is the eighth 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.

4747f3_99e8f0ca14cd47a597dd42c859c217f3.jpg_srz_p_147_138_75_22_0.50_1.20_0Sarah Gould is a Visual Art teacher who is on her ninth year at Gray- New Gloucester High School. This semester she has just over eighty art students in her classes that range from Foundations, Sculpture, Ceramics, Painting, and IB Art. She has been department head and a teacher leader team member at the school for seven years.

Sarah is actually a GNGHS alumni, who came back as a long-term substitute for her high school art teacher, who then decided not to return after her maternity leave. Sarah earned her BFA at USM with a concentration in Art Education in 2006 with a double focus in drawing and ceramics.

What do you like best about being an art educator?!

I can’t say as if there is one single thing I like best about being an educator, it is the complete picture that encompasses so much; connecting with students, teaching them, watching them grow, encouraging them, giving them the power to be proud of themselves, celebrating accomplishments with them, learning about life as well as art.

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

Comfortability. Art, visual or performing, naturally displays student ability. Kids can be nervous to participate in fear they will be no good, and that others are going to see it. I think providing an open, safe, friendly environment is an absolute must to nurture student participation, experimentation, and expression.

Personalization. Some students have natural ability, others have to work for it. Students all connect with different media and processes. Each has their own personal interests and pathways ahead. I think it is important to find how art can fit or connect into students lives, so they can value it’s importance and relevance as it’s importance to them. Also leaving room for personalization and student choice creates greater investment on top of creativity. !

Balance between “fun” and “rigorous.” I think we all want students to enjoy our classes and find inspiration in the things we teach and love. I also think we all want students, parents, colleagues and administration to respect our content areas. I do think there are many ways to find a balance, and it certainly looks different for everyone. But I think it is possible and important to find a happy place between students being excited to come to class to create and perform, and also want to work hard and have an appreciation for the subject and what they are learning.!

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

Assessment has played a large role in my teaching style, especially over the last few years. When we started our early transition to becoming a proficiency based school, the theory and the practice had a large effect on my approaches and strategies. Once we organized our standards and broke down what we wanted to assess, it changed our curriculum, units, lessons, and targets. With assessments and rubrics, it became clear what we were measuring, and in turn what to teach. It also became more clear to students, who then knew expectations, why they earned certain scores, and how to improve or revise their work. It also became a tool to communicate with parents, who may have thought scores were based on personal opinion. Well made assessments have gained our department respect and have become an advocacy tool.

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

It has been great being a part of the MAAI work. Making connections and forming relationships with other teachers in the same content area can be awakening and rewarding both. It’s always nice to meet others with similar passions, and interesting to hear how different schools are structured, but learning from one another is the greatest benefit. I have found the conferences provide an open and understanding atmosphere where you can feel comfortable asking questions or sharing what you do. It is the friendly atmosphere that made me feel comfortable in becoming a teacher leader and presenting what I do, hoping someone can learn something from me and take that with them as I have from others in the past.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I think I am the most proud of building a well structured and respected art program. The other art teacher and I have worked really hard for years designing our courses and curriculum, and are constantly making changes, revising, and improving what we do. I believe we have earned respect professionally and in the community.

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

Time. There is never enough time! I know I could invest more, and use strategies better, and add steps, but sometimes there just isn’t time. Time in the block, time in the day, the week, the quarter, the year. There are so many things I’d love to do with my kids, and I can’t squeeze them in, or find time myself outside of the school day to further develop ideas. Most obstacles we can work around, but time seems to be the one thing I always need more of.

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

I think originally when I became the electives department head/ teacher leader at GNGHS some felt that I didn’t deserve or earn the position because I was a relatively young and new teacher. But I took the role very seriously and have invested myself in the greater improvement of our school, and I think I literally worked my way out of the doubts others had and proved myself.

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

Well, who knows what the future holds, but I would say the biggest piece of advice I can think of now is to be constantly evolving. Change what you do, let go of things that don’t work, take chances and try new things, revise things that work and make them better, be inspired yourself and keep things exciting, adapt to changes, be constantly changing and growing yourself, as an educator and artist, visual and/or performing.

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

Hmm… how far does $500,000 go? Our economics class does that project, maybe I should sit in! 🙂 As an art educator I would like to invest in a program for either underprivileged children or a program for individuals struggling with mental or emotional wellness as a means of therapy.

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

I dislike the thought of having regrets, I like to think we should try to appreciate the path we have taken and what it has given us. With that said, I do fear that I will look back and be disappointed I didn’t take more risks, or take advantage of opportunities, or push myself harder. I’m afraid of playing it too safe. Perhaps knowing that fear will encourage me to prevent it from happening and break out of what I find comfortable.

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