Today was an amazing day.
After weeks of snow and 10 degree weather, I woke up to sunshine and warmth; even the birds were chirping. I stepped outside, took a deep breath of fresh air, and realized spring was just on the horizon. Spring has always been a time of refocusing, reassessing, and revitalizing in our personal lives, but how often do we take the time to “spring clean” our professional lives? This is a great opportunity in revitalizing our teaching philosophies and program visions as both should continuously evolve.
Now is the perfect time to look back at the teaching philosophy you wrote when you were in school or just starting the interview process and evaluate where things have changed now that you are teaching. Ask yourself, what is learning, where and how does it take place, how do you know it has occurred? What kind of teacher do you aspire to be? A coach, a facilitator, a general, an entertainer?
What are your goals for students? Are they completely content based, or do you want to build strong character as well? How is your teaching and your classroom environment going to help achieve these student goals? What are your beliefs on grading and assessment? How do you want to grow as an educator? What goals do you personally hold for your teaching? Take the time to reevaluate your teaching philosophy, and update the areas that have grown and altered, and this will help you in revitalizing your teaching.
As arts educators, our programs are our babies. We conceive the program vision and goals, we nurture and care for the progress, and we celebrate and cherish the successes. Once we get everything up and running it is a good time to check back and see if our priorities and expectations meet our vision and goals. With revitalization on the horizon, now is a good time to reflect on how what we do in our classrooms is a reflection of the beliefs and values we hold for our programs.
Start by asking yourself, what it is that students in your art program will walk away with when they leave. What will they carry in their “boxes” as they move onto middle school, high school, or college? Will they be masters of the technique of your art form? Will they be proficient in the theory and history behind the art? Will they have strong character and virtue? Once you have articulated the expectations of what your students will leave with, take a look at how your class is organized. Do you hold strong beliefs in theory and history, yet your class focuses solely on technique? Do you aspire to foster strong character traits, but rarely offer opportunities for students to practice strong character?
Understanding By Design
By using the Understanding by Design method of backward planning assess if their “boxes” will be full of the necessities required to meet the vision you have for your program. Then complete this process for each year. For example, for a high school program start with everything you want them to have mastered before they leave for college. Then take a look at each year, what do they need to be proficient in by the end of eleventh grade in order to master the expectations of twelfth grade? Then look at tenth grade, what do they need to know and be able to demonstrate by the end of tenth grade in order to be successful in eleventh grade, and so on.
Once you have completed this process, take a look at your curriculum maps and lesson plans, do they reflect the expectation you have for each year of your program? Have you prepared them with the tools necessary to reach the goals you have set for them? Visiting each year of your program or of your arts department as a whole is a great revitalizing practice. Not only does it help you to stay true to your own personal values and beliefs, but it allows you to reflect on the priorities of your arts program and modify where needed.
Try to take the time this month to refocus, reassess, and revitalize your teaching philosophy and program vision, it is a great way to start the spring!
Piquès & Pirouettès