October 20, 2011

Action Figures!

Here are the Action Figures the 5th grade students painted using liquid watercolors and total creativity. They had to choose a color family then we started playing with painting techniques. I made copies of their originals so they could experiment and know there was a backup in case things didn't "work out."

I like how they came out. I like that they played. I like that we had fun.

Creativity, experimentation, trial and error, and freedom of expression are under attack. We just received word that we will be grading students on LITERACY standards. There are two weeks before we input grades. I am all for supporting literacy in art but grading them? All Art, P.E. and Music Standards have been thrown out and we will be grading to the exact same standards that classroom teachers are. . . all without ever knowing this while we are teaching. Not that it would matter much anyways. This is my 5th year teaching and the 5th version of a report card I've seen. Our report card comes like a novel. . . pages and more pages. Some of our parents need workshops on how to read to their children which our district provides, yet there is no workshop on how to read this report card. This is all very concerning to me. Mainly, because of school climate. Stress is so heavy that I feel like it is my priority to make an environment where kids can have fun, experiment, create, and not be "evaluated" constantly. We are teaching children after all not science subjects. I would like to know where children fit in this equation? I would like to know how many people who devise legislation and all these new initiatives have young children or volunteer in schools? Today I spent some time with a boy who is not "scoring" well, he is just functioning in school. I noticed how dirty his hands were. After he washed them I saw how raw and swollen his fingers were from biting his nails. This child has so much stress in his life besides school. I don't know the solution, but I do know what is contributing to the problem WE ARE.


lauralee said...

I couldn't agree more. NO ONE is thinking of the children anymore. I have been given 900 of them this year. HOW do you get to know them or even begin to assess them when it's 3 back to back classes at one school, 3 back to backs at the other. I feel like I am being forced to run a factory with a revolving door. I don't even have time to tie little K's shoes. If I do, I'm behind the 8 ball. It's awful. What can we do? I can barely breath the stress is so high.

Unknown said...

Has your local or state education association taken any action concerning the report card and literacy skills issues? If that happened in my district we would mobilize, take the issue to the public and have every news station for 50 miles around reporting on it. It's comforting to know that my union dues pay off.

Phyl said...

Oh, Erica.... it's all this nonsense that has led to my decision to retire. Every day, I LOVE what I do with the kids, and the kids love the opportunity to do just what you say (to create, explore, experiment, have fun, invent...)and your fabulous student artwork for this project shows how successful they were. Then the pressure to grade a zillion kids that you see once a week maybe, on standards that have nothing to do with what you teach, increasing your workload and making you less able to do what we art teachers are uniquely able to do.
In 36 years (or is it 35? I have to re-think the math) I've seen: Goals 2000, the Compact for Learning, the Regents Action Plan, the Common Core Curriculum, Learning Focused Schools, etc etc -I know there are initiatives that don't come directly to mind right now - each time rethinking what doesn't need to be re-thought. I've been through handwritten report cards, report cards on computer, narratives, checklists, and now an online gradebook and so many permutations of all these things. I've lost my enthusiasm for this idiocy, often sent down to us from "experts" in education who have never spent one day actually working in the classroom, with those kids with dirty hands and too many sets of transient parents and no bedroom and no breakfast but yes they have an X-Box and a snowmobile and a 4-wheeler.

When I started teaching all I needed was a BA or BS and then 30 grad hours and I was DONE. And now new teachers have so many hoops to jump through that don't make them better teachers, since it is the experience and the will that really makes the difference, and honestly, I would not recommend to a young person today to go into education. The newspapers attack you, the community doesn't want to pay you equitably and it is all so disheartening. I just want to give kids goo and paint and the chance to explore. I have made the decision and will retire, just need to write the letter. Can't put up with all this crap any more. Excuse my language; I just feel so frustrated for you and other younger teachers who want to do all the right stuff but will burn out because of this nonsense. In the end the kids will be shortchanged. I think I'd better stop typing and post this comment before I'm sorry!!

Unknown said...

Praying for you and all the kids you teach. I had alwyas dreamed of teaching in a public school someday when I am done educating my kids at home, but each day as things become more ridiculous I wonder if the challenges the job comes with would be worth it. No one wants to go to work everyday and have a brick wall put up as an obstacle to getting their job done. I am praying that you find some(or use a sledgehammer to make) some windows and doors in those walls.

Unknown said...

Thank you for all your thoughtful comments. It's nice to know others back my own feelings and thoughts. A little validity I guess. Art Fairy, that's exactly what I do is find ways around things to do what I want to do. Luckily art has dodged standardized testing which will without doubt KILL art class. I've seen versions of the test and I have no choice but to offend the art teachers who made it. . . do they REALLY teach art? First of all some of the assessments were in clay and photography (we all know all schools don't have those mediums.) Second the creation assessment was advanced and mind numbing at the same time! A hard thing to do! I have no idea what they will settle on but I want no part of it. The reason I know what they were working on is because at one point I thought it would be good to be a part of it and have input. But after meeting the teachers working on it and the administrators I realized that sometimes there are just walls that take too much energy to break down. I would rather spend my energy in my own school. . . working being a better teacher. A teacher that makes a real difference. I am not there yet, but I won't get there any faster if I get involved in this nonsense.

That said I can see a simple assessment would make sense. That way no matter what district a student is in you would know what they have covered or should be covering. But we can't do anything simple in public education. . . this over the top attitude towards everything is throwing gasoline on a little spark, now we have a forest fire.

Unknown said...

Lauralee, take care of yourself and get through this. Make things as easy as you can for yourself. I will hopefully be posting more EASY PROJECTS YOU CAN DO TOMORROW. And I will make them REALLY EASY and accessible to kinders esp. I just haven't had a lot of time lately. Started my masters in CONFLICT TRANSFORMATION, Peace Studies so I am just trying to stay a float and get the most out of everything. Blogging is a passion though because I get to dialogue with other teachers. THANK YOU ! I will get back with easy ideas. Be easy on yourself because that schedule is impossible.
Pat, we are meeting on this and other things this week. . . I have no grand illusions of immediate union action though, here. I am happy to hear all places aren't like this.

Anonymous said...

I have been doing action figures for a while now. My students really enjoy posing for each other. Your addition of the watercolor paint is brilliant! It takes the quick sketches to a fabulous whole new level! What beautiful pieces of art!

I used to teach elementary school and then I had children. I took a 9 year mommy break. When I needed to return to work it was basically impossible to get a public school teaching job. I tried for 5 years. I subbed, worked as a preschool teacher, got a half time one year contract which was enrollment dependent ( and enrollment dipped). A friend suggested teaching in a homeschool enrichment program. I began there a half a day a week and now teach there two full days a week. It's the best job I've ever had! I now have several different joblets giving me a place to teach art every day. I'm not making as much as a public school teacher and I have to buy private health insurance. However, while my public school friends are miserable teaching, I love my work! I get to be as creative as I want to be, I don't have all the headaches I had when teaching in traditional public school, oh, and did I mention I have small class sizes and really can develop a wonderful rapport with my students?

I think what is going on in public education in this country is sickening!!! I have children in the public school system and they are constantly being tested. I personally think schools are being run for the convenience of adults and not children. It's such a shame, but in some ways I don't see that it's much different than when I went to school in the 1960's and 1970's. We had standardized testing but not as often. We had a lack of instruction in the arts. It was very basic. I learned how to learn, but most likely I could have done that and flourished with a more child friendly system anyway. I think if my public school education had integrated the arts I would have been in a better place to make college decisions and career decisions because I would have had a more holistic view of education and learning!

The best part of elementary school that I remember was kindergarten because we had unit blocks and painting easels available every day. Play was supported and encouraged. Kindergarten kids don't get much of that now. Preschools are threatened with assessment mentality now, and I worry about the current initiative to provide universal preschool.

As teachers, parents, and citizens we need to lobby, advocate, and scream from the rooftops to end this current testing mania and teacher bashing! We need to reduce class size and make learning at all levels hands on, arts integrated, and student/child centered. Play and outdoor experiences should be a significant part of a student's time in school. As an adult I play with materials, ideas, words, etc....Gee....aren't those the things I did as a child? How could the educational establishment have gotten so far off base? I suppose it's because politicians and corporations that stand to benefit financially from all those tests and curriculums want it to be measurable and accountable. The most creative and exciting learning moments are hard to quantify and measure. So.....if you can't measure it and package it in a full proof method how can you insure it's successful? Personally....I think the answer to that is happy thriving kids not stressed out nail biters worrying about the next test!