Last night I had the opportunity to talk to some art education majors. I was invited to their meeting to discuss anticipatory set. Not the most spicy Friday night activity, but I was eager to meet some students who are just as enthusiastic about art education as myself. I always jump at the chance to network and socialize with other art teachers.
While I was talking about the basics of anticipatory set: find a way to grab their attention, engage them in a meaningful hook, or set the stage for a unit, it reminded me how much I love teaching art. I felt myself get animated as I remembered some of the super engaging anticipatory sets I had done over the years.
The art history year was my favorite. I built a time machine and we 'traveled' back in time to before there were humans and to create clay dinosaurs and ambered insects.
Then I constructed a cave in my art room so students could experience what life was like for early humans. For Ancient Egypt, I built a pyramid out of cardboard and allowed students to use tiny flash lights for an expedition inside to study hieroglyphics.
It was easy to engage my younger students because they were eager learners. Every single things was fun and engaging.
Now, I feel like I am just bracing myself for that first punch.
Every time I introduce something new I keep my guard up, just waiting to deflect and defend why/what we are learning.
I feel like I have to justify each project or try to make it look easy, or else my students' first response will be: I can't do that. Or worse: I don't want to do that. Or worst of all: I HATE that.
The hard part about my schedule this year, is that I feel myself planning activities that I can sustain over 12 class periods. It takes an extreme amount of energy and focus to be enthusiastic and read a book or introduce a lesson in a really engaging, meaningful way 12 times consecutively. At my previous job, I only had to do it 6 or 8 times (with my older classes), spread over an entire week.
Now I have to do it 12 times, every hour on the hour, in two days.
So I just don't.
I do really boring anticipatory sets. I have a prompt on the board and students write a response. I use a videos more frequently. My enthusiasm is much more restrained, and I didn't realize it until now, writing this reflection.
As much as I loved sharing with those pre-service teachers, it made me a little sad. They still have each other. They have the hope of how fun teaching will be.
And it is fun.
But it is also very lonely.
So lonely, that I spent 3 hours of my Friday night talking about it to people who care, just a little bit.
Sometimes I go days without speaking to another adult.
I am the only person in my entire district in my art department. So every decision about grading, ordering, projects, curriculum, art shows, art displays, material prep, lesson design, comes from me, myself, and I, a big job in a school with 600+ students.
It is rewarding and motivating, but I do my best work when I am collaborating with someone else who thinks along the same trajectory as me.
Aw geeze. This post just got all sad, like a tiny violin playing in the background. I did not intend that when I started, but I guess that is the beauty of writing, you reach inside and you just don't know what you are going to pull out.
The best part about saying all this is that I can always strive to get better.
I didn't realize that I was actually missing one of my favorite parts of teaching until I wrote about it.
I have somehow unconsciously taken the easy path, instead of the much more challenging path that gives me so much joy.
Check back tomorrow, I'm going to talk about how I made the decision to move to the middle school, and how a philosophical book helped to give my life greater meaning and purpose.
This is my 'slice of life' blog.
My Art Teacher Blog:
This Little Class of Mine