By Carlon Steller, ETV Educator Guest Blogger
I want to start off by saying I was incredibly anxious about this current school year. How could I not be? The world changed, and as a teacher, I was responsible for catching up my classroom to become a true learning environment of 21st century skills with only youtube tutorials to guide me. I became an example of what it truly meant to implement flexibility, creativity, and productivity!
Now that some time has passed, I am able to grasp this new world of education and proclaim that though it is definitely not perfect teaching a variety of hybrid models, I truly enjoy this school year. I understand there is new policy, education politics, health concerns, and a new level of teacher fatigue, but I am able to really live my true passion for why I do what I do and am still here doing it—I love my students and all we are doing this year. I have never felt more connected to them.
One week during a Friday Google Meet, I was actually able to sit and have a conversation with a class small group about artwork and assignments they have been doing. I cannot think of a year in my eleven years of teaching when I have been able to have a sip of coffee and actually reflect and talk with my students as people. We were not rushed or distracted but genuinely able to talk about the monstrous sizes of Jeff Koon’s balloon dog sculptures and how we feel about our class progress. It was a delight.
I recognize my experience is my own, but Art Teachers have this gift of being able to adapt with the times. When allowed, we are able creatively to reconfigure our piece into the new puzzle of education instead of having to be like core classes that are having to fit a required form into a shape. As an art classroom, we are able to flow and fit into our environments with artistic flair. Our assignments can reflect our emotions, our Art Appreciation can include the entire world, and we can make Virtual Galleries in the same amount of time as a display case. Our Standards allow working with what is presented to us and to be there for our students.
Assignments that reflect emotions
Creating assignments that reflect emotions can range from having students study color theory to creating emotion masks to simply writing down an emotion and free drawing how they feel about it. The possibilities are truly endless because art is so connected to the soul. As teachers, we need to set boundaries of how deep we want to dive into the emotions of 2020—living in a pandemic, being a part of a time of social movements, or frankly, just being a kid. Make art personal because right now it is hard to connect in a socially distant world.
Art connects us all, so why wouldn’t we teach it all we can? I have been having students create Art History thumbnail sketches for their eLearning Bellwork. This method has allowed me to introduce so many more artists than I ever have before. Though each week is a simple PowerPoint of 4 new artists, over a semester students will have seen and learned about 64 new artists—an incredible Mind Gallery in the making. I have divided the weeks into themes to make sure that as much diversity in art and artists can be experienced. Themes include: “Most Famous,” “Contemporary Artists,” “Non-Western Artists,” “Local Artists,” “Women Artists,” and more. Students are able to form their own opinions about what they see, and I love the conversations and lessons that have developed from this new approach to Art Appreciation.
Virtual Galleries are the new Bulletin Board. The Covid-19 limitations that have been presented in my school forced me into depending on Google Classroom.
Though it took some time and patience, now I have students turning in work by taking photos and submitting them online. I have become a teacher who is just one screenshot away from a Virtual Gallery after each assignment! I love being able to publish after watching students smile as their artwork comes across the screen.
This school year is a new normal for us all but not a lost year. Teachers and students alike have become masters of flexibility, creativity, and productivity. Even with supplies and budgets being limited—we create! Even with each day being a new challenge—we create! We get to be mindfully present and actively innovative during a chaotic season, and that is a Masterpiece of a year and an authentic experience for our students.
Carlon Steller is a local teacher-artist in the Greenville/Spartanburg community selling and showing her artwork throughout the Upstate. She has her BA in Art Education and Art History, as well as her MEd in Art Education from Converse College. Miss Steller was honored as the 2016-17 Beck Academy's Teacher of the Year and the 2017 South Carolina Middle Level Art Educator of the Year by the South Carolina Art Educator's Association. She is a teacher with a passion for all types of art, among her favorites being painting, drawing, and artist books. She can be reached via her website/blog at https://carlonstellerart.weebly.com/.