This blog post is coming a little late, (a couple months late actually)…but it is the first time that I have been able to breathe since Covid-19 struck and we transitioned to distance learning.
Pre-Covid, this year held many successes including:
- Using new mediums (india ink, mixed media with 3D elements, fiber arts, and digital components)
- Embedding art history (each lesson from cave art through ancient civilizations and up to the modern era included information and facts about what life was like at that time which provided context and made the lessons more meaningful to my students)
- Introducing contemporary artists (such as illustrators and street artists)
- Collaborative art projects (wearable art and human tape sculptures)
- Using art to be socially conscious (portraying environmental and social issues)
Until the unexpected happened…
Balancing teaching full time across grade levels and subject matters, along with parenting 4 children and keeping them accountable for their studies while at home was beyond challenging. There were times that I didn’t think that I would make it through the week, never mind the school year. Yet, here we are…and somehow…I did it.
The human capacity for burden is like bamboo – far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance.
This year has been a real test of my resilience. My PGP was to create a unit for Passover using the Syntegration model to integrate art. This means that art and Passover would not only be integrated into Jewish Studies, but they would also be connected to other areas of learning such as Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, and Science.
The beauty about being an art teacher is that I can use art to amplify learning and engagement across subject matter and grades. I am always seeking out opportunities to do this, to connect what we do in the art room with what is happening in other areas of my students lives.
This project was to be the “crown jewel” for making Passover that much more meaningful and exciting to learn about.
The project was well underway. I used 2 prep periods weekly to be with the grade 4’s during Judaics class. In art class we were drawing elaborate Egyptian profile portraits, in Judaics we were making a stop-motion animation bringing the Pesukim to life, in Social Studies they were learning about ancient Egypt, and in math they were building 3D pyramids. As a team, Yardena, Julie and I were meeting regularly to breakdown successes, challenges, and where the project was going. The students were extremely engaged asking daily to continue working on it.
Sadly the project was not able to be completed according to our collective vision. The students wrapped up the unit in Judaics, and in other subjects… we moved on. My heart was close to breaking when we were finally allowed back into our classrooms, seeing all of their hard work unfinished.
It would be great to revisit the idea for next year, if time and schedules allow. The students were extremely engaged and beyond motivated to created the clay figures, backdrops, learn their parts, and act them out on camera. If we are once again in a distance learning context, then each student could be responsible for a smaller part and still use the stop motion app at home on a phone or tablet. Then the parts could be combined to form a whole movie.
Aside from the specifics of the PGP project, I have accomplished much and grown a lot this year. My bandwidth was taxed in many ways (balancing home and family, managing many hours on screens which is still a trigger for migraines after my concussion, and re-envisioning all of the curriculum and how to best deliver it, for both Kindergarten and art).
In order to successfully navigate this time, I invested many hours of professional development through webinars (The Art of Education University, Voice Thread, and many YouTube Tutorials) I learned to use new platforms such as ScreenCasting and Adobe Spark Video. I relied heavily on my professional network through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, seeking out best practices and accessible art projects requiring little or easily adaptable materials. My blogs and YouTube channel are testaments of many hours of hard work.
Although not all of my students were able to successfully complete and submit their work, there were amazing accomplishments. I learned which students relied on and loved art… my tribe!
In addition, I have maintained and strengthened relationships with students, parents, and colleagues through video conferences, email, and chats. I continue to be involved in the community and my Synagogue, attending virtual events.
Currently I continue to partake in as much professional development as I can in order to prepare for September and whatever it may bring. I attend weekly Zoom meetings with other art teachers in day schools across the US and am connecting with Hebrew Kindergarten teachers as well. I recently attended a 2 day webinar hosted by OAT (On-Line Art Teachers), a new group created to support art teachers everywhere through these times.
Although it has been difficult, I have grown in many ways and am better prepared for both a return to “normal” teaching, a continuation of the status quo, or a combination of the two. I am already thinking forward and considering all of the possibilities, being planful for whatever the future will bring.