Today was a big story writing and story telling day. Not much in the way of pictures to go along with the stories so I will just throw some fun ones in at the end.
This post is just gonna be my 3 minute Art Education Advocacy story…
Allow me a moment to frame it. I teach in a district where we are referred to as “prep teachers”…by colleagues, by students, and sometimes (though not usually in mine) by administration. Even our union slips into that language. So all those folks would be my audience. And as you probably guessed, the core of my story is that I am not a prep teacher. And away we go!!
What’s in a name?
What is my label?
I am an art educator. I teach my students about the visual arts and how to apply what they are learning in other classes. I teach divergent thinking in my art room and how to be creative problem solvers. I have created an art room where my students can learn about themselves, explore their ideas, and experiment with different mediums, themes and content. I am preparing them to be creative thinkers and innovators and to understand the visual culture they live in. But please don’t be mistaken by that. I am not a prep teacher. I am an art teacher.
A teachers prep time is their time to prepare lessons, grade, organize, have a meeting or do whatever they need to do to be ready for their students. Art teachers have a preparation period also where we do such things- preparing paint, cutting paper, hanging art, assessing work, cleaning paint brushes, researching artists, and so much more (like this list could go on for a while y’all!). To me and many in my profession it feels like a misrepresentation to refer to art class as a prep class. It has the potential for misunderstandings. Knowing that students are sent to me under that false label and to hear a student refer to it as such or to call me a prep teacher can be soul crushing. I feel devalued and unimportant in the role of their education. “But Miss, it’s just my prep class- it doesn’t matter. I want to be a basketball player.” Teaching art is my passion and has always been. I want my colleagues and my students to see, feel, and hear that passion and understand what my label truly is.
You know how labels can share the fabric compositions and care instructions on the back? Well I’d like to share with y’all the fabric of my art room and the care I put into it to create a constructive, creative, and safe learning space.
My room is unapologetically colorful. It’s a space organized and dictated by colors that create systems to help students understand the art room culture.With an art library bursting at the seems, my room invites students to learn through literacy if that is their strength. We sing songs about art and learn kinesthetically through dancing. It’s a welcoming space filled with smiling students who are learning about our world through art and drawing conclusions on their relationship with that world, and how to build relationships with one another through collaboration. On a painting day, students can smell the tempera paint and are excited to experiment with mixing colors and explore color theory. My room is a place for all students to succeed in ways that work best for them while making connections to their learning and to discover themselves.
So, what I’d like to do is switch the perspective…to shift the dialogue. To help folks understand what I do and what happens in the art room… That I am not a prep teacher, I am an art educator. As a community we can make this change. We can flip the label.
There ya have it folks. I even volunteered to be one of the people to read it to the whole group. It was nerve wracking, but I was so proud of what I accomplished and I had to share.
Now some fun pictures…