Teachers learn to teach art by becoming students

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Art teacher Samantha Young and eighth-grade student Kyla Johnson laugh as they discover Johnson's mask is too thin to move without tearing the clay during art class at Estill County Middle School Sept. 10 2010. They decided to wait until it dried to move it. Students started by sketching a mask, used Model Magic to sculpt, then painted the mask and created a background to go along with their story about the mask. Photo by Amy Wallot
Art teacher Samantha Young and eighth-grade student Kyla Johnson laugh as they discover Johnson’s mask is too thin to move without tearing the clay during art class at Estill County Middle School Sept. 10 2010. They decided to wait until it dried to move it. Students started by sketching a mask, used Model Magic to sculpt, then painted the mask and created a background to go along with their story about the mask. Photo by Amy Wallot.

By Matthew Tungate
matthew.tungate@education.ky.gov

In 1963, Jeffrey Jamner’s kindergarten teacher in New York begged his parents to get him piano lessons. The now-classically trained concert pianist said he was a “non-responsive” child who only became interested in school when his teacher played music.

“The arts are a big reason for who I am today, and it started with a kindergarten teacher,” he said. “It changed my life. It brought me out of my shell and gave me something I was proud of.”

Jamner is now director of School Programs for the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts in Louisville and coordinator of the center’s Summer Arts Academies for teachers.

He got hooked on arts education for “the light bulb moments it makes happen in education.”

“It’s very exciting to me to think that a program like the Arts Academies is helping teachers all over the state to make these light bulb moments happen for other kids,” he said.

The Kentucky Department of Education and the center put on four weeklong Arts Academies each summer: two in music and dance, and two in visual arts and drama. In 2010, 131 teachers from 49 districts attended the academies, Jamner said. In addition to training in the two art forms, teachers receive $500 from the Kentucky Department of Education and receive KET Arts Toolkits. Since the Arts Academies began in 2000, more than 2,000 teachers have attended one or both, Jamner said.

Jaclyn Haddix, who has taught for four years and teaches humanities and drama classes at Anderson County High School, said she enjoyed the opportunity to hear ideas and collaborate with others teaching the same content during both of her sessions of the Arts Academies.

“I walked away from the experience with a better understanding of humanities curriculum, innovative collaborative projects, tips and advice from experienced professionals, and information on artists’ residencies,” she said. “Not to mention the Arts Toolkits we receive for each area of the humanities with countless creative lesson plans for all age groups.”

Jamner said teachers apply for admission to the academies, and preference is given to teachers who have attended one but not both of the academies and to those who are primarily arts teachers. However, the academies also train teachers from other academic content areas, he said.

“I think that more and more, arts teachers are asked to incorporate other art forms, to do cross-curricular work,” Jamner said. “More and more teachers are being asked to integrate arts with the other subjects.”

“After other PDs, my students don’t get an inspired teacher. After the academy, they do. After other PDs, my students aren’t inspired. After the academy, they are.”

Angela Roberts, English and arts and humanities teacher at Powell County High School

Angela Roberts, a five-year veteran teacher at Powell County High School who teaches English and arts and humanities classes, has attended both academies and said she has benefited personally and professionally.

“I see the world in a new way, and I hope that my students will have a new perspective. Art is about culture, and art is about choices,” she said. “After the summer sessions I went to Washington, D.C. Paintings and statues that I had seen many times before looked new. Music no longer seemed to be the music of an artist or a genre, but it was music with history and culture in its notes. I hope that I had been able to communicate this to my students.”

Samantha Young, a 22-year-veteran, teaches art at Estill County Middle School. She attended her first Arts Academy last summer to prepare for her first year teaching art, acknowledging she was “feeling a little overwhelmed.”

“This academy helped me feel more confident in my teaching. The activities that we were involved in demonstrated how easy it is to incorporate drama with art, or art and drama into a content class like reading,” she said.” I came away with a million ideas to use in my class room. I have always avoided drama, but now I can see how it brings a class together and fosters the building of a learning environment.”

Darlene Campbell, a 1st-grade teacher at Colonel William Casey Elementary School (Adair County) who has taught for 19 years, has attended both Arts Academies and thinks her class has fully integrated the arts.

“I have been using aspects of drama to teach reading and literacy, also to teach science. I have activities from the visual arts academy in math and in reading this year. I have been incorporating storytelling and dance into my daily schedule,” she said.

Professional artists, who are experienced professional development (PD) trainers with a thorough knowledge of Kentucky’s standards in their art form, lead the academies.

“We work with professional artists who themselves are really good educators,” Jamner said. “They might not have an education degree, but they must be very experienced in educational settings and be very good at articulating the processes involved in their art form.

“It’s not training that is done by talking heads. This is hands-on training in the art form so that the teachers are doing the art form by creating, performing and responding to the arts.”

Jamner said instructors create and model lessons for the teachers, creating a community of learners that is a safe place to take risks.

“When you get into the arts you are taking risks, you are putting it out there. It’s something you may not be comfortable with,” he said. “Teachers get in touch with how their students feel as a complete beginner learning a new dance, for instance.”

Teachers hear how they can do something in their classrooms during traditional PD, Young said. But doing them herself with the professional artist better prepared her to do them in class by reminding her what it was like to be a student, she said.

“When we began working on creating a picture using one type of balance, I was lost. I couldn’t think of what I wanted to do. As I sat there, feeling lost, I looked around me and saw everyone else working away. I was reminded of seeing my students ‘just sitting,’ and I felt a twinge of guilt for telling them to ‘get busy’ because I was temporarily lost,” Young said. “Now when I see students just sitting I give them a few minutes to think about which direction they want the project to take. Thinking time isn’t the same as wasting time.”

“This is the first professional development I have attended where I have actually tried to bring everything from that week into my classroom.”

Roberts went even a step further.

“After most PD sessions, I do not go home and listen to African drum music and love it. After most PDs I don’t go to my mom’s house, get an old table out of the shed and paint a quilt square design on it. But after the arts academies, I did those things,” she said. “After other PDs, my students don’t get an inspired teacher. After the academy, they do. After other PDs, my students aren’t inspired. After the academy, they are.”

Jodi Sims teaches physical education and dance in grades 1-5 at Estill Springs Elementary School (Estill County). She has been teaching for five years, but said she also felt like a student during the Arts Academies.

“At the elementary level, you must be high-energy and hands-on to be effective with your students. It has been proven to work with students, and I can assure you that it’s more than influential with adults,” she said. “The time passed extremely fast, yet you walked away feeling equipped to be a better educator.”

The instructors used relevant information during the two academies she attended, Sims said, so she is able to use bits and pieces of the trainings and incorporate them accordingly.

“The academy not only increased my knowledge of content but also helped with other aspects of my profession, such as classroom-management techniques and formative and summative assessment strategies, and most importantly, it created teacher connections across the state allowing for useful collaboration,” she said.

Jamner said those in the arts have been doing formative assessments all along.

“It’s called rehearsing,” he said.

Jamner conducts pre- and post-academy surveys to see growth in each teacher’s area of knowledge of content; confidence in teaching; understanding of formative and summative assessment; and integration with other subjects.

Young said it is hard to put into words all the benefits she gained from the academy.

“If it were possible, I would attend every year,” she said.

That soon may be a reality, Jamner said.

Teachers who attend both academies receive no further training now. The center is exploring the idea of offering three arts academies: one for drama and visual art; and one for music and dance; and a third academy for arts integration, Jamner said. The first of the new academies would focus on integrating the arts into social studies, with more subjects included in future years, he said.

“There are a lot of teachers who would love to go from where they are now into more advanced training in integrating the arts across the curriculum,” he said.

MORE INFO …
Jeffrey Jamner, jjamner@kentuckycenter.org, (502) 562-0703

4 COMMENTS

  1. As a visual arts instructor at the Arts Academies, it is wonderful to read that teachers are indeed taking away so much from our week together each June – and using it in their classrooms. There is so much to cover and so much to do and learn. It’s a mix of incredible hands-on arts experiences they can put into practice – along with sharing their knowledge with other teachers – that makes this program so rich and very special.

  2. As a coordinator of these academies, I have been thrilled to see how much the teachers benefit not only from the lessons presented by the excellent instructors,but also from the opportunity to network with their peers in a stimulating and supportive environment.

  3. The Arts Academies are so inspiring! As the filmmaker who made the 2009 Arts Academies film, I felt so lucky to witness the great work these teaching artists do. I watched as the school teachers unlocked their own creativity — they couldn’t wait to get started at school again to share their new skills and techniques with their students!

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