Thursday, June 19, 2008

Just Shoot Me

I was about ten minutes into a professional development session today when I was compelled to rip a page out of my sketchbook and do this.

What was really horrible is that I held it up for the rest of the participants to see and EVERYONE nodded. Art teachers are such bad children. Seriously, teachers of each discipline have such varied personality qualities. Math teachers are very methodical and logical and don't seem to have a great sense of humor. They do seem capable of going postal. All that repressed creativity I guess. English teachers are fun, but sometimes anal. They can appreciate horribly awful jokes but seem to stress out over things that other folks don't mind. Social Studies teachers are willing to stir stuff with a stick. They have a sense of justice that just doesn't always work out for them. Science teachers are seriously demented. Some like to blow things up, some like to build giant catapults, some are too very interested in watching fire.

Art teachers are the bad children from every class. They pass notes, they refuse to pay attention, they sneak up and write things on the board behind the teacher's back, they talk back, they point out the obvious flaws in everything and say "why?" We're the ones who bring sketchbooks to class and draw nasty caricatures of the teacher.

Gather a room full of art teachers. Already the ADD and ADHD level is through the roof. There is this thing called "attention span." We don't know what an attention span is unless we get into the "zone." If we are in the zone, then heaven help you if you distract us. There are levels of art teachers. Primary art teachers are usually very sunny and really sweet. High school art teachers tend to work and sell art on the side and are more likely to have BFA (studio) degrees. I think they have a higher degree of sociopathic behavior. Middle school art teachers are well, in the middle. They can lean toward the "force" or the "dark side."

Staff Development: The bane of public school teachers. In order to maintain certification standards and good standards with our employer we can A) get 21 hours in our content area a year or B) be docked 3 sick days. I'm late to the teaching game so I have to renew my certification every 5 years so I HAVE to put in the hours. Other folks have "lifetime" certifications so they can use up several of the hundreds of sick days they have accumulated.

Staff Development generally involves learning new acronyms that are meaningless. Every two years, someone has to reinvent the wheel and we have to pretend that we are paying attention.

We have to learn now about PBL (Problem Based Learning) and create CPG's (Curriculum Practice Guides.)

Here's a quote from my handout today: "Problem Based Scenario using Meta-Cognitive Modeling a reasoning not about "the world as it is," but about the relation of our own knowledge to the world, and to the goals we pursue activating prior knowledge. The moment information arrives it is already obsolete to some extent, a decision maker in a real world situation will never have all the information necessary for making an optimal decision. . . " This handout also cites the Road Island School of Design.

Scenario: A parent and a 14 year old are watching a video. At some point the content becomes objectionable to the parent and the parent stops the video and returns it to the store. The 14 year old rents the video and is watching it and it gets up to the point where the parent turns it off and the 9 year old sister comes in and the 14 year old turns it off and says the 9 year old is too young to see it.

This is the problem we were presented first this morning which prompted my impromptu sign. We were supposed to "fill in the gaps" and ask questions about this scenario.

In between expelling exasperated sighs and rolling our eyes we came up with these questions.

1) How did the 14 year old get the video again?
2) How did he get to the store?
3) Don't they have a DVD player?
4) What year did this scenario happen?
5) Would it have been better for the parent to watch the video and then explain to the 14 year old why it was inappropriate?
6) Was the 14 year old masturbating?
7) Where was the parent when the child checked out the video?

This is supposed to help us teach art?

It got worse from there. We were insulted and told that we've done a horrible job. We apparently have to teach art in a new way now that doesn't involve requiring our students to learn basic skills.

Scenario: (Dialog follows) "Teacher, I've got feelings about World Hunger. I looked it up on the Internet and I want to express myself. I need some markers. Since I've looked it up and thought about it, I want to draw a big pink puffy heart on a piece of paper. I want to draw an arrow through the heart because when I think about World Hunger it makes my heart hurt and that's how I want to express it." The teacher says "Maria, that's VERY good, you should express your feelings about such a globally critical issue. You are so bright to want to show your heart being hurt. Let me get you some markers."

We are supposed to give them a prompt. This scenario supposes that I've already told them to come up with something about World Hunger. It supposes that I have unlimited access to a computer lab where the kids can go research about World Hunger and then come up with ideas to express how they feel. We are not supposed to be critical in any way of their "ideas."

Gag me with a ten foot pole.

Apparently I'm not supposed to teach art anymore. I'm supposed to make them research and write about their feelings. I'm also supposed to invite in parents and members of the community each six weeks to view and give feedback about the artwork that is generated.

I call Mr. Rodriguez and I say, "Mr. Rodriguez, can you please come to art class on Tuesday to give feedback about the artwork that is generated from Juan's feelings?" IF Mr. Rodriguez speaks English, I have to also mention that I need to know that he is coming so that I can notify the principal's office where he will need to go and get checked in (after showing ID) and get escorted to my class by a security officer. I'm supposed to do this times 130 kids. I'm supposed to call the directors of local art galleries and ask them to also come and sit in on my class and view the "feeling-inspired artwork" and ask them to give very objective and non-critical feedback to the students and the parents and the administration of my building. That's also after they've gone through criminal background checks and been cleared through building security.

Give me a break.

We were told to meet in our small groups and establish our "norms" for visiting one another and observing other teachers' classes in an objective and non-critical way. I held up my hand and asked what a "norm" was. I'm such a rabble rouser. The session leader said "Well you need to establish norms with the observer and determine how one can leave feedback without feelings getting hurt." I was still puzzled. She told me that we had to make up rules to go by. I asked her if she meant "standards of conduct" and she said that was "very good." I know I rolled my eyes. I looked her straight in the eye and said "If we go observe someone we should be polite." "VERY good" she said to me. I shook my head and said "okay, it's very simple, my 'norm' is BE NICE."

How hard is that?

I'm terribly opposed to freaking psychobabble that takes very simple concepts that are tried and true and puts horribly confusing and distracting language on them. How many have made so much money dressing up the Socratic method in fecal matter? That's all it is. We're supposed to make the kids think.

I think that's what I've been doing. Problem based learning. . . Here is the art element line. What kinds of line are there? Thick, thin, curved, zig zag, dashed, swirly etc. Take line and arrange it in an interesting way. You can't have any line cross another. Problem stated. Solution to be rendered. It requires thinking. I tell them I can't think for them. They have to play with the element to see what they can come up with. I guess now I'll have to say "express your feelings about World Hunger" with line. Be sure and talk to all the kids around you a lot to generate ideas. Use up almost all of our class time talking about it and discussing your feelings about it. I won't offer any supplies, you have to figure out HOW you want to express your feelings about line and come ask me for what you need (which I may or may not have because the student has no idea what supplies are available since I'm no longer supposed to give them guidelines to follow)

I told the office manager today that if she heard automatic gunfire coming from down the hallway that it was in the room with the art teachers.

Damn Skippy!