I am an art TEACHER

Do you ever want to shout "I AM A CLASSROOM TOO" or "I AM A TEACHER TOO"?

I feel like this here and there.  Most times I don't feel singled out or less of a teacher than grade level teachers - but every once in a while things add up and suddenly I feel like I'm backed in a corner trying to fight my way out - trying to prove and explain that just because I teach art doesn't make me any less of a teacher or any less of a classroom.

Generally when schedules are running smoothly and people are less stressed - specials teachers get treated with respect and equality(in my experience) - but the moment things get rough or a planning period is in jeopardy, even by a few minutes, suddenly it feels as though specials teachers are less important - that what we are doing with the kids is just fluff and that our job is to babysit and entertain the kids so that planning times can be had.

I may not directly teach reading, writing, or math - but what I do is important.  I may not teach anything that can be 'graded' with numbers or be graphed on a standardized test, but I teach students life skills that they use in general education rooms.  Students learn valuable skills in my room, not just how to mix colors or draw in perspective (which honestly is super hard), but they learn how to cope when their ideas don't pan out.  They learn how to ask for help, how to visualize, how to plan ahead.  Students learn to preserver - students learn stamina in the art room.  They learn to create something completely original by combining new and prior knowledge - a skill they need in writing for sure.

I realize that walking into my room it looks all fun and games - I understand that when I hang up pictures in the hall they they often look as though all we did was cut a glue paper.  Those pictures represent so much more than the end product.  Those pictures represent all the skills they need to learn new things in the general ed room.

What I do matters.  What I do is needed.  If for no other reason, I do what I do because there is that one student in each class that lives their week for art class.  There is always that one kid that can't read well, that numbers don't make sense, friendships may be hard to make and keep - but art they can do.  Art is where they are smart, confident, at home - art is the one place they feel okay taking risks.

Creativity is one the number one things CEO's and other job hunters are after for their companies.  Our country feeds and runs off of innovators and inventors, and we are in a creativity crisis.  How do you teach creativity?  I often times feel you can't teach creativity, but that you have to practice and experience creativity.  I don't think creativity can be taught in one particular class or by filling out worksheets, but rather it is a process.  Students need time to try and be creative by having open ended experiences while melding their prior and new learning so that they take risks.  I love when a kid comes up to me with a sparkle in their eye and say, "Ms Novak can I try...." or "Ms. Novak can I add...."  That is creativity when they start thinking outside the box and give something new a try, a chance.

I know creativity happens in general education rooms, but I tend to feel it doesn't happen quite the same was as it does in the art room.  I am passionate about what I do and what I teach.  There is value and purpose in my planning and lessons.

All of you out there - please support your ARTs teachers and remember that they are indeed TEACHERS.


Jen Carlisle said...

It can be frustrating but as you stated... we are the best part of many kids'weeks.

Deceptively Educational said...

I was that kid that lived for art class. And your right - SO right - that kids learn so much through art that turn them into problem solvers, inventors, creators, and free thinkers. I love all the messages in your post. But most of all I love your passion! I have no doubt that the kids in your classes do too!

Anonymous said...

So well said! I have been feeling this way too lately. Can I put a link on my blog back to your post?


Ms Novak said...

Yes Jody - of course! Share away - lets spread the message to love your art teachers past just getting a prep! ;)

Phyl said...

Well stated. We do things NO other teachers do. Kids figure out how to solve problems that don't have a clear answer; they learn to make decisions, they learn that not everything will turn out as you expect, they learn to engage their right brain, they learn to THINK. But yeah, after 27 years in the district, they are replacing me when I retire with someone who should never be teaching art, all to save money, without every telling/asking me. They rave about my program and what the kids LEARN but think nothing of tossing it all away. A first grade teacher even had the gall to say to me "do we really NEED a certified art teacher?" Lady, you try to do what I do...
And someone else suggested the kindergarten teacher become the art teacher, because, after all, she's really "artsy-craftsy". Sigh............

Ms Novak said...

Phyl - I am so sorry! That completely sucks. I don't understand how people can rave about a program and then hire someone who they know isn't going to enhance or carry on the excellence in place. Don't most districts claim they are striving for 'best practice'? GRRR! I am mad, frustrated and sad for you, for your students, and for the art education community.

I am absolutely shocked that a first grade teacher said that and said it to you!! Yes - a certified teacher is needed in the position as we are TEACHING! This is like saying, "Well my mom can read she can teach reading right?" GRRR. People really have no idea what happens in the art room - keep fighting, keep educating both kids and adults about the wonders of art!

Blooming Soul Arts said...

my program at school has brought a lot of attention to my school. I won an award last year for my teaching. I even got myself a cool parking space along with it (never did get the stipend, but whatever...) I hang things up in the hallways and people stop and look and comment and tell me how amazed they are.

fast forward to budget cut season. my principal didn't even have the guts to tell me he was going after my program. cutting my time at school, cutting all of my classes into 30 minute slots, giving my "extra" time to the librarian who is not a union employee because she gets paid whatever amount she teaches and god forbid the "regular" teachers don't get their full prep time....taking a job that should take a whole week and shoving it into 2 1/2 days. (umm..where's my prep time??) best part is he will not give me the final decision, because he doesn't want me to go elsewhere.

so yes, I totally understand what you are feeling.

I will be leaving my job if this proposed budget cut goes thru.

Ms Novak said...

Blooming Soul Arts -- Your comment made me both sad and furious! Your whole situation sounds pretty frustrating and, well, sucky. I hope your principal steps it up and is honest with you - it's not fair to keep you strung along.

Are they planning to put you at part time or share you between buildings?!

Will you please update me with the final decisions when they come out? I will hope for the best.

Blooming Soul Arts said...

You are so sweet for worrying! Thank you so much.

The final decision will come out may 7th....so may 8th I think I will be giving my notice :)

one door closes, another opens...that is what I believe....it's just hard to have that door slammed in your face!

Mrs. Belzer said...

Thank you for this post, I read it from Jody's blog (thanks for linking!).

I have also felt these frustrations. I have one teacher in my building that had made a comment (in front of her class no less) that it didn't matter to her if her kids came late to art, so long as they were on time for math.

When she came back at the end of the hour I pulled her aside (as a first year teacher to a 15+year teaching, I was shaking) and said that while I understand that math may be more important to her, I would appreciate that she not say it in front of the students. I also said I work my butt off to make my program academic. She did apologize and she spoke to her class about the comment she made.

She and I are on great terms and I'm thankful that I stood up for myself and my subject area.

It is sad that we all find ourselves defending the work that we do at one time or another.