The beginning of my student teaching experience began prior to the initial start date on January 4th, 2021. I was truly enlightened of the intensity that exists within the education field. I wrapped up an old chapter as I began my final semester of college student teaching. Despite the long days and what seems to be an endless task list, I'm incredibly grateful I am to have chosen this path. I couldn’t thank all of the educators that have helped and motivated me through the years enough, you know who you are, and I appreciate you with my whole heart. You’ve been a very vital soul in my life journey.
For the entire week prior to winter break, I began setting extra time aside to assemble art kits for every single one of my to-be students. I have at least 30 kids per class, 3 classes, and multiple components for each kit. Even with multiple hands contributing, this was not easy work, nor did it go quickly or without confusion and frustration. Many people assume art is a class of all play, no work. Although we have a lot of fun, we also put in ENDLESS amounts of work, now heightened by the pandemic. The lack of student assistance to assemble these kits, due to COVID-19 restrictions, had placed the responsibility of preparing approximately 96 art kids upon the shoulders of myself and Ms. Ermer.
I want people to understand that your (or your child’s) art teachers are extremely vital in schools AND students’ lives. They are the masterminds and creators behind each lesson, the organizers, the prompters, the problem solvers, the therapists, the moms, ... the friend for the kid who needs one. Our work doesn’t end at 4:00, and neither do the emotional components attached to wearing all of these hats. But because of this, it is also one of the most fulfilling and gratifying careers I could ever imagine myself pursuing.
Already in the weeks prior to the official first day of school and the two weeks I have experienced thus far, I have observed a multiplicity of details I hold at the utmost importance. I have seen my team members talk down crying students, work through what seems to be insurmountable stress, persevere through the uncertainty of district decision making, and all the while maintain relationships with each and every student calling upon them by name. It is unbelievable to assume that one day I might have the memory that these women possess. Their emotional strength is something to be honored. On the most stressful days, the shortest break restores their hope and allows them to keep trudging on through the difficulty that remote learning has created. I have found that teaching requires much more physical and emotional endurance than I could have ever imagined. It is not a lifestyle for the weak of mind or body.
The consistency of schedule however, has been wondrous for me and assisted me in simplifying my life into a very specific routine. I am able to eat three well rounded meals, at the same time each day in order to keep me energized throughout the day. I've now gained some traction and have already taken over seventh period art history as well. Initially when Chelsea asked me to take this on, I was hesitant and told her I would prefer to observe longer. I thought, "I'm not ready, I need more time to familiarize myself with the routine and the material". But instantly, I knew I could not be prepared for a career in teaching if I didn't throw myself in now. Eight weeks seems like a long time until you truly begin, and then you are quickly made aware of the terrifying pace in which student teaching comes and goes. I told Chelsea that I changed my mind, and would jump in however she saw fit. I slaved over my journal adding in my daily schedule, three separate calendars, daily task lists, and the same notes my students would be expected to take under my command. I have found comfort in recording all of these details in order to gain some foothold of organization, but find myself still drowning and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work that teaching entails.
Something that has helped take pressure of my plate was simply being honest with my students. Certain assignments like their "Question of the Day" are to be completed during the first 5 minutes of class, or the end of the day at the very least. I found myself grading twice a day, once at 4:00pm when school concluded and again around 10:00 pm. At least 5-8 students per day were waiting until night to complete their work. We began the semester being quite lax about turn-in times, but I was really feeling frustrated by the lack of effort resulting in heightened effort and stress on top of what I was already experiencing. After expressing my feelings to my team and mentor, I was given the advice to be very clear about the deadlines and have that conversation with my students. I spoke honestly with them about the stress of being a new teacher, my devotion to them to return their grades in a timely manner, and the support I needed from them. When class concluded, I checked google classroom to see all 31 of my students had completed and turned in their assignment. Although these conversations can be very anxiety-inducing, I've learned they are SO necessary. I will continue to take over more tasks for this course and insert my role into both drawing first period and the other section of art history during fifth. Although I still am experiencing a lot of anxiety about my daunting list of tasks, I remain optimistic about the transformation I am going to endure through this experience. It will all come with time.
In terms of my art piece for my reflections, I have decided to create a weaving which expresses the many trials, tribulations, and victories this experience will entail. Due to the extreme amount of tasks to complete for my student teaching, the beginning of this project will be uploaded at a later date.
Until then, I am uploading photos of the 97 art kits I assembled for all three art classes: one section of drawing and two sections of art history. The materials needed for all 3 classes consisted of 97 hand assembled and labeled art portfolios which contained a total of around 1,455 sheets paper (97 kits, approx. 15 pages of varied papers in each) which were all hand-cut and 324 pages of printed work sheets/note images. We prepared 65 tiles with three coats of glaze, amounting to a total of 195 layers of glaze; 65 bags of plaster specifically 1 cup each; 65 hand-cut foam forms for plaster casting; 65 bars of soap for carving; a total of 97 sketchbooks; a labeled drawing board for each student; 31 tins of colored pencils; 32 ink wells with accompanying writing materials (nibs and holders); 64 pieces of charcoal; 32 eraser toppers; 32 black charcoal pencils; 32 white charcoal pencils; 32 packs of conte crayon to complete the drawing kit. Finally, 65 more pencil toppers, 130 pieces of charcoal, 65 black charcoal pencils, 65 kneaded erasers, 130 paintbrushes, 65 glue sticks, 65 wire loop sgrafitto tools, and 65 needle tools to complete the art history kits. This was an immense amount of work, and I am eager to have time to create art when my schedule allows. I have decided to prioritize my teaching/students before making time for personal work. Adjusting to this new schedule has not been an easy task and the patience of those around me is much appreciated.
For my reflective artwork, I decided I wanted to create a weaving which will eventually encompass all of my reflections into one singular larger piece. I recently received a table top loom as a gift and have been eager to find the time to return to this practice.
In my piece, I decided to begin with a singular color weaving to create an upward sloping pattern which eventually tapers. Initially my experience began with many tasks all laid out ahead of me, with uncertainty of the time it would take. This is symbolized in the loom itself and the creation of this first portion. I was overwhelmed by the work that was to come, but excited by the fact I was going to be doing something I love (i.e. teaching and weaving). Both bring me a great sense of fulfillment although it initially begins with an overwhelming sense of nervousness. Both are daunting tasks with an unpredictable timeline, but both ultimately end up bringing me joy and satisfaction.
The slope of this rectangular structure currently present on my loom symbolizes how overwhelming student teaching felt initially. I was really excited but the amount of work felt like it was continually stacking up with no end in sight. The use of a singular color is symbolic of each day blending together. The schedule of teaching felt like I hardly slept and repeated each day just over and over. But the more I worked and powered through, the more I began to see myself adjusting to this new schedule. At the end of week three now, I have felt myself finding a rhythm and the workload falling into a manageable pattern. I can predict more accurately which tasks will need to be completed for the week and when. As many tasks were completed, each line of weaving was placed. As each week resulted in a list of accomplishments, the weaving began to take shape. And finally as I was able to see the pattern in my tapestry, I have begun to adjust and see the structure of each day fall into place for me.
It has been really important to remind myself to not be overwhelmed by the workload teaching requires, but lean on those around me for support and have faith in the certainty that I am capable of being a wonderful teacher--I just have to find my rhythm. As an artist creates an artwork there are many challenges and uncertainties one must overcome in order to grow and birth their final masterpiece. I have been very inspired by my students' passion and work ethic despite the many emotional battles they are currently fighting. Right now, because of the circumstances, challenges are heightened and I think everyone is just really "going through it" but I have felt so happy to be the teacher that is widely aware of that and am doing my best to support my students during this time. I will continue to strive to be the warp and support my kids, and I am very eager to see what kind of masterpiece ensues.
This blog thread is a synopsis of my experience student teaching during the final semester of my senior year, fulfilling the last service credit hours of my art education degree. I fulfilled the first eight weeks of my placement at Fossil Ridge High School, with Chelsea Ermer as my mentor. The final eight weeks of my placement were fulfilled at Coyote Ridge Elementary school, with Staci Sandelin as my mentor. I have completed a series of written reflections accompanied by physical art works which relate to the written portion of each post.