I have always had a passion and love for the arts. When I was in kindergarten I took a personality test that determined what career path I should follow when I grew up, my result was painter. While other children played at the park across the street from my home, I would sit for hours with play-doh, finish paint with water books, and doodle with crayons. I knew my calling was in the arts early on, but it was much later in life when I decided sharing my passion and love for the arts with students was what I needed to do.
I enrolled in Ohio Northern University with a double major in art and psychology. I wanted to work as an art therapist for Autistic children, but quickly realized psychology was not for me. I took an entry level education course and participated in my first field experience in the Winter of ‘97. From the second I stepped into the classroom, I knew that was where I belonged. I needed to teach art, and I needed to do it in a way I was never taught.
During elementary school, my art class consisted of making simple crafts. In middle school, I received step by step instructions which resulted in the whole class having identical works of art. By high school, I had free reign of the art room with no direction resulting in a lack of any real art education. These were the same teaching styles I witnessed in most of my field experiences, as well as student teaching. I knew the students were capable of creating so much more than the meaningless projects they were throwing out as they left the room. I wondered why I didn’t receive any instruction or guidance in creating meaningful, personal works of art until I entered college. I knew it was possible for students to express themselves through their art even as kindergarteners.
As I began my teaching career in the Fall of 2002, I decided I was going to teach my students with the same passion, dedication, and knowledge with which my college professors taught me. I took lessons I learned in college and adjusted them to fit the needs of my elementary students. I saw great results and knew this was the way to go. As time went by, I developed my own lessons and created a cumulative curriculum from the ground up that focused on all aspects of the arts. My students leave my classroom with knowledge of many artists, various techniques, and the history of art. They have created meaningful works of art and participated in the critique and analysis of both famous works of art and those of their peers. They participate in arts enriched service learning opportunities and create art for their community. My class offers so much more to my students than time to play, it offers them exposure to a different side of education.
A good art curriculum aids in independent thinking. Most areas of education have a right and wrong answer. The children learn information, memorize it, and retain it. There is no right or wrong answer in the arts. There are many ways a problem can be solved, as there are for many problems people face on a daily basis. I help my students think of the different approaches they can take to solve a problem. We work through all the possible outcomes, may even try a few ways, and decide what the best solution for them is based on their own desires for their piece. This type of problem solving and critical thinking is not easily addressed in a standard classroom curriculum.
As a person that teaches the same students over multiple years, I am able to build on each students’ strengths and help them succeed the best they can. The arts bring so much into students lives and help them grow and learn in ways that are unmatched by any other type of education. I can not think of anything else I would rather do than to provide my students with the ability to think for themselves, analyze the world around them, and respect and appreciate all cultures and walks of life through arts education.