This was a presentation I gave at the Colorado TAB, Inc. conference in January. The purpose of the session was to guide TAB teachers in discussing their programs with parents and administrators. It can definitely be stressful when getting put on the spot to answer some questions and concerns from parent and/or administration. To ease that stress, I like to say that being transparent and ready are the best tools.
What does that mean and look like?
(Please note that these are strategies that have worked for me and what I have learned through the years.Every school and community is different. )
Getting put on the spot:
Before talking about TAB with an administrator and/or parent, offer an open invitation to the class. If they are interested in what is happening in your class, they will make time to visit. Sometimes a visit will clear up any initial misconceptions. If the parent visitor is not satisfied, offer a follow-up discussion by appointment with an administrator present. Be active in letting the school and community know that visitors are always welcomed. (This is part of being transparent.)
Techniques are meaningless without motive. When an artist sets an intention, they are devoted to the process, making techniques meaningful and purposeful. The same goes for my students! When students set the meaning and purpose, the techniques will mean much more to them. They instantly become intrinsically motivated. I do teach techniques through demonstrations, but my students pick those for their artmaking purposes.
Originality is a false issue, and so is technique. As important as these two factors are, they are impediments only to those who stand outside of art. Inside, the creative experience is quite different. Inside is inquiry, the expansion of emotional depth and range, the tuning of the spirit, and the quest for meaning" (p.18).
"Mrs. Ruby, do we get to PLAY art today?" 1st grade student.
"YES!" I reply.
When did play become excluded from the art room? And school? I absolutely let my students play art. Artists learn through exploration. School should be made for children. They need play! Play is essential to the TAB classroom. It is how students collaborate and make new discoveries. George Szekely (1988) sums up the reason for experimentation:
“Art teachers know the importance of experimentation, but in practice we tend to give priority to other things. We often plan lessons that require each student to finish an artwork within one class period. Therefore the beginning of class must be used for giving instructions; the end is for cleanup; the middle is mostly for constructing the artwork, in accordance with the instructions. Very little time is left for experimentation. Frequently, children are expect to start making the project as soon as the teacher has given instructions, with no opportunity to practice or become familiar with the materials and tools. Sometimes students are given only one sheet of “good” art paper for a drawing or painting lesson and are told that if that sheet is ruined, no more will be available. In other words, they have to get it right the first time or fail entirely. Under such pressure, even experienced artists might lose their self-confidence and spontaneity.” Szekely, George. (1988) Encouraging creativity in art lessons. Teacher College Press
Students CAN learn how to handle choices
“Students aren’t always used to the sheer amount of choice you’re providing. You may need to teach students how to select the right intervention and enrichment, how to access the scaffolding, how to manage their own projects, and how to make decisions when they feel stuck” Spencer, J., & Juliani, A. J. (2017). Empower: what happens when students own their learning. San Diego: IMpress
Transitioning to TAB is a paradigm shift. It takes time to foster and learn for both students and teacher. I can recall the first year I started TAB, a student was very concerned about moving seats to get a pencil. He kept asking, "So, I can just get up and get the tools I need?"
I would say that the third year was when my students started to feel comfortable. I spend much of my first year modeling artistic thinking and how to use the studio. Students can learn how to handle choices. I can facilitate and foster a classroom environment that allows students to do so!
A place where I keep all of my thoughts on teaching an elementary Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) classroom.
TAB Teacher Blogs