We are thrilled to welcome guest contributor, Christie Bassett, 2015 Florida Teacher of the Year. Christie teaches art (and more! as you’ll read here) at Highlands Grove Elementary School in Polk County. She believes in making connections… with her students and colleagues, of course, but also with the community, and with the total school curriculum. She is an exemplar and long-time proponent of arts integrated teaching. She told us that she loves using Teaching Through the ARTS: WRITING… and feels like we wrote it for her and her art classroom.
Christie is an inspiring ambassador for education and for the importance of arts education. Read on and you’ll understand our excitement!
Mary and Susan
Technology brings the world closer each day and creates an undeniably more global future for American students. More than ever, students today need a well-rounded education that integrates multidisciplinary instruction into each day of their classroom instruction. This is best achieved when teachers breach the confines of the textbook, the walls of the classroom, and borders of subject areas. The arts are often the first opportunity a student has to apply, practice and enhance the skills they are learning in core academic subject areas. I often ask myself, “As an art teacher, how can I prepare my students to be career ready in the information age?” I know that they will need to be able to create, innovate, infer, predict and expand. It is my job as their art teacher to give them opportunities to practice these skills by creating art lessons that allow them to not only design and produce, but to also reflect and respond. I do this by working with their classroom teachers, incorporating reading into the daily routine of my lessons, and asking my students to write about their art process.
Collaboration Leads to Enhanced Art Instruction:
My school always offers great professional development opportunities for its teachers. Often, these learning opportunities are focused on math, reading and writing instruction. If you did not teach one of those subjects, you did not have to attend the meeting…and for many years, I didn’t. Until one day I noticed that all the teachers I looked up to weren’t just participating in these meetings, they were often leading the professional development! I realized that I was missing out on a chance to enhance my instruction, enrich my curriculum and further develop myself as an instructor. Now, I attend every reading, writing, science and mathematics training that I can.
In addition to going to training, I also resolve to further collaborate with classroom teachers. I often inquire about book recommendations, informational text resources, grade level abilities and skill acquisition. By working with their classroom teachers, I am ensuring that my student receive a well-rounded education that will benefit them beyond the walls of the classroom.
Successful Writing in Art:
“They have to write a paragraph in first grade?!” was my shocked outburst while attending a writing stamina training. “Well, we would really like to see students writing paragraphs in kindergarten, but definitely by 1st grade,” said the trainer. My surprise quickly turned into disappointment as I realized that while I had been requiring my students to write in response to their artwork, I was not challenging them by pushing their writing stamina. During that training, I resolved to challenge not only them, but also challenge myself. I decided I would evaluate the writing component for each art project to be grade-level appropriate. I ordered Teaching through the Arts: Writing to help me boost my visual art writing curriculum. I also asked my principal to observe my writing instruction in my art room. And, again, I turned to classroom teachers for advice.
I knew it was working when my students told me that it was more difficult than previous assignments (okay, they complained it was more difficult)! I also had my students asking more questions and working together. It has been wonderful! I need to challenge my students artistically and academically…now I’m doing that!
Reading in the Art Classroom:
While describing an upper elementary art lesson to my mentor, a 1st grade teacher, she said, “I know a book that would be perfect to use with that!” While reading to warm up during an art lesson wasn’t completely foreign to me, I didn’t know how well it would work with my older students. However, I took her advice, and used the book. It was a hit! It worked so well, I changed my artistic instruction style to devote time in each lesson to reading. Sometimes I used artist biographies to have my students read to shoulder partners. Or, I might read aloud about the technique we would be using. Occasionally, I would find a magazine article on the subject of our art project and have my student take turns reading to the class. I consistently observed that reading not only added to the depth of knowledge acquired during lessons and my students also produced better artwork after being inspired through text.
This year, I’m not a normal art teacher. I’m on a leave of absence from the classroom so I can fulfill my duties as Florida’s Teacher of the Year. In August, I explained to my students that they would have a different art teacher for this school year. They kept asking me the same question over and over. To my surprise, no one asked “Will the new teacher paint with us?” or “Will the new teacher let us make ceramic projects?” or “Can we still use oil pastels?” All of my students kept asking, “Will the new teacher READ to us?” Reading during art class has made so much of an impact on my students, possibly even more than I realized while I was teaching them.
I don’t equate my success as a teacher to my students growing up to be artists. I believe I am a successful art teacher when my students grow up to be readers, writers, and well-rounded adults.
Christie Bassett is spending the 2014-2015 school year traveling the state of Florida speaking to educators, future teachers, district personnel and business leaders about the continued success of Florida’s public education. You can read more about her at http://www.fldoe.org/teaching/recognition-recruitment/fl-teacher-of-the-year-program/past-winners-finalists/2015.stml.