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a repost on how i teach kids to critique part 1 of 2

updated sat 30 apr 11


John Post on thu 28 apr 11

Hi Sue, Kathy, Gayle and Randall,

Thanks for the kind words about my teaching style and posts to clayart.

I am experiencing a very strange year in regards to be an art =3D20
teacher. When I am in the classroom I am so busy that I get totally =3D20
immersed in working with the kids. But at home, I have never felt =3D20
lower or more despondent about being a teacher.

The governor of my state outlined many lofty goals for education and =3D20
teachers yesterday, all the while slashing 37 million dollars from the =3D2=

school district where I teach. I spend part of every evening being a =3D20=

political activist, writing letters and encouraging parents and other =3D20=

teachers to become more involved in the process. I know my wife and I =3D2=

will be financially able to get by with less money and benefits next =3D20
year because we live small and save.

But it is very disheartening to see how all of this will effect the =3D20
kids we both teach. ...and every teacher I know is tired of being the =3D2=

target of all that is wrong in our culture.

Here is a quote from an education reporter this week, "Eighty percent =3D20=

of Grand Rapids Public School district children are not reading at =3D20
kindergarten level when they enter school." Here is a reply one of =3D20
my friends sent to me after I shared the quote with him. "100% of =3D20
babies born are unable to walk immediately after childbirth. Polls =3D20
suggest teachers are once again to blame."

One of my state legislators asked for written testimony from teachers =3D20=

about how cuts to school funding will effect their classroom and their =3D2=

students. Here's what I wrote...

I teach the kids who can=3D92t be measured. As much as legislators and =3D=

schools try to measure kids' learning by having them fill in bubbles =3D20
on a standardized test, this isn=3D92t how all children grow and become =3D=

successful. One third or more of kid brains learn best by doing, =3D20
touching, seeing and moving. These are the right-brain creative-type =3D20=

kids who live for art class. Sir Ken Robinson points out that in =3D20
divergent thinking tests that assess the ability to think creatively, =3D20=

kindergarten students score at the genius level. Every year of =3D20
education after kindergarten sees students lose their ability to have =3D20=

divergent, creative thoughts. Going to school actually makes people =3D20
become less creative. As a society we are educating the creativity =3D20
out of our kids. This is in a time when all we hear about is keeping =3D20=

up with every other nation in the global economy by being innovative, =3D20=

smart and creative.

If you ask an elementary-age kid what day of the school week it is, =3D20
they don=3D92t say Tuesday or Wednesday, they blurt out that =3D93It=3D92s =
art =3D
day!=3D94 or =3D93Gym day=3D94. This is because these are the classes wher=
e =3D
they =3D20
feel like they actually get to =3D93Do Something=3D94. Kids are all about =

doing. If schools started with the idea that kids want to touch, =3D20
handle, manipulate and play with things in their environment and then =3D20=

taught them using methodology that capitalized on these types of =3D20
behaviors, kids would be more engaged learners in school. Instead =3D20
most of the school day is spent listening to the teacher. Walk down =3D20
the hallway and peek into classrooms and you will see that in most of =3D20=

them the teacher is the one doing the talking. Listening is probably =3D20=

the most passive thing to engage in as a learner, yet that's what many =3D2=

kids are stuck doing everyday.

That=3D92s where I come in. I teach elementary art. I teach 800 kids in =

32 classes a week. I teach about ancient history when we make clay =3D20
Egyptian time capsule mummies filled with autobiographical poems and =3D20
writing. I teach about mathematical forms when kids roll cylinders, =3D20
spheres and cones while making clay animals. I teach about how to =3D20
generate ideas and give critiques to other students in a way that is =3D20
constructive and provides critical feedback while discussing =3D20
individual works of art. I teach about how to compare and contrast =3D20
ideas when we look at paintings of the same genre but from two =3D20
different artists or cultures. Art is the one thing that is part of =3D20
every culture on the planet and so the range of topics I get to teach =3D20=

about is the most expansive in the entire elementary curriculum. And =3D20=

it's the most engaging because the kids get to talk, make and most =3D20
importantly - do things.

-continued in part 2

John Post
Sterling Heights, Michigan