Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Black Frame Curriculum

In less than 24 hours I walk back into the world of teaching the young. If you would have asked me a few months ago I would have said the idea wasn't even on my radar, but the big guy upstairs placed some people in my path that nudge me in the direction of teaching again and the opportunity has become reality. I often tell my adult art students that they must find that place between where their interests and hobbies are compared to what their gifts and passions are...there they will find their true calling. Mine,thankfully, is being creative and teaching. Those two things are a way of life for me and I couldn't imagine a life without either. With great responsibility and excitement I step back into the world that I was placed on this earth to exist in, and I am swooning with glee. 

For the past few weeks the wheels of starting a new job, a new curriculum, a new group of students and a new path in life have been spinning. One of the main realizations about teaching that a new teacher must face is not only how to decorate the classroom but what specifically are the core life lessons one wishes to share beyond the scope of national standards. This can be daunting to a teacher just starting out and these big ideas come over time, but I knew that in the field of art, sharing the concept of living a creative life would be key...so I started there. 

At St. Paul's Episcopal School one of the four pillars is the arts, so I knew my program and ideas would be supported, which excited me. I also knew that I could choose to be a bit more creative in my 'decorations' than I normally would have so that has made the artist in me quite happy. Art posters and instructional aids can costs a lot of money, so when I found about 10 old frames that would have been thrown out, I recruited my art partner Michelle Foreman Leech to give them a coat of paint. As she painted, I thought a lot about the little juicy tidbits that I hoped my students  would gain from being taught by me, and the first one was easy....Embrace the Weird. 



Kids LOVE weird and as a creative, weird is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. It shows me that life will be unexpected, laughable, strange, odd, and the more I can tap into that weirdness, within reason, as an artist, the more fodder I have to create. I want my students to discover the magic in creativity...in dreaming, in exploring the worlds they create in their minds, and using that inspiration to create works of art that are true to them. 

The rest of these posters are what I call the Black Frame Curriculum because they will be little gems of ways of life in my classroom. If you notice, they aren't perfect. I grabbed the markers, paint, and paper and handmade these because I am short for time. Yes, I could use a digital program to make them look "perfect," but I actually hope my students can see a little poster like this and realize in some situations, handmade is good enough and perfection is not the goal. That will be a life long lesson won't it? 


Everyone has a spark...and some of us even sparkle. Teaching a child to recognize that spark within them is one key to helping them realize what their passions and gifts are. When they embrace that spark, their life sparkles brightly for others to see. That light is needed in this world. 


This is more than just knowing who's paper it is, it is teaching a child to have ownership in what they create, to be know for their work, and to boldly share it with the world. 


Trees don't really have brown trunks and lollipop green tops. I hope my students learn to see the beauty in variety of life, and the incredible differences that make our world such a magical place. Trees in The Land of Ardithian are rainbow colored, I can't wait to see what the kids dream up for theirs. 


Kids LOVE to make up stories. How does a teacher help a child tap into that imagination in a two or three dimensional form? Teach them to begin their art projects with "Once Upon a Time" that phrase unlocks the rules of fitting into a mold. 


We all make marks, in everything we do we make a mark on the planet, on others, and on ourselves. Making a mark will be the cornerstone for my teaching philosophy this year.


We will make marks, we will make a mess, we will make mistakes and learn from them. In fact, making mistakes will be encouraged in our classroom because there is power in artistically screwing up. We get to learn how to transition mistakes into masterpieces. Most of all, we will make memories, which is what the journey is all about. 


Teaching a child that they are awesome is just as important as teaching them to help someone else feel awesome. We will be doing LOTS of this in my classroom. 


I credit the program of Talents Unlimited in helping me understand that creativity can be taught. Teaching a child to put on their creative lenses no matter what subject they are learning will help them master core ideas and lessons throughout their lives. Lenses are essential. 


As the year evolves, I may change some of these, add to them, or revise them based on my students' suggestions, as well as creating the more 'predictable' posters such as rules and procedures for the classroom. In the meantime, I am excited to start the year off with these as I feel I need to see them as much as my students. 

This journey will be an incredible one and I am excited to be able to share my gifts and my faith with kids once again. How blessed I am. 
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