BACK TO SCHOOL WE GO! by Mrs. Anna Nichols

8th grade plaster-gauze figure sculpture

Yesterday was our annual "Back To School" art teacher conference and I had the opportunity to chat with other art teachers, something that I just don't get to do often enough. I treasure these times, I'm always uplifted and encouraged that, yes, being an art teacher is THE BEST job in the world. One beautiful lady is going into her 33rd year of teaching, and I asked her why she keeps going back. She said, "The students! I just love 'em! I always have a group of seniors who adopt me as their 'mom.'" 

It is this attitude that is the secret to success, in my opinion. This love for the kids is at the heart of teaching, as is the joy we bring into our classrooms. Bringing visual art into the lives of children is precious, it may be the only time they have to create something beautiful, or to express their honest ideas, or to learn how to problem-solve without fear. 

7th grade crayon/watercolor Cubist design

As you go back into your classrooms this fall (or summer, in my case!), be encouraged that what we as art teachers are bringing to the school is unmatched, whether your administration and colleagues realize it or not:

      1. We bring the tools to help kids learn to communicate verbally, in writing, and to communicate visually, and in our visual culture this will prove invaluable to them in the future.

     2. We help them learn to think creatively every single day, which in its essence is true problem-solving!

     3. Our lessons are memorable because the kids are learning by DOING, we have a built-in motivational factor in every lesson.

     4. Studies show that students who have art classes have better literacy skills, score higher on critical thinking tests, and have lower dropout rates and discipline problems. They also have higher I.Q. scores and their ability to concentrate is improved!

Jill Ritchey, high school art instructor and the Southeastern NAEA Art Educator of the Year writes:
"If you look at the value of art through arts integration, it is a unique way for students to grasp complex or difficult concepts in a playful, imaginative and more accessible way. ...Aside from arts integration, I have also witnessed time and time again students who are not performing well in other subjects gain confidence through their success in art, and experience positive feedback and confidence in their achievements. I think having this “winner” experience boosts their self-image and gives them a better chance to succeed in other subject areas as well."

Finally, spend the first few days of the year teaching your rules and procedures, have the kids practice them until they get it right! As much as we love to teach our content, it is vital that we teach the kids how to be respectful and responsible before allowing them the privilege of using the art supplies. If you are interested in reading a succinct article about setting up an effective classroom management plan, Michael Linsin has several at smartclassroommanagement.com.

I wish all of you a successful and happy school year! Stay joyful, stay organized, love your kids while you hold them accountable, and keep on creating those exciting lessons that keep 'em engaged like nothing else! You are an art teacher - enjoy it!

Drawing by Mrs. Anna Nichols - done at an arts/math integration workshop by Stacia Jacks and Suzy Harris; "Fraction Trees"

“If you’re given a talent, you have to serve it. You don’t own it. You don’t control it. You don’t manipulate it. You can do that and be a best-seller if you want to. But ultimately it is a gift that is freely given and you have to serve your gift.”
 Madeleine L'Engle

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