Why I Embrace Change #IMMOOC

I teach middle school art.  In 6th grade, students are all required to take art.

And I am quite cognizant of the fact that for some of them, to put it nicely, I am not exactly their favorite subject.

So I start every year with a little speech.  I tell them to throw away all of their preconceptions.  I talk about growth mindsets.  I tell them that we are going to make mistakes.  A lot of them.  I tell them that I purposefully do not buy things like whiteout.  (This usually gets some murmurs of disapproval.)  I let them know that they will learn much, much more than visual art during our time together.  That they will grow as artists and citizens and humans.

Some of them won’t believe me yet.

We start our year.  Inevitably someone asks me for whiteout, and I show the class how to change a “mistake” into something new and purposeful and creative.  I am excited to do something new to enhance a lesson, and it completely bombs in fifteen different ways.  I stop the class and acknowledge it.  And I show them how I turn around my own failures.  And we talk about what could be done differently next time.  And we do it, and it is so much better after.

We grow.

I have learned to embrace change.  Every year it seems that we have a new district initiative, a new tool, a new acronym.  And I’ve been around in education long enough now to see a lot of those new things quietly disappear the following year, replaced by the newest new.

And guess what?  Every time, I still jump in wholeheartedly.  I try new things.  I fail at some new things.  I succeed at some new things.  I learn more about myself as an educator.  I learn more about what I like to use and do and share and what works best for me and my classroom and my students.

My students see this.  We grow.

The kids who don’t really like art will tell me at the end of the year that they enjoyed their time with me.  The kids who are nervous about expressing themselves so openly will gain more comfort and confidence.  Students who were afraid that they would mess up will take more risks, and will know what to do if the risk doesn’t work out as planned.  We grow.

So I embrace change.  I embrace innovation.  I take risks, I make mistakes, I adjust, I grow.  My students see this.  And I think my year is all the more exciting and successful because of it.

 

Let me introduce myself…

Well hello there, Blogosphere!  (Blogonet?  Blogoweb?  Bologna?)

This is my first blog as an aspiring educational administrator.  And while I may not even have any readers yet, I wanted to take some time to introduce myself.  I just can’t stand looking at that default welcome page, and, let’s face it, you gotta start somewhere!

Who am I, you ask?

I started my career with a BA in Arts Education and as the head elementary art teacher between two elementary schools in New Jersey.  Three years (and tenure!) later, and I transferred over to my district’s middle school, where I am now in my 9th year of teaching young visual artists.  I have a BA in Art Education from The College of New Jersey, a MAEd in General Education with an emphasis in Special Education from Gratz College, and a MA in Educational Leadership from Rider University.  I have background in film, digital arts, visual arts, animation, and interests ranging from playing music (I can play five intruments!) to running with my dog (a boxer pup named Brody).

Why blog?

I wanted to have a space for reflection.  About being an educator.  About trying to become an administrator.  About teacher empowerment and inspiring new leaders.

Why would an art teacher want to go into administration?

My first year teaching was exhilarating.  And, if I’m honest, a little overwhelming.  When I was initially hired, I did not fully realize all the work that was going to be needed to run the arts program at two different schools.   My first year was all about getting to know two different schools, about 500 students and staff, and really developing my teaching style.  Our district was working without a contract that year, and as a result our new teacher mentor program did not officially exist (although I had a great unofficial go-to music teacher helping me out!).  I’ll never forget the end of the year when my principal told me I needed to make more relationships among staff members.

My first thought was… but I’m friendly with everyone in my department.  My second was… you mean I have to do even MORE?  And then I realized what he meant was forming those meaningful and collaborative relationships with teachers, building my support system and working together on new and creative ideas.

I came back into my second year of teaching ready to form these new relationships.  I realized that ALL teachers are crazy busy throughout their day, and you can’t expect people to come to you first.  So I spent as much time as I could in other classrooms, finding out what each grade was learning about in science, social studies, language arts… And it drove my instruction.  My lessons had always included art history, art creation, reflection, and student interest, but now I was able to start tying the projects I was doing with students in my class to the information they were learning about in other classes.  I was fascinated by how my arts classroom could support and reinforce learning across all classrooms, and enthusiastic about having these collaborative conversations with teachers.

When I was transferred up to our middle school, I threw myself even more into what other teachers were doing in their classrooms.  Sometimes because I wanted to plan lessons together, but sometimes because I was just plain curious.  I started seeking out building-based committees and behind-the-scenes activities to get more involved school-wide.  This led to joining more district-based and leadership opportunities, as well as my decision to pursue my second masters in Educational Leadership leading to my principal’s certification.

right-brain-left-brain

While my background training may be in arts education, I have always had a strong interest in math, science, and technology.  I like to joke that I am a left-brained artist – I usually tend to approach art more logically, thinking of it as a problem to creatively solve rather than a holistic process.  As I learned more about different educational methodologies throughout my career, I gravitated towards STEM (STEAM!!) education, PBL (project-based learning), inquiry, and tech integration.  I enjoyed teaching other teachers, learning all I could, and embracing more leadership responsibilities.  Put simply, I wanted to be able to reach more students and do more things.