What went well? What did you learn?
Teaching at an elementary provided me with many challenges and many learning opportunities. It was a struggle at first trying to figure out how to build relationships with so many students in such a short amount of time. I realized there are other ways to build relationships with students than just seeing them everyday. I was able to build relationships through the little things such as listening to what they had to say, paying attention to their interests and building lessons off of those, and just letting them know I care about them. Relationships are vital in any classroom and you need to find ways of establishing them from the start. It builds trust and provides for an atmosphere where students are willing and able to express themselves.
I noticed how important classroom management at the elementary level. Students thrive with structure that allows the classroom to flow well. Each day I picked an artist of the day. Students enjoyed having artist of the day because it was a “special honor”. The artist of the day picked other classmates to hand out the materials and this takes the responsibility of the teacher and makes one less thing they have to worry about. Establishing effective routines such as this helps to create a classroom environment that is effective and allows for the most art possible in just one hour.
I did well building lessons to meet their interests. I found myself constantly trying to determine what they would like to use material wise, what kind of art they find interesting, and their general interests. I allowed students to use a variety of materials from 2D to 3D. They used batik, paper sculpture, watercolors, crayons, acrylic, sharpie, colored pencil, and markers. I was able to refine what works with what level. Through my lesson planning I created lessons that kept all students engaged the entire time and invested in what they were making.
Over the course of my teaching at the elementary level I learned how important it is to adjust your teaching as you go. For example, I had some classes that could work really well as a group and others that could not at all. It is important, at the elementary level especially since you may teach the same lesson many times, to adjust as you go. I was consistently able to assess my teaching and how I was doing on it and adjust as needed. This is an important skill to have not only from class to class but also from minute to minute. It is important to plan, over planning can be helpful as well, but sometimes the plan doesn’t work out and that isn’t a bad thing.
I couldn’t have guessed how much elementary students love choice. There were a few days of stations that the students thrived during. There were tables set up with different materials; paper sculpture, drawing, painting, legos, and modeling clay. During these days, students worked the entire time, made art they were proud of, naturally reflected, and really showed their abilities and strengths. During the Paper Monster project students had quite a bit of choice and very few limitations. They loved the open endedness of it. I saw students extremely engaged and following the artistic process came naturally and easily.
Children love to collaborate. Collaboration comes easily and naturally. I realized through my student teaching that allowing students to do this is critical. During my time at Namaqua I noticed especially the boys in the class always wanting to collaborate. At first, I thought that they just wanted to goof around but after giving them the chance to work together I realized just how valuable this was. There was a group of third grade boys who always wanted to work together. They wanted to work together because they could share their ideas, they could get a lot done at one, and they could work larger.
I was initially nervous working with elementary kids because I didn’t think I would be able to do as much “art” with them. However, they proved me wrong. They had so much ability to be creative and make works of art.
What would I do differently?
I realized how important it is to have students reflect and plan routinely. I allowed one class to complete the entire artistic process before moving on to the next project. The only reason I had other students move on before reflecting was in order to allow them to move on to the next project.
In the future I would have liked to establish a unit plan that tied all the lessons together so that the process of moving from one lesson to the next would be more organic. This could open up possibilities of more in depth learning as well. There was a point where I really wanted to do Batik with the students and I introduced it to a few classes and ended up scrapping the idea because I was just not teaching them what I thought they needed to learn. Looking back, had I really thought about why I wanted to do Batik with them I would have been able to create something that was worth learning about.
Classroom management is still something I need to improve on. It is difficult to have the patience to wait for students to stop messing around and focus on what I am saying. I felt as if sometimes the students saw art as a break from their normal class and it was just somewhere to socialize with their classmates.
Student teaching offered me with so many learning experiences and I know that the next year teaching will offer even more learning. I am ready and prepared to have my own classroom and am excited for the opportunities.