Reflection: The Professional Educator

As a professional educator, my work is not contained to a single classroom. I strongly believe in programs that provide students with artistic and educational opportunities at no cost. I am beginning my full-time career as an art teacher with a history of involvement with education and arts nonprofits.  For six years I have been a volunteer with 826CHI, a nonprofit creative writing and tutoring center in Wicker Park. I have given over 1000 unpaid hours to working with students, fundraising and event planning, and supporting volunteers. As an original member of VEST, 826CHI’s Volunteer Engagement and Support Team I work with a committee to improve volunteer relations and recruitment. 826CHI’s programs have seen thousands of Chicago Public School students, and provide support for teachers and families through writing and tutoring programs. As I transition into new roles in the education field I will remain committed to this organization because I believe in its cause and have seen its impact on the community.

Creating and sharing resources is part of my practice. I spent a year working with TEAM (Transforming Education Through Arts and Media), which allowed me to collaborate with an incredible group of teachers and teaching artists, as well as the staff at the Center For Community Arts Partnerships. I put a significant amount of work into the development of an educational resource website, and a book on media arts integrated curricula. I also maintained social media accounts for TEAM, allowing myself entry into an online community of educators sharing resources and opening dialogues about the latest in the arts, technology and education. Continually seeking out new resources and sharing them within this online community allows for me to continually find new things to integrate into my practice and to enhance the curricula that I develop. I am open to learning as much as I can about everything so that I may bring it into my practice. It is necessary for teachers to build a network of colleagues in the field, and to remain connected, and in conversations that help shape and grow one’s practice.

It has been my objective in my years since completing my undergraduate degree to gain as much experience as I can in the field of education. At the beginning of my grad school experience I came across an opportunity to teach some classes with a new program in the northern suburbs. For two years I taught a Saturday class in Highland Park as part of the Art For All Program. The program was funded through a grant, and allowed for students ages eight to fourteen to attend free art classes, meant to expose them to materials and techniques they may not encounter in their school art class, and to even out economic disparities in the community–many students in the community have the resources to pay for summer camps, workshops, and classes outside of school, while many do not. My lessons with the students included Photoshop, watercolor, embroidery, and sculpey clay, among many others. It was a valuable experience in introducing me to a new community and allowing me to practice planning projects and working with a budget.

Clear communication with students, families, colleagues and administrators is essential to professionalism. During my high school student teaching placement I was able to build relationships with teachers in the art and science departments to better support my practice. Every Thursday I ate lunch with the other art teachers, often serving as mini professional development sessions. We shared resources, discussed teachings strategies, and went over any relevant bits of information. During my elementary placement I gained experience interacting with parents and administrators. I had several parent volunteers, and was in communication with the Fine Arts Committee in planning an activity in the art room for Fine Arts Night. I also interacted with the school’s Twitter account, maintained by a parent. I was also at school all day on Report Card Pick-Up Day alongside my cooperating teacher to meet any parents stopping by with concerns or questions about students. In my time at Bell I took disciplinary actions with several students, assigning detention to a few seventh and eighth graders. I documented all incidents and was in communication with classroom teachers and the Assistant Principal. I opened lines of communication with teachers, aides, and interpreters to receive feedback and suggestions to better develop my teaching. I frequently visited classroom teachers to ask for guidance, and had a first-grade teacher observe me.

I seek out and take advantage of professional development opportunities that are open to me. The semester before my student teaching I attended an all-day PD at the elementary school where I would be placed. I attended a session on RTI, and sat in on a meeting with all of the Specials teachers. As a member of the Columbia College Student Chapter of the IAEA/NAEA I attended the NAEA National Convention in New Orleans, where I gave a roundtable presentation about my work with TEAM. At the convention I attended sessions and workshops relevant to my interests as an art educator. As an active member of the Student Chapter of the IAEA/NAEA my cohort and I were involved  in a number of service projects and organized gallery shows. We created a coloring and activity book for children facing long-term hospital stays. Last summer I organized an opportunity for my cohort and I to teach a two-week art and writing camp for 826CHI, hosted by Columbia’s Education Department. Print Today, Poem Tomorrow introduced students to a variety of printmaking techniques and poetry forms. Several members of my cohort served as teaching assistants.

The Professional Educator is a lifelong learner. I am committed to making time for my own relationship with visual art and creative writing. Maintaining my own engagement with creative pursuits has the potential to inform my teaching. Whether spending a Sunday afternoon, embroidery, playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends, or making a Pinterest board of images that inspire me, my own art practice and hobbies lead me making discoveries that I can share with my students. The only thing that designates me as an artist is that I make art, and I want my students to see that. I started making art as a child, and I never stopped. I am lucky that I get to make a career out of sharing art with young people, but also that I get to spend my life making art. The past two years of my life have been undeniably busy, but when I can, I make time to make. I always hope to be growing in my own art education right alongside my students.

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