Monday, December 5, 2011

Best Classroom Practices for all Students

Clear and Common Focus Among all Educators
An important aspect of any classroom is starting with a clear and concise communicatory focus among all interlocutors in the conversation of the student’s best interest for the best possible learning outcome. Whether it be communicating this common goal amongst staff members or relaying that message to the community and families of the students, if everyone is on the same page, real, meaningful learning can then take place.
Where the art teacher is concerned, their voice in the conversation can be a great addition to the student’s well-being, as they are able to observe and monitor a student’s mental-emotional capacity as well as their fine and gross motor skills. The common goal can be achieved, again, through clear communication about what modifications or accommodations can and should be made for each child to succeed.
High Standards and Expectations of all Students
When high standards of excellence are set for the students to succeed, as long as the administration and educators themselves aspire to those as well, then classroom expectations will be met by the student with fervor. All students want to exceed the expectations set upon them, want their teachers to be pleased with their efforts, so that they can be pleased with themselves.
The art teacher is especially responsible for setting high expectations and standards in his/her classroom to help students get the most enjoyment out of an already enjoyable subject. When students can feel like they are reaching their own personal levels of satisfaction, and the satisfaction of the instructor, their artwork and the rest of their curricular work will continue to improve.
Strong Leadership
Leadership can come from anywhere, administration, community members, educational staff, custodial staff, or any other person that is partnering in the educational future of the student, and it’s important for all students (and those people included) to feel that they have someone in which they can look to for guidance and reassurance. A good leader will be able to come up with ideas, based upon the common goals of the school, to influence the learning styles of the students. They will find people who have bought into the common goals and who are interested in the common good.
The art teacher can be the moving and shaking person, vibrant with ideas and focused on the future success of the students and school community and that is where they, as leader, can come in to play their most important role. Through innovation and flexibility, the art teacher can stand as the model for others to follow.
Supportive, Personalized, and Relevant Learning
An environment that feels safe to a student (or anyone) is an environment that promotes physical, mental and emotional safety and stability, its something that can be sensed. Through providing positive support structures, combined with the rigorously high expectations, a school needs to provide each and every student with the idea that they are being personally taken care of, their specific needs met and their minds opened to new and sometimes unusual possibilities that correlate with the world that they live in.
Through art, many students find their voice heard, because it is fluidity from the mind to the piece of work, defining how they interpret the world. Because of this, the art teacher has the opportunity of educating young minds through the basics of art theory, history and method, though at the same time making the effort to let the student know that they are supportive of their vision, with each project personally representing their understanding of the world around them.
Parent and Community Involvement
Where there is a support structure for the student, whether from school personnel, family and friends or neighbors, that student will feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves and will feel confident in their decisions made concerning their success as a learner. Not only will the student benefit from this support structure, but the adult in this situation will as well, forming bonds that will influence for a lifetime of learning.
Keeping parents and community involved in art activities for creating and maintaining programs that include the arts, will need to be in the forefront of the art teacher’s mind as they enter into each school year. By letting adults participate in the conversation of their student’s art education and the future outcomes of certain projects (sending letters home for recyclable art materials or signs of progress), an honest and positive bond will be formed between the two parties, thusly showing the student that the arts are a valued portion of their education (determinate by the support of the parent or adult).
Monitoring, Accountability, and Assessment
Every person, every day, with each breath that they take should be learning something new, no matter what walk of life or what age. Monitoring a student’s progress throughout a school year proves to be of importance, to know whether certain materials and concepts are understood, for them to be properly assessed and graduate into the next level of general education. However, a student eventually comes to the understanding that they are being monitored, assessed and therefore need to hold themselves accountable for their own learning. But, this is not always the case, and some students will fall behind if their support structure and needs are not met properly, baulking under the system. This is where a person of leadership must step in, to help adjust or modify to the learning style of the student to encourage their development.
Monitoring the student’s progress throughout the year can be done throughout a project, for the art teacher, where a student can be presented with a syllabus or rubric for their self-monitoring of their successes as they complete the work. However, art projects more often differ from that of general educational work in that the end product is free of rigid guidelines and open to interpretation. Therefore, in the assessment of the student’s work, they prove to be themselves, successful, and thereby positively reinforced to continue progressively moving forward in their learning environment.
Curriculum and Instruction
Through the common goals and high expectations of the school environment, regulated by state and federal governments, educators will find it behooves them to design the models of information to be learned around a framework that best suits the needs of their students. However rigid as curriculums may seem, they are also loose to interpretation by the educator to deliver to the students. It is important to be able to be flexible and adapt to the “teachable moments” that stream through the mind of a student, in order for them to see the relevancy of the information that they are computing into their mind.
The art teacher, specifically, can provide the resources and support of their knowledge to their fellow educators and bring information to new light to many students who may not learn orally, but kinetically or visually. Their collaboration with other teachers, and their ability to do so under their own work load, will prove to be beneficial to many students’ needs. An art teacher can be the best ally for the general educator in that their curriculum (in most states) is not mandated and therefore can be made flexible to adapt to the needs of their students.
Professional Development
Most school district environments are more than willing to provide their educators with portions of professional development each year. They do this because they realize that by and large, not only are students changing in our education system, but the needs of those students are much different each year as well. School districts serve themselves well to create the opportunities for educators to further their own development for the benefit of further developing the future generations in which they are to educate.
While most professional development offered for art teachers tends to be geared toward developing techniques and the use of materials, it would prove to be of the utmost importance for the art teacher to seek out art therapy and/or professional development opportunities with information regarding the vastly changing populations of our current schools (ie. culture, race, ethnicity, disability, and special populations) to better serve the students for whom they are stewards.
Time and Structure
Timelines, daily routines and classroom structure is important, not only for the student to understand their role in maintaining their own accountability, but for the educator to guide them through the materials set out in the curriculum and to provide the information in the best possible manner so that assessment can be gauged properly and accurately. Routines and structure also reflect expectations and can help the classroom environment run like the engine of a car – if not properly tuned and attended to, can detour the movement of the parts to work effectively.
Art teachers, in many states, do not see their students very frequently throughout the school year, as in many states their curriculum and the importance of it are not valued as a core learning experience, so a sound routine must be established and followed for as much learning to occur. And because the art teacher also will accommodate for the various learning styles of their students through each project, there must be room for flexibility, but timelines and structure followed will also be admired and high expectations sought by the student, once the standards of the environment are set.
Though each of these nine steps can be of the utmost importance in and of themselves, they must also work together consistently and parallel to each other in order for the student to achieve their best possible successes in the classroom. It is not only the art teacher who can benefit the student by implementing these practices into their routine environment, but through collaboration with fellow educators as well. These guidelines will prove helpful, and their mutual students will soar under their guidance, for they will have all of the tools to meet their needs as growing, maturing, computing individuals.

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