Monday, December 5, 2011

Teaching Art in a Diverse World

While educating students in any population, different from their own, can present a challenge to any general education teacher, with all the individual nuances that make each of us special and unique as a snowflake, from the student with a genius IQ to the student with learning and/or physical disabilities, the art teacher, through the use of best practices and effective strategies, is equipped with the versatility to reach each and every student, no matter their learning differences. Through the arts, every student can be taught how to appreciate and embrace their own voice and to build tolerance for the multitude of voices around them, from the past and present. They learn through expression and effective communication in a language that is universal to all.
            The art educator has the opportunity to enhance a student’s learning, whether they are from a different culture, suffer from physical or mental impairments, or learning disabilities. Through the arts and the use of best practices in the art classroom routine, the art educator can accommodate and modify lessons to fit each of their student’s needs, based on the student’s individualized educational plan (IEP) or knowledge of their learning needs. Such practices include keeping a clear and common focus with adequate time and structure in the class, playing a strong leadership role in the school’s community, keeping the parents and community involved with the student’s learning, maintaining high standards and expectations of all students in relation to curriculum, instruction, accountability and assessment of their personal development, and by playing a supportive role in keeping the information relevant and personalized to each student dependant upon their individual needs.
            Through such classroom routines that enhance communication and interaction in and among students, which includes Think-Pair-Shares, vocabulary instruction through group work, the opportunity to pre-read materials before each class and the teacher’s ability to unlock prior schema through personalized example, an art educator’s job will turn into that of helping the student develop a self-motivated, life-long learning experience, no matter their background or learning difficulties. If all interaction in the art classroom is pertaining to the relevant information presented and then linked to the student’s knowledge of the subject in their own personal life, then the art educator only need to help them express themselves.
            The art educator wears many hats and among them is appointment of the responsibility of helping students feel accepted for their uniqueness and learning differences, to allow for personalized and/or alternate methods of communication and expression, to allow them the time to understand the concepts being taught and adequate opportunity for acceptance and involvement in the classroom/school community. For, the arts do not only teach us about pigment, lines, history, method and materials, but they also teach us habits in remembering facts and inferential thinking, understanding main ideas, characterization, sequencing events and relating information to those events.
            No matter the child, if the art educator can unlock the child’s passion and self-expression, to teach them to make good judgments about qualitative relationships, to realize that there are more than one solution to problems, to celebrate the multitude of interpretations and perspectives of the world they live in, through the use of clear and concise methods, full of sensory words and images, with the aid of interesting visual and verbal examples, then they will enable each and every one of their students to succeed, to discover, to believe to say what can not be said by words alone.
Through the arts, the use of best practices and effective strategies (introduced in this class), the art educator is given the ability to include those students from diverse backgrounds, as well as those that exhibit special physical cognitive needs. No matter where the child is on the learning spectrum, the art educator can safely accommodate and/or modify the information to best suit their students. Each, in turn, will help the art educator to play a strong leadership role in the eyes of the student and therefore permit the student to open themselves up to the new learning opportunities around them, to realize that they are unique and to take pride in the voice they have to share with the world.

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