Art Teachers as Members of Collaborative Learning Teams

As part of the PLC leadership team at my school,  we have been reading Learning by Doing by Richard & Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker, & Thomas Many. Each time our group meets another chapter is presented and discussed. I chose Chapter 5- Building the Collaborative Culture of a Professional Learning Community. I could have chosen any chapter to review, but after scanning through the book I chose this chapter because as a specialist I frequently feel out of the loop. As the only full-time art teacher at my school, in my basement classroom with a busy schedule, it is easy to become disconnected from the rest of the school community. I rarely have time to co-plan with our part time art teacher, let alone meet weekly to discuss plans for student art assessment and intervention. Grade level teams meet at least weekly at our school and work collaboratively to meet the needs of all students, but since these grade-level meetings rely on the specials schedule, specialists are generally left out of the discussion.

I have been working this year to gather the specialists together to form a team with scheduled time to share information and co-plan, but that time has only been able to fit into the master schedule once a month, and it took quite a while to organize. We will have our first team meeting at the end of this month, which doesn’t allow much time for collaboration. Even though it is an improvement to have a schedule time to meet and share ideas, a specialists team meeting does not address the problem of never meeting with grade level teachers to co-plan.

As an art teacher I have my own standards and county-mandated curriculum to follow, so I have no shortage of material to cover, but I would love to be a more involved part of our school’s collaborative community. With our new school-wide, daily intervention and enrichment time, I can think of tons of ways to enrich the academic lives of my students by creating connections between their classroom curriculum and the world of art. Without a direct link to the grade level team planning, however, it is hard to make those meaningful connections outside of my own class schedule and set curriculum.

This chapter of the book examines possible team structures and scheduled collaboration time, and the issue of establishing meaningful connections through logical cross-curricular links was the part of the book that has struck me as most powerful so far. What a fantastic opportunity to share potential cross-curricular art enrichment opportunities. Being plugged into a grade-level team would give me a chance to collaborate to create extended art activities  adding depth and personal meaning to my students’ experience of other subject areas. We are still at the beginning of this transformation into a professional learning community, but I hope to start establishing these connections now.

How many of you are active participants in your school’s professional learning community? How do you contribute to grade level planning? How do address student enrichment outside of your regularly scheduled class times & standard art curriculum?

Here is the link to my Prezi reviewing Chapter 5 of Learning by Doing.

Advocacy: RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms

I heard this speech in the form of a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson, and recently a few educators I know and love have brought this RSA Animate video to my attention. It is a great graphic that illustrates Robinson’s concerns for changing educational concepts and it highlights what I think great arts education should be trying to do. Every day preparing my students for the 21st century is at the heart of what I do, and some of the ideas I hold true as an educator are well illustrated and described in this video.

To learn more about the RSA, check out their website.

Advocacy: National Arts in Education Week p.3 Why Visual Arts Education?

What is Visual Literacy? How does your child benefit from a Visual Art Education? What 21st Century Skills does your child learn in the art room?

Check out this great handout from the National Art Education Association:

Download these flyers to share with administration, parents, political representatives and more at the NAEA website.

Advocacy: National Arts in Education Week p.2 10 Lessons the Arts Teach

I thought this was a great time to share “10 Lessons the Arts Teach” by Elliot Eisner as distributed by the National Art Education Association. I am a proud representative of these ten lessons and I do my best to impart these ideas to my students throughout every art lesson.

10 Lessons the Arts Teach NAEA Handout from Elliot Eisner

10 Lessons the Arts Teach by Elliot Eisner


1. The arts teach children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships.
Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts, it

is judgment rather than rules that prevail.

2. The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution
and that questions can have more than one answer.

3. The arts celebrate multiple perspectives.
One of their large lessons is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.

4. The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving
purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity. Learning in the arts requires the ability and a willingness to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.

5. The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.

6. The arts teach students that small differences can have large effects.
The arts traffic in subtleties.

7. The arts teach students to think through and within a material.
All art forms employ some means through which images become real.

8. The arts help children learn to say what cannot be said.
When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel, they must reach into their poetic capacities to find the words that will do the job.

9. The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source
and through such experience to discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling.

10. The arts’ position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young
what adults believe is important.

SOURCE: Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind, In Chapter 4, What the Arts Teach and How It Shows. (pp. 70-92). Yale University Press. Available from NAEA Publications. NAEA grants reprint permission for this excerpt from Ten Lessons with proper acknowledgment of its source and NAEA.

Advocacy: National Arts in Education Week September 12-18th

This week has been declared by the U.S. House of Representatives as Arts in Education week. This is the first time that Congress has officially recognized all arts- dance, music, theater and visual arts- as a cause for celebration. Schools all over the country are taking this opportunity to celebrate the arts and to remind their local communities just how influential the arts are in their students lives.

As an elementary art teacher I felt this was a great time to show off artwork by all students in our school. Arts in Education Week just happened to fall on the same week as our annual Back-to-School Night. I’ve noticed in the past that the art and music programs (and physical education) at our school are frequently left out of back-to-school events, and I wanted to step up and present the art department this week. With only one week to complete an art project and have it ready for display, we asked each student in the school to create a small self-portrait drawing that illustrated aspects of their personality. Each student had 30 minutes to create their self-portrait. These portraits will be displayed in the lobby of our school at the main entrance where all parents, students and staff will be able to view the work. I hope that this visual display will spark discussions about all that our art program has to offer. I will be posting photos and responses to the display at the end of this week.

For more information about what you can do to recognize and support the arts in your community, visit the Arts Education Partnership website. You can also read the official HR275 Resolution here.

Many art educators are discussing this great opportunity to have our programs recognized. Please take a moment to visit some of the following blogs and read more about other ways that we are drawing attention to the arts through National Arts in Education Week.


The Art Teacher’s Guide to the Internet

The Teaching Palette

Wonder Brooks Extraordinaire

Mrs. Gillespie’s Blog

The Carrot Revolution