Location: Northern Ontario
Currently Teaching: 9-12th Grade, any and all media imaginable
Fun Fact: She likes to post Twitter pictures about the temperature in Northern Ontario, mostly to remind us that we shouldn’t whine so much down here in the United States.
I wanted to visit with Colleen because her blog is absolutely my favorite reading I do from another teacher. I want someone who takes the time to think deeply about what we do and why we do it. She addresses a lot of questions I have about teaching, and she does it with an eloquence and an intelligence that cannot be matched. Her blog is what I wish mine could be. She has included a lot of links in this article–relating to her art, her influences, and her teaching–that I would encourage you to check out. It’s great stuff.
How did you come to be teaching where you are? What made you want to teach art?
I teach in the same school that I attended, much like a number of my colleagues. It seems that quite a few of us enjoy our small community, and our high school experience was so rich that we couldn’t wait to come back!
My high school art teacher was my idol; not only did she wear the coolest clothes, but her passion for art history captivated me. When she shared slides of various artworks and told the stories behind them, I was hooked. I even remember the day she taught us about Guernica, because I cried during her emotional story. Is there any better way to develop a love for a wonderful subject?
What role does your personal artmaking play in both your classroom teaching and in your own life?
I struggle a bit with the balance between work, art and personal life. In fact, this summer I created an artwork that focused on the tension between such important aspects of my life. I don’t believe that any teacher can say that they have figured out the secret to devoting the right amount of time to each priority in their life, although if they did, I might find myself too jealous to listen. :) Work, life and art all deserve our attention: as long as we respect their interdependence while making sure to avoid neglect, we’ll manage to plod along relatively well.
Where do you think you will be as a teacher in 5 years?
It’s very tricky to consider what will change in the next 5 years, because I never would have been able to anticipate what has happened over the last few years. After being introduced to blogging & Twitter, my world changed. I never anticipated that other educators would be interested in my queries or discoveries. When I began teaching, I remember other teachers who locked their binders in filing cabinets. Their handouts and lesson plans were precious, and you may just be treading on thin ice if you borrowed their binder without returning it in pristine condition! Within the last two years, I have morphed from feeling a bit isolated, to collaborating with amazing educators across the globe.
Where do you look for inspiration?
It’s difficult to write a short list of educators who influence me, because there are so many who impact my work for a variety of reasons. To make it easier, I’ll discuss those who are making a difference for me right now.
Katherine Douglas & Ian Sands fascinate me. They have the ability to teach art, but their insight and perspective is very unique. As we plunge into the depths of choice-based teaching and learning, these two wonderful people are willing to support, encourage & get into the mess with me.
Tricia Fuglestad teaches art to much younger students than I do, but her tireless work always inspires me to experiment with technology in the art room. Not only does she share what her students have created, but she provides so many tips for teachers who are trying to figure it all out.
Support on the home front is so vital to any teacher who is trying anything new. Teachers are just like students, and it can be intimidating to risk failure when you’re attempting to move forward. I’m really grateful for the other teachers at my school who don’t mind my experiments while discussing questions and concerns.
A brief Twitter chat with Kevin Honeycutt today led to the creation of a new philosophy that I want to share with my students: Be Brave & Creative.
Wes Fryer has created so many resources that connect learning & technology. He constantly searches for new ways to help others nurture their creativity.
Doug Peterson is another “tech guru”, willing to help other educators who are problem-solving their way to integrating technology in the classroom.
so, so many more examples that I could list!
Tell me about your classroom. Organized, messy, or in-between? What are you trying to accomplish with the way you set up your room?
I’m really interested to find out why you asked about the look of my classroom. I wonder if other art teachers face the same dilemma that I do. My desk has to be one of the scariest places in my classroom, although the whole place is usually pretty cluttered. I think that’s one of the reasons why I love digital portfolios so much: they balance my messiness, and I hope to help students who are just as disorganized as I am. *By the way, apparently having a messy desk is OK. Another reason why I depend on blogging is because I am painfully shy in some circumstances. Writing is much easier than speaking, so blogging has given me a freedom that I didn’t have before.
This fall, my friend and I presented at #ECOO13 about the benefits of blogging for teachers and students who are introverted. As many of us try to provide a more personalized educational experience for our students, I think that it’s so important to consider student voice.
For you, what determines your success as a teacher? How do you determine success for your students?
Your question about defining student success is perhaps one of the most important questions that any teacher can contemplate, because the answer will guide your teaching. I don’t think that we can encourage students to persevere, to embrace inquiry, and to face possible failure for the sake of learning unless we are willing to do the very same thing for ourselves. Why would a student blog if you don’t blog? Why would a student experiment with new technology unless you’re willing to play with it yourself? If I was a student, and my teacher told me to try something they weren’t willing to do themselves, I would shut down. There will be more opportunities for success when teachers are willing to learn alongside their pupils.