For the last 3 years, we’ve been in the process of writing our new curriculum. Once a month, the art teachers in my district get together to, in all honesty, press the reset button on what we are teaching. Now, don’t get me wrong–most of our lessons have been incorporated into the new curriculum. We have just been digging deeper, looking at what we teach, why we teach it, how we assess it, and most importantly, how we sequence what we do. Because of this, we have been able to change all of our classes into semester-long courses instead of year-long courses.
I’ve been waiting for this for a while. Since I started teaching high school, actually. Right now, my classes are set up in a year-long format that encompasses everything we can teach in the subject–Intro to Art, for example. is a year-long class that has one quarter of drawing, one of painting, one of ceramics,and one of sculpture. Our 2D Art is a semester of painting and a semester of drawing (with a little bit of printmaking thrown in here and there), and 3D Art is a semester of ceramics and one of sculpture. When they’re done with those, they move on to Advanced 2D or Advanced 3D. What we’re trying to do with the new curriculum is to divide things up into one semester classes so kids can specialize: They start with a semester of Intro, then move on to their choice of Printmaking, Painting, Ceramics, Sculpture, and Drawing.
I like this division because of a couple of reasons: First, we’re able to get more kids into the program. We always have waiting lists for our classes, and the semester-long setup vs. the year setup allows us to teach more sections of Intro because we’ve condensed the curriculum. We get more kids taking our classes, and more kids moving on. If it doesn’t work I don’t feel like we’ve lost a lot by condensing; I look at it more like streamlining. Our middle school teachers in the district keep getting better and better, and kids come to us with more knowledge than they used to. We can cover the same amount in a little less time because we have a head start.
My second reason is that it allows kids to specialize a little more. There are ceramics kids who are spectacular on the wheel, but shouldn’t ever touch sculptural material or do any handbuilding. My best drawing student ever couldn’t paint to save his life. There are some kids who are good at everything, but there are also some kids who know where their particular strengths are and want to focus on those strengths. Need to focus on those strengths. There obviously is something to be said for developing a well-rounded art student, but I also want kids to follow their passion, experience success, and push themselves and their talent that has already been established.
At this point, after three years of analyzing, reflecting, arguing, writing, discussing and organizing our new curriculum, I think we’re ready to go. Every class is laid out and every project I teach is stuffed into a huge binder that is overflowing with guides, notes, rubrics, schedules, and anything else one might need. Next year, the curriculum will be implemented, and I can’t wait. I’m ready for new classes, new projects, and new ways of doing things. It’s time.
In the back of my mind, I have some thoughts running around about getting stagnant with my teaching–I don’t want to quit creating lessons and looking for new ideas just because I have finally organized and sequenced everything that has worked for me in the past. Before we worry about that, though, I’m going to enjoy the rewards for a little bit that come from three years of hard work. August can’t come soon enough.