SchoolArts Magazine

November 2017

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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M A N A G I N G T H E A R T R O O M I 'm a white, cisgender, female art teacher. I was taught classic art history. I was taught to ignore iden - tity, race, gender, and culture—to treat everyone the same. I chose neu - tral artworks to show my students inoffensive, aesthetically pleasing works. I walked a careful, self-drawn line of avoiding the uncomfortable. I needed to change—a lot—for my own sake and for the sake of my students. School-wide Anxiety Amidst the current political anxiety and fear in my school, in response to student questions and concerns, among the reports of parental depor - tations, teachers were told, "don't offend" and "redirect." I couldn't. I saw some of my stu- dents cry. They told me that they were scared and that people in their neighborhoods had threatened them. Some students stopped wearing religious garments. Misbehavior increased. This is elementary school. How is this possible? What can I do? Adding Diversity Works I decided that the answer was a dras- tic change in the artwork that I show. I (mostly) banished the European clas- sics. A few Monets and van Goghs remain, but the majority of artworks I show to students are culturally sen- sitive, diverse works. More than 80 percent of the work I show is by living artists from around the globe. I choose works by considering if the artist is represented, if the medium is rep- resented, and if the work is empow- ering. It seems like such a small thing, but it makes a big difference. Introducing Living Artists The first time I showed a work by Saba Chaudhry Barnard, a contem - porary Muslim artist, one of my stu- dents was so happy that she almost cried. The entire class yelled, "Look, she's wearing the same thing that you wear!" That little girl smiled wide and said nothing. She had a tear in her eye. The next week, she wore her hijab with extra pride. It might not have been because of the artwork, but it might have given her a little boost in confidence. The next week, I showed a work by an abstract painter from Mexico. Some students yelled, "I'm from Mex- ico!" The week after, they saw a quilt by Faith Ringgold. Students said, "My grandma makes blankets, too!" The following week we looked at photo- graphs of 3D-printed prosthetic limbs; students were captivated. The works fit easily into my cur- riculum. I attached higher-order thinking questions for each prompt. Students used the prompts as a quick sketchbook warmup or "Art Start." It served as a quick introduction to class, and the journaling fulfilled the expectations of my administrators. Opportunity and Empathy Marian Wright Edelman said, "You can't be what you can't see." In a rap - idly changing, sometimes scary world, art can be the answer to this problem for our students. It's not political to encourage them to express themselves and to strive for great achievements. It's simply meaningful teaching to reflect our students in a mirror of opportunity and empathy. Geena Teodecki teaches K– 2 art at Col- legium Charter School in Exton, Pennsyl- vania.gteodecki@ ccs.us W E B L I N K creativeummah.com/saba-chaudhry- barnard/ Geena Teodecki The Power of Representation My favorite questions for introducing new and diverse artworks include: • What is unexpected about this artwork? Why? • What does this artwork tell you about the time and place it was produced? • Why might some people like this artwork? Why might some people not like it? • Was this piece meant to be art? Why or why not? • Compare/contrast this artwork to...(a time in your life, last week's artwork, a photograph of the same subject, etc.). • If you could jump into this work, what would you see, hear, smell, and feel? • What was the artist's intent in creating this work? • What title would you give this artwork? Why? It's not political to encourage our students to express themselves and to strive for great achievements. 14 NOVEMBER 2017 SchoolArts

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