From: Kirby Meng
Recently a colleague who will have a student teacher this fall asked me what I thought the most important things to learn during student teaching were. I have to admit, although I have had many student teachers, I never stopped to make note of the “most important” things, probably because I think everything is important! I spent some time reflecting and I thought this might be a good space to share my thoughts! Student teachers come from all walks, some come very well prepared from college programs and others might be entering teaching as a second career or by an alternate route, so what they know coming in will vary a great deal. No matter how you arrive at the job of art teacher, there is no substitute for the experiences you will have student teaching and then in your own classroom! Of course new teachers will always need to know the policies and procedures for their specific county and school. The ideas below are directed at an Art teacher in general.
First on my list is classroom management! It is so important to have procedures for entering the room, where to sit, asking questions, etc. Students learn the rules and procedures very quickly when we are consistent in our behavior. I have also found that students like those boundaries, it makes them feel safe and free to create! A very close second to this for me is materials management which is extremely important in the art classroom. Again, the students appreciate a system and are a huge help once you have them trained! I like to have all of my materials ready for the day in the morning because there is never enough time between classes. Of course this isn’t always possible, but I like to be as prepared as I can. I use lots of plastic boxes to contain sets of supplies for various mediums that I can just sit on each table and then take up at the end of class when changing course or grade level.
Along this same line, it is great to share any organizational tips you may have with new or student teachers like how to keep up with several hundred portfolios over 180 days! One of my favorite tips for elementary classrooms is to have a sharpened pencil basket and a dull pencil basket. Student helpers check the pencils at their table when they come in each class period and they exchange dull pencils for sharpened ones instead of everyone getting up to use the sharpener! It keeps things a little quieter during the day and cuts down on lost time. Students usually ask if they can come and sharpen the dull ones before school, which they love, and it means I am free to work on other things.
The next two things that come to mind are fairly closely related I think. One is to show how to differentiate for ability as well as for interest and the other is to allow for choice and creativity on assignments without creating chaos. New teachers don’t always have experience in varying their instruction to reach all students and may not have created lessons in the past that can be done at a variety of levels instead of having to completely change the assignment. Differentiation is not just for a slower learner, we also need to find ways to elevate the art experiences for those who learn more quickly or finish faster than others. This is one of the ways that choice and creativity come into play. Allowing students to choose between more structured assignments with more step by step instructions or to choose to take the assignment in another direction can help to encourage creativity. Some students need more parameters than others and some students work best with limits on what they can do or use. It actually encourages creativity in many cases!
There are so many other things to include but I will close with this. Have fun and make art every class period! Even on day one, keep the rules and procedures short, they will learn them all in a few weeks regardless and what they really want to do is make art, especially paint and work with clay!! Embrace the energy and enthusiasm of the students and enjoy having the best job in the world!
What do you think are the most important things for student teachers to learn? If you are starting student teaching in the fall, with what do you think you need the most help?