I have been teaching sculpture for about 5 years now. It has grown from a 1 year course to 3 courses that you can take once finishing art 1. I love building things. I love to explore with different materials and creating sculpture allows for that. And, because sculpture encompasses so many techniques and materials, it was always hard to choose what was important to teach. So, I taught as many as I could afford to do.
Because of this, I was feeling disjointed. My students were learning many different things and creating many different artworks, but no one was really mastering anything. It was frustrating to me that in my advanced class when I assigned a work that had an overall theme and left the medium up to the students, I had to almost re-teach some basic skills that we learned in beginning sculpture and revisited in intermediate sculpture. I felt like a failure of a teacher. It seemed like no one was really growing as an artist and building upon what they knew.
I thought about it and decided to chat with my principal about it. He understood and he agreed with my plan. He even suggested that I make the switch at the midterm to “test it out”–to make sure it was really what I wanted to do and that it was what was best for the students. My plan was to switch my curriculum from the more general subject of “sculpture” to the narrower subject of “ceramics”. I feel that with ceramics there are some basic techniques that can be built on and honed over 3 years–thus allowing the students to “master” the art of clay by the time they finish up their senior year in advanced sculpture.
I took the plunge and started to do some research. I talked with other art teachers about their ceramic programs. I went through all the materials I had about the ceramics classes I took at UT. I combed the web and pinned things on Pinterest and book marked them onto my Firefox toolbar. I created a technical reader for my beginning class that the students would carry with them over the course of the 3 sculpture classes. I bound them with comb binders so that over the summer I could add pages to the books for the next level. The students in beginning class were aware of the change that was going to occur starting in January and they were 100% behind it.
January came and we jumped right in. It’s been rocky and somethings have changed as we continue on our journey. Somethings work, somethings don’t. We are nearing the end of our second artwork and already I am seeing the growth of the students. They are learning from their mistakes. They are building upon things we learned in our first artwork. It is exactly what I am hoping for. The students are engaged in the process.
It is still a learning process for me as I figure out the curriculum and how best to run a ceramics program, but I think it was the right choice–for them, and for me.