What is the most important part of going to a National Art Ed Conference? If judging by my first post, Chi-Town (part 1: the intro), you would think it was hanging out with friends. And you would be right. But, just a small percentage point behind that is the sessions. I mean, I did pay to go to some relevant professional development so I can become an even better, more awesome teacher. I don’t want to go too awesome though, I don’t think my students could handle that. 😉
Since I am somewhat old school, I wasted a whole bunch of trees and printed out a copy of the sessions. Yes, I know that I would get a program once in Chicago, but that’s not very helpful to a planner like me. (Don’t be too mad, I did print them double-sided.) I sat down in my kitchen with my coffee, my stack of papers, my yellow marker, and my phone. As I read thru the sessions, I circled the ones that were interesting to me. Then I would fire up the conference app on my phone and add them to my agenda. Is this a little more work, maybe, but who wants to carry a quarter ream of paper around the McCormick? Not me.
It wasn’t an easy thing to do. In case you didn’t know, I teach all TABbish and my interest is finding better ways to run my TAB classroom so it is more meaningful for my students. However, there are a couple of problems that I come across at art ed conferences. I teach high school, and it seems the majority of sessions (especially TAB/choice) are aimed at elementary. Also, out of the TAB/Choice sessions, many are geared towards getting people interested in TAB/Choice. I am already interested, I don’t need to go to those. So, while I did attend one or two of those sessions (my fav being “Lead, Follow, or Get out of the Way”, presented by Julie Toole, Nan Hathaway, and Ian Sands),I opted against most because I would rather give up my seat to someone who needs to learn about TAB/choice and their awesomeness. And, I am glad I did because those sessions were packed. I mean, standing room only, out the door packed. This makes my heart happy, by the way.
So, powers that be at NAEA who deal with choosing sessions for NYC, we need more sessions on TAB…at all levels and areas of interest (getting to know vs. already am in love with) of TAB. Obviously it is a hot topic and people want to know. I, personally, am willing to present a session or two or three about TAB at the secondary level. I know some others too who would be as well. Hell, we would even do some joint presenting. Just sayin’….
Over the course of the 3 days, I attended 15 sessions. One was not all that, and only 1 did I walked out. I lucked out and found 13 good/great sessions. Don’t worry, I won’t go over each session, but I will give you some highlights.
I started off the conference with a great session called “Break the
Wheel”, presented by Chris Wills. His session was about brainstorming and ways to help students get over the creative block. It really got me fired up to go. He had us do a small version of his activity called “60“. I really enjoyed the activity.
I enjoyed it so much that I brought it back to my classroom and used it already. At first my kids were all, “what the…”, but after completing the activity, which we only did for 20 minutes, they were glad we did and I think they have some ideas to work from for the next artworks.
After that I was pumped and went to a couple of more sessions that day. One was a look at the way the AP portfolio was “graded”. While I don’t teach AP, I was able to take some things away from this. The presenter talked about looking into the creative process and being able to capture the day to day…which is something I am working on in my classroom. There is so much more to artwork than just the final product, and wouldn’t it be great to allow our students to showcase the process instead of just the end of it?
Rounding out the day was a presentation by Jeff Pridie that made me think about what my program goals were and why my program should be there. And a session by the Journal Fodder Junkies. I had seen them before in NOLA and was excited to see them again. Every year they encourage me to have my students develop visual journals. Maybe next year will be the year I incorporate them.
Friday started off big as well. “Art Without Authority” was standing room only. Presenter Justin Crumpner is an art teacher from Dallas, and he feels the same way about our state VASE competition as I do…so right then I knew I liked this guy. The more he talked, the more I realized that he believed in the TAB philosophy, but just didn’t know there were others out there like him. In the middle of the session I texted Liz asking why he was not part of our tribe. He talked about his realization of moving to student-centeredness when he had an AP student that wouldn’t finish her work. But, when he saw her sketchbook that was filled with fabulousness and asked her why she wasn’t doing that in class, she replied, “I didn’t think I could do this. I didn’t think this was “school art”.” WOW! Seriously, talk about a way to start reflecting on your teaching practice. Anyway, he said some things during his presentation that were right on: “Your (students) work is VALID”; “their voice (student) = your voice (teacher)”; and “create a climate; don’t create winners and losers”. Of course I paraphrased that last one, but still… If you missed his presentation, you can still see it. He posted it on his blog. As a final note, we (Liz, Hillary and I) did run into him later on in the conference, we talked over a beer, and he ended up coming to our TAB meet-up. He has since joined our tribe on the Midwest TAB teachers page. I look forward to meeting up with him again next year in Fort Worth/Dallas at the TAEA 2016 conference.
I know I am getting long winded and I still have more to say, so bear with me. I attended Joy Schultz‘ presentation where she talked about choice and her students use of Blendspace. She had the presenter’s nightmare where the technology was non-existent. But, being the rockstar she is, went on like it was no big deal. Again, standing room only.
I attended a session on authentic assessment in a choice classroom presented by 2 elementary teachers. While it was interesting, and it gave rise to a sudden interest in a badge system, it wasn’t anything really new to me. I am not sure I will use a badge system, but it is something worth looking at–extrinsic versus intrinsic rewards.
Ian dragged us to a session called “New Weird Ideas”. There were four presenters and they each talked about how they set the tone for the beginning of the year. And of course, they said the same thing that I kept hearing over and over through out the conference…”Focus on the process and how to make the process meaningful.” It is at this point I should mention that they presenters were giving away free e-zines and Ian drafted Andy to go get us some…you would think that a 6′-4″, lean guy would be able to leap his way up to the front and procure some, but noooooooo….smh. No e-zines for us.
Saturday was the last day of sessions. We got there in time to see “Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way” where Nan dropped this gem, “If there were no grades in art, how would that affect your work?” Just let that sink in. Yeah. Exactly.
I didn’t really have any sessions lined up for the day, so luckily, I was with Ian who did. We went to a session about Shepard Fairey. There is a lot more to him than I thought there was. I left with the idea of “post-museum art“, which is art of the people; it’s an interesting concept. Ian and I also went to a session on maker spaces. I am now considering trying to get a 3-D printer, some paper circuits, and conductive ink. For more info on maker spaces, check out the Makelab.
Our final stop of the day was one that Ian and I are very interested in. It was titled “Stop Grading Art!” It started off great with ideas like we should moved from being art focused (fixed mindset) to learning focused (growth mindset), and questions like what is the purpose of grading, what are my standards, and what are my learning objectives/goals? Next he talked about looking for evidence of learning. It was here that it became frustrating and where I wanted to just start arguing with the presenter. He wasn’t talking about getting rid of grading (which is what we had hoped the session was about), and he was basically using assessment and grading as interchangeable terms, which of course they are not. There was nothing new learned from this, and it seemed that he was pushing grading in art as we know it now, but with a different language. His example was very simple, and didn’t really seem to assess any learning. He said the learning objective (from either the state or national standards) was to provide multiple solutions to a problem. And the evidence of learning was based on how many thumbnails a student created. There was a cute rubric that went with it too. How is that really assessing the learning? That is just grading on how well a student jumped through a hoop. And, that is what I am trying to get away from. I walked out of the session frustrated, but with lots to think about; so #winning? I got stuck on what my learning objectives really are and how to see the evidence of that learning. So, while I walked out with a new conversation in my head, I’m not sure I needed a session to get me there…I have already been on that path. Maybe I will figure something out and present on this topic next year in NYC.
This post shows just a snippet into some of the notes I took. If you could see my notebook, your head would be swimming too. I took a lot away from this conference–things I want to bring to my program, things to stay away from, ways to enhance the process more and to bring the kids to “buy in” sooner. Overall, the sessions I went to and the buzz I heard about other “popular” sessions made me realize that I am on the right path in my teaching philosophy. I look forward to hopefully presenting next year at both the TAEA [Texas] conference and the NAEA17 conference. ::hint, hint:: I promise my sessions won’t disappoint.