I have had the privilege of teaching art to a wide variety of students in a variety of communities ranging from suburban to rural areas. Moreover, my first professional teaching job was at an elementary school in an urban community. The art room serviced over 800 students from lower middle-class to low-class families in terms of their socioeconomic backgrounds. That first year was definitely challenging but, I grew tremendously as a teacher and really loved the students. Below I have listed the 3 C's for striving as an art educator in an urban setting. While these tips should be used in all classrooms, they are essential if you want to experience success in an urban classroom.
I know, compassion in teaching is a no brainer. Yet there are some teachers who are only teaching for the benefits (in some districts) and the vacation time. Compassion is a necessity in the urban classroom because many of the students are coming from unstable or dysfunctional environments. They are very intuitive and know whether are not you love them and what you do. If you do not love them, they will not respect or obey you.
The saying "Never let them see you sweat", definitely bears true in an urban classroom. You must be confident in your authority, knowledge of the content, and ability to present it. If you present a weak image, the students will use that as a method to try to intimidate you. Confidently convey the message to the students that it's your classroom and you are in control.
Okay, every art teacher should have this trait. In an urban classroom, creativity extends beyond the actual lessons. You have to find creative ways to diffuse conflict between students and make art relevant to them.
Feel free to share your ideas or comments below.
I remember those special days when I taught art in a public school and an administrator would come to "evaluate" my teaching. In some schools, the administrator would warn me, while in others, they would do a "surprise" visit. I also remember the area on the evaluation forms which listed whether or not I had grown in the area of "school leadership" and/or "extra-curricular" participation. Fortunately, I always sponsored an after school program or club and received good marks in that area. Last year we presented several different ideas for creating or facilitating art related extra-curricular programs. If you work in a school that already has an art related program that is sponsored by another staff member, here is a list of three non-art related programs you could sponsor or participate in:
1. Academic Clubs
When I taught elementary art, I sponsored and coached students to participate in a math league called Academic Games. I competed in the league when I was an elementary student and was excited to be able to give back.
During my teaching experience, I volunteered to chaperone for trips, proms, dances, evening programs, etc...... My participation allowed me to connect more with other staff members and have fun with some of my students.
3. Attend Games/Competitions
While I taught high school, I attended football games to show support towards my students who were players and cheerleaders. It always made them feel special when they saw me in the stands.
We would love to hear your ideas about sponsoring other types of extra-curricular programs.
Please share them with us by commenting below
Alicia L. McDaniel
Alicia L. McDaniel is the author and creator of Great Art Lessons for the Creative Soul. She is also an educator, professional artist, and lover of the arts.
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