Today I went to art class. Administrators encouraged teachers to observe one another, and offered class coverage to allow us to see someone else teach. I picked art teacher Andrea Puentes, because I believe her style is similar to my own in many ways, but I have always wanted to learn more about art. Doing so can improve the way I teach graphic design.
The third period class, Pre-AP Art I, was working on plans for a still life drawing. Ms. Puentes gave them several minutes of instruction, tips for how to do a good job, pointers about how to use tools, reminders of their timeline, then let them work. She made a few behavioral redirections, but gave a rationale for them, too (for example, they shouldn’t use their phones because they can’t be drawing at the same time); when two boys tried to hold a conversation during this time, she stopped talking until they stopped.
Once they started to work, the class got really quiet. I call this the “sweet spot” in my own lessons–the moment when everyone knows what to do and is doing it. To help set a mood, Ms. Puentes played music in the background: she asked the class what type of music they would like. I play music sometimes, but I could do it more consistently.
I drew! The task was to create 8 sketches of a large combination of objects in the center of the room, in order to determine a focus for a still life drawing. While my sketches were not as detailed as the students’, I worked seriously for most of the period. I felt inadequate to the task, because I had missed prior instruction. This is probably how students feel when they are new to a class, or return from a prolonged absence. Taking the role of a student gives me chances to develop empathy for them. It’s also interesting to see my students in a different environment. One student who struggles in my class is a very good artist, so she shines in art class: she worked diligently all period, whereas in mine she distracts herself.
Being part of art class was a nice change of pace–a good way to spend my conference period. I wish I knew more about art, but I appreciated the opportunity to learn a little more, and I recognized ways in which a few of the concepts (Rule of Thirds, negative space, etc.) overlap with what I teach in Digital Media.