Friday, March 1, 2013

Philosophies, Employment, and the Rocky Path

Hello readers, colleagues, artists and virtual friends.

Once again I have been re-evaluating my path as an art educator. I am not giving up by any means, but wonder what my best options are to make more progress. Lately I feel like I keep hitting the same wall and getting extremely close to full-time employment, only to have things not pan out one way or another.

A friend suggest I try to open up my field of vision around that goal to seek more opportunities as well as a larger community of artists, educators etc. It has been an interesting experience. I visited a local art school, the oldest in New Jersey, which serves the community in a number of ways. I took a tour, attended the annual high school art exhibition, and have started to attend open studio time for ceramics and figure drawing. These things have been personally and artistically fulfilling.

A colleague connected me to an art education director for a nearby university.  He was kind enough to speak with me and we had a very interesting conversation about different philosophies of teaching. He was a proponent of a psychology-based approach, and not only did he think that DBAE was inappropriate, but actually harmful to children's creativity and artistic growth. I wasn't entirely sold, but he did bring up some very thoughtful and justified evidence of his approach to teaching and to teaching students in the field of art education. He also diplomatically said that even though I have a teaching  certificate, and am intelligent and a good communicator, that he still doesn’t see me as qualified.  And I do see his point.  We were only having a phone conversation. We didn’t meet face to face, and he didn't view my resume, or see anything that I have done as an teacher, so there was nothing to persuade him otherwise. I told him to hit me with his best shot and he did.

We also discussed the options of waiting it out for a job to then take alternate route classes required the first year of employment, or taking a post baccalaureate program, having a better chance of getting a job, and then not needing classes to take up time in my first year on the job. Neither path guarantees me employment. I am still at an impasse. And now I am questioning whether we should knuckle down and pay for me to go back to school, or knuckle down and keep trying for a position! I mean, the alternate route path is an option offered by the state of New Jersey, and does in theory qualify me to be hired by a school district. 

Perhaps my studio is just what I am destined for. It has been a wonderful experience, and the community is very supportive and happy with the art their children make, and the progress they show. Then I think that maybe I should try for a retail location to grow on what I have established, but that seems downright impossible. If it were financially viable there would be one in every town, like nail salons and take-out food. So as much as I find it extremely important in any community, I am in the minority.

What are your thoughts? Is DBAE already an outdated and harmful approach in the classroom? Is it still just a terrible economy to be successful in gaining employment? I am I not qualified to teach? Is there a stigma attached to the alternate route educator? Should I stay put in my home studio and not pursue full-time employment? Comment and share your ideas with me. And I wish you all well in all of your art education endeavors!


Mr. E said...

DBAE on its own was on the way out when I started my undergrad 20 yrs ago. During that was pulling fro multiculturalism & returning to lowenfeldian thought. Now a district...are very much into teaching meaning in art making. That personal connection and self expression must be a key part of the experience. However, I do believe there is much good in DBAE...and should not be thrown out...but reinvented(as all things in art are).

Renée Collins said...

Thanks Ted, I feel that pulling from DBAE, choice-based, and allowing for the natural process of artistic development are all integral to the process. I also like to consider cross-curricular themes, world cultures, literacy etc. It seems that there is a lot of wiggle room in the approach. I also feel that the process is more important than the final product.

Patty Palmer said...

Whatever you choose to do, I know you will do it well. But whenever I make a life change I always ask myself these questions: What feels right to me? In what space am I the most happy? If money weren't an issue, what would I be doing?
Go with your gut, Renee and good luck!

Hope Hunter Knight said...

I am not a follower of any one philosophy about teaching art, but I know that the 4 components of DBAE - production, history/culture, aesthetics, and criticism - are going to always be a significant part of my classroom. All the choice-based stuff fits into the aesthetics part, where kids choose their artistic paths. "isms" and such are not my strong suit as an art teacher, but I know what works for me and it is a combination of things, as you mentioned.
I think you should hang in there. It has been a hard 5 years or so for many of my colleagues who are talented and dedicated but having the same employment struggles as you.
Even with 20 years under my belt, I found myself really struggling this year because of many changes in our county, new teacher evaluations and a shift in focus to STEM, so even one day when you have that full time spot, we are always adapting and rethinking. It's a good sign that you are doing that. Good things to come...

Painting With Brains said...

I don't know how DBAE got such a bad rap! As Hope pointed out, production, history/culture, aesthetics and criticism are essential to teaching/creating art. Maybe when DBAE started out it was that cookie-cutter, let's all make the same art work kind of process, but it's evolved over time. DBAE can be whatever you want it to be, because those four things are still so essential!

Anyway, you need to follow the path that makes you happiest. I work with plenty of wonderful teachers who went alternate route, and any school worth working at would recognize you for the skills and accomplishments you've made and not disregard you because of how you did all of it.

If you're happy in the studio, continue to do that, but keep applying and striving for the full-time job you want. It's out there!

Sue Teems said...

I had the same struggles 20 years ago and thought I would never get a job teaching. I suggest you go back to school and get a second certification, mine is Elementary Ed. You may want to consider Technology Ed. Also, embrace STEM education and Common Core Standards they are the buzz words of this decade.

Rina said...

Hi Renee
I am so sorry that you are frustrated. I enjoy your projects and your writing and know you would put your heart into whatever position you take.
I am wondering if you are emphasizing your tech skills during interviews. You are a blogger and comfortable using technology to teach art. Does this set you apart from others in your area? Are you comfortable teaching digital and fine art?
I wish you all the luck in the world.

Leslie McReynolds said...

Hi Renee, I really enjoy your blog and your honesty. On this topic, I have to agree with Mr. E. I have taught elem art for over 20 years (trained in NJ) and DBAE was the anti-art ed philosophy then. Now I am able to incorporate all flavors, but I see this being the biggest struggle art teachers have today. We have SO MUCH we are responsible for teaching:(standards, seamless integration of other subjects, technology, art history, genre and technical skills...)and now 21st century skills, creative and originality through choice based approach. How can you hang on to one philosophy? I don't know. I do know it is important to know how to layer all of this for your students so that at the end of the day, they GET IT. They understand and grow. We are seeking mastery of concepts and ideas and themes and use of traditional art supplies's overwhelming. Please know that you are not alone. Most art teachers are expressing similar doubts right now--so much is changing!I am in the process of redoing my own blog to address how we can practically incorporate these significant changes and still have the art programs we want.
I would love for you to visit my blog and share your ideas-

Good luck and hang in there!