When my boss, Alyson, asked me to join some of my fellow Duncan team members in our booth at The National Art Education Association National Convention, I had NO idea what to expect. I checked out the site and realized – “It’s a conference for art teachers!!”
As a craftaholic and artista who didn’t have the best track record in 2nd grade art class or even high school crafts class (loved both but never scored above average grades), I felt WAY empowered. Demoing at this event would be so “full-circle” for me. I really wanted to offer something substantial and worthy. My assignment was to come up with four projects that incorporated Aleene’s Tacky Glue, Tulip 3D Fashion Paint and Crafty Chica papers. (I’ll post projects and lesson plans soon!) The other criteria was they had to be ideas that art teachers at any level could take and adapt to their own program. They had to work for second graders as well as college students.
Once I arrived to the hotel (I hadn’t even made it to the convention center yet!), I knew this conference would be different than any other. Just listening to the conversations of the teachers – they all were there to gather as many ideas as possible to bring them to their students. They shared tips with each other of how to get students motivated, and how to steer them away from short cuts (“I don’t allow magazine photographs in their collages,” one teacher rallied. “They use them as a crutch, I want them to dig deeper!”).
They exuded so much positivity and excitement, it was truly infectious! Many of these teachers paid their own way, didn’t mind, and said it was an event they looked forward to all year. There were workshops, speeches, demos, contests, etc. Vendors were art supply companies, travel group programs, art schools, copyright info, booksellers, lesson plan distributors, and others I can’t think of right now. Many of the them gave away freebies, either products or lesson plans. Everywhere you could hear, “Do you have a lesson plan?” and “What is the ‘Big Idea’ for this concept?”
Thousands of teachers came prepared to soak up all they could. They took notes, pictures, asked questions, shared success stories. Some expressed they were grateful to still have budget money, while others moaned that they had ZERO – and how it forced them to be even more creative! One thread that connected all of them – they LOVED their jobs! I wanted to hug every one of them.
It didn’t take long for me to catch on to the jargon and spirit, and incorporate it into my workshops. I even offered them other spin-off ideas. I was surprised at how many teachers recognized Patrick’s Dia de los Muertos illustrations from the dead.azcentral.com web site and asked to take my picture (because i was his wife!) to show it to their students. I met teachers from Nevada, Florida, Kansas, Ohio, Minnesota and Kentucky, and many more.
The first day we did a make-and-take of bookmarks, I also showed how to make Empowerment Word Shirts, the next day I taught five pre-scheduled Mixed-Media Journal workshops, and the last day, Time Capsule Tins. We used all Tulip, Aleene’s and Crafty Chica goodies! They went over so well, we had people waiting right at the class start time in case someone did not show up for their seat. There were supposed to be three student per workshop, but we made room for five because there were so many enthusiastic, eager faces. I tried to say YES as much as I could. I am so sorry for the people we did have to turn away.
To be a good art teacher, you have to have an open mind and be willing to take ANY idea and make it your own. Just think – teachers have a lot of days to fill with programs and lesson plans. Who has room to be overly picky – at least when it comes to listening to ideas? I would think you want to gather as much as you can, and then pick and choose what fits your agenda. That’s what 99.99999% of these people did. I met elementary, middle school, high school and even college art professors who sat down and made a project and asked for a lesson plan.
However, there was one teacher who walked by the table, glanced at it and before I could even explain, said, “This won’t work. I teach high school students.” I replied, “These projects can be adapted work for any grade…” and she shook her head and went on, with quite a scowl on her face. I felt like I was back in second grade again. I felt sad for her students. It’s OK if she didn’t like the materials, I know they are not for everyone, but don’t artblock yourself! Whether we are art teachers, artists, wannabe artists, etc., one of ways to be successful is to keep pushing your comfort zone, adding your own zing to anything and everything. I’m not a hater though, I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt and sending good vibes that she found all kinds of other ideas to take back to her students!
If you are an art teacher or art education program coordinator, I highly suggest becoming a member of NAEA. I heard nothing but raves from teachers about this organization and I was so proud that my boss invited me to take part in it! It changed my life! One of my goals for the summer is to add an education area to CraftyChica.com, loaded with creative lesson plans for teachers!
Peace, love, and glitter!