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No Dumping Here
“You must love teaching art.” I hear all that phrase all the time. Followed by, “At least the kids all want to be there.” Not true, I want to scream. I wish all the kids wanted to be in my class, but the truth is only a fraction really do. The reality in our school is that the counselors decide what classes students are signed up for for and the master schedule is the determining factor in which classes they actually get. Students have little choice in their core academic choices — as they are predetermined by grade level — and very little choice in electives since we have so few. Given the choice between visual arts and a foreign language, most students will opt for art because they assume it will be easier. They will pre-empt themselves from a performing art because they feel inadequate about actually “performing”. Unfortunately we no longer have vocational/ tech classes which allowed many mechanically minded students to thrive. No humanities electives, no PE electives, no where to go. The result is that students wind up in art with little desire to be there and no incentive to stay.
I work extremely hard at creating highly motivating, rigorous curriculum that is also a quick success. But for the percentage of students who never wanted to be in the class to start with, no curriculum in the world is going to make a difference. I have students in my class who have never engaged in an art project. They come to class every day, good attendance, no behavior problems, but they don ‘t work. Zero productivilty. After two marking periods of this kind of (in)action, I alert the counselling office to see if they can find an alternative placement for the students. What I am told is that there is no other place to put them. Hence, art is school ‘s dumping ground. I also get kids placed in my class two days before the end of a semester, or at the begininng of a new semester having had no prior experience with the class curriculum. This is not common practice throughout the rest of the subject areas at our school- only art suffers the indignity of being valued as a playpen.
This is also not common practice at all school sites. With scheduling starting for us soon I would like to hear from those of you who have successfully achieved classes of students who chose to be in visual arts as opposed to being randomly scheduled into the class. Do you recruit your students? Does your counselling office ask for your input? Suggestions please for those of us still struggling with the “just put ’em in art” syndrome!!