My name is Bernadette and I am an art education graduate student at City College. I am a career changer who is transitioning from the fashion industry to the education field. As a designer I enjoyed the creative process and seeing projects evolve from inception to finished product. Though I enjoyed designing I felt the need to contribute towards something rewarding, and teaching art felt like a natural conversion.
I am currently a student teacher preparing to begin a career as an art educator and have not decided which grade level I would look to teach. Art educators are among the few teachers in the educational system certified to teach between the grades of Kindergarten-12th. Prior to student teaching I participated in fieldwork observation of art classrooms. Though I have observed art classrooms of different grade levels I only witnessed what occurred during a 40-45 minute class. I witnessed teachers providing instruction, engaging with students as individuals and a group, and managing their classroom. I was not fully aware of all the elements that teachers had to consider in making their classroom an effective learning environment. It is during my student teaching that I more aware of the various facets of teaching. As I get closer to becoming an art educator I have been asked what grade level I want to teach, and I respond that I am not sure.
As art education graduate students we are taught about art making, lesson planning, pedagogy and strategies but there is a void in how these practices may vary based on the grade levels that we teach. I have wondered if I were to teach different grade levels what I would need to do differently and what differences I would experience while teaching them. Being an art teacher is more than art making, it involves effective strategies relevant to the development of a young child or an adolescent. With teaching opportunities varying in New York City and the suburbs of New York I believe that many art educators have taught in different schools and experienced teaching different grade levels.
My thesis will explore how art teachers experience teaching different grade levels. I suspect their teaching practices will vary based on grade levels. If I suspect their practices will vary, then which practices will they modify? How will they determine modification and how will they implement it? Do they modify those strategies automatically upon teaching a different grade level, or do they give themselves time to get to know their students and apply according to what they have learned? For my research I will conduct a survey asking art teachers questions related to topics of classroom management, community building, teacher control versus student choices and multiage classrooms. I intend to interview some of those art teachers to obtain insight and reflection of their specific experiences.
My research will provide me with information that can guide me in choosing a grade level I would like to focus on. If I expect to find this information valuable for myself then there are other art educators that can learn from my findings. I believe there is a community of art educators who have a varied experience of teaching different grade levels. They can share an abundance of information that many new or experienced art educators can benefit learning from.