Mr. Henegan says, "When you walk into the artroom, you are all artists."
Have a look at some student work.
On Teaching Art
The Arts carry the substantial weight of responsibility as record keeper for the progress of civilization. This responsibility alone would be load enough for one discipline, but there is more. The arts address a multitude of cultural aspects that are so ingrained in each of us that we, at times, may take them for granted. These aspects range from the first decorations we observe from the bassinet, to the solemn grandeur of a Westminster requiem. Covered as well is the formation of ideas and the foundation of character with the occurrence of the "eureka" moment, and the potential for self-reliance.
Teaching art affords an opportunity to extend the experience one has with culture, with the sharing of ideas, the introduction and development of skills, the combining of those elements, and the possibility to illuminate the many facets of the discipline.
Civilization can be tracked through the passage of events in the examination of history, the inquiry into philosophical ideas, the telling of cultural stories through literature, the practical analysis of mathematics and the advancement of scientific knowledge. The arts are to be found woven throughout these areas. In many cases, knowledge has become specialized, and as the culture grows in depth and breadth the markers of progress can be overlooked or under-emphasized in an effort to cover the high points. Through no fault then, awareness of civilization is fragmented, with many people missing the never-ending and connected nature of the culture.
The mission of the art teacher is to act as a sponge and absorb as much a s possible, making the connections for his students. This encompasses a widely varied collection of elements and often needs space to include the old kitchen sink. Historically, the arts have always been integrated with other areas. This was done for practical purposes; art was a tool, an element of technology. There was a need to show what something looked like and the technology at hand was the hand and an instrument with which to draw. Prior to the written word becoming universal, oral tradition made use of song, and song often functioned as the newspaper with travelling messengers. The arts were necessary to show and to tell. This function has now become inverted to a degree as the arts have the capacity to bring these areas of knowledge together.
Once this course of absorption is realized, the inevitable need to wring the sponge arises. Here is the real work, which is no news for any teacher. The art teacher looks for the means to apply the elements of culture as he engages in the process of delivering the essential. This process points out the great advantage in a bigger sponge and more efficient use of the kitchen sink. You have to figure out how to get your message to your students, and be willing and able to shift when that doesn't happen. Einstein said, "A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new." This process allows an art teacher to give a mini-lesson on the Age of Discovery, starting with the flat Earth that Columbus refuted, and ending with a demonstration on how to shade a circle to make it look like a sphere. It makes it possible to teach a group of third graders about the observations of the 13th century mathematician, Leonardo Fibonacci, showing them his famous number sequence. They enjoy making predictions based on their observations deciding what will come next.
In the arts, one can get a view of what humans were thinking about and the activities they were engaged in as the art itself was being produced. The art is a reflection of the culture, and it provides vivid glimpses at a rich past to construct the memory that is vital to any society. At the same time, the art teacher will balance this imparting of cultural information with the necessary elements of art and principles of design. The art teacher must likewise seek to promote literacy, incorporating spelling, vocabulary, and writing as he assembles a multi-disciplinary experience for students.
The early 21st century is witness to a global society that, while in possession of the means for universal, critical, communication is surrounded by a nearly universal acceptance of consumerism. This consumerism promises to take a central position in that global society. We are all consumers. Fewer and fewer citizens have the experience of being producers. In an art room a great deal of time is spent practically, on process and as students advance, product. Emphasis is put on the sequential steps that are necessary to produce a quality work. This is a simple concept, but often neglected in a consumer culture. Process and product are a foundation to build on and can be applied in any area. This became evident recently in a conversation with a colleague from the BOCES Area Occupational Center discussing the proper steps to follow in a quality auto body job. For a student who has had the advantage of an art room experience, the idea that a process exists, should be second nature if they enter a course like auto body repair or when then write a seminar paper of rigor using an MLA or APA format. In short, the training students receive in the art room, affords them the vanishing experience of being producers.
Finally, teaching art is an integral part of character building. In addition to establishing process and product as the basis of art making, practice is stressed as the basis of competence as students advance. Recognition of one's own competence is a concrete, building block of self- satisfaction very different from gratification, because it stems from the accomplishment of a material task using your own hands. When a student puts enough practice into gaining competence, they are frequently drawn to having a sense of ownership. Satisfaction combined with a sense of ownership leads to self-respect and responsibility: hallmarks of citizenship. As students achieve competence, they engage in the self-realization that they are accomplished at something and thus, respectable. People who are respectable because of their accomplishments are usually respectful of others and eventually become the people society needs.
To summarize then, art teachers try hard to give children some culture, and show them the way to make good stuff.