I. Professional Biography – (two double-spaced pages)
A. I guess I always imagined that art teachers were once aspiring artists who were afraid to compete or failed in their fields. Teaching, however, was something that just fell in my lap, but it provided me with a career where I have found great joy. It allows me to utilize my sense of humor and the opportunity to inspire young, creative minds, as well as build relationships forever. It started five months after I graduated from art school. I was unemployed – my wishes to become a mail man were crushed due to Uncle Sam’s insurance so I looked elsewhere to help finance my art. My mother suggested to me that with a Bachelor’s degree, I could get work as a substitute teacher. During my interview for a sub position, a principal asked me, “Why do you think you will make a good substitute teacher?” I recalled my loving and patient parents and my six younger siblings, so I replied, “Well, I was the ring leader of my brothers and sisters, so I know how to keep young kids in line.” After subbing for only two weeks, I was hired for a long term substitute technology and keyboarding position. I told the principal that I had never taken a technology class so I had to work hard by training myself in order to teach the new content to the children. I again thought of my family, who had all recently moved down to South Carolina; leaving me, the only family member, to stay in New York. This showed in my relationships with the students since I related to them as if they were my siblings by utilizing my great sense of humor, but still maintaining a level of respect. Since New York required a different education for teachers, I made the decision that I, too, would move to South Carolina.
I moved in with my family and continued to be a substitute. My siblings help spread the word to their teachers that I was a substitute. Over time, my hard work, high-spirited personality, and relationships with the kids helped make a name for myself, “Mr. G,” particularly at Carolina Forest Middle School when I became their long term sub for physical education and health. Once again, I worked hard to overcome the challenges from being inexperienced, so I collaborated with the other PE teachers to deliver meaningful content to the students. When the year ended, I knew that I couldn’t be a substitute forever, and that was when I learned about the Program of Alternative Certification for Educators, which would allow me to teach and obtain certification. PACE was challenging; I had to reeducate myself on art history, techniques and criticism, and create artwork that I thought I would never do again, as well as complete other pre-requisites.
I thought that becoming a classroom aid would help get my foot in the door. As the aid, I arrived at the Carolina Forest bus lot in the morning and assisted a child with autism. I would continue the rest of the day at Carolina Forest Middle School, where I assisted a long-term substitute in a cross-categorical self contained classroom. This class was difficult, considering that two teachers had already resigned from the position due to all of the many challenges. Despite facing issues including, but not limited to: constantly being called a “faggot,” working with highly uncooperative, harassing students; who were more focused on being in a gang, and even being shoved by a student. Because I wanted to show my principal, Dr. Thibodeau, that I was a hard worker and that I could develop a relationship with these students, I remained determined to be successful. I also co-taught with a social studies teacher with our goal being that if our classroom was ever observed you couldn’t tell who the aid was and who the teacher was; nor who the self-contained students were and who the regular education students were. Our plan became a success as that class ended up with a plus six PACT gain, larger than any of his other classes.
In fact, these experiences are what helped me successfully complete the PACE program, where I was simultaneously learning how to teach and teaching art at the same time. I also had my other duties and requirements as a first year teacher, which included, creating the first web page from scratch and maintaining it as the web master. I had absolutely no schema for creating a yearbook, especially with a class that didn’t want to be there. During this entire time, I was teaching three ninety-minute art classes crammed in my former Health, and plumbing FREE, classroom with two schools existing under one roof while waiting for their new building to be completed.
I later would utilize my independent film making background, and worked with students to make a freshman orientation video for our rising sixth graders. Over time, I designed an interdisciplinary and teacher-collaborating centered curriculum which also heavily incorporated technology with student interests. I combined my standards with the core academic curriculum. I also visited classrooms to determine how I could reinforce their material, vocabulary, and standards with my projects.
“It is all about building relationships,” is probably the best advice Dr. Thibodeau has ever given to me and what makes me most proud. It can be showing a great sense of humor, dressing up silly, buying students’ art supplies for home, or being one of the few teachers that makes a positive parent contact to EVERY ONE of my students per semester. In doing so, it has helped me to develop relationships with outside communities such as the Lion’s Club and small businesses that have helped my classroom by donating supplies and sponsoring events. I also have a Student of the Month in my class. I award students not so much on artistic merit, but those who deserve to be recognized by their peers and/or rarely shine academically. Another of my accomplishments is a Fashion Show where my students performed in costumes that they created entirely out of newspaper and tape in December 2009. In April 2010, I will be presenting and showcasing student work at the HCS Technology Fair.
IV. Community Involvement – (one double-spaced page)
A. Whenever I think of community, I think of my own school and how all of the teachers and students create a Black Water Family. Within my school, I think about how my students and I have contributed to other causes, such as volunteering at events or being involved with other groups at our school. One of the major groups that we support is the Lion’s Club. Each year, all of my students design a poster without words – all symbolism. The ELA teachers and members of administration judge these posters which represent not just our school but also Horry County, as many of our students have been district winners for the Lion’s Club. The Lion’s Club has also offered to sponsor and assist with the Art and Poetry Forum at our school. This year, at the forum, work will be judged by local artists and writers. These same artists assisted students to create work shown at Club 2001, and they will also be guest speakers in my classroom. This will be done to help expose students to the arts of Horry County. One topic they will discuss and is heavily featured at the forum is encouraging students to use non-linguistic representations and writing a piece of poetry to accompany it. My student’s Photostory videos have also given back to the community, and in the weeks to come, they will be showcased on the HCS Safe And Drug Free website for using art as a vehicle for health promotion & contributing to our school’s comprehensive approach to Health Education. Besides the Lion’s Club and the local artist community, another organization that I have helped to support is the Special Olympics and our Freezin’ for a Reason fundraiser. Each year, the students are challenged with a donation goal; if they reach it, several of the male teachers and I dress like women. I also support the American Cancer Society and the Beta Club at my school by judging the artwork the students put together in hopes of raising money and awareness for cancer research. I am a supporter of the Fine Arts Department at my school by attending and helping with supervision for talent shows and theatrical productions. The Fine Arts Department also assisted putting on my fashion show, where I have invited parents, press, and members of the community to support the students’ work. My students have also submitted work to local contests such as Rocky’s Pizza, HTC, and the Solid Waste Authority; and in return, we have received gracious donations for our school. I am also a supporter of the Athletics Department at my school, as I have volunteered at events, working as a scorekeeper or as one of the chain gang at home football games. There are various other departments and clubs that I have worked with at my school. I have worked with the community by assisting in Career Day and opening day registration at school, creating decorations for dances and events for the student council, and creating the Big Gamer Grip logo for Capture Youth Incorporated which is also involved with the WRAPS program at our school.
V. Philosophy of Teaching – (two double-spaced pages)
A. I personally believe that the student is at the center of the classroom. The student desires an audience to show off what they have created, and the teacher guides the students through experimenting and an exploration of techniques. This was difficult to achieve in the beginning since most of the students do not care about art when they first come to my class. Students also know my grades can only be held against them from achieving honor roll because certain Discovery classes use an entirely different grading scale, which, in my humble opinion, goes against the “uniform grading policy” of HCS due to the fact that our Satisfactory grades are the numerical equivalent of a “C” within the core academic grading scale. I am so adamant against this policy, that this summer, I prepared a formal and heavily researched proposal that I submitted to HT Lee and the HCS Learning Specialists on getting a truly uniform grading policy for our schools which is still under evaluation at this time. I have had to find other ways to motivate the students, so I teach towards their strengths and make the content easier to understand and more meaningful by streamlining it with the core academic standards. I think of it as if the student is a client; you want to sell them products/services (i.e. your content) that will intrigue them and be usable to them. This is why I use easily accessible technology, which also provides a broad audience for the students, and in hopes that they will continue the work at home and experiment independently. I have also found that so many of my students are in constant need of reassurance and guidance, and if their need becomes habitual, I redirect with “Ask three before you ask me,” as I am a firm believer in scaffolding, collaborating and that students can understand some content more easily from their peers.
The rewards that I find in teaching are when a student is instantly hit with that SPARK of “I GET IT.” At other times, that SPARK has to run its course; the student may fail a few times before both the student and I both end up being quite satisfied with the results. I find great joy in watching them collaborate and utilize their individual multiple intelligences to solve problems, especially when I see a student smile because they assisted or demonstrated a part of a project that their partner could not. I think struggling and accomplishing is MUCH more rewarding then watching a gifted student just easily fly through a project. It is rewarding to know that students look forward to my class because “they get to make stuff,” or that there is a long line of others that are begging to come in to my class for next semester. It is rewarding to see a child so excited to tell you what they are learning in another class, such as Social Studies, and then letting them know that they can apply that and create a product in my class. It is rewarding for the students to be so proud of their work for their audience, as they show it off as they walk by in the hallway or on the television for their friends and teachers. It is also rewarding when I make a positive phone call to their parents, and sometimes the parents nearly burst in to tears when they tell me that “no teacher had ever made a good phone call before.” If only more of us did this, would school be different?
I feel that I am an outstanding teacher because I have found that I do not always necessarily treat this place as a job, but as a second family. This is a family in which I can deeply care about young people and do whatever I can to make sure that they are safe and successful in my room, and, who will hopefully, develop responsibilities and understand their choices have consequences in the outside world. I am an outstanding teacher because my content does not just stop with art; I teach young adults how to be responsible. I have borrowed, manipulated, and reinforced much of the core content just to make my art projects more meaningful and easier to comprehend for my students. I have also spent a lot of time working on my student relationships, whether making positive parent contacts, utilizing their student inventory sheets to teach to their strengths, or comparing our similar interests because I feel it helps to be young at heart when working with young minds. Another challenge that I feel makes me outstanding is working with the students with emotional disabilities or those with trainable mental disabilities, making sure that they will feel successful and have equal ownership in the classroom, all the while, meeting their least restrictive environment.
B. My beliefs are demonstrated in my teaching style by letting the students explore, be responsible for their actions, properly utilize 21st technologies, and celebrate the creation of a product made through collaboration and problem solving skills. My students have a lot of freedom of choices in their work; they especially love it when the project is all about them. My beliefs are also demonstrated in the construction of our yearbook, where I proudly stand by the fact that our yearbooks are ninety-eight percent student produced work. I constantly reinforce to all of my students the importance of being responsible for their work, meet deadlines, and make good choices. My beliefs are demonstrated in my own teaching style by making sure that students have proper utilization of 21st century technologies. This has meant that I have constantly reorganized and adjusted my lesson plans, making sure I was aligned with the learning objectives for the SC visual arts curriculum. We, as teachers, need to meet the student’s needs for technology and not have the students meet us at our level. When we work on these technology projects, the students are aware that if I do not know how to do something, I look for help, such as inviting core academic teachers to co-teach a lesson. We all work together like we are all one family. I encourage students to do this as well, which doesn’t mean always going to friends for help, but utilizing other resources such as online tutorials or working with one another’s strengths through problems and solving them together.
VI. Education Issues and Trends – (two double-spaced pages)
A. In case you haven’t noticed it yet, I am quite passionate about technology and its uses in the classroom. I’m sure that many of us saw the Shift Happens video clip, and you are probably aware that most educators need to be doing a better job incorporating more 21st century technologies and preparing the students for future careers. Some possible causes from this might start ALL the way from the beginning of a teacher’s education on the college level. Some professors might be a little outdated and have continued to flourish and teach with the, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” approach. The same could be said for some of the staff developments that we are receiving. I feel like the technological needs of our teachers OR students are not being assessed enough so that we may grow as professionals. Another cause could be that some of the teachers are intimidated by the new technology or perhaps do not feel that “it is their job.” Perhaps teachers do not like the feeling that a student could be technologically superior to them, and they are afraid to show their ignorance. Another issue may be insufficient funds, or some teachers are not motivated enough to write a grant or find another solution. Another reason could be that the web site or a device is restricted, but imagine if we could teach with a socializing network tool like Facebook or if cell phones were used in the classroom instead of fought with administrative referrals?
Due to the fact that we are NOT educating our children with more 21st century technologies, we are falling behind the competitive global market. Jobs are being created that require these skills, and there are not enough people to fill them. Instead, students just feel that they can get by with the bare minimum education, when there are more and more jobs being created that require a diverse and technologically driven background. If we do NOT expose these students to the newer technologies, then they may never have the experiences to discover skills that they didn’t know they were even capable of accomplishing. In time, the very same jobs which do not require much education, may be phased out in favor of cheaper labor, reliability, efficiency, or speed. The manufacturing industries are acquiring fewer positions that require physical strength, and there is a diminishing number of blue collar positions. More and more companies could resort to outsourcing and find a more efficient means of a technology sufficient workforce. Here is an example: Ever call up a technology help desk and ask what part of Asia they are from? Technology is also causing other careers to become obsolete such as bank tellers due to ATMs, accountants are being Turbo Taxed away and why would you go through a lawyer about legal documents when they can be purchased online? Newer careers will spring up from the rapid advancements of technologies in older careers, but if we continue to fail to give our students the opportunities to experiment with 21st century technologies, we will inadvertently and determinately affect our future employment. Personally, I feel that if children’s technological needs are not met, they will seek it elsewhere, such as online courses or magnet schools. If you think that you, as a teacher, may be safe from this issue and avoid technology for now, you are dooming your colleagues and may cause an enrollment increase for virtual schools that focus on technology. Without sufficient student enrollment, funding is cut, and thus there will be fewer teachers with larger classrooms.
Some resolutions that I can provide for these issues are that it needs to start from the beginning of an educator’s adventure in to pedagogy, by making sure that colleges and universities are providing technology integration classes for the classroom with professors educated on this material. Perhaps curriculums and EVERY teacher’s content should be re-examined to see how their material will fit in to the 21st century. If it DOES NOT, it is the teacher’s responsibility to mold their content and offer opportunities for their students to flourish and experiment with these tools. This nationwide, across the board re-examination of how we are teaching technology should also occur within the continuing education of our professionals, where staff developments should be created based on the technological needs of our teachers. If someone is already quite proficient in an area, they need to volunteer their services and help create a community of teachers teaching teachers technology. This also means that we need to practice what we preach or teach. Teachers should also perform student technology inventories to assess the abilities, performance, and pre-existing knowledge of your students to see where you need to go from there.
If there are issues of obtaining resources, you can go through the process of writing grants, doing research, or trying to see where money can be allocated for your wishes. Personally, I had an issue where I wanted a program for a computer lab that would cost me over two thousand dollars. I researched alternatives and collaborated with other art teachers until I discovered an absolutely free program that did the same exact thing. Some other solutions could possibly be rewarding and acknowledging teachers that incorporate advanced technologies in their classrooms. Principals can also enforce this by having teachers be responsible for showcasing these new resources at faculty meetings and providing inexperienced teachers with hands-on learning experiences. Finally, work toward the student’s interests in technology. For example, I once saw how my class was more addicted to playing simple video games rather than watch my demo in the computer lab. There have been studies that say people play video games to achieve small and accomplishable goals and then they are immediately rewarded for it in some manner. Since there is that desire for instant gratification that they get from video games, then how can those needs and interests get incorporated in to your content?
VII. The Teaching Profession – (two double-spaced pages)
A. What I do to strengthen the profession are the collaborating efforts with my other teachers. I have already hosted an HCS staff development and presented at the South Carolina Art Education Association’s state conferences which have informed teachers about the power of collaborating and utilizing free technologies such as Photostory and GIMP. For the teachers who weren’t at the presentations, I hoped to get the message out to them when my collaborative projects were televised on Channel 12. Over the years, I have tried to bring new types of technology and strategies into our school. I designed an original poster and motto for our school that incorporates our beliefs as a Black Water community and presented informative staff developments on classroom management techniques that are based around responsible student choices for behavior that affect their consequences. I feel one of my greatest contributions to the profession is demonstrating to the teachers how we can learn from each other and co-teach content. What I have done in the past is participate in a department meeting, where I demonstrated to the teachers the projects that I plan to do for the year. I compare my content to their standards, and I try to set up a calendar so that we can both hopefully teach the same material at the same time. Finally, I ask teachers in this department what their students are having a hard time understanding, how I can reinforce that with my art projects, or possibly help brainstorm projects their students can make. I think this strengthens the profession because we are a network of professionals who needs to share our ideas and learn from one another. I feel it is also important that the students see that adults also have to work together in a collaborative effort. I especially enjoy displaying this interdisciplinary work so that other teachers or students will see it and connect to their own classes. To go with this work, I make up small posters that talk about the artist or concept the students worked on and how they created it; it is decorated with the vocabulary words you would find both in the art classroom and the core academic classroom that I co-taught with. This in turn teaches students and teachers vocabulary terms and other important content while they are viewing the work.
I think I have also improved the profession by showing the teachers how much more successful students can be when they have a large enough audience, whether it is a poster celebrating being Student of the Month, having artwork displayed in the hallway, or the school’s television news network, in the auditorium for a fashion show, or at our end of the year Art and Poetry forum. I feel the students live for that gratification for their hard work. Other teachers have used my ideas of making students of the month in their classes, filling their hallways with student work, and borrowing the display cases to show off their own students’ work. I am now helping teachers secure supplies or technology ideas to develop projects where they can really apply what they have learned by creating a final product.
B. The final product should be one of the finest examples of the accountability of the teacher. An old saying I once heard at a staff development was from a band director who was wondering if she was maintaining her program to be successful and continuously thriving, which was evident from her low recruitment rate to which her principal replied, “The proof is in the pudding.” Fine Arts teachers have dramatic shows, concerts, and other forms of exhibitions, where we are fortunate enough to always create and apply this pudding in our classrooms. This is something that I feel that most of the older and academic teachers do not always get to explore. I feel that there are SO many ways that a student can gain understanding by creating products rather than copying notes and reading these teacher’s textbooks. In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink’s work parallels the way education has been predominantely logic focused and strictly regimented, and now we need to focus on more product creating, and right brain thinking that is “outside the box.” Perhaps these veteran teachers are intimidated to try new creative things, like my technology projects. Perhaps they are happy with what they have gotten over the years with easily distributed handouts, or they enjoy sitting back in their seats while the video does the teaching instead. Maybe the teachers are more concerned with their extra curricular clubs or sports, and maybe they can just get by and prove to administration that they have high standardized test scores from intimidating and bossing their kids around with their coach-like demeanor. It seems that these “tests” are currently one of the main contributors of teacher accountability; BUT, should standardized test scores really sway the education of a child and encourage educators to teach to the test, or is it the student’s experiences and true sense of understanding that a child obtains through the creation of a product?
I feel that a teacher’s scores are the one clear cut thing that they can prove to their supervisors, but who is to necessarily say if that was all that JUST ONE teacher’s cause of that happening and not an infinitesimal list of student variables from amount of sleep, malnourishment, and/or did they achieve this learning from elsewhere? Teaching to the test typically sacrifices a student’s creativity and a strictly regimented curriculum. Teachers need to teach outside of the box and allow students a variety of ways to apply what they have learned and not just to appease their supervisors.
VIII. Teacher of the Year – (one double-spaced page)
A. It is hard to think about what would make a gratifying message to such a respectable group of professionals, considering that I have only been teaching for four years. I am sure what I have accomplished in these four years is probably worth a paragraph in the other T.O.Y. essays, but hopefully what I do have to say could possibly open the eyes of the more experienced veterans and provide some guidance for the up and coming rookies, as well. My message would have to be, don’t let your content limit you. Stretch beyond the normal means of pedagogy and create an interdisciplinary curriculum. Involving the arts and other content with your own standards makes a much more meaningful and visually engaging experience for your students. Collaborate with your partners to help teach the same content across the board. Empathize with your learning specialists and curriculum coaches to find ways in which teachers can all be on the same page across all departments and grade levels. Guide students along on the project, but still let them work collaboratively and utilize problem solving skills.
Never let anyone ever put you down for being any type of teacher. Some people criticize teachers, identifying them as the ones that “couldn’t do,” but instead we have chosen to instruct others and perhaps, hopefully, they will surpass our own wishes, dreams, and talents some day. Instead, be proud that you chose such a noble profession. You are one of the many who guide, who inspire, and who make sure that the destinies of young hearts and minds will find a place in their own futures where they will grow from what you have shown them.
We do have our colleagues who criticize ourselves as being just babysitters. Why, I, myself, have once divided my salary into a weekly basis until I figured out my hourly rate to be with a child. NOW, if you really want to bum yourselves out and figure that you can get paid one dollar per hour for each child that you teach, or you can see yourself in that noble profession of touching lives. You have the power to give your students strategies and information that they will carry with them forever. My point is that we are all very busy, but passionate people. We all chose this profession because we like to work with young learners. There will be days that bring you down, like any other job. Find other teachers who can help you, instead of loathing in your pit of sorrow. Don’t latch on to people in your department, grade level or hallways who are mean, negative, or bitter. Find the positive ones that will guide you; that you can steal ideas from; who you can collaborate with; who don’t get roped into drama, and who are here for the kids instead of bickering and criticizing other teachers. I feel the best teachers are some of the most caring, patient, understanding, and giving people around. We do not have much, but we are always eager to give to those in dire need.