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I would like to see more emphasis on social issues in my own classroom. I find this difficult to tie into traditional art projects at times. I want to teach about gender equality, and I try to do so by highlighting equally men and women artists. I want to talk about disabilities, and try to seek out artists who have created despite their disabilities. I think the only change that needs to happen is on my part, and for me to be more responsible in creating lessons that include these social responsibilities even at very young ages with my students. It is easy to pass over these things, and a lot more challenging to dig deeper into these issues and make them a part of the curriculum.
My opinion of present studio art, art education and art history curriculum is that some of it is viewed by others as a complete waste of time. I try to give my students the parts that I feel are truly important to me, and that I can care enough to teach passionately about to them. If I do not care, it is highly unlikely that I am going to get them to care about a topic. I feel some areas of the arts can be viewed as frivolous, and not terribly important, and I try to focus on bringing meaning to my curriculum and my students personal art. This current crisis we are living through has shone a light on the importance of the arts, which makes my profession seem more important for a second, but I feel all will return to normal when school settings go back to the way they were with art being at the bottom of the totem pole. I feel I have to advocate for everything I do, and everything my students do, and I want to make sure it is important to our school.
I think that present-day art curriculum can do a much better job of being culturally responsive to issues of gender, race, age, sexuality and disability issues. I try to talk about these issues in my classroom whenever possible. For instance, this week in distance learning, students in first grade are reading the book Violet the Pilot which centers on a female main character who is an inventor and a pilot. Still, Violet is portrayed as a freak who no one will befriend because she is different. I think there is so much more we can do to honor these issues, but the constraints of time, behaviors, grading, observations, and other things can get in the way of a well rounded curriculum.
The only way I can think to bring feminist ideas into the elementary classroom, is to include and discuss women artists in my curriculum. My young students do not yet understand gender, race, and class issues, although they do respond to those artists they can relate to. I try to expose the class to as many artists as I can find, and we constantly talk about why or why not this person should be talked about. Some students really relate to one artist over another (maybe because they are female) and discuss why their art matters. Again, this is hard with very young grades, but I can begin this discussion with my older students, and begin with younger students by exposing them to these issues, even if we don’t go too deep into discussing them.
I think this is a very difficult question. I teach Kindergarten, and to think about this concept with 5 and 6 year olds, If I do not take control of the classroom, chaos will ensue. I have to lead and direct them, with the hopes that in a higher grade we can get to the facilitator role. I believe there has to be some ground work first before students can be “set free” in the classroom. Much of my class is production time, and I do act as a facilitator, but if I don’t take some control and power to start, nothing productive will get done. If I was teaching older grades, I believe this facilitator role would be more natural.
I believe some challenges in changing the art curriculum to include gender, race, and identity changes are getting past an art history based on white dead men. I used to only teach about Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, etc. until I discovered that not all students can identify with these figures of the past. Of course I still feel they are important to art history, but their importance has been minimized as I have discovered contemporary artists such as Sandra Sielberzweig, and Heather Galler. I feel that adding more up to date artists and people living and working today can give students a greater connection to the material I am trying to teach.