The Art of Student Teachers

By Szekely, George | Art Education, May 2004 | Go to article overview

The Art of Student Teachers


Szekely, George, Art Education


The student stood before me, slicing the air with his hands, as he tried to capture the change that had come over him.

"This is a real job," he said.

"I didn't have to think this way in college; I had everything laid out for me there. But now I'm the teacher. I take attendance and give assignments. I'm the one helping others find their creative paths."

According to Hanes and Schiller (1994), "The student teacher experience is the traditional transition from theories of the university to practical realities of public schools. It is in this experience that critical changes occur and determine the manner of practice that preservice teachers tend to adopt for their future classrooms" (p.218). The experiences of student teaching also shape student teachers' art practice. Student teachers reset the clock of personal goals to consider what is possible and what may not be easy to accomplish as an art teacher. Suiting up in an art teacher's mantle leads to adjustments, such as how to fit one's own art into a day of teaching.

Hickman (2000) observes that, "Student teachers of art are encouraged to reflect upon their teaching as a matter of course; they are usually actively involved in self-appraisal and lesson evaluation" (p. 11). But are student teachers encouraged to reflect on their artmaking? Beyond college art classes, artmaking is seldom discussed as a necessary preparation for art teaching. Traditionally, student teachers try on the role of the teacher, but not the artistteacher. Art education students are prepared to be artists and teachers and not to abruptly cease making art. The uniqueness of artist-teachers and their special art interests and desires to make art, have to be nurtured as they move into schools that classify all teachers to be the same. As Michael (1983) puts it, "An art teacher's most immediate source of inspiration is themselves. Students tend to become interested in art areas in which teachers themselves are very much interested and involved" (p. 148).

If student teachers are to engage in the time demanding task of artmaking, they need to know how to effectively set their creative clock. Setting goals and creating plans for students has to be balanced with learning to plan for one's own art. Student teachers cannot neglect setting personal art goals or spending time sorting out what is important for personal artistic development. While learning to care for young art lives, it is also a time to take charge of one's own art.

My Art Exhibit

* Hannah: Dr. Szekely, I am so glad to see you. These books you painted are incredibly moving.

* Szekely: Thanks... they are actually prayer books. When my mother was diagnosed with cancer 3 years ago, I attended to her struggle and used these private notations to keep me company. During lengthy hospital stays I felt connected to her bedside by picturing hope and fear. To disperse the spell of difficult treatments, I searched for art pads-surgical supply catalogues, technical manuals, EKG rolls, and hospital forms-to draw on to exorcise all pain. Since she passed away this summer, I searched for her in my art.

But tell me about your semester of student teaching. I recall how excited you were to show me your new paintings from studio classes and how worried you were that teaching would rob you of the progress you were making. It is hard to finally become the artist you always dreamed of and then be dropped off at work the next semester.

* Hannah: It was hard. I had no time to do the things I wanted. I had no time for anything. But the kids are amazing. The art is more exciting than anything in my studio classes or in museums. I just open my paint closet and kids applaud. I never felt such enthusiasm for art. I go home filled with ideas, and my students tutored me to paint freely. I had to learn to combine art and teaching. I do everything as art at home-the way I make my bed, the way I prepare my lunch. …

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