Real Lives: Art Teachers and the Cultures of School
Stokrocki, Mary, Studies in Art Education
Real Lives: Art Teachers and the Cultures of School Tom Anderson (2000). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 121 pages, ISBN 0-325-00296-7.
A Cooperative Book Review
Every year, I challenge my graduate students in my Art Education Colloquium to review an art education book with me. Last year, we chose Tom Anderson's Real Lives: Art Teachers and the Cultures of School because the title suggested insights about ordinary teaching. The book consists of realistic portrayals of six art teachers in the United States and their practical and philosophical reasons for teaching. Each graduate student chose a chapter to summarize and critique, and left one chapter for me to review. I asked the students to focus on one teaching unit and to note the dominant teaching methods, the type of curriculum, and the extra demands outside of teaching, as well as other contextual problems, that were apparent. Anderson reports that these teachers were highly recommended and identifies a number of individuals, some professors and some school officials, who helped him contact teachers. In some cases, we discover that these art teachers received teaching awards from their state art education associations. The chapters seem to be organized with the flow of the school year from Anderson's observations on the first day of school of John Ingebritson to those during the last week of school of Donald Sheppard. Anderson's methodology consists of qualitative narratives constructed from data obtained from structured interviews, field observations, and audiotapes. He includes a study guide consisting of discussion questions and an interview guide of questions that he used for his interviews. Each chapter begins with a photograph of the interviewed teacher and concludes with his/her profile of current position, education, practicing art form, teaching experience, teaching load, extra professional duties and activities, supplies and expendables budget, and salary. Anderson admits that his two-day observation time at each site limited his view, but he feels that the in-depth interviews and his own teaching experiences help reveal the realities of everyday instruction and how these realities impact teaching. My students and I are thankful to him for having the courage to present such a valuable and understandable book for discussion.
Because of word limitations in this review, I selected portions of the students' essays to include. Each review begins with Anderson's metaphoric title, follows with the observed school level, and ends with the geographic location. Two of my students were new doctoral candidates, and the remaining students were master's degree students. Their school affiliations and locations are included.
"Master of Aphorism," Junior High School, New UIm, Minnesota by Mary Stokrocki, Professor of Art
The first teacher whom Anderson presented was John Ingebritson, an art and math instructor at New UIm Junior High School in New UIm, Minnesota. The city of New UIm, a seemingly conservative working-class community, is proud of its extensive German and agricultural roots and its support of the performing arts. Anderson begins his description with the first day of school and Ingebritson's "advising period" that concerns school rules and lunch routines. First period is math class, and Anderson describes the class routine as ordered structure with assigned seats and balanced with mathematical brainteasers. It seemed that Ingebritson is also a master of extra-structural instruction such as the Arabic origin of numbers and how long a line a person can make if you use all the lead in a pencil [about 35 miles]. Ingebritson is a master puzzler who keeps students guessing. His second period art class involved a lesson on perspective drawing and looking at a poster of the etching, The Rat Catcher, by Rembrandt. The explanation of the rat catching business during Rembrandt's time ended with a plea for ecological cleanliness today. Anderson interprets Ingebritson's teaching as that of a "master of aphorisms" (p. …