I am and artist/art teacher who have been teaching for the last 18 years in various schools in Gauteng, South Africa. I have taught in the Government and Private schools and have gained valuable experience through this. My aim is to help pass on this knowledge to Art teachers all over the world. I am by no means saying that "I have arrived and know everything". As a teacher in the Arts, I find that I am on a continous journey every day of my life, as we are all dealing with a new generation and have to adapt in findings ways to open up new worlds to them.
What is an art teacher and why did you become one?
We are a crazy bunch of people that have to wear many hats in one classroom, “Jack of all Trades” but hopefully, master of a few. It is vital for an art teacher to be a working artist as well, as you cannot expect any of your learners to work in a medium or technique that you cannot do yourself. Learners find inspiration from you and respect you much more when working with them on your own artworks. I know that this becomes difficult as you spend most of your time helping and guiding them in their process, which results in you not being able to finish your own work.
Many hours go into research, trying out new techniques and then finally introducing them to your learners.
Grade 8 and 9 Learners (13 - 14 years) and grade 10 - 12 (16 - 19)
Grade 10 - 12 Visual Art (age 16 - 18)
In South Africa, specialisation in Art only starts in grade 10.
In grade 10 and 11, learners are exposed to different mediums/media and techniques.
Grade 10 starts off with drawing and different drawing techniques. What I try and do is to link whatever they are currently doing in History of Art, with their practical art. Sometimes this works, other times, not.
For me, it is essential that you plan your practical briefs as to the end result you want your learners to achieve. Sometimes teachers do not plan this well, thus leaving themselves and their learners disheartened by the end product.
Grade 11 is a continuation of different techniques and media. It is vital that teachers should expose their learners to different techniques and media as they are individuals and will show more interest in one media than another. I love this individuality and would never want my learners to be labled, "all their work looks the same". The things I do strive for, is quality, pride and a hunger to do even better. This can be tiresome for the teacher and sometimes one feels like giving up with your learners. I would like to urge you, don't settle for mediocrity. Allways try and stretch them to achieve the next milestone. I always find grade 11 learners difficult. It is as if they go into their own zone and everything you try and do is met with resistance. Towards the latter part of grade 11 year, I start to challange them with concept. This tends to wake them up again, sometimes not. The most famous statement in my classroom during this time is, " This is so cliche". I try not to use this word "cliche" anymore, I do try, but oh my, it is difficult. Please bare in mind, I do teach only boys!
Grade 12 is a wonderful year, that is if they wake up from their "slumber" stage. This year is their spesialisation year, they choose the mediums/media that they want to work in, with my assistance. This is vital for any teacher. You should know by this time what your learners are good at. Saying that, some learners do find this decision difficult.
It is important that the teacher choose themes that are open ended and that makes them think. My personal point of few on this matter is that learners need to connect with these themes on a personal level. In some instances it can be used as art therapy for them. If they can be bold enough to open themselves, you will be amazed at the new level of knowing your learners.
A word about honesty.
My own philosophy on the subject of honesty is that I am brutally honest with my learners. I have been known to be overly critical, which can be a bad thing. I have through the years found some balance in this regard. I always ask my learners what type of honesty/dishonesty they want from me. These are the type of questions I ask them: Do you want me to be honest with you regarding the work that you have delivered, or do you want me to lie to you and tell you that you have done amazing work and then I reward you with a bad mark (grading).
Most of the time the learner will tell you that they want your honesty. All I can say on is, let your honesty be something that builds them up positively and challange them to do better.
The correct foundation needs to be established with the younger learners.
I start off with drawing on the Right side of the brain. I have found Bette Edwards's book to be extremely useful. What does this method achieve ? It makes learners realise that they cannot talk whilst they are drawing. Speech is situated in the left sphere of the brain - art is a right sphere activity. This sets the tone for working in class. I will play music that does not contain lyrics to create a peaceful atmosphere in class. I do lots of mirror image drawings and upside down line drawings with my learners. But more on this matter that you will find on other pages.