Coming from the high school level to the elementary, there were vast differences. The pace of the day, the work load, and the management was something that was constantly ongoing. In elementary, classes are shorter, there are more in a day, and the many materials must be prepped and ready to go. In terms of management, there is always something going on so it is necessary to always be actively observing and taking care of any issues that arise. At first, it was tough getting use to those differences. However, once I was able to pace myself I was able to truly enjoy all that elementary students have to offer.
At this age, students are still excited to create and take more risks. My cooperating teacher, Susan, and I have very similar teaching philosophies, so we were able to provide very student-centered projects. Leaving the projects more open-ended gave the students the chance to really create work that was meaningful to them and take many risks with their art work. It was great to hear the many ideas each student had when it came to their projects.
Susan really emphasizes the play aspect of art at the elementary level and allows students to enjoy the process, so I was able to really incorporate that same philosophy into my own lessons. It was nice to see a space that students really took in as their own and freely explored various ideas and skills. I was impressed by the level of art skills, technological skills, and innovation that these students had. Overall, I felt all the projects throughout my time were really successful and engaging.
In terms of management, I was much more confident coming into my second placement and understood better how to interact with students. From day one I felt comfortable with this age group and addressing any issues as they came. Susan gave me a lot of advice on how to manage groups and individuals.
The main thing I struggled with was coming up with many lessons that were shorter for the younger age groups. I often sought advice from Susan and got help to teach interesting and short lessons. If I ever teach elementary in the future, I will need to plan activities for ahead of time so that I am making sure there are enough lessons to engage learners throughout the year.
Another thing I would change is focusing more on assessment. Though I was incorporating assessment in each lesson, I had much less structure this time around. If I was teaching on my own, I would have found it very hard to assess students without actively using a rubric and specific criteria to grade upon.
Overall, I really enjoyed my elementary placement and have a huge respect for elementary art teachers. I now realize how organized, patient, prepared, positive, and productive they have to be in order to see success in their class. There was never a dull day and the energy and creativity of the students made each day worth being there.