Teaching with Contemporary Art

Getting Around

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Contemporary art education often asks teachers to be in many places and stages at once. This is just part of the deal if you’re going to teach with and about contemporary art. In one corner there may be students working on a series of paintings while in another students are working with mixed-media to create a three-dimensional sculpture…. all within the same assignment. If the teacher isn’t careful it can be easy to spend most of the time with those constantly asking for help, or worse, with a small few doing anything they can to avoid working altogether.

Over the past few years I have begun to establish a rhythm for circulating throughout my classroom in order to level the playing field a bit when it comes to one-on-one time with students. Rather than race all over the room, I give students an idea of the direction I’ll be circulating each day and unless there is some kind of an emergency they are reminded to wait until I arrive at their table for feedback and discussion. Each day I start at a different table and each day I try to come up with a different direction of travel around the room. Most of the time I’ll start with the group I feel needs help right out of the gate and then begin visiting tables one at a time in an effort to talk with all groups during class. While there are plenty of instances where I may have to break stride and visit a student or group ahead of time (or a second time), it’s become extremely helpful for students to know at the start of class when I will be visiting with them and what I expect each student to accomplish as class progresses.

Getting ready for the start of the school year, I’m anxious to try new ideas and incorporate improvements to different units and lessons. Keeping things straight when it comes to getting around my own classroom helps remind me to keep working with all students and not be too distracted by my most vocal artists.

Contributor
Joe Fusaro is the senior education advisor for Art21, and has written Art21’s “Teaching with Contemporary Art” column since 2008. He is an exhibiting artist and visual arts chair for the Nyack Public Schools in New York; and an adjunct instructor for New York University’s Graduate Program in Art and Arts Professions.

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