I’ve been neglectful.

I haven’t written for weeks. I’ve had a lot to talk about. Too much, and sometimes I don’t know what would be wise to share here.

The biggest news is that I may not teach here in this town again next year. At the middle school they are changing the types of students I would teach. They would all be “intervention” students. That would mean nothing but students who are doing very poorly academically, or students who cannot speak English yet. None of the typical students would have the opportunity to take art. I find so many things wrong with this, not the least of which is that my opinion was never asked. The Principal simply told me that this is the plan they are putting before the school board. He also has made it clear on a number of occasions that he wants art to be a fun sequence of projects that form a survey of art techniques, content standards be damned. Essentially, give the kids an easy A.

A special ed aide at the high school suggests that this might even be illegal, combining all of one type of student into classes and excluding others. I can see how.

First, it may ignore Section 504 law and the concept of Least Restrictive Environment. I’m thinking that the school calls a student “intervention” when they cannot or will not go through the lengthy process of establishing Special Education status to a student and providing an IEP.

Second, it sends all the ESL students into the same class. Sure, I’d be teaching in English, but the students would all be conversing amongst themselves in Spanish. This does not contribute to the learning of English.

Third, I have enough behavior problems in my largest class without this kind of complication. I could end up with up to 27 individual behavioral problems for each period. I was not offered more money to teach solely special students.

Fourth, I want to teach the standards. Art is so much more than making fun things. I want to challenge their minds, help them see connections, know how art affects the whole world. This Principal does not support that. He wants broad, not deep.

Fifth, what about the students who want art but could not take it any more because they are doing fine academically? What kind of sense does it make that they could not take art? How would they get the benefits that visual arts can give them? There might be a music class they can take next year, maybe.

Ah, well. The drive is getting pretty exhausting, not to mention gas prices and wear and tear on my car. I called the school where I worked last year part time, and they may have me back full time next year. I need to call the Principal again in June. In the mean time, I will look around.

More musings soon.

By Dawn Pedersen

Science advocate, web designer, educator, artist, and mommy.

2 replies on “I’ve been neglectful.”

Hi Dawn,

I’ve followed your blog only for a short time, and I am usually not one to post comments. I believe it is time for an exception.

First and foremost I want to complement you on this blog project you have. I find it to be informative, and I have even adapted a few of your assignments for my own use. I, too, am a teacher of art.

I am in my 23rd year of teaching, but these are not all traditional art teaching years. For more than a decade I taught computer graphics and multimedia design & development. Most of my teaching experience is on the high school level; however, I spent the past two and a half years teaching at a middle school. Most recently I have studied School Administration so that I may transition into an assistant principal’s position. Having said that, I want to mention a few things.

I hope you keep doing what you are doing, because your posts lead me to believe you are a tremendous teacher. You spend a great deal of time developing projects for your students and you put a lot of energy into reflective professionalism. These are some of the qualities of a great teacher.

I would me interested in knowing if you teach in a public or private school. At times I get the impression that this is a private school, but your recent post that refers to 504s and IEPs leads me to believe that you serve a public school. I ask this only because the situation described in this post has the potential to yield different results based on the type of school in which you teach. Although you should know that the special education laws do not always apply to elective classes [such as art] as they do in core classes. For example, you are not always required to have an assistant when you have large numbers of special education students. The theory behind this is classes such as the arts are not as academically taxing as the core four classes. I don’t know that I agree with the theory, nonetheless, it is as it is.

Middle schools have very different rules and regulations than high schools. I teach in the state of Maryland and we have guidelines we know as COMAR [Code of Maryland Regulations]. COMAR, as it applies to education, mandates that students at the middle and high school levels have specific credits towards matriculation. COMAR also puts in place guidelines and restrictions for student classes and credits in all curricular areas. For example, all students in Maryland high schools must have a full credit of fine arts in order to graduate; however, this credit may be earned in visual art, music, drama, or dance. Perhaps your state has a similar set of codes? If this is the case, you will find the answers to many of the questions and concerns you post here.

I wish for you luck as you make adjustments in your teaching career. If I can be of any assistance at all, feel free to send me a note via email. In the mean time, I hope you continue to thrive and grow as a teacher. I would be disappointed to know your talent was wasted.

Best regards,

Hi Wrae!

Oh, I certainly plan to keep teaching. I just don’t want to keep teaching at this school district if this is what is in store for me. And once I started doubting whether I would teach 44 miles away, I started feeling the relief of not having to drive that distance and back every day.

I teach at public schools. For the most part, it’s been a fantastic experience. I’m starting to look at opportunities closer to home for next year. Fortunately, I am also considered “highly qualified” to teach English and technology. Six more college units, and I can tack science on there as well (I hope to have these units completed by fall.)

Thank you so much for your compliments and thoughtful response.

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