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Why I Pick My Battles in the Art Room Wisely

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With the extremely cold and long winter we had this year, it seemed like the beginning of 4th quarter would never arrive. Before I knew it, it was the last day of 3rd quarter and I couldn’t have been more excited to get a new group of students.

A new group of students means a fresh start. One of my favorite things to do at the beginning of the quarter is an interest survey . With the implementation of TAB, an interest survey is even more valuable than in the past. The interest survey is an important resource used to guide students as they make choices in the art room.

I started 4th quarter like other quarters, with students filling out interest surveys during one of their first art classes. After reading and explaining the questions on the survey to my students, it was time for them to answer the questions. As I walked around the room, I noticed many students were feverishly filling out their answers. Others, were carefully reflecting and taking their time to provide honest and personal answers. A few weren’t filling out the surveys at all.

I approached one of these students who wasn’t filling out the survey, and I asked him if he wanted me to read the questions out loud to help him fill out the survey. (Sometimes I have a small group sit with me at the back table and read the questions out loud to them.) He responded, “I can’t fill it out because I don’t like any classes at school.” (The first question of the survey is “What is your favorite class in school.”)

At this moment I decided to pick my battle wisely and accommodate. I told this particular student to move onto the next section, “hobbies.” Ultimately, the purpose of the assignment was to get to know my students’ likes and dislikes. The survey is used to help them brainstorm ideas for projects. Did it really matter to me if he didn’t answer the first four questions? No, not really.

Had I pushed this particular boy into answering the first question, I would have added to the reason why he doesn’t have an answer to what classes he likes. This boy doesn’t particularly even like school. Had I required him to answer all the questions on his paper, he would have shut down. He wouldn’t have moved on to the second section, the hobby section, where he wrote about his love for basketball.

As I reflect on encounters like this, I’m reminded why I believe it’s important to pick our battle as educators. Sometimes, we need to make accommodations and change exceptions. As difficult and “unfair” as that is for other students, it is what’s best for kids. My motto is, “What is fair isn’t always equal and what is equal isn’t always fair.” I’m going to give my students what they need, and my students’ needs aren’t always the same.
 

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How do you pick your battles in your classroom?

What are the outcomes when you do?

 
 
 

Cassidy Reinken is Director of K-12 Curriculum for The Art of Education University.

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