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With schools closed everywhere, this end to the school year is unique. And difficult. Teachers and students everywhere are missing out on their last pieces of learning and their final goodbyes. In this episode, Tim shares some of his thoughts on wrapping up the year, what we can do to help ourselves and our students, and ideas for the summer and fall. Full Episode Transcript Below.
Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by The Art of Education University. And I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.
Now we are coming to the close of the school year. I know as this episode comes out, some places are in their last week of school. Some places still have a month to go, but I want to talk about today just some concerns and considerations, some ideas on how we end the year right. We’re obviously in a really tough spot right now. We are in uncharted territory with distance learning, with online learning, and I’ve seen a lot of people cleaning rooms, closing up rooms. And I think it’s hitting a lot of us that we aren’t going to be seeing kids again this year. And I think that’s something that we probably all knew in our hearts, but as you go into shut down your room and clean everything up, it’s finalized. It kind of crystallizes in our mind that fact that we aren’t going to see our kids again this year.
And so we need to turn our attention on how to wrap things up this year. And the question keeps coming back to me is how do we know the best way to do things? How do we know the best way to wrap up the year? And we don’t. I mean, again, this is something we’ve never gone through. And so we don’t have best practices. We don’t know the best way to do things, but I just wanted to take some time to share today a few things that I’ve been thinking about, some things to consider for the end of the year and for the beginning of next. So just a few thoughts that I had today.
So first off, I think it’s going to be really important for us to continue to build relationships with our kids. Just in a classroom, the relationship is just so vital between teachers and students. And obviously it’s hard right now to end the year and it may be hard to start next year, depending on how things go without a fist bump or a high five or even a hug, and you can’t look your kids in the eye right now. We can do our best with Zoom or however you’re meeting, however you’re seeing your kids but we know it’s not the same, and we’re not able to give kids the goodbyes they deserve, the goodbye we want to give them.
So for us, I think it feels like we won’t really have closure this year and that’s tough. And there are things we can do. Teachers everywhere are still doing a great job with relationships. Jen Russell was on the podcast a couple of weeks ago talking about all the things that she does to help stay connected with her kids. And there are things that we can do. Again, it’s not ideal, but obviously none of this is ideal. But whether you’re writing kids postcards or sending them notes or messages online or even just quick Zoom calls to hang out and let them know that you’re still there, you’re still thinking about them. You’re still caring about them. That’s huge. And like I said we’re not going to be able to send kids off the way we want to. Especially for high school teachers, we can’t send the seniors off the way they deserve, the way they’ve earned I am.
But we can think about the kids that we will have back next year. Most elementary teachers are going to see most of their same kids next year. Most high school teachers will have at least some of their kids back for the next year. And so I think it’s important that we continue to build those relationships.
And the next thing I’ve been thinking about, it kind of plays into that, we need to continue to help our kids, help our students in any way that we can. And not only for the end of this year, but for the beginning of next year as well. There are so many ways that districts and administrators and teachers are approaching how we do things with grades and lessons and attendance with our online learning. And sometimes you agree with that; sometimes you don’t. But again, this is the point I’m trying to make. We want to continue to help our students however we can.
So even if you don’t agree with how grades are being done, or you don’t agree with the directives about lessons or attendance with your online learning, there are still chances for you to help your students. And just a few ideas if your kids are struggling, if maybe there’s not the equity in your district that you need, if any sort of things are getting in the way of your kids learning. There are chances for you to help them. And just a few ideas, like I said, you can provide flexible deadlines on the assignments that you’re giving them. You can allow different options for the media that they’re working with. You can give them completion grades. You can excuse work if you need.
And I think the biggest thing is just minimizing how much new stuff the kids have to learn. If you can focus on reviews and enrichment opportunities, then that’s going to be a huge benefit because then you’re giving the kids who don’t have what they need an opportunity to keep up. But the kids who are looking for something more, they can find that with your enrichment opportunities, or if you just differentiate your reviews, like kids who are looking for something more, give them that chance but make sure that you’re not leaving some of your kids behind.
So there are million ways to help kids out and make sure that they can keep up with everything that you’re trying to do with your online learning.
Now, next step, I think it’s worth taking some time to figure out what you missed out on in your curriculum, what your kids missed out on with online learning. I know that there are teachers out there who were right in the middle of clay when maybe they got sent home when the schools closed and their classrooms filled with clay projects that still need to be fired, still needed to be glazed. And there are other projects that need to be finished up and they’re just sitting there and they probably are never going to get finished up. And that’s really disappointing. That’s heartbreaking to have to like go, maybe throw some of those projects away to recycle that clay. But the fact is you aren’t going to be able to get to what you planned. And so you need to start thinking about what you missed out on, what your kids missed out on, and what you’re going to need to catch up on.
And I think it all goes back to the fact that when schools closed, when we shifted to online learning, your curriculum changed dramatically, your students’ experience with learning changed dramatically. And we did an amazing job just as a whole of stepping up to the challenge of giving kids the learning they need, of providing them everything that we could. And it was a tough situation for us. It’s a tough situation for the kids, but everybody made the best of it. And we did some amazing things, and I don’t have any regrets. Nobody should have any regrets about what was taught.
We did the best we could with the situation that we were given, but it’s most likely that you missed out on some material. You probably skipped some specific projects. And so you need to start thinking about how am I going to make that up next year? What am I going to do next year? And you’re not going to be able to make up all of that time. You’re not going to be able to make up everything that you missed out on, but you can think a little bit differently about how you move forward when we are seeing kids again. And I think it’s worth thinking about how you organize your supplies, your resources, how you put things together to maybe help save some time, maybe catch up on some things in the fall.
So yeah, I think just putting everything together in your classroom as far as supplies go, like how can you organize them to make them readily available to kids? How can you make things set up and run in a way, your routines, your procedures, your supplies, that you’re minimizing the amount of time on cleanup, the amount of time on setup, on passing out materials. We don’t necessarily want to cram too many things in, but we do want to think about being efficient and trying to make up on some of those things that we missed out on.
And maybe you do shorten some materials, maybe not every medium needs to have an end project that shows all of their knowledge. Maybe it’s okay for kids to just experiment and practice with things that you want to learn and then move on to the next thing. There’s not one right way to do it, but I think it’s worth, like I said, spending some time on and thinking about what do your kids really need to know? How can we put all of that together? And how can we most efficiently teach them everything that we need to teach them?
Maybe you are playing catch up. Maybe you’re just saying it that few months is kind of lost for us and we’re just moving on from here. But I think it’s worth spending time reflecting on what you think is really important. How are you going to teach that to your kids? And as you’re thinking about that, I think it’s worth remembering that kids are always coming in to our art courses in different places. Kids are coming into intro courses with less experience from previous years. Some kids are coming in with more experience than previous years, but yet they’re all in the same place. And I think that that effect is going to be exacerbated. I think it’s going to be a little bit more drastic because there are some inherent limitations with what we could do and what we have done with our online learning.
And so I think we’re thinking about how are you going to respond to that? How are you going to be responsive to those circumstances? How can you be more intentional in your planning to help students get caught up from where they were and help kind of set them up for success as they’re moving into a new course. And whether that be an intro course, whether they’re moving into drawing two or painting three or ceramics, whatever they’re moving into just thinking about, do we have to spend some time catching up? What skills are going to be essential? What do I need to teach these kids before we can move on? And it may be a slower start to what you are used to, but I think spending some time as you wrap things up here and as we start planning for next year is going to be worthwhile and it’s going to be really helpful for your kids as well.
And then along those same lines, as you are starting to think about next year, I think it’s important to spend some time with your lessons, with your projects, with the essential things that kids need to know. And as much as I hate to say it, I think you need to be prepared for more online learning in the fall. The districts around me, I’m in Omaha. I’m in the middle of the country, but the districts around me are preparing for a few different scenarios.
One is a normal school year, easy enough. One is a mix of online learning and going back to school. Maybe some kids are there on some days. Other kids are there on other days. We don’t know exactly how it’s going to look, but you need to be ready for some sort of mix of online And in person learning. Third scenario that they’re talking about is going back to school like normal, but then being ready for, again, canceling for a couple of weeks or maybe even a month or longer than that at a time. If there is more of an outbreak, if the pandemic gets worse, we may need to shelter in place again.
And so maybe think about what lessons need to be done in person, what lessons can be done at home and just kind of sort them so you have something ready to go if that’s the case. And they’re also discussing a scenario where we are not back at school in the fall. And so you need to think about what does the beginning of the year look like if we can’t do it in person? What do our first few lessons look like if we are doing online learning? What lessons work best for online learning? Which lessons work either in person or online?
And maybe you’re just making a list and sorting things out where it goes. Yes, this is great, but it needs to be done in person. That goes in one section of your list. And if this works, okay. It could be either in person or online, that goes into another column. And maybe you have a handful of lessons that worked great, maybe things you’ve found over the past couple months or things that you thought, “Hey, maybe we can try this online if we need to in the future,” that can be a third list. And just thinking about where these things can go, which lessons are going to work best and preparing yourself for any situation.
And I know that’s tough to do. I know that’s really difficult to think about because there are just so many things running through your head right now. And the last thing anybody wants to do is be forced to do more online learning in the fall, but it is a reality. I mean, it is a very distinct possibility. And so I think just spending some time figuring out which lessons are going to work for you where will pay off really, really well in the fall.
So as you’re closing things up this year, think about what you missed out on, think about what your students missed out on, think about what has worked, what hasn’t, how you might approach things differently. And just spend a little bit of time reflecting, spend a little bit of time thinking ahead. And I think that’s really going to set us up well as we move back into the fall, no matter what that looks like.
And a lot of those same considerations are actually coming into play as we plan the Art Ed Now Conference, and I know you love hearing me talk about the Art Ed Now Conference all the time. But I’m just so excited about it. I think we’re going to be able to do some great things. But if we just look at that reality that I just talked about, we don’t know exactly what the conference is going to look like. It’s going to be happening in July. We know that. July 30th, but there’s so many possibilities for what schools are going to be going through in the fall. We don’t know exactly what the conference is going to look like.
And we’re trying to work through those possibilities where we’re chatting with presenters and just asking them to remain flexible as far as what they’re going to present on, what that’s going to look like. Are we addressing a bunch of teachers who are going back to school? Are we addressing a bunch of teachers who are going to be teaching online this fall? We just don’t know, but we want to be able to help everybody through whatever the situation is, just like we did at the webinar for the past few weeks. And all of the webinars we did, I think spoke to the moment and helped people in the time that we were in. And we’re going to try and do the same thing with the Art Ed Now Conference.
So if you want to see what it’s all about, what we have planned so far, you can check it out at artednow.com. And as we move through the summer, I’ll be able to talk more and more about what we’re trying to do, what kind of cool things we’re doing at the conference, but it’s definitely going to be worth your time. And we’ll definitely be a huge help to you as we head back to school in the fall. So make sure you check it out. Artednow.com.
Now just a couple of closing thoughts. The end of the school year is supposed to be about saying goodbye to your kids, getting a chance to process things with them, setting goals for next year and sharing all of your memories, and you’re not able to do that the way that you’re used to. More likely it’s looking like you’re cramming a bunch of stuff into boxes. Unfortunately, throwing away a few things from your classroom that maybe aren’t going to get back to your kids and then hoping desperately that you can get a few things back to them. And honestly not knowing what the fall is going to look like.
It’s disorganized right now. It’s messy, it’s hard. And you’re missing out on a lot of those little things. There’s no end of the year party. There’s no, like I said, closure. There’s no stories about things that had happened throughout the year. All the things that you’re used to doing with your kids. And we miss our kids. It’s tough. There are so many things happening right now that not saying the right goodbye seems kind of minor, but that doesn’t really make things any easier. And so I think the best we can do is, like I said earlier, try to stay connected the best we can, think about how you’re going to help your kids next year, how are you going to set them up for success, and just take all of this experience, the online learning, the feelings, the emotions, the new ways of connecting all of that and wrap it up into a learning experience for you and for your students that makes our connections next year that much more special and makes us ready to face whatever may come our way in the coming months.
I think that will do it for us. Art Ed Radio is produced by The Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you as always for listening. Stay safe, take care of yourself, and continue to take care of others. We’ll talk to you next week.
The NOW Conference is the world’s largest online conference for art educators! This one-day event (join us live or watch on-demand for an entire year) features 20+ inspiring and innovative TED TALK-style presentations covering topics that are relevant right NOW in Art Ed!