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No matter how you are feeling about this school year—whether you are apprehensive or you are excited about being back—setting goals for yourself can be a meaningful exercise that can help your teaching. Listen as Tim talks about finding worthwhile goals, seeing how you can grow in your teaching practice, and how the pursuit of those goals can help you at every step along the way. Full Episode Transcript Below.
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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. Before we get started today, I wanted to put a call out to everyone, we’re going to ask you to share your stories. Before I give you details on that, I did want to say thank you for all of your questions about professionalism and what new teachers need to know. A lot of new teachers wrote in with really good questions, pretty entertaining questions, and a lot of experienced teachers wrote in with stories about things they wish they would’ve known, and they shared their wisdom and their advice. So next week, we will have an episode with Janet Taylor joining me, and we’ll talk about what new teachers need to know about professionalism. Really excited for that episode.
And because we got such a good response to that, I wanted to ask everybody to share one more time, as we are going to do a Halloween episode on art teacher horror stories. Now, we want you to share some of the scariest or weirdest or worst things that have happened to you in the art room. Take just a second to think about that one, and see if that’s a story that you want to share. But a quick caveat with that, these need to be things that you can laugh about now, okay? Nothing terribly depressing or terribly horrific, just the most hilariously awful things that can serve as a horror story for an audience of art teachers.
So you can share those via email with me, Timothybogatz@theartofeducation.edu, or DM me @TimBogatz on Twitter. Maybe the best way though is we have a form that you can fill out, and you can share your stories via writing or recording an audio clip, and I will link that form in the show notes, and you can also find it on AOEU’s social media. So yeah, let me know your horror stories, and we’re going to put together hopefully a good Halloween episode.
Now, as for today’s episode, I wanted to do something quick. Well, we all know how I get to talking sometimes, but the original goal is to make this quick, but wanted to talk briefly about the topic of goals and what your goals are for this year, and I want you to just take a second to think about this question. What should your goals be for this school year?
Now, we’re coming back into school after a couple very difficult years, and there’s a big dichotomy of attitudes as we go back into school. Some people are loving being back in the classroom this year, as it feels like we can get back to a lot of things we know and love about teaching. It’s invigorating, it’s exciting, but other people are still really feeling the effects of the last couple years, and they’re continuing to struggle. They’re burnt out, they feel like teaching is very difficult, and I understand that. And no matter where you are, whether you’re at either end of that spectrum, or whether you’re somewhere in the middle, those feelings are valid, there’s no one right way to feel.
And if we think about that in relation to goals, it can be tough. If you’re having a difficult time, maybe your goal is just to make it to winter break and spend some time in December and January recharging, and then come back stronger in the second semester, and that’s a fine goal. That might be exactly what you need. And I don’t know if the rest of this episode is going to be for you, like this is going to be a great listen right now, but maybe you find something in the next 15 minutes that intrigues you or piques your interest, something small that you want to work on, or something that can help you over the next couple of months enjoy teaching more, or making your life easier, or just helping you get through to that goal of winter break.
But if you’re enjoying being back at school and you’re finding that joy in teaching again, I think it is worth thinking about how you can continue to get better, and spend some time reflecting on the areas that you want to improve, because it’s important, I think, to consistently find ways to grow in your teaching practice. We are lifelong learners, there are so many opportunities out there, and the more you’re learning, the more you have things that you’re trying to improve, the less likely you are to get stagnant, to feel like you’re just spinning your wheels. If you’re having these goals, if you’re having these things that you can work toward, you’re going to feel so much better about going in every day, and it really can improve what you’re doing, improve how you’re feeling, and just improve how you’re relating to kids.
And when you set goals, when you think about goals, it allows you to focus on specific areas where you want to get better, and I can’t decide that for you, your principal can’t decide that for you. That’s something that you need to choose, you need to decide, you need to reflect on, like what interests you, what do you want to explore more? What ideas might work in your classroom? How do you want to get better? And as you’re thinking about that or reflecting on that, those ideas or those goals can come from anywhere. You may just look back at last year, or three years ago, or whatever, and think about what you did or didn’t do in your classroom. Think about how you can get better at something. You can think back to conversations with your colleagues, learning about what they’re doing, seeing what is happening in their classrooms. Or you can think about advice your principal gave you, or a new strategy that you read about or heard about, or anything else. Just think, what interests you? What do you want to get better at? What do you want to know more about?
And when you put your thoughts and your reflections and your conversations with other people together, that might point you in the direction you need. You might just find the area that you want to focus on for this school year. And like I said, that could be anywhere. I spent a little bit of time myself reflecting on just goals that I’ve had in previous school years, things that I wanted to work on, wanted to improve. I want to talk just a little bit about how I did some of those, I guess, and just share a few ideas in case that possibly piques your interest, or gives you a little bit of direction as far as goals that you may want to take on or things that might work for your classroom, but like I said, that is a decision that you have to make. The ideas can come from anywhere, but you’re the only one who knows what is going to work best for you.
But I spent a lot of summers and a lot of school years trying to get better at a particular medium. I really disliked watercolor for a long time, but then one school year, I decided, “You know what? I am going to get better at watercolor,” and so I wanted to show my students that I was taking on this challenge as well, and so I checked out some books from the library, because I’m old school like that. I bought myself some new supplies, I watched a bunch of videos, and just worked and worked and worked, and got better at watercolor. And it was a little struggle, I didn’t enjoy it all, but once I got through doing all of that and sort of improved my skills, and got a little bit more confident, I learned to appreciate watercolor a lot more. I got better at teaching watercolor, and I got more excited about teaching watercolor, which, as we know, is going to make your kids more excited, and just doing that in turn helps them a lot.
And so maybe your goal is to learn a new medium, or just practice with a particular medium to improve your skill, and that is an incredible goal, it’s completely worthwhile. And maybe there’s something that you want to get better at within your own teaching, just what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis and how you’re interacting with your kids. It can be something really small, like focusing on wait time. So when you’re asking a question, your kids have enough time to think about it, to process, to formulate a response, and to respond. I always felt the pressure of trying to get too much done within a particular class period, and so I’d move so quickly through, and I wasn’t giving kids wait time to think about what I’m asking them, but that was somewhere where I needed to improve, and eventually I did, just because when you think about it, when you pay attention to it, when you focus on it while you’re teaching, soon enough, you’re going to be so much better at wait time, or at whatever thing that you’re trying to improve.
And maybe you want to go bigger than that. Maybe you want to do something like, “I really want to have better classroom management,” or “I want to create a more welcoming environment for my students.” And if you set a goal like that, just know that is a lot, those are big goals, so you will need to break that down a little bit more. But once you break that down, you’ll know what you need to focus on, and that’s what makes it doable. So just if you can go through this thought exercise with me, let’s say you want to work on classroom management. Huge goal, you’re going to need to break it down, and maybe you just break it down by what happens during any particular class period.
And so your first goal is to get better at greeting students at the door, and so you just make sure every day you’re out there saying “Hi,” asking them “Who’s excited for art class?” Telling them what you’re excited about, what’s going on today, and just getting everybody really excited, calling them by name, welcoming them into your classroom. Then once you have that down, you start thinking about how can we make their entrance into the classroom a little bit organized? Can they just grab their supplies, sit down, work? Do they need to get their sketchbooks out? And just figure out that process of what you want them to do. Teach them exactly what you want them to do, follow through on that, that’s your next goal. And once you feel like you’re good at greeting students at the door and you’ve got their entrance organized, move on.
Maybe your goal is to make sure that your expectations and plans are on the board every day. Do that for a few weeks until you get into that habit, you’ve met that goal. And from there, you move on to, I don’t know, working on your anticipatory set to make sure your lesson starts off well, make sure kids are hooked at the beginning of what you’re teaching, and then you’re working on engaging all of your students, and then you’re working on wait time, and then your demos, and then passing out… And just go piece by piece by piece, and at each step along the way, you’re going to get better at classroom management, and I think that that’s something that’s really worthwhile.
And I guess I want to talk a little bit more about this later, but I think if you do pick out one of those huge goals, just realize that you can’t tackle it all at once. This is going to be an ongoing process, but each step along the way, you’re going to get better, and so you’re going to be constantly working toward that goal. Like I said, we’ll talk a little bit more about that.
And I guess the other thing that I wanted to chat about was PRO Learning from AOEU, because there’s so much there for art teachers, just it’s incredible PD for art teachers. No matter what your goal is, we have ways to help you learn about all different aspects of art teaching, learn about all different types of goals that you want to reach, and figure out how to get there. And I guess the reason I wanted to share it just really quickly is I’m super excited about these new resources that just came out.
So as you may or may not know, there are different learning packs with all different videos, resources, and everything you need to know about all different topics. But there’s some new resources, there’s one that’s a pack readiness survey that allows teachers to kind of reflect on prior knowledge before they jump into that new learning or jump into that new goal. There’s a pack guide that helps keep all of your learning organized, even if you’re jumping in and out of a particular pack, all of that can stay organized. And then there’s a pack reflection that can help you create a really specific plan to implement your new learning. You figure out what you’re learning and figure out exactly how that’s going to go into your classroom, like “How does this art history idea fit into second period?” Or “How can I teach this specific technique to drawing and painting two?” Or whatever class, and it just allows you to kind of make that learning your own, figure out how it’s going to work in your classroom.
And like I said, all of those sort of reflections and plans just fit in with what I’m always telling you, you hear me say that on the podcast all the time, reflection is so important when we talk about our own learning. I think that that helps you sort of meet your goals as far as whatever it is that you’re trying to do. So let me share a few more ideas, and like I said, maybe some of these will pique your interest.
Maybe your goal is to communicate better with parents. Maybe you want to get better about communicating via email, or making more phone calls home, or starting a newsletter and sharing what’s going on in your classroom. Any of those things can be worthwhile. Maybe you want to find ways to collaborate with your colleagues, either art colleagues or just building colleagues from different subjects. There are so many things you can do, whether it be classroom management, like we just talked about, seeing what other teachers are doing with their expectations, with how they grade students, with how they start classes, things like that, there’s a lot to learn from your colleagues.
Maybe it is subject-specific and you find a really exciting project that you can collaborate on. Those are incredibly worthwhile goals. Maybe you’re thinking about advocacy, and that can be anything super small, like “I want to hang work in the halls more often so teachers can see what we’re doing,” or “I want all of the classroom teachers to read the artist statements that my students are doing, so I’m going to make sure I hang artist statements with our work.” Little goals like that are great. Huge goals are also great. Maybe it goes all the way up to putting on an art show that has a lot of community involvement. Things like that can be incredibly worthwhile. Like I said, it just kind of depends on what your goals are as a teacher, and just kind of think about what you’re ready for and what you may want to accomplish.
Maybe it’s something to kind of think about your physical space. One year, my goal was just to kind of calm down everything that was happening in my classroom. I felt like I had too many artworks, I had too much color, I had too much information, I had too much clutter all over the place, and I felt like it was kind of affecting my students’ learning. And if I can do another quick aside, sorry, we’re turning this into not that short of an episode, as I knew would happen, but if you’re on social media at all, especially if you’re on Instagram, you see just more and more really heavily decorated spaces, and to me, it just feels like this unrelenting stream of color and themes, and just stimuli everywhere. And as an art teacher, I love it, but also I have concerns. I don’t know if that’s always the best for our students.
The art teacher in me appreciates the ambition, appreciates how impressive a lot of that stuff is, but I worry. Color is good, patterns are great, information is great, but I have the fear that it can be too much. I think it can be overstimulating, I think it can be distracting, and maybe it’s worth it to help engage some kids to create a space that you love.
But for me, when I was feeling like my room was too cluttered, too busy, too much going on, I tried to look more into it, and when I did look, I found a lot of information that told me that a calm classroom… And when I say “A calm classroom,” thinking calm colors, less stimulation, more organization, more labeling, more order, more adaptability, all of those things that calm the environment, research shows that that helps kids focus and work and pay attention, and I saw that bear out in my classroom.
And so if I can bring that back to goals, I would say if that interests you and you want to learn more, a really good place to start, there was an article a couple months ago by Andrea Wlodarczyk who wrote about… I think it was called 27 Ways to Design an Inviting and Flexible Art Room, or something along those lines. But if you’re interested in exploring more about the idea of a calm classroom, an inviting classroom, a flexible classroom, and that’s a goal for you, that might be a good place to start.
And just going back to that idea of working toward a big goal, that idea of room design was something that interested me for a long time, something that’s a really slow process. If you’re going to create a goal that is to redesign your classroom or your studio or your art space, that’s not something that happens overnight. And so just going back to that point I made before, you want to, I think, process your goals or plan out your goals as something that’s going to be ongoing, something that you’re working toward over the long term. And that idea may not fit into what’s expected from our SMART goals or things like that, because it’s not specific or measurable or timed or whatever, but maybe that’s okay. If you need to turn it into a SMART goal, go for it, but I think it’s okay to let it be also. I think the idea of getting better at something or slowly improving at something is one that we can consistently work toward.
What is it they say about the journey and the destination? And I feel like I’ve never gotten to the place where I say, “I’m good enough at drawing, might as well be done with this.” That’s something that I’m always going to be working on, and that’s okay, and it’s the same thing with teaching. There’s always something to improve, something to get better at, a new challenge to take on, a new idea to follow, a new strategy to try.
So I think, to wrap this up, like I said, you will just need to figure out what that goal is. Depending on your needs, maybe it’s big, maybe it’s small, but you will just need to figure out how you can work toward it during this school year. After some reflection, after some thought, you will find something worthwhile that you want to do, a goal that is worth pursuing for you, and as you work to that goal, you’re going to become a better teacher at every step along the way.
Art Ed Radio is produced by The Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Send me, please, your art teacher horror stories. You can look for that form in the show notes or on AOEU’s social media pages, and we will be back next week with Janet Taylor and what new teachers need to know about professionalism.
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.