Wednesday, April 14, 2004


"The most common form of improvisation is ordinary speech. As we talk and listen, we are drawing on a set of building blocks (vocabulary) and rules for combining them (grammar). These have been given to us by our culture, but the sentences we make with them may never have been said before and may never be said again. Every conversation is a form of jazz. The activity of instantaneous creation is as ordinary to us as breathing". P. 17

Stephan Nachmanovitch
GP Putnams 1990

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

"In the many courses and workshops I have taught over a career of forty years, the greatest concern, shared by neophyte and advanced artist alike, is the fear of being seen as uncreative. Most people can bear the embarrassments of being unskillful or uninformed. These qualities are to be expected in an educational setting, and their very lack is the reason for the student and the teacher being present in the first place. But the trait of creativity seems to be held as a matter of character or intelligence or both. To search our inner self and come up with something that has been on the shelf for quite some time is seen as a sign of fundamental lack in our basic makeup--bad enough in general company, devastating in the company of artists. More skill and more information will not remedy this damning condition. As a consequence our attention is distracted from the real task of art; saying what we know and how it feels, nothing less and nothing more. Instead, we are forever furtively looking at the work of our peers, measuring the distinctiveness of our marks by what other people seem to be doing, though they are more probably measuring their marks against what we seem to be doing.

Since everybody has a life that is unimaginable to anyone else, it looks as if everyone else is being incredibly creative, in contrast to our own work which looks incredibly familiar. (As of course it must look, because if it was not familiar, how could we possibly have been its author?) Making the fatal mistake of taking “otherness” or distinctiveness, for creativity commits us to a competition impossible to win.” pp.75-76

Peter London
Making Art in Dialogue with the Natural World
Boston: Shambalah Publishers 2003

Saturday, April 10, 2004

There are many wonderful outcomes for both students and teachers using the choice concept of teaching:

1. The choice teacher is freed from trying to think of a “clever” idea that will engage every student. Instead students are told that artists make art about things that fascinate them. When doing the work of the artist students will be expressing their own ideas.
2. When students chose the work they are self-motivated; most behavior problems disappear and the quality of the finished work is quite good.
3. When students are working independently the teacher has time to observe students, determining needs that can be met in future demonstrations.
4. Students can work at their own speed. Some students work on a painting or weaving for four or five weeks while others may use more than one center in a class period. Students have the opportunity to try something over and over again, leading to mastery.
5. The choice teacher can introduce something new every week, even though some art works will take much longer to complete as the students work independently.
6. Students see an enormous variety of ideas and techniques at the end of class when amazing discoveries are shared.
7. Choice teaching encourages independent thinking, persistence and risk-taking, all qualities valued by practicing artists.
8. Where supply budgets are slim, the choice teacher can order just a few of each item. For instance, there are rarely more than 6 students painting at any one time. We can offer these painters 2’ by 3’ 90 pound paper and better quality brushes. This would be impossible if every student had to paint.
9. Most students choose experiences in each of the centers over the time that they are in our schools; however, even if a child never makes a tapestry weaving, she has observed the teacher demonstration, seen the vocabulary and background material in the fiber area and perhaps watched her best friend creating a piece of fabric. There is a lot of learning going on there too!
10. When students have chosen their work, they can discuss it easily, can describe their working process and false starts and usually evaluate the effectiveness of the finished work.
11. Time is used very efficiently; the initial five-minute demonstration and the brief clean up time leaves more time for student work. Additional detailed instruction is given to the small groups choosing the demonstrated topic as they work.

Katherine M. Douglas 2004

Friday, April 09, 2004

“One of the most important services teachers and school administrators can perform is public education…the education of the public outside of schools, parents and members of the community…If the public misconceives the educational functions of the arts, if it believes they are a diversion from what is really important, arts educators will have a hard time securing the resources they need to provide really substantive arts programs to students.

“How can such a form of public education go forward? One way is to help the community understand the forms of thinking reflected in students’ work in the arts…what contributes to such understanding is the design of what I have called the educationally interpretive exhibition. Most exhibitions of children’s art are modeled after a gallery display; the best works are usually displayed with nothing more than the child’s name, grade and school provided. What I have suggested is the creation of educationally interpretive exhibitions that explain to viewers the features of the work on display and describe the forms of thinking that the child had to engage in to create such work…this could include the child’s interpretation and appraisal of his or her own work. “

Elliot Eisner
The Arts and the Creation of Mind
New Haven: Yale University Press
pages 174-175

Thursday, April 08, 2004


“… the importance of choice is often weighed against the fact that children need some structure or limits for their behavior, if not for their learning. Once again, this point may be accurate but does not justify much of what educators actually do. ‘The critical question,’ as Thomas Gordon has put it, ‘is not whether limits and rules are needed… but rather who sets them: the adults alone or the adults and kids – together.’ Before depriving children of choice, then, an educator is obliged to demonstrate not that they need some kind of structure but that there is some reason to exclude them from helping to shape that structure. The crucial difference between structures and limits, on the one hand, and control and coercion, on the other, has generally gone unrecognized.”

Alfie Kohn, “Choices for Children: Why and How to Let Students Decide,” Phi Delta Kappan, September, 1993

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

“Rather than remain passive recipients – even victims – of what their institutions deal to them, teachers who lead help to shape their own schools and thereby, their own destinies as educators. The teacher who leads gets to sit at the table with grownups as a first class citizen in the schoolhouse rather than remain the subordinate in a world full of subordinates. The teacher who leads enjoys variety, even relief, from the relentless tedium of the classroom. An abundance of worthy, very different educational challenges awaits every teacher beyond the walls of the classroom.”
Roland S. Barth, The Teacher Leader, (Providence: The Rhode Island Foundation, 1999)

Monday, April 05, 2004

“… the arts teach children that their personal signature is important and that answers to questions and solutions to problems need not be identical. There is, in the arts, more than one interpretation of a musical score, more than one way to describe a painting or a sculpture, more than one appropriate form for a dance performance, more than one meaning for a poetic rendering of a person or a situation. In the arts diversity and variability are made central. This is one lesson that education can learn from the arts.”

“Intrinsic satisfaction in the process of some activity is the only reasonable predictor that the activity will be pursued by the individual voluntarily, that is, when the individual is able to make a choice about an activity. It’s no great victory to learn to do something that one will choose not to do when given the choice. There is a substantial difference between what a student can do and what a student will do. It is what a student will do, it is in the dispositional or motivational aspects of behavior, that the significant consequences of schooling emerge. The cultivation of conditions that promote intrinsic satisfactions is a way to increase the probability that such dispositions will be developed.”
Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind (New Haven: Yale U. Press, 2002)

Sunday, April 04, 2004


“Now I am going to describe my dream for an art classroom. Please envision this room with me. There would be clay on a large table with rolling pins and other tools. In that corner I see wood scraps with hammer and nails, glue guns and junk materials that companies throw away. Against that wall, there would be tempera paint with house paint brushes and newsprint spread across the wall for group mural painting. (Rolls of newsprint are free from any newspaper office.) Perhaps large tables for individual painting of various sizes. And then in this corner, I see crayons, pencils, chalk, paper, string and glue, plus a computer with McDraw or Adobe Illustrator. These children are allowed to choose how they want to interpret their ideas.

I hear music in the background. Israeli music on this day. Native American music another day. Opera will be played next week. They don’t hear this kind of music in band class. Music is also part of the arts and studies have shown that Beethoven encourages creative thinking.

In this dream, I can see that art projects would include information on history, science, geography, and other cultures. We all learn new information by connecting or attaching it to the familiar. Therefore, these projects will be brought back to the personal so that each child can identify with them.”

Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, NAEA Keynote Address, Houston, 1995

Saturday, April 03, 2004

“MY own feeling is that we should start with the student and his or her personal, creative, and expressive art work and bring in all of these art-related aspects – multiculturalism, art history, art criticism, intellectual aspects and the like – as they may be needed to extend the student’s frame of reference, our principal objective being the whole student’s growth and development in all seven areas that are involved in creative art expression. What a simple solution! And it makes teaching art fun again as I enjoyed it for 44 years!

Letter from Dr. John A. Michael, November 2002 Art Education

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