I make it a point to head to my art education professional conference every year. It is the one time a year where I receive professional development that is tailored toward me, as an art educator. It is also the one time a year I can hear from my art education colleagues state-wide. I hear many different amazing things going on in classrooms all over Wisconsin as well as connecting with art teachers all over Wisconsin. Here are the top three take-ways that I got from the conference this year!
1. Adaptive Art ideas by Kathryn Rulien-Bareis
The keynote on Thursday shared a way to create a paintbrush for our students that can’t grip normal paintbrushes.
First, take a rectangle made from shelf liner or several types of foam and cut fringes in one of the long sides. Then roll it up and put a rubber band on it. Pill bottles are a good option to finish off the handle. If it is slippery, add a rubber band to enhance the grip. More ideas here.
Simple and brilliant!
I’m not one to promote products but I have to say, I’m excited about the idea of these solid tempera paint sticks. I have a student in a wheelchair with a tray who has limited mobility. Dipping a paintbrush in water means having the water on the tray. For this student, sticks without the water may be a really great option for her!
Best new adaptive scissors idea ever:
2. Advocacy Calender
Jessica Balsley of Art of Education was our Friday keynote. She spoke on many subjects but one of her points stood out to me, create an advocacy calender. Art teachers are very busy people. But the idea is, for example, in September you focus on the students creating art advocacy projects and then maybe in October you present at a PTO meeting and every December you write a letter with a good research article to your school board etc. You do one act a month focused on one group. A wonderful way to plan out your advocacy in a way that isn’t so overwhelming!
3. Tips on working with your Special Education Assistants (SEAs) in the classroom
Another one from Jessica Balsley, this one was presented during her Autism and Art break out session.
- Be clear about expectations (create a welcome letter)
I’ve now worked at four different MMSD schools in my five years in Madison. I’ve worked with some AMAZING SEAs and some where I really wish things had gone differently. Each experience was a learning experience. But what I should have done, is have a welcome letter ready for SEAs when they come to my classroom. It comes from remembering that as the art teacher, I am the expert on art education in my classroom and I need to vocalize that. I need to let my SEAs know that it is not OK to DO the project for the child no matter what, it is not OK to create your own project unless it is part of the plan for that child that they need to follow along step-by-step with the adult next to them and they are expected to come to art with that child every single time. Creating a welcome letter means we are both on the same page from the beginning!
- Nip it in the bud immediately, say something right away!
I’ve had situations where I don’t know how to tell my SEA colleague my expectations in a professional way without feeling like I’m being disrespectful to the SEA. I don’t want my SEA to feel like I am not treating them as a professional. SEAs are our invisible heroes. They do SO MUCH and and deal with situations that would be beyond the wildest thoughts of any administrator. But I also need to remember that part of treating my SEA as a professional is saying something right away instead of letting something fester.
I presented for the first time ever at the conference. Yikes! But I think it went well. I had two co-presenters and we talked about advocacy in art. I talked about how to testify for your program and who to testify to. I also talked about framing your message in your testimony and in your emails/letters. My other co-presenters did a great job sharing research to back up your message and talking about how to create a rational. Check out our presentation here.
All in all, it was a great conference! I learned much more than is in this post but I thought I’d edit it down to three. I’m so grateful that Superintendent Cheatham made the decision to allow art and music teachers to go to their professional conferences. It is so valuable when we, as professionals, feel we are getting professional development that is relevant to us!
But I can’t end the post without congratulating our MMSD Arts Coordinator, Laurie Fellenz, on winning the Distinguished Service Award from WAEA. Distinguished Service Award is awarded to an individual outside the profession for outstanding achievement and contributions to art education on the local, state and/or national levels. We are so proud of her. Way to go. Laurie!
Special thanks to art teacher Julie Olsen for taking the time to nominate her!