The Dilemma


It’s hard to move forward without taking a critical look at yourself, but being too critical can prevent you from moving forward.

In August, I wrote about personalized learning, and I’ve been mulling over many of those points for the last few months.  It’s difficult to think of changing the way that I teach, but I know that I want to provide a learning environment that encourages a more individualized approach.  Hopefully this will lead to a student-led classroom that embraces originality & creativity.

Umm, okay.  That sounds nice and all, but how can I make it happen?

Stress Reduction Kit

Image courtesy of K Latham

There is no denying the stress involved in teaching.  Some days are great, some will test your patience, and make you wonder why you chose the profession in the first place.  It’s one of the moodiest jobs on the planet.  To make it even more interesting, why not change things up a bit, just to see what will happen?

Robert Smol wrote about the effects of teacher stress, and I found myself nodding as I identified with several of his points.  Justin Stortz wrote a moving post about his decision to quit teaching, even after several successful experiences as an educator. *Justin’s blog is worth reading. I would highly recommend browsing through several posts.

If I’m going to change the way I teach, I’m going to need some help.  I can’t assume that I’ll know how to navigate new territory by myself.

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 10.05.49 PMI have an amazing PLN (personal learning network).  There are some fantastic art educators who not only share what they know, but are willing to chat about new ideas as well as challenges and possible solutions.

Katherine Douglas, co-author of Engaging Learners Through Artmaking (shown above), continually provides suggestions and advice for those who are trying to develop classrooms that respect the needs and preferences of each student.

Ian Sands, Melissa Purtee & Kim Sudkamp, all teachers from Apex HS, have begun to explore and share their learning about choice-based education in the art room.  Have a look at their series of blog posts:

  1. Why Don’t High School Art Students Work Like Artists? (Melissa Purtee)
  2. Why Does All My Students’ Artwork Look The Same? (Ian Sands)
  3. How & Why I Use Choice In My Classroom (Kim Sudkamp)
  4. Why I Pick Choice (Melissa Purtee)
  5. Answering Questions About Choice And The Open Art Room (group effort)
A question and exclamation mark of jigsaw puzzle pieces

Image courtesy of Horia Varlan

I still have questions that may not have easy answers:  Do I need to redesign my classroom to optimize learning?  How can I evaluate effectively, if many students are working on different projects?  How do I plan for a supply teacher without having to explain each little detail?  Can I make this transition without losing my sanity?  Does choice-based art education appeal to visual learners more than students who have little interest in art?  How can I help students who are uncomfortable with art, and prefer more direct instruction rather than choice?

In early December, my Media Arts students and I participated in‘s Hour of Code. After attempting a few activities, I soon realized how much I relied on step-by-step instruction to learn a new skill.  Often, I would make a mistake, and have to attempt something again… and again.  Some of these activities were for young children!  Is this what it’s like for some students who come to art class?  Not all of my students have an interest in art, creativity and expression.  Many are coming to class to get a credit.  Will choice-based activities help these students by providing options for structured assignments?

*Related articles:

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3 Responses to The Dilemma

  1. Susan Riley says:

    So many wonderful questions here – I am in love with this post. Where do you want to start, though? It’s important that we take the time to think through how the details will work, but at some point, I think you just need to “ship” as Steve Jobs would say. Could you pick one of the questions from above and dedicate your classroom to moving forward in that area? It may not seem so overwhelming and the experience of working through just that one piece may help you answer your other inquiries. Thank you so much for sharing – I’m still stuck at the tweet you posted at the top!

    • colleenkr says:

      Thank you so much, Susan. It’s true, we all have to start somewhere — I like Steve Jobs’ philosophy! I have a feeling that many teachers have already begun to use choice in their classroom. There is a difference, I think, when we decide to take it to the next level: to consider the reasons why we need to provide choice as well as student voice. Equity is the issue that I’m trying to figure out right now. If I have students in a grade 9 or 10 class who really rely on solid direction from the teacher, but in that same class, I have students who are yearning to create art on a completely self-directed plan, how do I justify to parents & board members that I have a classroom that is fair? I know there is a way, but I still have to figure that one out.
      To begin moving forward, I’ve started to create a resource for my students who are interested in pursuing art history, as well as exploring a variety of artists who are working at the present time. If you like, feel free to check it out: . Since many of my students keep track of their work using a digital portfolio, I’ve included a tab (just under the title), called “How to Write a Great Blog Post”. Since the focus is on these core skills, it may help them write about any variety of artists (a nice connection with literacy).

      …and yes, that tweet sure did grab my attention too! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Renegade | Northern Art Teacher

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