As artists, you might think we are an unorganized or flighty bunch. This is not the case at all! Art educators are a group of individuals who can make big things happen when we work together. I joke that I can smell a fellow art teacher in a room before I am even introduced to them. It's not just the odor of paint and glue that tips me off, it's the aroma of pure joy and passion for our subject area that give them away.
Each fall, the Art Educators of New Jersey (AENJ) come together to host a three-day conference to provide its members with professional development in many forms. We have hosted artists like Faith Ringgold, Olivia Gude, Andrew Freear, Peter London, Robert Root-Bernstein, and, most recently, Jesus Moroles, as keynote speakers over the years. If you teach art in New Jersey, AENJ is the place to be for professional development hours, personal enrichment, inspiration and camaraderie.
I have presented sessions at AENJ in 2012 and 2013. Last year, I presented information on creating collaborative participatory public art with students. This year, I presented two sessions and was present to support my former JPE (Junior Practicum Experience) students on a third session.
My first presentation focused on my role as a delegate with the NAEA trip to India last fall. The presentation was neither earth shattering or innovative but did allow me to share the amazing experiences from that trip with my peers. Tons of photos and fun stories from the adventure were a great start to the day.
My second presentation was on QR Codes - my pet project in the classroom. I shared the information I have gathered on using QR Codes in many aspects of education and specifically in the world of art education. I was a bit shocked to look out over a full room of people who were interested in this topic. It was great to see others get excited about a piece of technology that his so often overlooked and under used. I'm hopeful that the attendees will keep in touch and share their successes with QR Codes in their own schools.
My JPE students, Samantha Berk and Ashley Garguilo, presented a fantastic lesson they designed based on the work of contemporary artist Erika Iris Simmons. In their lesson, "Never Hide Noise", Samantha and Ashley taught my 7th grade students about repurposing materials, using symbolism in art and creating images with contour line. The lesson in the classroom was well taught and well received, as was their presentation to their peers at AENJ. I am extremely proud of their hard work and dedication to their chosen profession.
Beyond presenting, I had the opportunity to attend a few sessions - both informational and hands on. I attended a session with Anthony Fitzpatrick from the State Department of Education on Student Growth Objectives... Based on this hour and a half of fun, I am pretty certain I need to re-write one of my two SGO's. Thank goodness I am still WAYYYYYYY early on this.
I was also able to attend Jessica Balsley's presentation. Jessica is the founder of an amazing website/blog for art educators called The Art of Education. Her website is invaluable to art educators and her message was an echo of the things I hear in my own head all the time. Jessica spoke on the topic "The Empowered Art Teacher", highlighting 10 keys to being the best educator you can be. She discussed knowing just how much you can do - and do WELL - and gave many suggestions for keeping organized and calm. I especially appreciated her idea of keeping an "advocacy calendar" that gives you one task to advocate for your program each month. I feel that implementing this idea into my teaching practice will help me to balance my self-imposed stress and avoid the overload that I often face.
I left the conference feeling rejuvenated and excited to be incorporate some new strategies into my teaching practice. I also left the conference feeling tired and overwhelmed because I may have agreed to be on some committees for the coming year... Some day I will learn that I can say "NO" but for now I am still very motivated and passionate about my subject area and about sharing my subject with the community.
Middle School Art Educator. Adjunct Art Education Professor. Non-Profit Arts Organization Board Member. Artist. Arts Advocate. Dog-Mom. CrossFit Enthusiast.
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