Teaching can be a balancing act. The need for routine and a consistent pattern of learning is a vital aspect of classroom management and conveying student expectations. While it is important for students to know is expected of them, a teacher also must have the ability to break away from the routine to further spark their student's learning. As students begin to settle and grow complacent with their assignments and tasks, their behavior, focus, and engagement in the lesson tends to waver. It is at this time when excellent work becomes good work, collaboration becomes copying and progress becomes slowed. Thus, the teacher must break from the tried and true routine, and use a new way of learning to spark their students. To balance what the students know and are comfortable with and new forms of learning and expression can be the most difficult yet effective way to teach students, and in turn have the students develop new ways to think. Tim Barringer's seminar will enable me to implement new forms of teaching, which will open up new forms of learning, expression and communication from the students.
I teach English 1 & 2 at New Horizons, in New Haven. New Horizons is an alternative school for students who struggle in the traditional classroom setting and who cannot succeed in a regular classroom, due to poor attendance, disruptive behavior, crime, or emotional disabilities, as well as other obstacles. The challenges these students face can make for a trying and difficult learning process, but there are ways to be successful in these classroom settings. These students are often times defiant and oppose any kind of authority as well as frustrated by their own inability perform the most simplest of tasks: reading, writing and thinking. To many of them, an English class represents the root of their academic struggles, the place where they might have first felt unskilled, slow, or intellectually inferior. It is our job as alternative educators to break through those thick walls of failure to bring out the love of learning and the pattern of productivity to make these students successful in class and eventually, in life. The knowledge I will gain from Tim Barringer's seminar will give me a basis to implement the use of art analysis as a learning tool. After speaking with Mr. Barringer, the concept of conflict, both internal and external in art, would be the best unit to develop. The idea of conflict, the eternal struggle inside man as well as challenges he may face in the outside world is one of the most universal feelings.
With new lessons, there must be new groundwork established for the students to build upon. For example, to use art for America's westward expansion as a means to open up the avenues of written expression, I have to give the students background knowledge and context for them to start from. This would be in the form of a timeline, to understand how far back in our country's history we are learning about and a map to show where this growth took place in relation to us. Whole lessons will be centered on the students having a basic knowledge of when westward expansion took place and where exactly it happened. The students will know how far away this expansion happened, in relation to their own environment and homes. History is better taught in the form of a story instead of dates, years, and encyclopedic details. If the student learns about the people involved in history, (their fears, hopes, wants, goals, and pains) they can develop higher levels of learning and cognitive growth.
With Tim Barringer's seminar I can build my own working knowledge on how to look at art from a historical perspective, how to view art as a means to develop in the language arts classroom. Along with the students' knowledge of when and where the American westward expansion took place, the students need to be comfortable making inferencing skills to further develop their own observations.
Often times students at New Horizons find that reading a passage, story, or any piece of literature can be boring and they cannot connect with the content. However, with the use of art analysis, the same literacy goals can be reached, yet in a more colorful way. While most of my students cannot read on their current grade level, they all can see and process with great skill and accuracy. The use of art in class can open up even the most reluctant student because all they really need to do is look at the image and comment on it. The art will allow them to make all the same required literature related responses, without the student ever reading a passage. I think this unit will be an extremely useful learning experience for the students because it will "level the playing field" between the strong and the struggling readers. Any student can thrive in this unit because they only have to provide an emotional reaction to an image or response to a piece of art and they are suddenly a student who in not only engage and focused, but productive and successful. This is exactly what eludes many of the students at New Horizons. Often times the students are ill equipped to meet the expectations given to them and classwork has such a negative connotation to them that they usually give up before they even try. With this unit, the students will enjoy the eye catching visual aide and not even realize that they are learning as well. The students will learn not only about how our country was formed from a historical perspective, but they will view the internal and external conflict and challenges that so many settlers faced in a way that literature sometime fails to reveal to them.