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Irvine reports that behavior problems in the workshops are extremely rare. Rothamel suggests that because the program is run by students, the children relate better to their instructors. Such bonding goes a long way. "Maybe because we are students, the kids don't feel as intimidated," Rothamel says. "It is a little more relaxed than what they are used to, but it has to be that way because we have to develop a rapport pretty quickly."
The work of participants is displayed in a show at the end of each semester. Kate Zagraniczny painted The Wild Flowerin a group taught by SU students Marissa Weiss and Marina Kramvi.
The program also familiarizes students with New York State teaching standards. Each student is provided with the latest drafts of the New York State Education Syllabi and Learning Standards to refer to when planning workshop lessons. "I want them to be fluent with the syllabi before they even set foot in a classroom," Irvine says.
A quick glance at the faculty rosters of local elementary and junior high schools is evidence of the program's solid reputation. More than a dozen local art teachers are recent SU graduates or are currently completing graduate work. Most of them maintain strong ties to the art education program. "We have a lot of excellent art teachers in the city and county who have been very supportive," Irvine says. "They nurture the program." This fall, those teachers contributed to Making the Grade, a month-long exhibition of their students' work in the Burton Blatt Visitor's Center in Huntington Hall.
McLaughlin admits that part of what makes the workshops so successful has nothing to do with the students or the program. Many childrenespecially very young children-have a natural tendency for artistic expression, she says. The challenge for art education students is to create lesson plans that tap into those natural interests and build on them. "We are always surprised by how talented many of these kids are," McLaughlin says. "A lot of them spend a great deal of time drawing or painting at home and already have very strong skills."
Other children have limited interest or ability. "In every class, there are students who don't want to do what you're doing," Irvine says. "I encourage the students to find a way to include them in the lesson. When you're teaching, those are the kinds of issues you have to consider. If you want to be an art teacher, you have to encourage everyone. Most of the kids you teach are not going to grow up to be artists, but they can get some kind of appreciation for art that will develop as they get older. In that way, the art teacher is providing a substantial education."
With a variety of skill levels and temperaments to consider, students receive an early introduction to one of the hardest aspects of teachingunpredictability. "I taught art for 24 years in north Manhattan in my first life," Irvine jokes. "You have to learn to think fast on your feet." The ability to improvise, as Kellerson and Curtis did with their contour drawing lesson, is a skill that Irvine tries to nurture in all her students. "They get better at adapting their lesson plans as the workshops go on," Irvine says. "That whole notion of adaptation is important for an art teacher today. When something isn't working, you have to shift gears. For some people it comes naturally, but the only way you can really develop those skills is to have direct experience in the classroom."
Art education students devise lesson plans that challenge young artists. This mosaic tiger by Allison Arena was the result of one recent session.
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