Teachers talk a lot, especially about teaching and we tend to "speak" for our students a lot in regards to what we think they think, want, enjoy, dislike, etc. I love to survey students because it gives me the reality check I need to realise that I don’t always know what they’re thinking and what they need. I’ve been doing some entries lately about creativity, documenting learning, and assessment and it occurred to me that my former students may have valuable opinions on some of these matters. I sent a list of questions to some of my former students who are now in University, some are now studying art and some are not, and have gotten their permission to post their responses as they trickle in. I cannot thank them enough for taking the time to respond; they are very special kids, students, friends, people.
Response by Anna McLaughlin, former student at The International School of Indiana. Graduated 2015.
What type of art classes did you take in High School? (Program? Year levels?)
In high school I took two different types of art classes, one in the MYP program (9th and 10th grade) and then finally IB art in the 11th and 12th grade.
Why did you take art in High School? What was your motivation?
I took art in high school because to me there was no other option. I had always loved art, and design is the field that I want to go into so art was the obvious choice! I knew that I would be able to challenge myself but also enjoy myself. Art class was my first choice and if I were to do it all over again I would still choose it.
Can you remember and describe two of your favourite units of study in art class in High School? Please explain what you remember the point of the unit was and what you learned and created for the unit.
One of my favorite units that we did was a mask unit. I know it was in the MYP but I can’t remember if it was 9th or 10th grade….Regardless, I loved this unit because of the heavy cultural implications. It allowed me to really explore the importance of masks to another culture and to understand what it was that made them so special. With those things in mind, I was able to create my own mask which is something that I really enjoyed. Overall that unit inspired me to take inspiration from other cultures as a more regular thing, and to this day one of my favorite things is to research another part of the world and the people there and then make something out of it!
Another one of my favorite units was one in junior year where we had the opportunity to take an art trip to New York City to experience the arts and culture that the city had to offer. While we were there we were expected to keep an accordion sketchbook of pictures, thoughts, images, and scraps that we found inspiring. At the end of the week the whole group had these awesome sketchbooks filled with such different things, and we all walked away feeling more inspired than ever. I think what I liked about this unit was the freedom that we had. The only instructions were to fill the book, no blank pages allowed, and that led to some interesting things.
Can you remember a unit in art that you didn’t enjoy? Please describe why it didn’t inspire you.
There weren’t many units that I didn’t enjoy at least some aspect of, I felt like you got at least a little nugget of knowledge out of most of them. There was one that just felt like it dragged on, I think in 8th grade. It was a pointillism unit, which I loved the concept of, but the execution was a little tiring. It took probably two months and in those two months the only thing you could hear was the sound of pastels pounding on the tables of the art room. The final products were cool but the time it took to get there was just a little rough.
Please describe the way you used your sketchbook/journal in your high school art classes. What worked well and what didn’t?
I used my sketchbooks in high school as a way to show my progress and every decisions I made surrounding a project. I would usually start with a concept or assignment, do research, and then from there plan my own project. I absolutely loved the journals, I felt like they sometimes helped me say things I wasn’t able to put into actual words. My progress is also really interesting to see, and I loved that I was able to track that. I think I finished probably 6 or 7 sketchbooks in high school, I know I had 3 by the time I finished the IB.
Do you think that using more tech in art class would have made the experience better/more relevant/more innovative? Why or why not?
I think it really depends on the person. One of the things that’s great about the IB is that it’s okay to do your own thing in a broader theme. I made a few videos for some final projects, and I think tech was something that I felt comfortable using because I had the freedom to do what I wanted with it.
Do you think that creativity should/can be assessed in art class? Why or why not?
I would say it’s more about effort. There may be one person who’s incredibly creative but doesn’t make an effort in the class and therefore produces mediocre work, while someone who may not be as creative but dedicates a lot of time and effort to the class produces great work. I guess it’s kind of like in most subjects, there are going to be people who have an innate talent and others who have to work a little harder to achieve the same results. That was me with math, but I passed!
What do you think is more important in art class, concepts or skills? Or are the equal? Explain.
They’re equal! Art is just as much about ideas as it is about the physical stuff that gets produced! I always have to tell myself that when I see a canvas that’s just painted white or something like that, because I might not get it initially but the ideas are usually behind it and usually insanely interesting and intriguing.
Do you wish you had had more personal choice in art class?
I felt like I always had the perfect amount of freedom as well as instruction in my art classes. At this mid-point I felt free to express myself in any way I wanted while still producing things that when with the themes of the class.
What are you doing now in school and life?
Right now I’m taking a gap semester in between studying. I was at a school in Italy but decided it wasn’t the right fit so I’m transferring to a different school and will be moving to Paris in the fall to attend. In the meantime, I’m working, blogging, and pushing myself to be more creative! My goal is to be in the fashion industry as a designer so I’m working hard to make that happen!
What effect did taking art in High School have on what you have done since then? If any?
I still use the workbook/sketchbooks all the time. I use them much in the same way I did in high school because it just works for me. I love filling up a book with ideas, pictures, process, and research, it’s the most satisfying feeling.
Anything else you want to share…..
I LOVE ARRRRTTT.
Current works from Anna.