Meet Chris Parker, an elementary art teacher who has been teaching for over twenty years. He took time out of his busy schedule to chat about what it is like to be an elementary school art teacher, artist and an active user of online art education resources. He shares highlights of his teaching experience with us, as well as his favorite art lessons!
Chris Parker: I started out teaching internationally in South America (specifically in Northeastern Colombia), before coming back to Texas to teach art in a lower socio-economic school where there where I routinely had 35-50 students in a class, mostly ESL students. I had a budget of about 1500 dollars for 500 students for the year.
After ten years, I took a job in the more affluent part of town where
my budget tripled for the same amount of students.
I now teach at a private school that goes from Pre-K to 12th Grade. It has less than 450 students and my class numbers range from 4 to 21. I have my own “art house” which is a separate two story building that the kids come to. I don’t have a budget per se, but have to keep it reasonable. I have the freedom to create my own curriculum. I use a laptop, iPad, a website, Twitter, Artsonia, Vimeo, and Pinterest for my classes. It’s pretty much a dream scenario as far as an art teacher is concerned.
ArtClasswithMsS: Describe your favorite art lesson that you teach and tell us the learning goals for each one.
CP: I have a few.
Kindergarten is pretty freaking fantastic. I love just about every
lesson that I teach there. I do ceramic pinch pot pumpkins and
ceramic turkeys that the kids and parents both enjoy. My goal with
these lessons is really to introduce the kids to clay, clay tools,
firing, and glazing. It helps a lot later on.
First grade I love my Gustav Klimt “Tree of Life” lesson. I introduce
the artist and the painting and how to create a tree using markers and
fall leaves with tissue paper. I show the students how to “branch” out the lines like a real tree on the smart board. It’s an easy lesson and the
end result is awesome.
Second Grade: I love my complementary color nutcrackers. The students construct their own likeness on a cylinder with construction paper. We learn about the color wheel and it is a nice “December” lesson without it being Christmas-y.
Third Grade - The Third Graders study different biomes of the world.
I have a biome board on my Pinterest page (http://www.pinterest.com/kreyus/biomes/). We look at deserts, rain
forests, tundras, etc… and the students research their chosen biome in their (science) class and paint them in my art class. The goal is to introduce canvas painting, the idea of landscapes, background, middle ground, foreground, light source and shadows, among other things.
Fourth Grade - Lots of really great lessons…but I love my Picasso
panty hose stockings-over-a-wire hanger lesson. Students drill a
couple of holes in a base and then put wire hangers in it, hot gluing
it in place. They cover it with a panty hose stocking and then apply
gesso to it. Students use acrylic paint on top in some sort of
analogous color scheme in the style of Pablo Picasso. They really
turned out great.
However, my favorite lesson to do with Fourth Grade is a van Gogh
bedroom-inspired one point perspective lesson. It’s the first time I
actually see the kids struggle with the concept and see the
light bulb go off above their head with that aha! moment.
ArtClasswithMsS: What kind of art do you make and how much time do you spend on personal art projects?
CP: My favorite thing to do is to throw pottery, but I also love to paint. I
didn’t have the time to enter the Hunting Art Prize contest this year,
but I have in the past. I mostly do my own art in the summer when my
brain has had time to decompress and get on a more artistic level as
opposed to a teaching level.
ArtClasswithMsS: How do you think being an artist influences 1.) The way that you teach and, 2.) The content in your curriculum?
CP: I think being an artist influences me greatly. I’m interested and
excited about art. I think that comes off to the students and they are,
in turn, interested and excited about the projects.
ArtClasswithMsS: I love writing + reading children’s literature. Do you incorporate books with your art lessons? If so, what are some favorites?
CP: I do. I have a pretty good relationship with our librarian. Some favorites are Peter Reynold’s Ish and Eric Carle’s books, specifically Hungry Caterpillar. I use primary colored model magic that the students combine to make secondary colors and then form a caterpillar.
I’ve thought a lot about writing and illustrating my own series of
literature. I just need to find the time. Also, we often have different authors visit our school.
ArtClasswithMsS: What are some of your favorite blogs, websites, and art education resources that you would recommend to other art teachers?
CP: Funny, I started following these people and finally met them at last
year’s NAEA convention. I kind of felt like I knew them without
actually knowing them. Does that make me a stalker? God I hope not.
Janine Campbell. She’s great. https://twitter.com/campbellartsoup
Tricia Fulgestad with her fuglefun. She’s a rockstar. http://drydenart.weebly.com/fugleblog.html
Theresa Gillespie. http://splatsscrapsandglueblobs.blogspot.com/
Ian Sands. http://apexhsart.blogspot.com/
Donna Staten on Pinterest is the queen of hoarding art lessons. http://www.pinterest.com/artgirl90/ She is the inspiration for my Pinterest site.
Non Art teachers - Ipadsammy, techchef4u, mrhooker. rmbyrne Great
people with a lot of information to give.
There are a lot more. You could either check out my Twitter (https://twitter.com/Kreyus) and Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/kreyus/) sites or just ask.
ArtClasswithMsS: And let us know…what is the best part about being an art teacher?
CP: Well…Let’s see.
I’m a 43 year old single father of a fantastic daughter. I took a
break from teaching in the late 90’s and flew around the country doing
software training. I flew to wonderful places like Des Moines, Iowa,
Columbus, Ohio and a few other exciting places. After a year of
airport delays, uncooperative adults, and other unflattering aspects
of the “business world,” I realized that I missed teaching. Maybe it’s the
fact that I’m an artist and missed creating. Maybe I missed seeing
the true enlightenment of seeing kids that want to be there and
create. Maybe I just was tired of dealing with adults that act more
like children than the children I taught in the first place. I don’t
know…but whatever it was, I missed it. So, I came back to teaching
and outside of the minor inconvenience of a current salary that isn’t
what I was making back twenty years ago, I don’t have a single regret
(well…maybe missing out on the frequent flyer miles).
For years, I felt like I was on an island. Alone. Coming up with lessons on my own, brainstorming on my own without anybody to talk to that could relate. What I really I enjoy, besides watching the joy in
kids as they create, is my PLN. I think that Twitter, Pinterest,
Facebook, Artsonia and the like have really reinvigorated me as a
professional art teacher. I don’t feel alone any more. If I have a
question or want to bounce an idea off of folks I literally have a
plethora of people that have never met me from all different parts of
not only the country but the world that will take time out of their
busy day to chat with me (ArtclasswithMsS included). I think the best
part of my job is that the internet has broken down the obstacle of
proximity and opened up a whole network of colleagues, resources and
visuals to me that I’d never have five years ago. It has really been
Follow Chris Parker on Twitter: @Kreyus
Are you an art teacher? Do you want to share your story with other art teachers?
Then e-mail me at IHeardYouCanDraw@gmail.com and let me know who you are!