Classroom environment affects the way students learn, think, and create. Based on my past and current experiences teaching in college art studios and public school art classrooms, I realized that classroom arrangement can truly impact student's ability to learn. Students work well in a space where they feel comfortable and are able to concentrate. It is my responsibility to troubleshoot and try many possible ways to achieve the best option for the success of student learning. Every little detail matters - strong communication skills and delivery of instruction are very important for student learning. As I am sensitive to students' needs and watchful of their behavior, I am also attentive to the existing furniture in the classroom (such as tables, donkeys, stools/chairs, and window lighting) - they are tools to work with. Depending on how a Still-life is set up, it can affect the student's level of concentration, guiding or misleading the child's understanding of drawing from observation.
As an art educator, I strive to build up confidence and individuality in each student by pointing out their strengths and working through the challenges they face. As much as I love seeing growth in each student, I strongly believe that students thrive when they begin to share their thoughts by speaking up and listening to each other. I encourage all students to participate in a class discussion by providing specific questions and later by allowing them to present their work. This is a necessary process for them to practice verbal communication, addressing their thoughts formally to the audience. By reinforcing students to practice art vocabulary during discussions can internalize their knowledge and communicate their views more naturally. As much as there are energy and profundity in collective learning, there is great value in individual learning. In order to keep in track of each student learning, I use a number of formative assessments, such as gallery walks, think-pair-share, post-its, and "Do Now" worksheets. These strategies allow students to self-reflect and observe their peers' work from different points of view.
In the midst of everything that happens in the classroom, my job is to analyze my own teaching. I am constantly learning and asking myself what worked well and what didn't. “The teacher is the meditator of student learning, whether students are working independently or in groups. This means that the teacher intervenes, helping students to identify problems to investigate and projects on which to work.”
Diana J. Sim is an artist and art educator based in New Jersey. She is currently teaching at Collegiate School as a substitute art teacher.