Teach MAM: An Exciting Partnership to Strengthen Arts Education Across Louisiana
Carolyn Lenora Scalfano Teach MAM Arts Ambassador
Ready or not, virtual learning has become an undeniable component of the 2020 – 2021 school year. The challenges are plentiful, dare say overwhelming at times, and the learning curve is unfortunately steep (to say the least). My question is: how, as an educator, do you maintain solace during such uncertainty? My school opened to students on August 10. The two weeks before that, I attended many professional developments, zoom meetings, and online trainings. Each one introducing a new LMS (Learning Management System) designed to tackle virtual and distance learning. But how was I to choose what worked best for my students and me?
Well, here’s how it all played out. I have to be honest. I was a HOT MESS. I went to bed thinking about Bitmoji and woke up thinking about Schoology. I wondered how I was going to link my Google slide to my Powerschool. I thought about all the teachers who had been in the educational system so much longer than myself and how on earth they were dealing with these issues. I worried, like, a lot. And to be honest, the overload of online professional development did not help. During professional development, I felt productive, but by the end of the training, I felt like I was right back to where I started. You see, I am the Visual Arts teacher at a Title One school. There was never any need or desire for a lick of technology in my studio. In fact, my students loved having an artistic break in their day. It allowed them a designated time where they wouldn’t be looking at or focusing on their computer screens. But, here comes the start of the 2020 school year, and to no real surprise, nearly half of our students are enrolled in virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a driving intent and laser focus, I started my journey as an in-school and virtual Art teacher.
The first thing I did… was show up! It’s what all teachers had to do back in March, at the end of last school year, and currently for the start of this school year. I nodded my head when I was told to do something. I paid attention to who the tech-savvy teachers were in my school and kindly requested them to meet with me at their convenience. Upon sitting down with the computer lab/robotics teacher, who patiently showed me how to connect Google Classroom, Slides, and Sites all together, we decided to collaborate. The result is all current specials teachers creating one “Specials” Google Site that all students could access, whether in school or virtual. From the site, students can access a virtual classroom for each special offered at our school.
My first online lesson is a question on Google Classroom that students will have to use my virtual art studio to answer. It is like a scavenger hunt, where they click different links on my slide to access websites that provide the information needed to answer their questions. In doing so, I was able to teach a lesson on color theory that did not require my students to have any art materials at home. My district has provided all students with Chromebooks, as well as WiFi hotspots to virtual learners. I have yet to see how the lesson will be received, but I continue to have high hopes.
This story’s moral is what teachers, including myself, have been saying to students for many years: STAY POSITIVE. Don’t give up, and if you get overwhelmed, reach out to someone who can help. It’s exactly what I had to do in my virtual teacher journey. I reached out to my tech-savvy friends and family, never lost focus, and didn’t reinvent the wheel! I utilized existing lessons to make it easier on myself and my students. I also found inspiration for art lessons by searching social media sites like Instagram. Other websites that I find helpful, and others may as well, are the Art of Education, Blick Art Supplies, Deep Space Sparkle, and, of course, the infamous Cassie Stephens.
My advice to all other virtual teachers is not to lose sight of what inspires you and to reach out for help if and when you need it. I’m wishing everyone in Louisiana a safe and healthy 2020-2021 school year and reminding us that we will get through this. Louisiana Strong. Louisiana Together.
-Carolyn Lenora Scalfano
Teach MAM Ambassador
Pineville Elementary Visual Arts