Sunday, July 17, 2016

Where it all got started: Week 6 reflection

Graffiti in Middle School: students interacting with Professional grade sprays and a professional artist. 

As I look back on my experiences this week, I can't stop thinking about how all this love got started. This week, I feel reaffirmed in my teaching style and process, building relationships and focusing on what really matters, and it ain't no test score! I have always been passionate for all types of art, but as I have grown to understand and become an advocate of social justice, it seems graffiti and street art has taken a hold...

a story about the beginning-

This year I wanted to do something different, something that would engage the students, blow their minds and show administration what happens when you allow students to do something beyond the ordinary.

It all started at the TEDex conference last summer, there in the middle of the green was a young man, hundreds of cans of spray paint, and a large black sculpture. The young man was inviting the public to try their hand at a little graffiti. I was hooked, and the wheels started to spin. Would, we, could we do this at school, would he come and help out? After a few minutes, we had exchanged numbers, and that is where I met and began following Ratha Sok and the Rawh brand. This artist would become one of the biggest inspirations and influences on my teaching, he is completely amazing! 

In the beginning of the 15'-16' school year, I started the process. Convincing administration to allow middle schoolers to do a little graffiti is not an easy task. Taking all the necessary precautions, the students would wear masks, be able to wear full paint suits, and would go through a training 'pre-lesson' before the date of the official graffiti work. Then there is funding... As an artist myself, I would never expect an artist to do pro-bono work, so I started contacting supporters in my community and friends. If you are in education and or non-profit, you need to be a member of NAEIR. This non-profit websites allows educators and non-profit access to millions of products for nearly free, this is where I acquired the masks and painting suits for nearly nothing. ( really total for 38 masks and painting suits: 5$)

As the year went on and the date grew closer of our project, word spread. By  the time the project had come to full fruition, the district had  offered to foot the bill. Communication, was a key factor, what are we doing, why, who does it benefit, and why graffiti are all answers that I had to be prepared to answer a million times.

Completed Nevelson Installation MCS
The project: We started the unit looking at Louise Nevelson, public art and a little social justice. If  you are not familiar, Nevelson was a female artist that broke the mold and ideations of what women were capable of. The students researched her work and then were challenged to emulate her work in 4 small groups that would use re-use and spray paint, the final product would be required to work as  a whole unit/ installation. Following Nelvelson, we delved into the Chicano Mural movement, students studied the works of Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros, identifying the symbols, colors and line quality that made these artist leaders of the movement. In every lesson, there is always an opportunity to highlight social justice, and here again we look at the role of the female in the arts and community and the importance of the Chicano/Latino culture in art. Students worked in small groups to create masking tape murals featuring protest and persuasion to prepare them with back ground and understating of the history and role of graffiti in art.

masking tape mural: 'A heart is fragile'

As our graffiti project neared, the school became a buzz, all the students in every grade level wanted in. My class of 28 would grow to nearly 45 students as the work began. Five days later, a visit from school board members, a visit from the superintendent and from York International, our IB high school and the project would come to an end.

As this class comes to an end, I have again made so many meaningful contacts and connections, all that I hope to share with my students in one way or another, and I can't help but to begin to ponder how I will top last year. My goal in teaching is to create lifetime learners, if they are a little better at art, great, but really I want my students to experience learning via "pull" method ( Lankshear, and Knobel, 2007). I want them to understand that every person that they come in contact with may be resource, maybe not today, or tomorrow, but making lasting true connections and relationships is more important than knowing how to solve any math problem. Its all about communication, how we communicate and what we do with those experiences.

Ratha and me, 'Mrs D'

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