How to Survive in my Class

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Survival is a skill that is necessary. We try to teach students that survival isn’t the only thing that is necessary, but thriving is also necessary. In my AP Studio Art class, it’s a tough balance to survive and thrive, oftentimes students feel like they are only surviving by the end. The course is tough: 24 pieces completed for the College Board. Oftentimes, students haven’t taken another art course before and I embrace those students even more (read this) There’s this in-between time though for students from when they have turned in their portfolio to when they as seniors are leaving school. Some teachers let students watch movies or do other seemingly meaningless tasks but I view that time as precious – it’s when I can learn as much as possible to alter my course, to shift my assignments, to shift the way I’ve done things. And students create AP Survival Kits.

Here’s the slideshow I share with students.  We reflect on every part of the course together. This year I used Peardeck to take the data while also talking to students. We go backwards from what we just finished to the first assignment. I embed the students’ work from their portfolios, which they love. The students are honest about their experiences and what they would like to do differently. Which is great because that’s the foundation to their survival kits – if they struggled with certain aspects, other/future students will too.

This year students were able to go through the survival kits from last year so they were able to get some ideas but I shifted some things so this year when they presented their Kits, they also presented on Seesaw. The videos and advice students shared on Seesaw will begin my course next year – this was the students’ brilliance. They felt that the Survival Kits weren’t introduced early enough for them to know how to utilize them as a resource – so introducing the advice and support from this years’ group, next year, will make that resource available on day one.

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What’s great about these Survival Kits is that they show me exactly where I’ve missed things or which things have stuck with kids. Each kid showed the focus of Self Regulation that I had worked on with them – mindful moments, fidgets, and other ways to regulate your emotions. Students also spoke about using the class community as a way to get help. They shared that I model being a human – one student points out explicitly that I cry a lot – but it’s not a bad thing, but a way for students to feel fully as well.

Students also shared some great ideas also in order to create more success for the future classes. Some of these ideas are: requiring one out of class time each month (afterschool, before school, Saturday session) and that it’s a grade; more focus on artists; better structured peer feedback; more workshops, even if it means less work time in class. And this is my absolute favorite advice – Start with their “why”! So we discussed what this might look like and they thought creating a “Why Board” where students can revisit, change, shift their why throughout the year but this makes it more relevant and allows me to support that why. Kids are brilliant – we just have to shut up more often and get out of the way.

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Here’s some of the Survival Kits from the past two years with some of the videos! 

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