ATRs, the unrepresented -- no elected representatives in the UFT

"The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected.
"To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another."
Thomas Paine, First Principles of Government

Hello, ATRs are suing

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Star art teacher, Beckmann Fellow, now ATR, his expertise snubbed

Star art teacher and Max Beckmann Fellowship awardee, now ATR, his expertise snubbed. In New York City, America's Art Capital, the city DOE says it wants the best and brightest. As the Chaz blogger noted, in truth, things look otherwise.

I remember covering an art teacher at one school. The school's other art teacher was puttering around in the shared art room as art teachers are wont to do. I was helping a girl with the proportions of the human face and told her that the eyes are situated as if they sat upon a line halfway between the top of the head and the tip of the chin. The art teacher nearly shouted, "No, they aren't; the eyes are dead center in the head" and produced a xerox from a how-to-draw book for young children instructing kids to put the eyes in the center. I didn't tell her that I've had a Master's degree in Art since 1977, I was a Max Beckmann Fellow at the Brooklyn Museum, and I showed at The Drawing Center in Soho. By the way, my drawings are of the human figure. I bit my tongue.

Another time, I was being interviewed to fill in for an art teacher on maternity leave. I had to wait in the art room a few minutes and looked at the perspective renderings on display. In spite of numerous and glaring errors, all the students received grades in the high 90's. When the head of the art department asked what I would do next for this group of students who were pursuing a special sequence meant to be a springboard into design, I told her that I would probably revisit linear perspective as the student examples showed even the best were clearly deficient in their understanding. I mentioned that I had a profound understanding of linear perspective and had found ways of explaining it to students that would enable better results to which the head of the department explained that these children were low performing students thus implying that they weren't capable of understanding linear perspective. I countered that I had met with success with the students at Franklin K. Lane High School, a school closed for poor performance. I wasn't picked to fill the vacancy.

Another time I was surprised to see my assignment for the upcoming week had been changed Friday evening. I went to the new assignment Monday morning and produced a copy of the email directing me there. The secretary found some irony in the fact that the administration had just retained a per-diem substitute to cover an art teacher vacancy that would possibly last the rest of the year. I was directed to be with and assist the substitute teacher who was to conduct a class on computer graphics. She started them by directing them to go to The Brooklyn Children's Museum website for the art activities that could be found there. The few days that I didn't have coverages and spent helping in the computer room convinced me that the teacher had only a shallow understanding of the Photoshop program she was "teaching". I did bring this to the attention of the UFT.

I was surprised at one school by an assignment labeled "Tutoring". It was my job to make sure that the students completed a three page packet called the Art Project. The task for one page was to fill in a Venn diagram outlining the similarities and differences between Manet and Monet. Another page had an article about Rodin and students were to complete questions showing that they understood what they had read. The last page held a simple crossword puzzle of art terms. I tried to stop students from simply copying other students' answers and urged them to at least read and decide from themselves, but the students countered that it didn't matter because nothing was ever corrected. After the once-a-week, end-of-the-day, 45-minute tutoring class was over, I brought the folder holding the packets into the main office to deposit it in a large cardboard carton labeled The Art Project along with the other dozens of folders of packets allowing the students to get art credit. This was business as usual for this school.

There have been many more such incidents sharing the common theme of serving students poorly. It is no surprise that the state audit of New York City schools found art education in America's art capital wanting.

1 comment:

  1. My personal favorite was the school that gave students one art credit for painting the hallways which so desperately needed color. Well, at least the students learned how to hold a house paint brush, perhaps preparing them for a future career, as one administrator explained to me.