Research: Conceptual Art

In a ceramic workshop that I am taking with Waleed R. Qaisi, we were discussing Conceptual Art and that the artwork is a result of something from withing the artist and the art doesn’t have to be something representational, sometimes its about exploring the material and the balance of composition.  I struggle with this and so i decided to do research on Conceptual Artists and their process.

I found this video of Ai Weiwei’s “Sunflower Seeds.”  While the sunflower seeds are a recognizeable product, the viewer might question, “Why has this artist made, or placed, all of these sunflower seeds on the ground this way?  What does it mean?”  After watching the video I had a better idea of Conceptual art and was able to develop a concept to explore throughout the workshop.

Reflecting on the Reggio Emilia Philosophy

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In preparing to attend the “Integrating the Reggio Emilia Principals and Philosophy in the Early Years Classroom,”  I brushed up on some reading about the philosophy and came across an article by the Scandinavian School in San Francisco republished with permission on Education.com.  The article focuses on these five aspects of the Reggio Emilia Philosophy:  the child, the teacher, documentation, curriculum and the environment.  While reading, I thought of my students and the teachers I work with as well as my own practice.  Here are a few things I took from the article.

1.  When discussing the child, it states that the Emilio Reggio Philosophy believes in a “listening pedagogy.”  If I am to practice a listening pedagogy then when my students don’t understand something I need to teach them.  This is not limited to art skills but also life skills.  For example, teaching in Qatar, the many of the students at my school have nannies who clean after them.  When asked to clean their stations and they don’t do the job that I expect then I need to show them.  This “direct interaction with the environment and social groups” helps them understand how I think the station should be cleaned.

2. The teacher is an educated learner in that they are observing and reflecting on how best to provoke and inspire the child’s learning.  In “listening” to and observing the child, the teacher is able to use personal knowledge and pedagogy set to up and guide the learning process.  As I listen to and observe students while working through a provocation I can learn about their interests and prior knowledge to motivate them to move from the comfortable and familiar into the unknown.

3.  Documentation is also an important part of the Reggio Emilia Philosophy.  Documentation can take many forms such as photography, audio and video, transcription, and student work.  Through documentation both teachers and students are able to reflect on the education journey.  This is also important for guiding the curriculum.  When reflecting on documentation I can develop a plan for working with my students as well as reflect on what was successful and what needs improvement.

4.  Curriculum should be child led and driven.  I don’t think, however, that this means students should be expected to know what they want to learn about.  It’s through the process of giving the students provocations and then listening to and documenting the child’s response to the stimuli that the teacher can then develop curriculum catered to the child’s interests.  As the expert, the teacher can then weave into the curriculum language, maths, social skills, arts and sciences accordingly.

5.  Finally, the environment is also an important aspect of the Emilio Reggio Philosophy.  Referring to it as the “third teacher,” this physical space should be a place where students are comfortable to work and take ownership of.  This space should be set up according to the needs of the child and the teacher.  There should be spaces for clean work as well as a space to be messy.  There should also be spaces for students to work individually and in small and large groups.  It should be an organic space that is lived in.

After attending the workshop, “Integrating the Reggio Emilia Principles and Philosophy in the Early Years Classroom,” led by Dr. Nkechy Ezeh at SEK International School, Qatar, I was reaffirmed that the Reggio Emilia Philosophy is not a cookie cutter approach to teaching.  As Dr. Ezeh led us through practical strategies of learning through this philosophy and gave examples of documentation, I reflected on my own practice further.  For me, the Reggio Emilia Philosophy is the opportunity to take ownership in an engaging learning process for both myself and my students, using provocations to jump start lessons and guide the curriculum and encourage life long learning through exploration.

End of Week 2 QA Doha

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At the end of my second week at Qatar Academy, I am exhausted both mentally and physically but very happy.  This being the first year of arts integration for Qatar Academy my colleague, Laura, and I are working to educate both teachers and students to take charge of their arts education.  While this may be scary for some, others are jumping in with both feet.  Listening to the students and staff about their needs and how we, as educators, can release ourselves and students from the confines of scheduled time tables and creatively weave subjects in and out of each other requires a lot of time, practice and faith.  I am certain that things will fall in place as time goes on.  Other exciting developments within our program are the collaborative projects with MIA and Mathaf; both programmes focusing on increasing student opportunities to  participate in museum practice and arts production through real world applications.

End of the Year 2013/2014

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As the end of the year comes to a close and I’m packing up my classroom I look back on my seven years as the art teacher at Hanahan Middle School and smile.  I have met some wonderful friends and coworkers who I love dearly.  I have learned from my students and I appreciate all they have shared with me.  I love the teacher that I have become and as I set off on my new adventure in international education I feel prepared for the next step.  In the words of the late Maya Angelou,

“Do the best you can until you know better.

The when you know better, do better.”