The Mastery Process: How Our Skills Grow

Creative by Nature

“Skills and abilities only develop when knowledge is applied directly and used creatively in meaningful situations, not on multiple choice tests. This is as true for basketball and piano playing as it is for cooking, reading, karate, mathematics, parenting, democratic decision-making and brain surgery.”

1521638_695857763779389_1697484308_nThink about a young child, or any talented athlete, artist, scientist and musician. How did they develop their skills and understandings? Those who have studied successful mastery describe a common path and process that is followed, one that requires practice, effort, patience, creativity and concentration.

Take the example of language learning. All children are born with the potential to learn new languages, they have brains that we might compare to “language learning” hardware in a computer. Over time they master the specific language of those who surround them, what we might compare to software.

1014043_610248005673699_1692193082_nBut this is where the similarity between machines and humans ends. With…

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“EDIT”I found it! How Do You Learn to Be an Artist?

I have been looking for the above article forever and I was looking for an email and finally found it again!!!

I never meant Mercedes Matter, but I am sure I would have loved her!  Please read the link above because she is so right today just as she was in 1973.

Here is an email I wrote to a friend, one who nominated me for Delaware Art Teacher of the Year.  I wrote this email, excerpt below, when I was really have a hard time with my administrators, still trying to find the reasons why everything was happening to me.  If you haven’t realized, I am a very passionate person and I do not sugar coat or hold back: a strength or weakness, it depends on the day.  Enjoy my emotional writing!

Art education in my school is DEAD.  I am teaching, talking, thinking like every other teacher in my building.  And my brain and soul are screaming out for help!  I am an art teacher!  This is not how it is done!   What is going on! 

Sooooo I googled, “How do you learn to be an artist?” and I found this article entitled the same as my question.  I cried while reading it because she is right.  She is just as right today as she was in 1973 and I had never heard of her before…..  PLEASE READ.

  1. Students should be creating art, everyday in art class, no questions, point blank!
  2. Art is a process!!!!  One learns during it, not before (this is preparation), not after (that is reflection, DURING!!!!! Learning occurs during the art MAKING process. 
  3. Art class needs an IEP, its personal, independent, and individual to each student.

So, after reading the article and making my 3 above conclusions.  The ONLY whole component in DPASII that completely applies to the “true” and “best” art education experience is Component 4: Professional Responsibilities.

We know how to make artists.  We know how to teach creativity.  We are the only place in a school left that students are able to learn the skills needed in a creative, changing, future society.  Art teachers have been doing it the best they could in between the lines and under the radar for years.  That is how I learned from George Shotzberger.  We did a writing piece here, he gave a multiple choice test there, and he created rubrics for grades so he can prove to others we learned, but now……..

  • My students are writing more than creating.
  • My students are discussing more than creating.
  • My students are being assessed more than creating.

Since the first day of school, six weeks ago, each child in my school has completed ONE 9by12 piece of artwork in pencil and crayon.  ONE……

WHAT KIND OF ART EDUCATION AM I PROVIDING………  this is why I cry at night.  this is why it takes me hours and hours to write lesson plans.  this is why I hate my job.


We have to do something.  I have plans, small ones, but plans.

  1. My district started the idea of “clusters” for our gifted and talented program a few years ago.  It is not gifted and talented at all and in the past I hated, but this year, it will give me a unique opportunity because it is interest based and learner focused.  No standards needed, no lesson plans to write.  Students will choose what to make, and the materials needed.  (I get extra money for this too, so I can go buy stuff I don’t have.)They will decide what they will do each day and create their own timeline for completion.  At the end, I plan on recording them talking about their art, their process, their future plans.  I guarantee they will learn.  I don’t have to talk about it, assess it, write damn lesson plans, go to meetings, talk to my partner, or nothing.  All I have to do is guide and be there when I am needed.  Maybe I can make some art of my own….That is how art education should be.  

Delaware Art Teacher of the Year for 2016!

I really do not like to toot my own horn, but I need to start so I can continue to draw viewers and supporters of the arts in Delaware’s educational system.  I have been chosen to be Delaware’s Art Teacher of the Year for 2016.  I am very honored to get this award and truly hope that I can use it to further drive home the importance of art, creativity, innovation and the god given right to create just because I want too.  I will be honored at a banquet in March.  I will post the registration form when it is available if anyone is interested.  I feel like I have a new set of friends in cyber space.  If you live in or near Delaware, please come.  These banquets are informal and a great way to reflect, renew, and rejoice in our dedication to education!

Symphonic Intelligence: The Next Revolution in Learning?

I love this blog and watched the movie “Lucy” too! I am glad that drugs are not the end all be all!

Creative by Nature

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” ~Galileo Galilei

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 9.18.16 AM

Watching the film “Lucy” over the weekend (its number 1 here in Japan’s DVD rental shops) I was amazed that the director said he had talked with at least a dozen Nobel prize scientists before making the movie. Whomever these scientists were, they seemed to live in an alternate Universe, where leading educational theories such as Howard Gardner’s MI theory, the psychology of “flow” and the educational application of neuroplasticity research is unknown.

In one of the interviews with a scientist who helped advise the film he talked about the power of ADHD drugs. Its like he was clueless to what psychological researchers know about mindfulness training and how skills are self-constructed by learners over time, through long term practice and application. This is neuroplasticity in action, the potential for child to develop a wide range of skills, when their learning and…

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Noam Chomsky: Bubble Tests “Destroy Any Meaningful Educational Process”

I have read many articles written by Noam Chomsky. He is easy to read and will fill you with a-Hah! moments!

Diane Ravitch's blog

This post contains a valuable interview with Noam Chomsky.

Chomsky is a philosopher, not a statistician or an economist. He looks behind the facade of data to ask “why are we doing this?” “What are the consequences?” “What is the value of collecting the data?” “Why?”

Statisticians and economists (fortunately, not all of them) tend to think that when they have collected enough data, they will reach conclusions about the data. They think the data is as solid as “how many cars of this model sold? what was the profit margin? how should we price next year’s model to maximize profit?” or “how high will corn grow with this amount of fertilizer? how many acres should be planted with this seed?”

The starry-eyed data-mongers believe that children can be measured like any agricultural or mechanical product.

But teachers know that children are not corn; they are not electrical appliances; they…

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Delaware Professional Appraisal System 101: Part 2 of 6

DPAS II: Additional Information

Delaware’s teacher evaluation system is based on the work of Charlotte Danielson.  This system is divided into 5 components, each evaluated on a 4.0 scale; distinguished, proficient, basic, and unsatisfactory.  All components are weighted and add up to a final score; satisfactory or unsatisfactory on the summative evaluation. Interesting to note, some districts do not allow for any rating above proficient…not sure why.

Component One: Planning and Preparation

This component is featured on pages 8-15 of the teacher guide.  It starts with an overview and a copy of the component rubric.  If you are new to this evaluation system you would think, “If I follow this I will be good,” but no.  There is another rubric, the criterion rubric. You can find it on the DOE website or click here.  This rubric is found in the appendix of the guide, not in the reading.  Wonder why?

On the criterion rubric, used by most administrators, component 1 is divided into 5 criterion; 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, and 1e, all of which are listed on the component rubric.  Some of these criterion are optional and not used by all districts,  But wait, I thought this system has, “consistent educator and student performance expectations and outcomes across all schools.”  How is this possible if districts can pick and choose what to use?  Why not chuck the whole thing?

*On the criterion rubric, 1a: Selecting Instructional Goals is divided again into 4 elements: value, sequence, and alignment, clarity, balance, and suitability for diverse learners.

VALUE, SEQUENCE, AND ALIGNMENT: I read this part of the guide and looked at this part of the criterion rubric.  The guide talks about goals and the rubric focuses on outcomes… I assume (you know what that means :)) goals and outcomes are the same, but you would think that the makers would have ALIGNED their terminology.  Especially since the this element has the word alignment in it. 🙂  This element is really dictated by your curriculum, so a teacher can blame issues on their district curriculum writers.  Now, an art teacher is a curriculum writer as well as a teacher.  We tend to be protective of our curriculum because it is a part of who we are.  If we love to paint, then our curriculum will have a lot of painting included.  Our standards are written to accommodate our chosen medium and style of art making.  Administrators do not completely realize this and can put a teacher on the defensive with one or two words or questions.

CLARITY: This speaks to your lesson plan.  The more detailed the better. There should be goals or outcomes, objectives, assessments, student activities, and teaching strategies.  Administrators can only assess what they see or what you write, so write it down just in case you do not do it during your observation.  This element is weird for an art teacher because most administrators do not teach art. We find ourselves teaching our administrators or arguing with them, trying to defend why we did what we did during the observation.  If you do not know what a collagraph is, then how can you assess if the teacher taught it effectively or not?

BALANCE: Talks about multiple-intelligence/different learning styles and coordination with other content areas.  Again, write it in your lesson plan.  Administrators cannot assess your thoughts.

SUITABILITY FOR DIVERSE LEARNERS: I love this one!  Art levels the playing field of education naturally and art is personalized for each student already.  An elementary art teacher cannot be distinguish here DOE!!!  Example, the average elementary art teacher teaches 500 or more students in a week.  They have 25 to 35 students at a time, for 40-50 minutes once a week. This is a lot of kids and too many individual medical and educational needs to remember.  They teach about 100 different kids each day of the week!  Think about that….  But this criterion rubric wants teachers to individualize everything from activities to assessments to be distinguished.  What person can write 500 lesson, with 2-3 individualized activities, and 500 different assessments to go with them? Teachers are being set up to fail.  That sounds familiar…. On a side note, student surveys are listed as “potential evidence,” so I would give them often.

*On the criterion rubric, 1b: Designing Coherent Instruction is divided into 4 elements: learning activities, instructional materials and resources, instructional groups, lesson and unit structure.  I will not discuss all of them because this is taking forever and my Adult ADD is kicking in….  I think this is how our students feel….

LEARNING ACTIVITIES: I think that activities is not a good term anymore.  Administrators want to see strategies that can be assessed for merit.  An activity is just that, an activity, but a strategy can be used during an activity and then reflected on for effectiveness.  Focus on strategies.  What strategies are best for art education?  That article is on my to do list.

INSTRUCTIONAL GROUPS: This one is great too, sarcastically speaking.  Art teachers do not create instructional groups.  We do have students grouped at tables. We do pair student up based on knowledge or ability.  But we do not have reading groups that rotate around the room.  This element is not observable in the average art classroom, so why is it on my rubric?

*On the criterion rubric, 1c: Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedogogy is divided into 3 elements: knowledge of content and the structure of the discipline, knowledge of prerequisite relationships, and knowledge of content-related pedagogy.  This element is by far my favorite in component 1:).  I am an expert in the field of art education and I pride myself on going to as many conferences and consume as much professional development as I can in the field of art education. One thing an art teacher hates more an anything is when an administrator tries to tell us how to teach art, when they NEVER have.  Yes, many things are important in all classrooms, but some things are needed just in an art room.  For example, organized chaos is an art room hallmark.  Students have to get their materials and put them away in some fashion.  Whether a teacher calls students one by one, table by table, or you say,”5 minutes, clean up;” this is a fact that must happen.  I was told by an administrator, that it took away from instructional time and I should find another way.

*On the criterion rubric, 1d: Demonstrating Knowledge of Students is divided into 5 elements: knowledge of child and adolescent development, knowledge of the learning process, knowledge of students’ skills, knowledge, and language proficiency, knowledge of students’ interests and cultural heritage, and knowledge of students’ special needs.  Okay, I am freaked out already!  This element is all about CYA, and it freaks me out because there is no way that I can know all of the above for each and every one of my students!  It’s crazy, but an expectation.

*Last one, 1e is divided into 4 elements: congruence with instructional outcomes, criteria and standards, design of formative assessments, use for planning.  This element with many of the others focuses on the individual student being distinguished, groups of students proficient, and whole class being basic.   Art teachers want to be as individualized as we can, but again with the amount of students we teach, individual assessments for most students is a dream.  There is also the argument of process vs. product in this element.  Which is more important?  This is an age old question in art education with both answers being correct.  Let’s hope you agree with your admin because if you value process and your administrator values produce… you have a problem…


Can you see what is going on?  I have written so much that I do not know what I wrote.  Component 1 is divided into 20 different elements.  I have written over 1200 words and didn’t even talk about all of them!  There comes a point when something is broken down so much that all true, usable information with meaning is lost…..  I think we are there, and this is only component one….. Stay tuned!