After a couple weeks away while Tim talked to important people (Sir Ken Robinson and AOE Founder Jessica Balsley), Andrew is back! The guys get together to talk about what they love and what they don’t when it comes to art and art education. They share their thoughts on Pop Art and Impressionism (2:30), why Andrew has ditched his teacher desk (6:45), whether you should spend time in the teacher’s lounge (13:00), and when it’s worth it to make a phone call home (15:15). Full episode transcript below.
Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. The show’s produced by The Art of Education, and I’m your host Tim Bogatz. For the last couple weeks we’ve done some pretty serious work on this podcast. I interviewed Sir Ken Robinson two weeks ago for a long wide-ranging discussion on art teaching, creativity, and a plethora of other topics. It was a really in-depth talk. If you have not had a chance to listen, make sure you go back and do that soon. You can find it on artedradio.com.
Then, last week I continued the discussion with Jessica Balsley, the founder of The Art of Ed, my favorite boss, about a lot of those same topics. Inspiration, creativity, finding your passion, and how we can help our students develop that same type of passion. Again, if you want to hear that discussion go to artedradio.com. It’s there with our entire archives, all of our old episodes. But this week it’s time for Andrew and me to start yelling at each other once again.
I know you missed Andrew and his rants and I have too, so it’s time to bring him back. Now a while back Andrew came up with a great game that we love to play called love it or shove it. We probably need to explain just a little bit before we get started. Basically, one of us will bring up a topic in art, art history, art education, or something related, and we both take turns deciding, do we love it or do we shove it?
Is it something we want our kids to learn, or an artist we enjoy, a concept that gets taught well in our classroom, we will love it. If we can’t stand the artist or teaching the concept, or maybe you just want to pick a fight, we will choose shove it. Andrew and I have each picked a handful of topics that we need to discuss, and with that I think it’s time to get started. So let me bring him on now. All right Andrew. How are you?
Andrew: I’m doing fantastic as always man.
Tim: Good. I am excited to talk to you about this crazy idea of yours where we are going to vote love it or shove it. I think it’s going to be a good time. Are you ready to go?
Andrew: I am ready to start screaming and shouting at things, yes.
Tim: All right. Sounds good. The first one that I’m going to ask you about for love it or shove it is this weird obsession that you have always had, it’s always bothered me, with pop art. I know you’re going to say love it, but I really need to know why, so I’m sending that to you. Love it or shove it: Pop art.
Andrew: I love it and the reason I love it is I think that there’s so much, there’s so many different angles and layers that students can project their own interests into. When I show them Andy Warhol and I show them Lichtenstein and I talk to them about how their being critical, they’re looking at popular culture with a critical eye. They’re re-contextualizing things, they’re sampling things. I just feel like there’s still so many ways, even 50 years later or 40 years later, after the heyday of pop art, that it still rings so very true for so many people in our society who, let’s face it, we’re sort of like pop culture obsessed. I just think there’s so many great ways for kids to get into it. That’s why I like it.
Tim: Oh, that’s good. I was going to go shove it, but that was a really convincing argument right there.
Andrew: I win. I win.
Tim: For me, it just gets really tiring to see so much ridiculous repetition. I’m like, “But it’s in four different colors,” and people go crazy for it. Just annoys the crap out of me and I feel like a lot of teachers reduce it to, “Like well I’ll just throw in some art history and we’ll do this self-portrait, and we’ll do it four different times in four different colors, and we have pop art.” That’s not enough, but the way you explain it and the way I would like to teach it is very much about drawing those connections to our modern culture. I’m going to give you this one with love.
Andrew: All right. Okay, so if we’re in the vein of art history I’m going to fire back at you. If pop art is like my all-time favorite, if there was any art history movement that I could just push off the ledge because I do not like it, it would be Impressionism. I don’t like it. I’m shoving it. Convince me I’m wrong. I don’t like it. I don’t like Impressionism.
Tim: I love it. I love Impressionism. How do I want to frame this argument? Here’s what we’re going to say. First of all, I love Monet. He’s fantastic. Anybody who came make haystacks look good is doing something right in my book. But for me, I feel like Impressionism is kind of the art history gateway drug, right? It’s super easy to like, it’s super easy to get into. Then people are like, “Oh yeah, I like this Monet guy. He was pretty cool.” Then you’re like, “Let me tell you about post-Impressionism,” and you start talking about Van Gogh. Everybody loves Van Gogh. Then you start talking about how crazy, but also brilliant, Van Gogh is. Then you’re like, “You know who else is crazy and brilliant?” Marcel Duchamp. Then all of a sudden three steps away you’re talking about all sorts of incredible art history stuff. I’m going to go love it as the best way to introduce art history to your students or to your friends.
Andrew: Okay, a couple of things. When you said he makes haystacks look good, I almost threw up on air a little bit. Listen, if you have to say that Impressionism is good because it’s the gateway drug of art history, dude, you are on some shaky ground. Shaky ground my friend. Now I will say this. I thought you were going to say Toulouse-Lautrec because I actually do like Toulouse-Lautrec. I know he’s in that camp, but I don’t know man. I guess if you can bridge carefully from Impressionism to other things, and you don’t stay there for very long, I might come around but I’m still shoving it man.
Tim: Okay, fair enough. We could argue Toulouse-Lautrec but I’m going to move on. All right, the other thing that I feel like I’m just doing a lot of nit picking with you. Things that you say that bother me. We’re going to talk about those. You’ve gotten rid of your teacher desk and that’s a shove it for me. I need my space that is mine, that kids are not getting to. Not that I don’t love my students but if I can just have a little three foot by four foot sanctuary, I need that space. I need that time. Granted, I was blessed with a huge classroom, but man, I need my desk. Can you tell me why you love getting rid of your teacher desk?
Andrew: Yeah. I don’t have one this year at all. The last couple of years I’ve had a desk but I’ve had a stool. Basically, my thing is I don’t want to encourage myself to sit down. If I do feel like I need to sit down like, “I’m not getting any younger. By the end of the day I enjoy a good sit-down moment, but I do it next to my students, in their classroom. I think when you have this sort of space that’s like, no no, no. This is mine and only mine. It sets up sort of a relationship that I don’t know that it’s great.
Now, I still have a little computer station. I’s on a cart and I’ve got it set up so I’m always standing at my computer. I think it allows me to be more mobile. I can more quickly get to things. I just think if there’s a little soft, cozy, comfortable spot where you can do your own thing, why wouldn’t you want to go there and spend an inordinate amount of time, and then maybe not be as receptive to your students as you need to?
Tim: I feel like I’m being judged for having a desk right now.
Andrew: Well hey, I forgot to tell you before we started this podcast, you’re talking to a guy who went to national debate tournament in 1996. I’ve got the goods man. I can talk you up and down. I will persuade you to come to my side of thinking about things.
Tim: Right. So hit me up. What have you got for your next one?
Andrew: Well, okay. I think this is why you like having a desk, because you are super duper organized and I am not super organized, so I’m just going to take organization as a whole, shove it. It’s over rated. I don’t need it. Just willy nilly, just free form, find stuff where you last put it, right?
Tim: I don’t even know what to say to this. Man, okay. Organization is the key to a well-run art room. Labels, and pictures, and knowing where everything goes, and your room is going to run smoothly. I feel like you’re just inviting chaos if you’re going to say shove it to organization. My biggest thing is … Well, I like a clean and organized room. More importantly, I want my students to be able to quickly and easily find things, and then quickly and easily put things away. I don’t know why you would set them up for failure with that goal by not being organized. Don’t you find that you’re wasting a ridiculous amount of time if you’re spending all day searching for things and trying to help kids? Like, “Well, I think I last saw that on the counter over there. Go look.” You’re wasting everybody’s time.
Andrew: I think I literally said that today about three times in every classroom. “Hey, where’s the tape”? “Well, the last time I saw it, someone had put it over there.” That’s why I don’t have a desk, because I can’t sit down. I have to answer 20 questions at once because no one knows where to find things. It’s all about exercise. I need my exercise.
Tim: I feel like your stress level is like 20 times higher at the end of the day.
Andrew: I think you’re probably right. I’ll give you this one. You’ve convinced me. I need to be more organized. You win. You win this one.
Tim: All right. Speaking of being organized and dealing with supplies, how do you feel about teachers coming into your room and sorting through your mess and borrowing your supplies?
Andrew: See, you’ve stumbled on to something. My lack of organization is a defense mechanism against thievery. They don’t want to come into this room where it’s just messy. I’m going to try really hard not to swear over the next 90 seconds because I really let my emotions show, I might drop some profanity up in here. But I don’t like it. I want to shove it. I don’t like people stealing my stuff, coming in and borrowing my stuff. I don’t like it when teachers do it. I don’t like when students do it.
I can be talked into allowing an art student who is currently taking my class, come in and borrow some materials that I have an abundance of, for a project that’s not an art project. But when I have a kid come in that I don’t … “Who are you? I don’t know you. Get out of here.” “Can I have some clay”? “No, you can’t have some clay.” I don’t have time for that and it’s just wasteful. I don’t see how you could possibly love this. I think you’re lying to yourself.
Tim: I don’t know that I love it, but I don’t know why you want to set yourself up for all of your colleagues and all of the students in the building to hate you.
Andrew: I don’t care.
Tim: Where is the harm in letting them borrow colored pencils for 45 minutes?
Andrew: I don’t have enough. I don’t have enough stuff man. I’ve got to safeguard every little scrap of stuff I got.
Tim: I suppose that’s a fair argument, but I just think that it’s a very easy way to set up some goodwill with other teachers in the building and say, “Hey, here’s a handful of supplies you can borrow. No, you can’t come in and take a gallon of paint, but I’ve got a few art supplies. You can check them out, bring them back.” Easy enough to do but anyway, we can move on.
Andrew: I think this one’s a draw. That’s a draw. We’ve both got some good arguments here. Okay, this one is … I’m kind of 50-50 on this one. I love it, but then I want to shove it, but then I want to bring it back and love it again because I’ve done it both ways. Hanging out in the teachers lounge. As an art teacher-
Tim: No, no, no, no.
Andrew: But listen, there’s-
Tim: I’m going to shove it.
Andrew: You’re hypocritical because you just said we’ve got to build goodwill. What goodwill are you building if you hibernate in your little tidy organized desk all the time. You’ve got to build connections with your colleagues. You’ve got to show them that you’re not the weird art teacher that they think you are. What better time than breaking that communal bread in the teachers lounge?
Tim: Man, what worse time. I cannot even handle hanging out in the teachers lounge. I need some peace and quiet. I want to be by myself for a little bit, at my teacher desk, hanging out, and eating my lunch in peace. I don’t know. You know this and I say this a lot, but I’m antisocial. I can’t imagine just going down and hanging out with a bunch of teachers I barely know for 25 minutes making small talk. That is my idea of a nightmare. Man, I do not spend any more time than I need to in the teachers lounge.
Andrew: Yeah, you know, you’re right. People are the worst. I hate people.
Tim: It’s why we got an education, right?
Andrew: Yeah, right, right.
Tim: Speaking of people and talking to them, love it or shove it on calling home.
Andrew: I would be hypocritical if I said that I loved it because I, a year ago or so wrote an article about how I don’t do it anymore.
Tim: Yes. I was just going to bring that up.
Andrew: I mean, I don’t think it does any good. The kid is rarely going to change the behavior, which is 99.9% of the reason why you’re calling home. There’s a behavior you don’t like. When was the last time you called home and said, “You know I really wish Johnny would shade with his pencils a lot better. I wish you could work on that”? It’s always about behavior and I don’t think that it changes. Now, I have to confess, right before we did this podcast, you know this because I had to tell you I had to make a call home-
Tim: I was waiting on you, yes.
Andrew: I called home but, in my defense, it was a positive phone call home. I wanted to call a parent and say how much I enjoyed their student. Mom and dad were maybe a little concerned that student was a little stressed out by the workload at the end of the school year. I just wanted to say, “Your kid’s doing great. Your kid’s awesome. I love your kid.” I don’t know. There’s a time and place for it. The traditional notion of calling home, totally over rated. I’m shoving it.
Tim: Yeah. The point I was going to bring up is the positive phone calls home. I love making the positive phone calls because that will make your day better. I think it really helps building relationships. A few episodes we spent an entire conversation just talking about building relationships. I think those positive phone calls home go a long, long way toward doing that. If I can just say a great time to make phone calls home is during my lunch break, at my teacher’s desk, when I’m not hanging out in the teachers lounge.
Andrew: Hold on. From a parent’s perspective, imagine if you called home over lunch break, while you’re in the teachers lounge, and you’re like, “Hold on a second. I’m going to put you on speaker phone. There’s a whole bunch of teachers here that want to talk to you about your kid.” That would be so powerful. That would just be powerful on both ends.
Tim: That’s a really good idea to be honest. I was going to try and dismiss that idea but I can’t. I think that’s a really good idea actually.
Andrew: You know, as I said it I thought I was being funny, and then as it was coming out of my mouth, I was like dude, that’s a really good idea. People should do this more often. That’s how I roll. I just open my mouth and gold falls out. I don’t know.
Tim: As evidenced by this entire episode, right?
Andrew: Yeah, right. Okay, here’s one that we might find some common ground here. I don’t see how you could possibly like this idea.
Tim: Okay. Hit me up.
Andrew: Those art contests that come out every year, practically every month. It’s duck-stamp month, it’s carbon monoxide awareness month, it’s fire prevention month. Make a poster art teacher because you’ve got nothing better to do. I don’t like it. I feel like it devalues what we’re doing, the assumption that we got nothing better to do than make posters, so I’m shoving all of that art contest stuff out the window. I don’t like it.
Tim: Yeah. I’m going to agree. I was going to try to make a half-hearted defense, but I would just feel dirty, like that would be dishonest. I hate those art contests more than anything. We can agree on that one. We’ll shove it.
Andrew: Well, we might have to find someone out there who likes those.
Tim: I was just thinking that. Guys if you’re listening to this and you love your aviary bird-drawing contests and whatever random stamp design contest, let us know and let us know why because we are curious.
Andrew: The only thing I could see is that if you do have a kid that is really into winning things, and is good, there is some advocacy and some esteem building. But so much of that just becomes a burden on the teacher to try to promote this thing which the majority of your kids don’t give a rip about.
Tim: Yes, and there are much better ways to do advocacy, so I’m just going to leave that there. All right. One last one, then we’ll get out of here. I love these so much and I know you’re going to say shove it, but weekly sketchbook assignments.
Andrew: Yeah, shove it. I don’t have time for that. I don’t have time to grade and look at all that stuff. Big old classes. It has to be the way that I run it because I look at my student’s weekly sketchbook assignments and I can tell that they put in about five minutes worth of work into these sketches, and they did it the class period before, because they forgot about them. It’s like, “Why am I wasting my time to look at and grade something, and give feedback for something that you wasted your time not doing?” I just feel like I could spend my time so much better than doing those things. You’ve got to explain to me what I’m doing wrong, and how you’re using these things, because they don’t work for me.
Tim: Well, I feel like it needs to be an entire episode to talk about everything I do with sketchbooks, but I will say we use them, not just for weekly assignments. That’s part of it but you can also use it for brainstorming, and sketches, and idea generation, and just use it repeatedly in class. When you do that, you can see kids’ creativity develop. You can see their problem solving skills develop. Then, when they are involved with that sketchbook on a regular basis, those weekly sketchbook assignments get better and better each week because they’re used to working in there. They enjoy it. Then I’ve got videos and articles on that AOE website about how to use sketchbooks, how to grade them quickly. Maybe we need to do an episode to tell you all about why I love weekly sketchbook assignments.
Andrew: I think you’ve got to count me out of that one because I would just be a Debbie Downer in the corner. Just like, “Nope, nope. Not going to work.” You need to bring someone on who’s a little bit more sympathetic to your ideas about those things.
Tim: Sounds good. I will be extra persuasive and you can listen to it at home and you can be convinced at that point. How’s that sound?
Andrew: I think that’s a fair enough challenge. I accept your challenge.
Tim: All right. That sounds good. Well, we’ll get you out of there on that one. This has been a lot of fun. It’s been a good time arguing with you, so thanks.
Andrew: Yeah, thanks Tim. We’ll see you later.
Tim: All right. I hope you enjoyed our love it or shove it discussion. We would definitely be interested to hear a couple of things from you. Where you agree or disagree on our topics, of course, but also whether we should be having another one of these discussions. I know my list of possible topics is a lot longer and I’m sure Andrew has a few more things he wants to rant about as well. It’s been a fun one and I would be happy to put together another episode if we can.
Now before I wrap things up I want to give you one last reminder about the Art Ed Now Conference coming up on August 3rd. Not only will we have Sir Ken Robinson, as we’ve talked about repeatedly during the past couple of weeks, but we’ll have all kinds of incredible presentations, on all kinds of incredible topics throughout the spectrum of art education. Assessment, technology, classroom management, creativity. Whatever interests you, there will be a presentation by one of the leading voices in art ed. Make sure you take a look at everything about the conference at artednow.com.
I think the takeaway from this conversation, as kind of ridiculous as it has been, is that there’s room for all kinds in the teaching world. Andrew and I agree on a lot of things and we disagree on a lot of others. Sometimes really strongly, but just because we do things differently doesn’t make us a better teacher one over the other. Not one of us is better, one of us is worse. But I will say Andrew still can’t figure out sketchbooks after a decade of teaching, so I’m going to continue to judge him for that. Seriously, no matter how you go about things, what topics you love to cover, which ones you shove aside, you’re still passing along great ideas to your kids. That’s what it’s really all about.
Art Ed Radio is produced by The Art of Education with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Remember that you can sign up for our email list at artedradio.com. You can also pass along your thoughts on love it or shove it, we always love to hear from you, by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to hear from you soon.