I never taught to the test. I never used pre-made curricula. Even though I relied heavily on the internet and print media and other sources for authentic materials I always made anything I found my own. I created my own curricula for whatever classes I taught - I was rarely, if ever handed any real curricula - and that included general art, fine art, art history, advertising, cartooning, painting, drawing, and photography (without cameras - you figure it out), as well as - out of license - music appreciation, technology, video, and health. (Math too but I would like to pretend that never happened because the last person you’d ever want your child to learn math from would be me.)
The teachers who presented pre-digested power points every class period were the same teachers who were disgusted when their students handed in heavily cut-and-pasted term papers and projects, or copied off one another in Regents exams. What would you expect when all you were handing them was something YOU cut, copied and pasted, without any of your own input? As a student my memory is of teachers who taught us in their own words, even if they were reading them from little bits of yellow paper, at breakneck speed, as we took notes. The act of listening and then writing was the key to our learning, even if it was mainly to ingest facts that we would then be able to regurgitate at a 3-hour state test required for a high school diploma. Most of our classes were not taught for the sake of passing a high-stakes exam, but we still had to learn - we were expected to listen, read, write, and respond to our teachers.
I believe that teachers turn key not only what but how they were taught, the voices still in their head of the gifted teachers who taught them. This was verified to me in a recent conversation with a fellow Cooper art school grad who related how he teaches his college level art students using the same pedagogy as our mutual art professor used with him as a student. I can speak for myself that I taught my students in elementary, intermediate, and high school in the same manner, although of course everything was adjusted to meet the appropriate emotional, mental, physical, age, and experiential level of the students (I taught many students with disabilities including Down’s Syndrome, autism, deaf and hard of hearing, in wheelchairs, on crutches, legally blind, learning disabled, and mild to severely emotionally disturbed, as well as the “general” population, including english language learners, the post-incarcerated, and recent immigrants with little to no prior formal education, who often displayed many of these disabilities as well).
I would “crit” their projects, and speak to them as individuals, giving them feedback and taking them seriously, even if for them art was a total mystery or contained little to no importance for them or their families. I taught concepts, basic principles of art and design, and art appreciation by exposing them to the works of artists, and asking them to respond to the art. I rarely presented my students with a template unless if was something for the younger students that would allow them to make it their own. I learned that all students needed a jumping off point, and a little push, and time to explore and do their thing. When supervisors, who’d left me pretty much alone most of my teaching career over several years at various schools suddenly were mandated to find something wrong with everything I was doing - after years producing bonafide student “product” e.g. the original student art works displayed in the classroom, on the bulletin boards in the hallway, and in the semi-annual end of term art shows - teaching stopped being what it was supposed to be.
Students as well as teachers cannot function under scrutiny. Even though I rolled with every punch, and pushed back as well, and fought for myself and for other teachers, it seemed that whatever I was doing was never going to be understood or appreciated, except by a few caring students who did not run with the crowd mentality that school and teachers were “wack”.