Thursday, June 23, 2016

5 Habits for Teaching Like an Artist in the Summer

Since most of us teachers aren't technically working in the summer, most of these are habits to prepare for teaching like an artist. Each one builds to the final one, though, which is a great teaching opportunity anytime.

Habit 1:  Carry a sketchbook - This might not be a book you actually draw in, but there might be sketching involved. Basically it's a place you "sketch out" your ideas in any way. If you like paper and a pencil, get a small notepad to carry with you. I suggest a digital version, like a Google Docs file, that you can access on your computer, phone anywhere and any time.

The main thing is that you write down (or copy and paste or snap a picture) of any good ideas you see or think of. You're a teacher at heart, so even when you're out of that school environment, you'll see connections to your work with learners. Make a habit of quickly recording all those thoughts. When you get time, flip through the notes and develop some of them. When the best ones rise to the surface, think of how you'll bring them into reality

Reflect - Artists are thoughtful and reflection as a habit. I suggest you use my free reflection journal, 31 Days of Teaching Like an Artist. That book will guide you toward a teacher mission statement through the discovery of purpose, exercises for vision and a chance to set goals.

If you don't want to use that book, at the very least you should think over the good and bad of the previous school year. Plan ahead for the upcoming one. Connect with the dream that brought you this far and dream big dreams for the one ahead. What lesson did you learn most in the past year? How will you teach it to others?

Hang out with other artists - Art starts when the artist sees possibilities most people miss. One way to see more is to hang out with people who see more. If you can't hang out with these people in person, at least connect with them virtually or through their writing.

I still hear great educators say the best thing they ever did for their teaching was to get on Twitter and follow people sharing the best ideas. Make it a goal this summer to take your next step with social media. Find some new favorite blogs. I always recommend starting with Vicki Davis and Larry Ferlazzo.

Of course, read books. My favorite recent find is The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros. I consider this required reading for today's teachers and principals. It's been a long time since I've highlighted so many good thoughts while reading. I also suggest Poke the Box by Seth Godin and Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.

Make something - This doesn't have to be related to your teaching, but make something you haven't made before. Explore some tools and techniques you always wanted to, but didn't have time. Get used to following a project from original vision to reality. Practice making art happen.

If you aren't sure what to make, but you want to explore some simple, powerful digital tools, I suggest looking at Adobe Spark. Use it to document a vacation or even just a slow, beautiful day of doing not much at all. I made a tutorial for some of the features here and here.

Depending on how big of a project you take on, you might only complete one project this summer. If you have time for more, keep going. The main thing is that you form the habit of creating (and finishing) your art.

Share it - Here's where you actually can teach even in the summer. As I said above with connecting, take your next step with contributing through blogs and social media. Use those tools to show off the best things you and your students learned and did the past year. Share what you learned from doing the four other habits listed here. Share that thing you're making, even in the process of making it.

If you do share some work at any time this summer, please consider using the Summer Teaching Like an Artist hashtag:  #tlaasummer16