Monday, July 20, 2009

CHiaRtS is On the Scene

For all those who have been asking, CHiaRts (not sure what the upper-and-lower variations signify) is scheduled to open this fall, 2009, with an incoming class of 150.

The school's website is lush and slick, loads 'o visuals. Its newly hired department heads, Lisa Johnson-Willingham (LinkedIn, Facebook, and curiously, the school left her hyphen off its hiring announcement), Betsy Ko, Rob Chambers (Facebook, LinkedIn...), and Diana Stezalski, all seem like accomplished artists but none are certified teachers, though Ko is studying education at DePaul. In fact, on its FAQ page, in answer to the probably often-posed question, "Who will teach at CHiaRts?" the school glides past the question of education and credentials and describes a faculty of "full-time academic educators and artist-teachers" (huh?) and "part-time artists-teachers" (sounds like...saving money?).

Too bad. There is actually quite a lot to learn about education, through education. Places that value what education offers hire the most highly educated people they can. I wish the school would acknowledge that, as a model for its students and as a nod to and appreciation of the work of teachers who study pedagogy as well as poetry, performance and painting. My students have fully engaged themselves in both; who's hiring out there?

Also oddly, the CHiaRts website notes an anti-discrimination policy that is out-dated—“handicap” anyone?—and incomplete—where is sexual orientation? I guess this is what happens when folk who aren’t actually all that concerned about the details of education set up schools. Yet, language matters, policy matters, laws and history matters—get it right; it’s important.


Anonymous said...

if i understand you correctly, you think that the only way to become informed about educational pedagogy is from a college or university? and your statement "places that value what education offers hire the most highly educated people they can", is pretty hilarious and sad as well. so are you really saying that more education = good teaching?? i have had horrible teachers with PhDs and great teachers with no undergraduate education whatsoever. so, in my experience, your statement is pure fallacy. it sounds like you have quite a bias (and perhaps a big chip on your shoulder) against someone without an "education". i suppose you think that an education is only an education if you go to a college or university? poor thing.

Therese Quinn said...

Thanks for your comment.

If I understand YOU correctly, you are saying education doesn't much matter? I assume you aren't an educator, then!

As an educator, my bias is that education is wonderful and valuable, and that people benefit from gaining it. Of course, we are also educated outside school; humans learn wherever we are. And I know that some, increasingly many cannot access education in the US. And that education is not the only measure of smarts and wisdom. My grandfather, for example, never attended college, and was self-taught; he was always reading. But in my opinion, learning in community (school!) is good. And I do think our children deserve the most highly skilled and educated teachers we can hire.

I'm presently residing in Finland, which has what is considered the best education system in the world, based on international measures and comparisons. To learn more about that google PISA.

All Finnish teachers of students older than kindergarten level have at least a Masters degree and certification. Here, teaching is a highly competitive and sought after profession; less than 20% of applicants to teacher education programs are accepted. But of course, higher education is free--Finns can go on after their equivalent of high school to earn as many degrees as they want, no cost.

Last, it's true that many, maybe most who earn PhDs in the US are thrown into classrooms without any pedagogy prep at all, which could account for some rocky experiences for their students. My answer to that problem would be to encourage doctoral programs to include instruction about teaching.

Anonymous said...

i actually believe that education does matter but education to me doesn't necessarily have to come from sitting in a university classroom. or that "community" doesn't equal school as you stated it. that is, to me, a very european, hierarchical concept. there are amazing traditions and communities of folk arts & artists, apprenticing under a master artist and such that wouldn't qualify as "school". so what to do about that? just because someone doesn't have a PhD or Master's degree they shouldn't be able to teach? that is ridiculous in my eyes and experience. i'm not saying school or a traditional education is bad. i just think that the dogma you seem to believe in is pretty outdated. we, teaching artists, do care about pedagogy, changing the education system for the better, best practices, etc. but, they aren't teaching this in the education systems here in the united states. and, while we now have a professional journal for ourselves, there are no programs to certify or gain a degree in what we do. but that doesn't mean what we do is insufficient, unprofessional or lacking substance. we have had to learn how to do all of this outside the traditional education system. there are many european education philosophies that use art and artists as a central figure in learning. perhaps the closest thing to a model that i see is the reggio emilia model where each school has an artist that floats around from classroom to classroom helping the teacher use arts to enrich the curriculum.

Therese Quinn said...

Actually, I agree with you about folk arts and schools (the roots of Highlander is the "folk schools" of Denmark, artists and craft-learning, and apprenticeships. And I know that many people including teaching artists care about pedagogy. But to get back to ChiArts, I am not convinced that the "real" reason the school is hiring teaching artists who are uncertified is because those are the best teachers. Rather, I think the school, like other schools that hire uncertified teachers (notably charters), is looking to save some money on salaries. And maybe also looking for that maximum "flexibility" of hiring at will employees--no investment in people, just get rid of the ones you don't like! Did I mention that all Finnish teachers and professors are unionized?

Many of the people I teach at SAIC are BOTH teaching artists with years of experience and MFAs (and BFAs) AND they are certified. I think that if ChiArts really cared about hiring the best educators, they would (and could) have found both experienced and certified teachers.

I'm baffled by your assertion teacher education programs aren't focusing on changing education for the better, or best practices in the US--all of them? Really? All the programs are awful? Sounds like you drank someone's "kool-aid." Why? And who will benefit from this view?

Thanks for the discussion. I know and like very much Teaching Artists journal; it does raise great issues.

Anonymous said...

actually as a recent hiree at chiarts i can tell you that they have an amazing staff on board of teaching artists. i haven't met everyone but those who i do know that will be teaching arts courses in the fall are amazing, experienced teachers and artists.

i still take issue with you about certification. i have taught in many schools around the country and i can tell you that certification is no insurance at getting a good teacher. in fact, sometimes it seems (at least here in chicago public schools) that the majority of teachers are burned out, mean to kids and couldn't care less about giving a quality education. this is a complex issue and can't be blamed solely on one thing, but in my eyes certification doesn't mean a whole lot. it certainly doesn't ensure a good teacher.

i'm not saying all teaching programs are bad or are not promoting change. but based on the teachers i see in CPS and my experiences in their classrooms, i have a very dismal view of what they learn and were taught. a good, assertive, energetic, positive teacher in the CPS system is incredibly rare. its certainly far from the norm.

the way i see chiarts' policy to hire teaching artists is that they are keeping their options open. there is nothing that says they won't hire certified teachers (its just your hunch. have you actually talked to anyone @ chiarts? or are you just assuming what their motives are?). i think they just want the flexibility to hire the best teachers possible, no matter what their certification or education is.

the reason its part time right now is because there will be just a freshman class. the visual arts department only has 33 students. they will rotate through 4 different classes at least twice a week. as the numbers increase i imagine the hours will too.

Therese Quinn said...

I don't doubt that ChiArts has been able to hire excellent teaching artists, and I, too have met some burned-out and lack-luster teachers with certification, and also some without it in charter schools. My first response to that, though, isn't to say let's get rid of certification, let's let anyone who wants to, be a teacher. For one thing, as I said, I've met some not-so-reflective teachers who were not certified, and for another, while certification may not be able to ensure all its recipients are top-level, I'd rather not ditch that system, which is really our only way to guarantee at least a basic level of competence, but improve it. For example, I've had some less-than-fantastic doctors, too, but to solve that problem I wouldn't say, let's get rid of medical school; I might, though, try to analyze what's lacking from medical education. I might also want to understand more about the working conditions for doctors that could contribute to the problem I experienced; it my doctor, say, is scheduled to see a new patient every 5 minutes, that might be part of the problem. And so on. I usually assume that most people want to do a good job, especially th kind of people who enter medicine...and teaching! To put it another way, I have never met a teacher or pre-teacher who said, let me teach so I can be mean and lazy and boring an make children hate me. So what happens to those bright young people a few years into the work?

I did attend one, maybe two planning meetings for ChiArts and read/commented on the curriculum plans, so I have a sense of the process leading up to the school's opening.

You didn't address my point: There are many, many, many (I could add more many's, the job market being what it is) MFA's and MAT's who have both a solid and extensive arts background and certification--why wouldn't ChiArts hire these people rather than someone without certification? Remember, certification means at least a basic level of familiarity with ability/disability, language needs of ELL, and other crucial aspects of education. I'd certainly want that for my own children. I can understand bringing in guest speakers and artists who aren't, but as core full-time staff planning curriculum? Again, why not hire those with the most education?

Last, it seems to me that in practice, goals like "keeping options open" and "flexibility" usually work out better for the hirers than the hirees. There are some good local teacher groups working on improving conditions in CPS for both students and teachers--you might check out Teachers for Social Justice and CORE: Caucus of Rank and File Educators) both have Facebook groups) to find out what they are up to. However one enters the field, it's better to have a community to work with.

Anonymous said...

well,they do have full time, certified teachers during the regular school day, 9:00-2:00. but i'm not sure that is what you were asking. did the people with MFA & MTAs that you know apply? i know that no one teaching art (other than the four dept. heads) have a full time gig though.

in regards to becoming certified and such, a lot of us teaching artists have been meeting and talking and writing for some years now about how to grow our field/profession. i think certification may be a great next step. as i stated earlier, there just are no programs for this right now. there isn't a program tailored to suit the education & artistic instruction that a teaching artist will need. is there anything like that happening in europe?

Therese Quinn said...

Oh, thanks for filling me in on more details. It's too bad that no art teacher, other than heads, have full-time jobs. The more, the better, I think!

On the other point, that's something we've been talking about at SAIC, how to serve the population of uncertified teaching artists who want certification. I have friends with MFAs and no certification who worked at charter schools and then got National Board Certification, so that's one option. But perhaps you and colleagues could write up a proposal to "shop around" to area teacher education programs. The public universities in particular should be responsive. Bring ideas to SAIC, too. Maybe there's a way to gain funding for this. Anyway, I wish you all the best.

Anonymous said...

ChiArts is both a College Prep School and a preprofessional training in the arts....

bottom line -when it comes to the arts- certification is not the answer- it is a means but not an answer ( and frankly knowing a lot of teaching artist who went that route at many schools to ensure " a salary" - found it to be a waste of time- sorry, had to be honest)

Your thoughts are valid but keep in mind this is one school out of many in Chicago- please find yourself a position at one of those schools if certification is what the requirement is and that is what you deem necessary to make a school function in the arts - ChiArts is a school that is not about function - it is about education, craft and most importantly hard work - certified or not?

By the way - you should do your research a little better next time- ChiArts educators are all arts professionals and EXPERIENCED TEACHERS. ... individuals who have taught on the front line for many years and have been involved in the developing their craft as teachers-Like the arts,teaching is a craft that is not developed within the confines of a degree program.Most teachers- certified or not will agree to that?

So please Once again- plenty of schools out there who fit your needs and that of your studetns ..please go fine one and teach there and let ChiArts stand on it own without the" system" (you are so completely enthralled with) deeming it a failure.

You are obviously not an artist either?( but that was obvious given your judgments having not even stepped one foot into the school to see how it works...)

good luck championing certification and NOT reality or in other word- what the arts are really about:being open minded!

( oh and yes-- your comment about salaries and hiring at will- that is pretty funny coming from someone at SAIC...seriously, at least ChiArts is HIRING - come on- don't you have anything better to find fault with in this world...

if you really think so highly about teaching artists as you so claim then you should join the fight for that "union"

last but not least...

A good thing is happening in our city but there are always people like you ranting and trying to bring it down- please go back to your classroom- hopefully it is a secondary one so you can truly see what works and to acknowledge " certification" is just a process NOT the answer.

or maybe you should move to Finland?

Therese Quinn said...

Hmmm. There's something about blog commenting, especially when anonymous, that brings out a kind of nasty tone in some folks; these comments are a case-in-point (the snarky "move to Finland," for example). I think any serious queries, as opposed to cranky put-downs, embedded here were answered in my post and previous responses, but if not, come back with an actual identity and we can talk.