Would like to make my last blog as a kind of reflection of the Arts Educator 2.0 class over the last four years.

This class started for me my first year of employment in the Washington School District, fall of 2008. When I was hired in Washington, I already had a permanent teaching license and 19 years of teaching experience in the state of WV. My Washington School District colleagues, along with myself, were all offered the opportunity to take this new class that our Superintendent had gotten word of from the IU-1 called “Arts Educator 2.0”.

All of the teachers that took this class from all around Washington County had no idea exactly what to expect that first day of Arts Educator 2.0 at the Intermediate Unit -1 until our class professor, Dr. Mara Linaberger stood up in front of us that morning, welcomed us, and proceeded to discuss the purpose and direction that this class would take that year. Little did we all know that four years later, many of us from Year 1 would STILL be here!!!!

This class was all about inquiry in the arts classroom, along with how to incorporate the latest in 21st century technology. The pre-test that we took that morning of our first day of class completely blew me out of the water. Inquiry???? Didn’t know much about that. Critical thinking??? Discussed it, but hadn’t used it a great deal in the classroom yet. So I knew right off the bat that this class was really going to expand my knowledge as an arts teacher.

And this class was more than just a class, it was an experience, too!!! We spent the first hour of each morning with guest artists / dancers / musicians that allowed us to experience art and music in ways that most of us hadn’t had the opportunity to do before!! We had artists, dancers, and musicians that offered our palates a wide variety of artistic expression.

Now this was the first time a class of this caliper had been done, so it constantly had to be re-evaluated and re-examined for it’s effectiveness for all those involved. Were there some glitches?? Of course. Were they worked out? Of course! The class was always evolving throughout the entire four years. Why?? Because the instructors cared enough about us as educators to want to make this class the best and most enriching experience possible. They constantly got input from us about what was working / not working, then the professors would have meetings of their own to find ways to make this fit the wants and needs of us educators. It was a constant work in progress that evolved into a really great four year project!

The first year required that each teacher had to create their own unit plan, as well as a PPDP (which is a “Personal Professional Development Plan”). In the second year, we started with the concept of creating CIG group. CIG is short for “Collaborative Inquiry Group”. This idea was a GREAT new addition to this class because it gave us the opportunity to bounce ideas off of others in the class, and to create a unified CIG project with input from all CIG members. Another bonus of having CIG groups is the friendships and professional relationships we have built by working together. The whole CIG group concept was utilized again in year three and year four.

Technology “toys” – yet another bonus we received for taking this class. How excited we all were to be given a budget and be able to pick and choose any tech stuff that we thought would add to our arts curriculum at our schools. Q3’s, netbooks, flash drives, ipads, ipods, etc. all were purchases we made to help add quality to our personal classroom curriculums. Again, this all was made possible through the efforts of our arts educator professors!!!!

What about tech concepts that we learned about?? Skype-ing, wikispaces, wordpress, NINGs, dropbox, etc., all are examples of technologies that we not only learned about, but we learned to use as well throughout this four-year process.

The main focus, though, was always inquiry – and this made all of us much better thinkers and educators. It made us utilize inquiry in order to not only structure our classroom methods better, but also helped us to help our students to become better thinkers / problem solvers. It also enabled us and our students to improve our abilities at critical thinking.

So, in closing, I wanted to say “thanks”. Thanks for all that I learned in the four years of taking this class, and for helping me to become a better teacher for my students. I hope that the tools that I have been given in this class will help me to always continue to evolve my abilities as an educator – my students deserve the very best I can give them!