Someone I respect said to share what I do, so here it goes. The story of how I fell in love with TAB, or Teaching for Artistic Behavior.
It all started because of a behavior incentive. In my elementary classroom I had a reward classes could earn. If they had enough classes where they met my expectations they got to pick a lesson - clay, painting, you name it. Students loved this, of course, and it worked really well except for one little hang up; not everyone wanted to do the same thing. When we voted there were always a few kids who were disappointed. This exact scenario occurred in a fifth grade class at the end of the year. The look on the faces of the kids who were loosing the vote made me throw up my hands and declare that we'd just do it all. So, the next week I set up four centers, somewhat expecting chaos to ensue. You see, my school was made up of a rather challenging student population - low SES, 90% free and reduced lunch, low test scores, lots of behavior issues - that kind of school. The kids were awesome but I had learned over the years I need to keep tight control over everything. I had, in fact, read about TAB, and thought that it would never work with my kids.
The day of reckoning arrived. One center was for paper and found object sculpture, one for painting and one for collage. I fought back the feeling of impending doom and invited the class in to the room.
They loved it.
They were the most focused I had ever seen them, plus they were making really cool stuff. I walked around the room like Dorothy seeing Oz in color for the first time, amazed at the level of authentic engagement I was witnessing when I spotted Darius. A little background here - this kid had been my student since first grade. He was never a behavior problem really, he just never got into his projects. He followed directions but did the minimum and normally threw his work away on the way out the door. So I was understandably awestruck when I observed Darius silently folding paper to build an intricate model plane.
"Darius" I said, voice full of awe, "this is beautiful".
"Oh", he said as my words broke his concentration, "I build these all the time at home".
What came next change how I viewed my roll as teacher forever.
"Ms. Purtee", he said "This is better that P.E. Thank you".
Then he resumed his building. When he carried his sculpture carefully out of the classroom he beamed with pride. That was it. I knew I was going to change everything. Something that could make this boy love art had to be worth it.
I'm an high school art teacher who's really interested in student choice and creating opportunities for self expression. I'm also a writer for The Art of Education and co-author of The Open Art Room.