Teachers have to paint with different strokes during a pandemic

Teachers+have+to+paint+with+different+strokes+during+a+pandemic

Teaching in a classroom without masks, social distancing, or the risk of contracting a deadly virus seems like a fantasy in 2021. Even though COVID-19 is slowly starting to be contained, many Colorado school districts are still hesitant to open schools back up to all age groups full time. This forces teachers to become more creative with their lesson plans, but it restricts a lot they can do with their students. Art teachers are no exception to this dilemma. In fact, they have to become more creative because of the hands-on nature of their class.

Art is not a class where you can fill out a worksheet or read in a textbook, like a math or English class; rather, it is very hands-on and requires specific materials to complete an assignment, unlike most classes in school. Having to quickly adjust to an online version of school, art teachers had to come up with class lessons on the fly.

In a global pandemic, art teachers have to work from homes and their dining room turns into makeshift art studios. Photo courtesy of Rachel Donnelly

Mary Elfers, ceramic art teacher, said, “We pretty much had to make do with special assignments that can be done from home. So we would use the materials we had at home such as cardboard and other things, so projects became ready made sculptures from scraps that used principles that we have learned in class.”

However, in the new semester, teachers were able to supply students with limited materials that were supposed to last a short amount of time. These materials were supplied to students at the beginning of the semester, and now, a month in, those materials are quickly running thin and pose another obstacle that art teachers will have to deal with to teach effectively.

“If I could have my way, I would give students much more clay to take home because I only gave them so much. And if we do stay online, my students definitely don’t have enough supplies to sustain themselves through the class. When I assign more projects, they will have to come back to school and pick up more supplies, which will prove to be difficult and a lot to ask out of students to do, especially if they don’t live in Highlands Ranch,” said Elfers. 

In contrast, some teachers have found a way to adapt to the new fully online learning environment. They have become more proactive and forward thinking when considering the uncertainty of the future. 

“I knew going into this whole year that art kits and materials were going to be important. If anything I was on top of things and a lot more prepared than a lot of people. I had bins full of materials already put in place and kids would take the kits to and from school just in case we became quarantined. It definitely helped during November when there was a lot of random quarantining, and then we closed,” said Rachel Donnelly, art teacher.

I really thought worse case scenario and I was prepared. And I have confidence in my students that they will make it through.

Jon Cushing

As educators, face to face contact with students is helpful when it comes to giving students a good learning experience. Art classes are no exception to this obstacle created by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, DCSD administrators announced that high school students will be going on the hybrid schedule starting Feb. 8. This will allow students to go to school for 2 days a week and feel some sort of normalcy in a time of uncertainty. Even though it is not guaranteed that school will stay on the hybrid model, some teachers are still not satisfied with the structure established for them to teach.

“The hybrid model is just a totally different beast. I think it’s good for kids to get in here and see each other and reestablish a social life,” said Jon Cushing, drawing and painting teacher. “But from my perspective, it’s tough. Doing the same thing on an A day and a B day is difficult. The whole routine and process really wore on me in the fall and I really needed the break to regroup because it was really rough.”

Kofi Kessey, Staff Reporter