LEAD ARTIST OPPORTUNITY
Cedar Grove Middle School
About the Org: Cedar Grove Middle School is in DeKalb County, Region 5 and services the Flat Shoals/Panthersville Rd. area. It was built as DeKalb's first true middle school and is working hard to overcome the challenges that are presented due to location and student population. At the end of each school year our outstanding and dedicated principal Dr. Alexander has to answer for our consistently high suspension rates and low CCRPI scores. However as of 2015 our CCRPI scores have put us in a place where we are poised to come off the Opportunity School District Schools list within the next 2-3 years. We are also successfully closing the achievement gap between the lowest student performers and highest by raising the lower scorers. I can say with confidence that whatever negative light is shown on Cedar Grove Middle, the faculty and administration take it in stride and put forth 110% every single day to do whatever is necessary to help our students succeed.
About the Students: Cedar Grove serves students grades 6-8 and has approximately 850 students. Many of our students have been held back a previous year so are older, and are reading below grade level. 97% are on free or reduced lunch, and demographically speaking the school is 98% African American and about 2% Hispanic. We do have a substantial amount of students who have been identified as having learning and behavioral disabilities varying in severity and type, and students who are classified as special education learners. Personally, as the art teacher, what I observe most in my students that I would like to change is the amount of respect they show towards each other and towards their teachers. They say and do things to one another out of "fun" that are in no way appropriate or fun when viewed from a real world perspective. They are unable to NOT respond to students or adults saying anything to them they do not agree with. It is also very evident that many of them come from home situations that play a large role in the amount of anger and behavior issues they carry around with them on a daily basis. I learned very quickly that touching a student in any way...even just a hand on the shoulder, can cause an immediate and intense negative reaction that leads me to believe they are not touched in loving ways at home, but in harsh and hurtful ways. This is my first year there and it has taken till about now to build a report with many of the students in which they do not see me as "out to get them" or "the mean white teacher". After nine months they are finally seeing that I only expect them to exhibit some manners towards each other and towards myself, to lessen the amount of profanity out of respect for the learning environment, and that art can in fact be enjoyable. The teacher I replaced pretty much made the kids stay in their seat every day, all of class time, and draw on paper. I have much higher aspirations for these children and have spent much of the year agonizing over getting them to respect the materials so that we can make masks, pottery, yarn art, make books, and do more than just draw shoes. I entered student's work into the DeKalb County's ART STAR award program this year, which has not happened in a very long time, and am spending tonight writing this application...
What they would like: Several years ago I taught a lesson on the theoretical idea of quilt squares being used on the Underground Railroad to communicate and also covered the topic of "found art" and using recycled materials as media. I combined the two and the students used food trash we had saved (cereal boxes, chip bags, etc) to make their own quilt squares. I would like to take that idea and focus in on the quilt square pattern Jacob's Ladder (or Underground Railroad) and it's history (noting that by now most historians say it was not used during the Civil War as a means of communication) but "In the end we must see the name Underground Railroad for this quilt block as one that remembers and honors the brave people who escaped slavery by traveling north and those who helped them. This does not make its historical significance any less. A commemorative pattern like this reveals the importance the Underground Railroad had to people not only during the time it helped slaves escape but for many, many years after the Civil War." (womenfolk.com) I would like to make the connection between the fact that the Underground Railroad was a group effort from people of all backgrounds working together to help those in need. Just as at Cedar Grove we are all in this together striving to help our students succeed by passing their classes and standardized tests. It is not teacher vs. student, or student vs. student. I hear students complain about the school...if we want a better image then we all need to work to make that happen. So I want the kids to get to make their own quilt squares but to put them all together up on the wall by the cafeteria and it form a Jacob's Ladder; Ideally I would like to do this with each grade level but I understand if it is only feasible to do one and that would be about 280 kids
2nd idea of what they would like: recycled materials. I would like to do something with painting, or painting with paper, but strictly painting is not my strongest area and I would like these students to have something for their portfolio
Potential Themes: I would like to make the connection between the fact that the Underground Railroad was a group effort from people of all backgrounds working together to help those in need. Just as at Cedar Grove we are all in this together striving to help our students succeed by passing their classes and standardized tests. It is not teacher vs. student, or student vs. student. I hear students complain about the school...if we want a better image then we all need to work to make that happen.; These students are about to go to the high school and as I remember myself the "art kids" don't always fit in. I want these kids to feel good about what they have accomplished over the year and feel secure in their "art self"
Dates/Times: Our fall break is October 5-9 so doing it those days before (2nd-4th) would be great. Grade levels have connections classes at the same time so which ever grade level would be available all at once. My principal is also supportive of arranging the schedule to accommodate as well.; For the spring: The students take the GA Milestones this time each year. This year 8th graders are done on May 5th. After that they have two and a half weeks of school left and having something like this to look forward too after their grueling testing I think would be wonderful.