The See-Saw Effect: Ups and Downs of Home Learning

Term: 3 Year: 2020

“Just do the best you can!” Following a monumental panic in response to the prospect of teaching visual arts online, this statement from several colleagues, mentors and art teachers from my local network, slowly began to resonate with me.

After easily finding quite a few negatives (e.g. how was I ever going to cover textiles and modelling remotely, formative assessment – laughable, reporting arghhhh), I started to relish the challenge of providing my students with accessible, meaningful and rich learning experiences through our online platform – SeeSaw.

From the outset, I made a conscious decision that I would not be posting time filling worksheets. Visual arts is not a babysitter. But despite my earnest efforts, the uptake of the visual arts learning at home tasks has not been as strong as I hoped, with only a third of all students engaging in activities. I must remind myself there is a bigger picture. People are really struggling, losing jobs, working all hours at home, contending with home schooling, the list goes on… it’s not all about me! Self-pity is easy to succumb to while working in isolation, especially when there is no immediate feedback from students and stakeholders.

So, I made it fun and interesting for those who were up for the challenge. It has been experimental and exploratory. We have used food dye, beetroot juice, shaving cream, even condensed milk. Parents, siblings and students have collaborated on artworks. I burst into tears watching a prep student’s video of her art making. The whole family was involved, mum was extending learning, scaffolding creative and critical thinking, and making links to other areas of curriculum. It has been marvellous to see these small wins. I will endeavour to protect the value of arts education, whether it be at school or at home, and as I reflect on the ups and downs of online learning, I remind myself, we are all just doing the best we can.

Nicole Burnes
Visual Arts Teacher
Sacred Heart School, Kew