By law, students in West Virginia must receive 40 minutes of art per week. Because of scheduling, one of my schools got a waiver, so art classes are 30 minutes. At first, this doesn’t sound like much, but once you factor in time to give instruction and time to clean up and get ready for the next batch of students (because, let’s face it, they’re never going to factor in transition time between classes), that doesn’t leave a lot of time for art creation. Though I’ve streamlined every procedure to wring the last little bit out of our classroom time, I’ve come to the conclusion that those 10 minutes are a pretty big deal!
I have had to create both 30-minute and 40-minute versions of all the projects I teach, in order to make them work for all my schools. Sadly, the 30-minute kids miss out. I don’t like it to be this way, and I feel bad because these students miss out on some of the more impressive projects I do in my 40- and 45-minute art schools, but I can only trim procedures back so much.
10 minutes can mean the difference between painting and using crayons; between 2-D work and 3-D work; between watercolors and markers. 10 minutes can also mean the difference between simple demonstration of a skill and actually working with students to ensure that they master that skill. 10 minutes can mean the difference between parroting and understanding. 10 minutes can mean the difference between award-winning art and art that just goes home. 10 minutes can mean the difference between nurturing young artists’ unique skills and just getting through a lesson in time for the next class. 10 minutes is the difference between assembly of pieces and creation of original art.10 minutes can mean the difference between adding those awesome cross-curricular tie-ins, and just getting through an art project as quickly as possible.
In general, 10 minutes is the difference between “fluff” instruction and a quality arts experience.
So, until I can convince lawmakers to give the arts more time in the school day, I do the best I can to make amazing things happen in the amount of time I’m given, but I can say with utmost sincerity that the length of instructional time has a huge effect on the quality of projects I can plan for my students, and also on the value of their educational experience in art.