Episode # 24
Advocating for and Implementing Technological Solutions in Elementary School Specials with Kristin Scott
November 17, 2022
About This Episode
[00:00:47] Kara: So joining us today is Kristen Scott, who is a former K through six art teacher, and now is shifting roles to run a nonprofit with her husband called Activation Ministries. So she’s still being an educator, just in a different role. That’s right.
[00:01:06] Kristin: It’s so great to be here. Thanks for having.
[00:01:09] Kara: so excited to talk to you because I’m curious, first for you to tell us how you decided to be a teacher.
[00:01:17] Kristin: Oh my gosh. I wish I could tell you that at five years old I knew I was gonna be a teacher and getting a classroom was like a dream come true. But that really just wasn’t the case for me.
I, I think for a lot of us trying to figure out. What that thing is that you’re gonna do in life is hard. And I have a teenager going through that right now. And so I, I, I have memories of being in that early phase of trying to ask myself those questions, like, what am I gonna be, what am I gonna do? And taking one of those career assessment tests.
And I was looking forward so much to getting those results back . I was almost like hinging my career on it, you know, it was that important to me cuz I had no clue what I wanted to do and it came back and told me that I should be a chef. Interesting. Which I think is interesting, but I kind of threw that out the window pretty quickly.
Quickly, yeah. Knowing that was not going to be my route, but leading up to that point of heading off to college, I, I had chosen to go into education, I think primarily because, I had a, a love for learning. I have a natural curiosity, and that idea of transferring knowledge from one person to another was very satisfying for me.
I enjoyed sharing information, sharing what I knew with others. And I also had a heart for people to wanna serve and love people, especially kids. I felt like. Kids need a positive role model in their lives, and I had a natural leadership on my life that I felt like those two things coupled together seemed like education would be a good fit for me.
Yeah, for sure. So when I went off to college, I was still, I had that in the back of my mind that that’s a possible field for me, but wasn’t 100% sold on it. So I was advised when I showed up at freshman orientation, if you were even remotely thinking about going into education, you should probably enroll as like a.
Education major because it was easier to exit out than it would be to come back in later. Oh, interesting. Right. Yeah. So I was like, Okay, well I guess I’ll just go. So they were shuffling people off to like their perspective colleges or schools, and I went along with the education people, which also includes I think health and like social sciences and things like that all underneath that.
So I remember sitting there at freshman orientation and every single one of these leaders of these prospective colleges and schools got up and shared like all the exciting things about their programs. And I’m listening to like the education people and it all sounded really great. And these other people got up and this social worker man got up and he started talking and I was like, Wow.
That actually sounds really, really amazing. I maybe I wanna be a social worker. And I was like, in this total moment of conflict, right? Cause I was like, gosh, I don’t know. That sounds good too. And I, I thinking back, it was almost like this Jerry McGuire moment because they said, Okay, well now that you know what our programs are about, we’re gonna split off in the room and you’re gonna go with the person that you’re gonna enroll for your classes and.
They got everybody together and the education guy was like, If you were gonna be in education, come over here. And this whole H of people like got up and started moving and they’re like, If you’re gonna be in social work, go over there. And no one got up. And I was like, Oh my gosh, that guy totally rocked it.
I mean, I was almost in tears. Yeah. listening to him about what social work was gonna do, and I actually felt bad, so I got up and I followed the social worker, the one person in the room. Oh my God. Because I felt bad for him and I was like, maybe this could be an avenue for. So I went and sat down with the social worker.
This is true story, by the way, , and he’s talking to me about everything. We’re getting ready to enroll in classes and sweat starts, like collecting on my forehead and in my armpits and like running down my back. No. Cause I was like, I, I really don’t think this is what I wanna do. Like I came here for education.
I felt like in my heart that’s what I should be doing. What am I doing sitting here in front of the social work man? Because I felt bad for him and thought he needed somebody to, to go to his corner. And I’m, I’m, I sat in it for, I don’t know, maybe 15 minutes. And then finally I piped up and I said, I’m really sorry, but I think I need to be over there.
And I decided that one decision I decided to leave social work and commit to going to education. Oh my gosh. So I, they, they got me enrolled in classes. I started taking some of those general ed things and the first class that I took for teachers was a science for general elementary. . So I was in this science class. As a prospective teacher, learning how I would someday teach like weather and rocks and minerals and all these things, and I was like, This is really, really boring. and uninteresting, and. I was like, What is wrong with me,
I’m like, I feel like I’m supposed something in me is telling me I’m supposed to be doing education, but I really don’t see myself teaching clouds, nebulous clouds, and the shape of rocks. I was like, I don’t think I could do this. So I had this honest, hard talk with myself. Or I thought, okay, if I’m gonna go through with education, where in the, in the school building would I feel the most, like that idea of sharing information that was so satisfying to me, like what would I want to share or teach or impart to people and watch them grab a hold of it and grow.
And what I concluded was that I really, in my upbringing, as much as I. Learning. I loved school. I loved all of it. I was a good student. But the place in the school building where I felt the most myself and at peace was in the art room. Oh, wow. And I was like, Oh my gosh. I, I was good at art. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t something that I, I really got serious about.
I mean, even in my high school classes, I took some art classes and really, really loved it. It was like the savior of my day to go down to that art room. . But even like parental influence and other influences, it was always about the academics. And I never thought that art was a possibility for me. But after that long, hard conversation, I was like, You know what? I’m actually gonna take a chance on myself.
And after my first semester of my freshman year, I went to the art ed program and I said, Is there a place for me here? And they got me into. And the minute that I started taking those art classes and the art ed classes, something in me just came alive. And it was so cool that I found such a natural fit with education and creativity, that if you think back to that chef, you know, supposed to be a chef. That has that element of creativity and leadership and leading people into doing something creative that produces a product.
By the time I graduated, I was the top female art ed student in my class. And so it just kind of confirmed to me that I had made the right choice and that chance I took on myself really paid off. Yeah,
[00:09:20] Kara: for sure. Well, and I’m thinking like, oh my gosh, what a reflective, like, enlightening teenager you were , I mean, to be, you know, 18, 19 years old.
Yeah. 17, 18, 19, like, and. , you know, be that reflective.
[00:09:37] Kristin: Well, yeah. You know, you’re like, Is this really what I want to do with the rest of my life? And I had that hard thing of like, No, I don’t wanna do this. But I do feel like that pull to wanna lead and impart knowledge and, and help, but it ended up being in the arts.
[00:09:52] Kara: I feel like that wisdom should be bestowed upon many, , young people because it’s so hard. Especially in this day and age, there were gonna be jobs that by the time they graduate college are things they never knew existed.
Mm-hmm. , you know, it’s just, I don’t en. Trying to. Figure out the path you choose in order to be successful in one of them
so I know that you obviously taught K through six art, which is oftentimes the lone person in a building or maybe across a couple buildings.
Yeah. But really what I’m curious about is how technology played a role in your setting and like, how you have made that work.
[00:10:40] Kristin: Yeah, I mean, one of the first buildings I was in, it was really pathetic.
I wanted to show my students pictures of famous artists, famous artworks, and I, I had no way of showing them, art rooms are always like the low man on the totem pole. And technology usually goes to math, science, you know, ela, all those other classes.
And so it’s hard as a, art teacher to advocate for yourself in the first place. But it’s extra hard to advocate for technology because the budget usually isn’t there. but I noticed how when I asked for something or fought for something and proved that it was worthwhile for the school to invest in small things , that my teaching really began to grow.
And people Not only the administration, but the other staff would see that me having access to technology was really increasing the way that art was being showcased and allowed out into the school grounds, out into the community. And I started to really advocate for myself,
[00:11:52] Kara: Which is important.
, did you have. A curriculum or like how did that all
[00:11:59] Kristin: work? Yes and no. I would say that a lot of art teachers, at least in my, my experience, are handed a pretty bare bones like framework of the things that you’re supposed to include within your lessons, as well as, you know, trying to include all of the, the state standards.
And so it’s really up to you to look at those two things coupled side by side and say, Okay, the district wants to. To make sure that I cover X, Y, and Z and the state says that I have to make sure that they know this, this, and this. And so what can I do in my classroom that can help couple and marry those in an art way?
And so a lot of art teachers tend to work backwards where they start off with seeing something cute, whether it’s on Pinterest or Google, or another teacher has posted something, or just being in someone else’s art classroom. You’ll see these really fun projects and you say, Ooh, that’s really cute.
I think I’ll try that. And you look at it and go, Oh, I think I could throw in this state standard and this, you know, school mandate within this one project, and I’ll just plug it in somewhere and we’ll just run with that. Mm-hmm. . And so I think generally that’s how a lot of art teachers will create their curriculum is based off of the end result.
Gotcha. And I started doing that right out of the gate cuz it’s what I, what I knew to do. I mean, there is no textbook. You are the textbook. Yeah. Like you’re creating olive, all of the knowledge exists in you. And so you’re having to impart that the best way that you can to your students while having all these, all these balls up in the air.
And so, into my teaching. I started realizing like we’re doing cute projects, but are the kids really learning anything? Yeah. Are they really understanding those concepts from one project to the next? And I felt like my curriculum, quote unquote, was lacking a sense of continuity. And so again, that 18 year old introspective teenager came out Yeah.
and was like, ok, I think I need to rethink this a little bit. And although there’s no set textbook to follow, I think I can create something that has more purpose and more meaning. And so rather than just having these projects the kids would do, I started creating an underlying framework of thinking through, okay, what do these kids need to know in kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, all the way up to sixth grade?
And how do I want to create. Flowing curriculum that would help hit not only all of the things that the school says they need to learn, but the state says they need to learn. And things that I know artistically that they need to learn and master as well. So for every single grade level. I had like this ongoing slide presentation and was all themed and all geared towards what I had decided. The kids in that particular grade level needed to learn. And so technology. As I started using it in the classroom to build this curriculum, I noticed that it actually created a really great rhythm for me and the kids because they would come into my classroom and I would have their slide presentation ready, which was kind of like their visual textbook.
We’d walk through almost those introductory things where they could see pictures. Cuz by this point I had been in a district where, The available technology to me was not only like the Google package, but I had actually acquired a projector and a whiteboard so I was at that point where they were used to and accustomed to, this is how we, how we learn art.
This was like our textbook. We had it up on the board and we will walk through some of those, those learning things of pictures and I could show movies and. It would set up the idea of the art piece that we were going to start working on, and then we’d get to work and at the end of the class we would usually kind of circle back.
And one of the things that I found really, really helpful was utilizing YouTube. So because I had this entire curriculum built out for all the six different grade levels, I curated my own playlists and I would find these amazing videos that attached to every single one of my concepts and objectives for each of the grades.
And I put them into individual playlists. And at the end of the class, the rhythm was, That we would circle back and watch a video that reinforced the concept that we were learning from that day, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to figure out all of this had I not embraced the idea of utilizing technology.
It really enhanced my teaching, you know, and it gave like this continuity and a flow that we all got accustomed to and I was able to utilize things that were outside of just, Hey, here’s a project. This is what we’re gonna do. This is how you do it, now go. Yeah. And when I was able to really, Take advantage of what I had, although it was, it was limited in comparison to a lot of the other classroom teachers.
It really just brought my teaching to life.
[00:17:26] Kara: Well, and I’m thinking like the YouTube playlist thing is such a great idea because then you’re not, trying to search for it and then you have it from year to year too, like Right. Those cur. List that you have obviously previewed beforehand, and you know that it’s gonna reinforce what you want it to reinforce.
Right. And you just keep going back to it and you can play ’em over and over and .
[00:17:50] Kristin: Oh yeah. The kids would request them. Yeah.
I mean the, the good thing for me, which a lot of other teachers outside of those specialized roles don’t have is that in a K six building, I was the one and only art teacher and.
I had every student in the entire school for all those seven years, and so not only was my curriculum building, but the relationship and the rapport was building as well, and they knew what to expect because I had the same rhythm instilled with all of my classes
[00:18:26] Kara: it is a kind of a cool privilege really, because you get to watch their growth right. Not only are they set up for success in the sense that they know your routine and how things are gonna be carried out, but then also
you know, their strengths and weaknesses. Right. And know how you can support them as they grow as
[00:18:46] Kristin: well. Right? And even so, you know, in building the curriculum it was like, well I know what you learned last year. Mm-hmm. . And so I know how to build on that, which is an advantage we get being in those specialized areas that a lot of the classroom teachers don’t have.
Cuz they’re coming from a total different group. Of teachers and grade level and you’re not, necessarily privy to know what was taught there and nor do we, as teachers, we all know, we don’t have the time to sit down and have those deep conversations of, tell me what you’re doing, because we’re so consumed with what we are doing that we just kind of take it as it comes.
And like what we get every year is what we get and we just go from.
[00:19:24] Kara: For sure. It’s survival mode. Well, and I’m thinking too, like as a special area teacher your time is so limited, and so having that routine established and being able to carry it over from year to year right, you’re able to utilize more time.
[00:19:40] Kristin: absolutely. You know, once I had kind of established and built that curriculum, I had all of these slide presentations that were totally themed and I could use the same one from year to year. For example, like my first grader. I had all of the slides. They’re already introducing the same concept.
But what changed from year to year was just the project that I chose to use to facilitate those specific objectives and, and needed points. So the, I wasn’t getting bored and even the school at large, year to year, they wouldn’t see the same projects hanging in the walls, but the kids were learning the same concepts.
I just replaced the activity that we did to reinforce that learning.
[00:20:25] Kara: Yeah, Which is great. Cause I would like that too, like to change it up for my own self to not get bored. Right.
If at any point did you incorporate technology for the students to use, Hmm. And if so, like how did you carry that out? Not having a set of Chromebooks or whatever in that room.
[00:20:49] Kristin: Yeah. No, I, You know, I really embraced this idea of technology, not only for myself, but I did for my students, and it was important to me that every single one of my grade levels. They learned how to use technology as a tool to make art like that was actually built into my curriculum. So not only did I make sure that with the projects I chose for the year that they did a painting project and a drawing project, and a collage project, I made sure that at, to some degree, every grade level did a technology or digital piece.
And so, yeah, to, to answer your question, I did not have a classroom. Of Chromebooks, but as I started, like I said, advocating for myself and that this was something that I was willing to include in my classroom and in my learning. When, kind of like when you show that you can be a team player and do what everybody else is doing and not just make yourself like the one anomaly in the building.
Yeah. People are more willing to like, share cuz you’re, you’re showing you’re on the same team. So I started brainstorming with a lot of the other teachers and realized that there were available carts. of classroom set Chromebooks. So what we figured out was that when that grade level went to their time of specials, The entire grade was not utilizing those computers at all cuz they were busy in library music, PE, and, and my class.
And so when the kids would come to art on their scheduled day, they would wheel down their grade level. Set of Chromebooks. And so they would come and we would utilize those in my classroom, and the kids knew how to log on. It was great. I didn’t have to teach them that they knew exactly what to do. All I had to do was show them the program or the project or the, the digital art that I wanted them to learn.
So, A, a lot of the projects that I did because again, with budgeting, I, of course I would want Adobe Photoshop and all these amazing things that my school district couldn’t afford. But there are some really great programs that are free that you can utilize just on a regular Chromebook. And one of those that I, I really used was Google drawings.
I was able to creatively come up with a lot of ideas on using Google drawings. And I also went to the internet and found lots of great free photo editing software like Pick Monkey Pickler and things like that, that I, I learned on my own and then utilized with my kids to make digital art in the classroom.
[00:23:33] Kara: Could you share with us maybe a couple or a project that is your favorite when you’re utilizing Google drawings?
Because I feel like. Many times Google Drawings is one of those workplace apps that. Doesn’t get really, its time of day or people don’t really realize what all it can do. .
[00:23:55] Kristin: Yeah. Yeah. It gets overlooked. There were a couple projects that I did utilizing that, that were really successful and the kids seemed to really like it a lot.
The first one I did with my second graders, we were focusing on a famous painting. You’ve probably seen it before. It’s a man and bowl hat with an apple in front of his face. It’s by Renee Magret . And it, I thought, Well, how fun, you know, to learn the art of creating parodies. And so what I decided to do is that the kids were gonna be able to create their own parody.
Of that particular art piece by putting an object. It didn’t have to be an apple. They could decide what it was in front of the face of their teacher. So I went to the second grade teachers and I took digital photographs of each one of the teachers, and I uploaded them so that the kids had access to them through their Google Drive, and all they had to do was import the picture of their teacher into Google drawings and then go onto the internet and find that object that they wanted to then put in front of their face as a parody instead of the apple.
So kids would go and find like these transparent images of cats and they would load these cats in front of their teachers faces and they had a ball. It was a hoot, and we printed some out and the teachers got to see them and it was just was this fun little thing that we did. Totally wild. And, and, and.
The other one that was a lot of success was one I did with my fifth graders. We were learning about the art movement of surrealism, which is Salvador, Dolly and all of his crazy, weird, wild like landscapes. So what the kids had to do again, was import a background picture a landscape or a, a city scape or any place they wanted to be.
It could even be inside like a grocery store, but just go out on the internet and find a picture of a place and import that in as their background. And again, doing Google searches of transparent images, they could then like cut and paste and put those objects into their scape. So for example, Like if we’ll take it inside the grocery store, you could put an a lion inside of the grocery store and add like a party hat on his head because Google drawings allows you to resize and rotate and bring things forward and backward, and even add shadows that have started to look like.
Scape was a real possibility and they just had these really fun surrealist landscapes that the kids had a blast creating with the computers. Oh
[00:26:49] Kara: my gosh, that sounds like so much fun. It really was. I may need to try it .
[00:26:55] Kristin: I actually did some just for fun cuz I had a blast doing them. Oh. I. Yeah, I think I even saved them on my computer.
I still have them. That’s awesome. Of flying donuts with wings and fun things like that. Yeah,
[00:27:07] Kara: anything’s possible. That’s, Yeah, for sure. And they’re creating digital art. It’s fun. Oh my gosh. Well, thanks for talking to
[00:27:14] Kristin: me today. Yeah, you’re welcome. It’s my pleasure.
Even with the simplest of things that you might have available to you, things that the district gives to you, it is possible to be creative. And I, I saw my own teaching that when I embraced the use of technology. Whether it was in creating Google Slides or curating videos or trying to have the kids get on the computers in my classroom, it can seem pretty daunting, but if you like have the time and energy and effort to do it, I really saw how it enhanced not only what we were able to create, but the engagement of the kids and the caliber of learning that it took them.
Give it a try and be willing to start small and take baby steps and build along the way. You don’t have to have everything figured out all at once
If you do something and it fails, then it’s, it’s okay. You just tweak it, try it different another way. And hopefully you’ll find success eventually down the. Yeah, for sure.
[00:28:17] Kara: Great advice, .
During her 10 years as an educator, Kristin taught art to students in grades K-12 in various districts throughout Southwestern Ohio. Finding a love for the elementary age, she spent most of her career cultivating the creative lives of younger learners. Utilizing the limited resources available to her, Kristin designed and built her own comprehensive art curriculum that skillfully fostered her students’ growth as artists and as individuals. She believes that art education should help others develop well rounded, balanced lives and create opportunities for students to better understand themselves and appreciate the ideas of others.
She has since shifted her teaching talents from the field of education to the area of religion. She and her husband, Jason, co–founded and co-direct a non-profit organization called Activation Ministries. Through this new pathway Kristin teaches, writes curriculum, creates resources, and leads creative experiences to help others grow in their relationship with God.