My name is Justin Clumpner. I have been involved in art education in one way or another for most of my life. I attended a suburban high school south of Chicago that had a great art program. I submitted an AP Studio Art Drawing Portfolio and received a 5. It was hard work, and I still consider it one of my most difficult artistic experiences. Afterward, I attended the Savannah College of Art and Design, and in 2004, I graduated cum laude with a BFA in Computer Art. Even before I finished my degree, I realized working on the computer was a little too isolating for me, and I ended up managing a restaurant outside of Chicago. It didn’t take me long to pursue a career in teaching. I attended the University of Illinois in Chicago and studied under Olivia Gude. She is a transformative force in art education, and she completely altered my worldview. If you are not yet familiar with her work, get familiar. Google her, follow her on Twitter, and look for her at the next NAEA conference you attend. I graduated from UIC with a BFA in Art Education in 2009 and near instantly moved to Dallas to work at a school in one of the neighboring suburbs. I am currently working towards my Masters in Art Education at Texas Tech.
When I arrived in Dallas, I was one of two new teachers in a department of three, and we had no lesson plans from our predecessors. My first year, I had 4 preps and only the handful of lesson plans that I had developed in college. I spent all my time writing and researching. Every summer, I threw out everything that didn’t work and began anew. I began to dismiss things that didn’t seem logical to me. I questioned everything. I made a rule never to ask my students to do something I wouldn’t do myself. If I didn’t find it valuable in my own art making practice, then why would my students? My colleagues and I came together to align our classes vertically, and we sharply critiqued each other’s pedagogy. In the 2011-2012 school year, I taught AP Studio Drawing for the first time. In the years before, the school averaged 53% of students receiving a 3 or higher. My first year, 85% of the students received a 3 or higher. In 2014, 100% of my students received a 3 or higher.
I did this by unmaking the role of art teacher and creating a space where students could work without authority, all the while still conforming to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the requirements of my own district, and the rules of the AP Studio Art Drawing Portfolio. I realized that to empower my students’ making and strengthen my students’ voices, I must minimize my own. I must create a space where everyone is working together to accomplish a goal of personal artistic growth, a space where no individual is intellectually subordinate to another.
I will use this forum to record what I am doing and to continue questioning my pedagogy. I welcome you to join me, critique me, teach me, and learn from me.