‘A perspective you can’t get in the classroom’
This winter, students graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Specialization in Art Education, took Art Education in the Secondary School II (ARTE 424). As the term — and their time at Concordia — concluded, they participated in Principal’s Night, an event that helped prepare them for their initial foray into the job market.
The course itself, taught by Martin Lalonde, was designed to familiarize students with the objectives, goals and content of the Quebec Ministry of Education’s secondary school visual arts curriculum. In it, students analyze their own practice and philosophy of art education with school and society in mind.
“The class allows for the sharing of real-life teaching experiences,” says student Carolyn Weisnagel. “It teaches you to develop educational strategies that support student success, and encourages flexibility in setting and managing our professional goals as a group.”
But ARTE 424 is more than just a 400-level seminar. For the second year in a row, it saw class members develop a professional portfolio. And during Principal’s Night, an event held on April 10, they were able to put those portfolios to immediate use during mock interviews with administrators from high schools across Montreal.
The idea was to prepare them for their first forays into the job market.
“I was anxious to share what I learned over the last four years as I flipped through the pages of my teaching portfolio,” Weisnagel says. “I was asked to frame pedagogy within actual scenarios principals face, like limited budgets for the visual arts, the need to integrate new technologies in creative ways and managing diversity in the inclusive classroom.”
The event, like the class, is the brainchild of Juan Carlos Castro, an assistant professor in the Department of Art Education. In orchestrating Principal’s Night, he also aimed to make local educational leaders aware of all that Concordia graduates have to offer as both job candidates and interns.
Melissa-Ann Ledo, a pedagogical consultant from the English Montreal School Board, was impressed by the students she met.
“They led me to believe that the Concordia Department of Art Education provides a well-rounded education,” she says. “They were sensitive to diverse learners and classroom needs, and had a deep understanding of visual arts course content.”
Ledo was also won over by the students’ artwork, which explored pertinent themes like bullying and homophobia.
Angela Vaudry, BFA 03, principal of Montreal’s James Lyng High School, echoes Ledo’s impression of the evening.
“I was very happy to share in this important moment in these students’ careers,” she says. “I hope to inform pre-service teachers about what principals want and need from them so that stronger educators can emerge and, together, we can deliver the highest-quality service possible to our students.”
For Weisnagel, the event offered an invaluable learning experience.
“I felt successful and will be comfortable bringing evidence of my competencies to future interviews,” she says. “The friendly feedback I received allowed me to understand my role through the eyes of an administrator and was exactly what I hoped would transpire from such an interview."
“Principal's Night gave me a perspective you can’t get in the classroom.”
Lauren Costello: “Principal’s Night was a great way to finish off my last term. I had the chance to engage in a real job interview, which gave me the opportunity to communicate my teaching philosophy. With the presentations of inspiring guest speakers, Art Education in the Secondary School II allowed me to become more familiar with the real expectations of a graduating education student. I feel I now have the skills I need for my career.”
Heather Cutts: “I am excited about my future employment opportunities. The mock interview prepared me for the questions I will be asked in a job interview; I learned to polish my answers concerning curriculum and technologies in the classroom. The highlight of the night, and my best memory, were the practicum student works displayed by my classmates.”
Maya Lalonde: “I didn’t know what to expect from Principal’s Night; it was my first experience in an education job interview. In the end, it went well, even though it was a little nerve-racking. Professor Lalonde’s emphasis on the importance of knowing the philosophy of the school and the educator you are interviewing with really prepared me for the challenge. This advice allowed me to tailor my responses to the questions I was asked, and inspired the ideas I shared with the principal.”
Stephanie Del Testa Belanger: “In my opinion, there was no better way to finish our studies as future educators. Not only was the night a quick glimpse of what awaits us in the ‘real world,’ but it also provided us with constructive feedback and, who knows, maybe even a possible job opportunity.”