Celebrate Art and Craft of Teaching, Thoughts to Inspire You!

Art and Craft of Teaching

November is #GratitudeMonth. We are grateful to be together in this month of Thanks, as colleagues and friends. Tonight we are all about teaching. Teaching at its innermost core of goodness and joy. 

Teaching as inspiration for generations of children in our care. No matter what obstacles, we are blessed. Let the change be, just for this moment, back to the only true basics, kids, without the din, distraction, challenge to our values and sensibilities. Let’s start with this celebration of learning: 

“To build a school that is safe, calm and without hunger. To build a school where learning is the primary goal, and failure is not an option. To build a school where routines, rituals, celebrations are the norm of the school climate. To build a school where all voices are heard, especially those quiet ones, who have important voices, too. To build a school that is a sanctuary for the child, in every way.” (Wirtz)

When all is said and done, what makes a great teacher? How do we define what it looks like, is it possible? We prefer to think about what each teacher is doing, what’s working, what’s not, the continual target teaching, constructivist model. Teacher as orchestrator of learning, but children’s choices are even more significant.  The teacher that children remember. ‘That teacher’. That teacher has options how to teach, the autonomy to decide what and how to teach, and resources to make it happen. 

Celebrate the Art and Craft of Teaching! The ultimate combo.

The art and craft of teaching are interwoven, the art sometimes no less than a da Vinci, the craft so intricate like a spider’s unique web. It reminds me a lot about why I love gardening so much, keeping those little plants growing, flowers blooming, the stages, like “Leo the Late Bloomer”. Art and craft everywhere in our lives really, and we are indeed all teachers, one way or another, and gardeners. 

“When I was a little girl. I planted pansies with my father. Some of my happy memories of that house and time on Clinton Street revolve around digging around in the dirt hanging out with Dad. He instinctively knew how to teach me best, with active, engaged learning. Almost always In flow state. I planted pansies this year with my granddaughter, hoping she too will remember what I taught her, lessons of life as we enjoy those beautiful blooms. “Schools as Gardens Of the Heart”. 

“Teaching is a work of heart. Love and passions. The perfect go-togethers. When all is said and done, life is about legacy. Each one of us shares a burning passion to do something, make a difference while we are here.” “Sometimes it takes just a word or two to change a life….” Teaching is our shared core value, our reason for being. 

What are art and craft anyway? How would you define each? Do you see an intersection where art and craft connect, cross over, re-define one another? Is that possible?

Surely art and craft are the beginning of our journey as educators. Regardless of what’s in vogue or not, at any given moment, what does art and craft mean to us as teaching professionals? Artists unleashing our creativity through various ways every moment of every day. Purpose, commitment, drive, engage our spirits to new heights regardless of any obstacles, pebbles to walk over, mountains to climb, for kids.

“The calling of the teacher. There is no craft more privileged. To awaken in another human being powers, dreams beyond one’s own; to induce in others a love for that which one loves; to make of one’s inward present their future; that is a threefold adventure like no other.” —George Steiner, Lessons of the Masters

Recently “Education Week”  included an article about teachers as designers of learning, referring specifically to craft. Teachers are the best judges of efficacy of daily instruction, art and craft co-mingling throughout the day, with mid-course corrections inevitable as those prized teachable moments occur or planning didn’t work as intended. 

“Craft knowledge stems from the understanding gathered over time by practitioners, including through stories, ad hoc observations, and intuition. It is the evidence that usually legitimizes professional judgment in our field, in part because scientific knowledge is not available or cannot be generalized to the thousands of different situations educators face daily. Another strength of craft knowledge is its encapsulation in stories, which are memorable and therefore available to guide action in the moment.

I have often seen this evidence is ridiculed and dismissed by professors and policymakers. And yet what I consider the most valuable evidence I’ve encountered in my teaching career falls into the craft category….”

One of the best things about teaching is the collaborative, collegial conversation, meeting like-minded people, educators, artists, business personalities, everybody reaching out for kids and schools. Teachers can spot each other a mile away, knowing the ‘look’, the pause at the dollar bins, buying in quantities. Teacher stuff. Professionals 24-7, always teaching or planning to teach, one way or another. The call. Powerful.

Chicken or egg? Are teachers born or made? I’m really not sure anymore. I know I always wanted to be a teacher, started young, like many of us, not all; the yen finds us at any given time in our life. It just happens. Our turn, servant leaders all.

For me, teaching was not just a calling, far more, a driving force, a desire to make that difference I knew I was capable of. I loved every grade I taught. There’s something special about each one. I still remember so many of the kids, grown up now, with kids of their own. The generations continue, life cycles, a myriad of transitions and seasonal celebration. A wide variety of experiences, art and craft always the fulcrum. 

My favorite course I taught as University Adjunct for Credential Students was called “The Art and Craft of Teaching”. It stuck in my head all those years, laying dormant except in some of my writing. Then that popped out of the genie’s bottle when Carol and I discussed possible different, unique topics and titles for her upcoming Twitter #NYEDChat she graciously invited me to co-moderate. 

This topic stuck. Obviously a FastChat discussing art and craft of teaching is not the best place for such esoteric depth; but in those brief moments, we gained valuable insights and potential for spin-off projects and chats. There is very little empirical, definitive research we found or articles by other teacher researchers about art and craft of teaching, yet it is the very framework for our creative, artistic expression as teachers and leaders.  

Carol, did you always want to be a teacher?

I agree with you, Rita, there is a calling to be a teacher. While my journey did not start with the desire to teach, my junior year of college opened the door to this calling. I, like others. responded with passionate desire to fill the hearts and minds of learners with knowledge and provide a pathway to lifelong learning.

As a teacher, I have journeyed across decades responding to an inner spirit to impact my teaching and children’s learning. Filled with a combination of creativity, curiosity, and wonder, I have interacted with others of similar mindsets, Rita Wirtz being one of them. We, in turn, have artistically endeavored to bring best practices that ignite the imagination and broaden learners’ abilities. We have honed our craft to combine expression, creative skill, and imagination to deliver literacy lessons in ways that engage and motivate students to succeed. With this in mind, I am grateful for the collaboration with Rita Wirtz. Her body of work, the flow of her writing, and the inspiration she brings to the world of education makes her a leading champion of reading. 

While teaching is a calling, it is also an art focusing on developing the beautiful minds of all unique learners. It is guided by principles of craft, sound practices that lead learners to explore and discover content and then, creatively showcase their work. 

Teachers, through their metacognition become owners of their learning. This is the power of modeling, whether art or craft, both, really. Thinking and modeling those thought processes make a difference. 

Teachers as designers of learning -inquiring, take a look at this insightful quote:

“Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together.  -Parker Palmer, Courage to Teach

Many have walked this journey and many will continue to do so because teaching is a professional commitment to engage ALL learners in lifelong reading and writing practices, starting with oneself, as artistic crafter. Students become the knowledge workers in most constructivist situations, but teachers are the awakeners and activators of learning. 

Michael Fullan who, for many years established baseline of work on change theory writes and talks about teachers as both learners and change agents, powerful forces who continually impact student thinking. Teachers as action researchers long to be heard and need autonomy to best need students needs!

“The calling of the teacher. There is no craft more privileged. To awaken in another human being powers, dreams beyond one’s own; to induce in others a love for that which one loves; to make of one’s inward present their future; that is a threefold adventure like no other.” —George Steiner, Lessons of the Masters

Before we share chat questions for you to ponder, a mention tonight we are working with Bloom’s Taxonomy, higher level thinking, including analysis, synthesis, etc.    

QUESTIONS. Thinking of Donna Ogle’s original KWL process, and beyond, what do we already know, what do we want to know, what did we learn, what do we want to know now and where will we find it? In regard to the #NYEDChat, let’s pose and respond with these starter questions. We actually developed a whole series of queries, but stayed with the basics for the FastChat, due to time crunch.

  • Set: Teaching is an art form that impacts hearts & minds of learners through a creative unfolding of pedagogically sound practices & passionate deliveries from ardent educators. Through a series of rich, engaging lessons they spark inquiry, leading learners to lifelong practices of reading and writing. Student agency is a sound goal.

Question 1 Sampling of Responses to #NYEDChat 

The art of teaching is an unique to each teacher as one’s fingerprints; it’s a synergistic communication. Craft to me implies continually honing one’s skills;  a teacher must always be growing professionally. My learning curve is eternally large. -Fran Haley 

The art and craft of teaching comes from deep inside a teacher. Often you see enthusiasm, joy, and determination from teachers as they weave a lesson from beginning to conclusion. – Meredith Johnson

The art of teaching is underrated. Teachers shouldn’t be someone reading a script. They should be able to write the script.- Jay Posick

For me, the craft comes in the form of planning and following the plan. The art comes with the kids and being able to adjust on the fly.- Kevin Rickard 

For me, art refers to creativity that’s specific to each teacher and craft-the moves and techniques that can be learned.- Laura Robb

Teaching is an art, and teachers who are in close touch with their childhood and creativity, can teach from the  heart and their emotional center. It’s not following a lesson plan, it’s connecting deeply with the curious child within you to understand what the child in front of you needs – Laura Robb

  • Set: Open communication with parents is essential at both building and classroom levels to familiarize families with goals, events, and instructional practices/projects. Many districts are using newsletters, bulletins, classroom flyers, and other forms of social media and communication systems as informative measures to keep stakeholders apprised of district and school news and activities. Parents are our Partners!

Question 2 Sampling of Responses to #NYEDChat 

To show stakeholders I care, I invited them into my school to join me for a holiday toy expo where I will go over all kinds of toys, apps and ed-tech to help meet their child’s needs. I share my passion with my stakeholders and it also allows me to share my craft with them. -Frances 

Important to let parents know what’s happening in our classrooms. Involve them in the strategies we’re using to facilitate learning. We have periodic brunch and learns for parents.-Donald Gately Ed.D

I was wildly surprised that families had signed up to our Canvas page. Grandparents really got into it. Parent/teacher day I had hardly any live interviews but online views went off the charts. People took time to see videos and read feedback. -Heulwen from Australia

It is important to share the things we are doing in class with our families. Social media can be a big help with this. We should also invite family members in to share their passions.  -Jay Posik

Parents are the third part of the unity triangle, students, parents, teacher.  Keep parents updated frequently, share your enthusiasm and passion with them, and invite them to partner with you toward their child’s success. -Lori Stanton

  • Set: Educators who are passionate about the art of teaching and their delivery of rich craft moves engage & motivate learners to succeed daily. All components of teaching are integral and important to develop agency.

Question 3 Sampling of Responses to #NYEDChat 

Showing people how much you care your students is so important. – Frances

Covering curriculum is the most engaging way but everything depends on a combination of elements that varies from day to day. The key is having a road map that you are willing to diverge from when necessary.- John Miller

As a new teacher art and craft are equally important. New teachers rely more on the craft than the art. They mature into the art of teaching as they grow. – Kevin Rickard

How would you respond to each of the questions? These are just a few responses to stimulate your thinking.

  • Close and Extension:  What I Want To Know Now. What’s next?
  • Reflaction. Reflection and Action.  What can I do?  Responses varied, including a District Edcamp, by Donald Gately. He offered: “There are so many opportunities to share ideas about the art and craft of teaching.” That sums it up!

THANK YOU is never enough. Thank you for adding your voice to ours as impassioned educators continually lift their voices to celebrate the art and craft of teaching. There is no way I can show my gratitude to you, Carol, and thousands of educators, parents, families who showed interest these past couple weeks in this distinctive topic. Welcome to class! We truly make a difference in the learning lives of children and young people in our care. Art and craft are everywhere. We are all teachers, one way or another, schoolhouse, workplace and home,  It is a privilege, one we hold dear. Our commitment to  excellence. Commitment being the word of the day, along with Celebrate!

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita

I’d love to hear from you! Contact me on Twitter, FB, Instagram and on my website

As always, thanks to BAM Radio Network.

Thanks to Carol Varsalona, co-author, extraordinary educator and mentor.

Be a risk taker! Make those leaps of faith, Indiana Jones style. Let’s remember teaching is our priority, time for a change, the rest is just stuff, let our passion projects fly with art and craft of teaching! Carol, I love your closing for our love piece: 

Difference makers are 

  needed to change the tides of

  fear, status quo, and comfort zones.

   ©CVarsalona, 2019



Teaching Also a Craft  by Faige Meller

Teaching is a Matter of the Heart by Carol Varsalona

Teachers Impact Learning by Carol Varsalona

The Teacher As An Awakener by Carol Varsalona

Links to Carol’s social media: Blog, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Wonder Ground Website


“Teaching is a work of heart, love, and passion”. Rita Wirtz




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