Kieran Gallagher is an art teacher in St Oliver’s Community College, Drogheda. He works as head of a large art department. Since moving to St Oliver’s over three years ago he has established connections with the local art gallery, the Highlanes Gallery and has worked on a number of art projects with his students and the Director, Aoife Ruane. Kieran is also a practicing artist and is part of Ormond Studios in Dublin.
Since my last post, my school took part in the ‘State of the Art’ campaign, which was organised by the (ATAI) Art teachers Association of Ireland. Schools across Ireland got involved in the action day, to draw attention to the outdated senior cycle art syllabus. Three of the local Drogheda schools got together, over 100 students met in the centre of town and marched, with black balloons and placards, accidentally scaring a few elderly shoppers along the way, to the local gallery, the Highlanes Gallery. Students, read out myths and facts about the current leaving certificate, and asked for change. It looks like, art students and teachers across the country had been heard, as the Senior Cycle Art syllabus has been recalled to the NCCA and work will begin on developing a new syllabus this year.
Again in the Highlanes Gallery, an exhibition which I was working with my students and another local school, is due to close on Saturday the 28th of January. You can read all about the project on the Arts in Education Portal website, as two of our students have wrote some blog posts discussing their project and journey. ‘In Sense of Place’ was a huge success. The exhibition was opened by Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphrey’s. The exhibition got great press coverage; students appeared on the local radio station, LMFM, rte news and in the Irish Times. At times this project was very difficult to balance class work and commitment to this once off project, but the enthusiasm from the gallery’s Director, Aoife Ruane made it seem easy. Feedback from my fellow teachers, and students who visited the exhibition has been very positive.
Inside of my class room I am currently trying to get my head around the changes to the senior cycle syllabus, the ‘10 week project’. The still life section is great, easy to figure out; the important introduction of a brain storm including practising object composition and experimentation with materials is a welcome change. It allows students to really think about why there are selecting their objects, the composition and the materials. However I am finding the craft section more difficult to understand in particular the Poster. With practise I’m hoping to resolve this issue. What alarms me is the lack of clarity in terms of examination, how will the work book be examined, what percentage of marks is allocated to the workbook versus the finished piece. We need the clarification soon, as our current fifth years are due to sit this exam in January next, leaving very little time to practise a 10 week project.
It is also a busy time of year for exam classes ‘mock exams’ are due to take place the week before midterm. Due to the nature of the current leaving certificate, we teachers have to try and timetable and correct four exams (3 practical and one written), between now and after midterm. our sixth year students are all working on their still-life exam this week, using 2.5 hours of their class time to create a finished still life, an exam which I won’t miss when the revised curriculum come into effect. It can be a challenge to cover all aspects for the mocks, but it is essential to show students how they are progressing and what needs to be improved on for May.
I am lucky to have a very energetic class of 24 second year girls, no boy to be seen in the class. They are very enthusiastic and love to work on large scale projects. We are currently building floating cities, which we will suspend from the high ceiling rafters in my room. The cities will be constructed out of recycled cardboard, the theme is open however they must explain their choice of building shapes and state their influences. To inspire them I introduce them to the contemporary female artist Julie Mehretu and the architectural wonders of Zaha Hadid. Their energy the loudness and lively enthusiasm is a nice contrast to the serious atmosphere in the above exam classes.