Sunday, May 8, 2016

What it's like to be a teacher

I was thinking about how to describe what it's emotionally like to be a teacher...

It's more than a job.
It's something You put your heart and soul and lots and lots of time into.

Maybe it's what you dreamed of doing from the time you were in elementary school or maybe it hit you later.

You try to do what you think is best in your professional opinion and what feels right in your heart.

Some will get what you're trying to do and teach, some won't. Some will think you're crazy. Who knows, they might be right. Some students will hate you for it and some will love you. Hopefully they'll see that you're doing your best and that you care. You care so much. You think about your students way more than during school hours- things you want to share with them, ideas that might inspire them or help solve a problem, and you pray for them and all the stuff they're dealing with and things they've confided in you. They're like your other kids.

Your rules might not be popular but you're trying to prepare your students for the world that is bigger than your school.

You learn and revise constantly, planning for the next class or next school year, always trying to improve. In the end you hope that you made a difference and did enough. You try to have faith that it will all work out and the students will leave your class having grown.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, April 18, 2016

Transitioning my New School to Choice- General Art Class 1st Semester

As the end of the school year draws close, I've been reflecting on the last 9 months. I feel like I've kind of stumbled at times trying to find middle ground between what I think the students were used to and where I eventually want to go with the program. Here's what I did in "graphic design", our general art class*, in the first semester of this year and what I want to try next year.

*In this class I have everyone from seniors who are in multiple classes and have taken art every single year to freshmen who haven't had art since 6th grade.

1. I've never been a huge fan of the Elements of Art when isolated, but the curriculum for my general art class featured the elements. For the first assignment, I tried to give students choices about how to show they knew the elements- ATCs, drawn document, photographic poster, etc. (Link to the assignment). There was not a lot of enthusiasm from any of us and it ended up taking longer than I hoped. 
Next year: Instead of dragging it out, I will probably review the elements and let students work with a partner to take photos to represent each element. Goal- one class period.

2. Observational drawing- students practiced observational drawing with some drawing on the right side of the brain practices- drawing hands with continuous line, wrong hand, and blind contour- and then by drawing simple still life objects and rendering them with graphite. These are good skills and will probably be part of my drawing boot camp again next year, though I will probably encourage students to bring an object from home that has meaning to them.

3. Ink compositions- stole this idea from my cooperating teacher during student teaching. Each class brainstorms a list of objects that every student has to include in their drawings. Students plan in pencil then finish with ink, using various techniques including hatching, cross hatching, contour hatching, stippling, and scumbling. We tried to avoid objects that are too specific so that students would have flexibility. I thought this would be a fairly quick and portable assignment students could work on when I was supervising school pictures and they would have to move to a different classroom across the hall from the photo room. It ended up taking a LOT longer than expected and students burned out on it. If school pictures happen the same way next year and I feel like ink (sharpies and drawing pens) are the best option, I will probably demonstrate the same techniques but give more options on what they can make.

4. Colored pencil practice- No pictures of this, but students filled out a practice guide with colored pencil layering, color mixing, etc. We also did a lesson on color theory with a pre-test so I could collect data that I didn't end up having to turn in. The post-test was part of the final for the semester.

5. Painting Boot Camp- In our painting "boot camp" the idea was to quickly let students try out the media and get a feel for it so that they could choose the right medium for their ideas later. We did a team color mixing challenge where students mixed tempera to try to match paint samples, a one class period (some took longer) acrylic painting of fruit that I brought in for them to observe, and a one class period watercolor painting. I gave them paper that was about 5x7 inches for the quick paintings.

Next year: I will probably do something similar to this next year, but spend more time on watercolor techniques instead of a composition. Hardly any students wanted to try out watercolor so I think I need to "sell" it more next year.

6. Collage & Monoprint Boot Camp- Each student made a small torn paper collage and did at least one day of mono printing with our gelli arts gelli plates. I will keep this as part of the 2D boot camp next year.
7. Idea Generation- After students had tried out most 2D media we offer, they worked on generating deas using any of the media we'd already used.

Next year: I think I will do something similar. This is a very TAB lesson in that it's pretty wide open in medium and theme, the students just document the process. Next year I will work on better ways to document since that part wasn't given full effort. I got some good ideas at NAEA16 to help with this.

8. Collaborative Drawing- Each student drew at least one section of a photo showing a district employee and Vietnam veteran on the Honor Flight. There won't be a Honor Flight next year, but I would do another community service kind of project if something comes up.

9. Portrait, Still Life, Landscape- Trying to hit one of the standards about different categories of art. Students could use any medium to create a portrait, still life, or landscape.

Next year: I will probably just have students categorize their own art or others' to hit this standard instead of doing the lesson the same way. I think this lesson limited their ideas instead of expanding them.

10. Jr. Duck Stamp Program or State Fish Art Contest- Students chose between making a picture of a fish or waterfowl in their habitat. JDS and SFA are both excellent programs to teach about conservation through art and draw parallels between scientists and artists. One of my high school students even got 2nd place in Kansas for her age group with her duck drawing.

Next year: I may still keep this as a required project because there are so many skills practiced and it's cross curricular.

11. Glass and Ceramic Tiles- This technique was super popular so I will probably demonstrate it again next year, though maybe not make it a requirement. This was introduced at the end of the semester when I had weird timing with students finishing up and others being ahead. All the details are in the linked post.

Up next, 2nd semester!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Recovering the Classics

One lesson I did with my Computer Graphics class last fall was "Recovering the Classics". 
I especially enjoyed this lesson as I love reading, but it seemed that most students enjoyed it even if they aren't big readers.

Here is the information from Recovering the Classics

Recovering the Classics is a crowdsourced collection of original covers for great works in the public domain where anyone can contribute.
As part of a new initiative announced by the White House, we are partnering with the New York Public Library and the Digital Public Library of America to bring these amazing covers to libraries and schools nationwide.
Why? Sadly, many of the greatest classics in the public domain are left with poorly designed or auto-generated covers that fail to capture what makes these books exciting and inspiring to us. So we invited illustrators, typographers, and designers of all stripes to create new covers for 100 of the greatest works in the public domain.
Anyone can contribute, and all designs are available for sale as prints, apparel, and other products to support the artists.
Host your own local Recovering the Classics exhibit as part of our 50x50 campaign.
After explaining the project to my students, I shared a google sheet with the class so that each of them could sign up for a book in which they were interested. I asked that if they hadn't read the book they chose, that they do a little research reading summaries and getting a feel for the book and its style. I tried to get them to avoid looking at covers and posters that had already been made for their particular book and to avoid copying the style of a movie version. This is a skill we are still practicing. 
We also looked at some of the beautiful examples of covers designed by artists and collected by Recovering the Classics to show how a style can be developed.
When the projects were complete, I put up a bulletin board with my students' designs on one side and the Recovering the Classics designs on the other. We did a little hallway critique where I asked each student to point out another student's design that they liked and say why they thought it was successful.
Here is a link to a video I took to show the display:

You can also search #RecoveringTheClassics

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


It's been nearly a month since the 2016 NAEA Convention and I'm just getting around to blogging about it. After some extra appointments upon returning home, tons of painting for my graduate course, and jumping right into major prom planning, busy is an understatement. So, I want to try to give an overview of my experience and maybe go into details on some of the workshops later.

As soon as I found out that #NAEA16 would be in Chicago, I texted a couple friends from college and asked if they wanted to go. As it got closer, two of us made definite plans. Our little part expanded to include another friend and classmate from Emporia State and another art teacher we'd met at a KAEA conference. Two of us flew in together on a very bumpy flight and the other two met us at the airport. 
 We took our very first Uber ride to our hotel and after getting settled in, decided to walk around a bit. We loved this window displaying student fashion design. The Chicago Architecture Foundation's Shop was super cool. I could definitely have spent a lot of money in there but since I was trying to do NAEA on a budget, I resisted the urge.
 The next morning, we had a beautiful view of the sunrise over Lake Michigan from the executive suite at breakfast.
 We got to the convention center early, which was good since we decided to buy tickets to the opening night party and the line quickly grew very long with on-site registrations. I was pretty excited to get all my badge stickers. Since they didn't have a K-12 sticker, mine was pretty long!
 Dr. Jean Houston was the opening speaker and I loved listening to her. I thought she was very engaging and inspiring. (You can find her on Twitter)
 And then, the exhibit space. CRAZY! Lots of good information, lots of samples, TONS of people. They said there were 5100 attendees, and it felt like we were all there at the same time. We had address labels printed to put on slips for drawings but next time we'll add our email addresses.
Got a free Elmer's t-shirt for posting a selfie on their Facebook page. I don't take a ton of selfies but I figured I would for a shirt. :)
 Here is the Kansas flag in the Youth Art Month museum.
 We went back to the hotel at the end of the day for food and the opening night party. They had her d'oeuvres each night in the executive lounge and one of the Kansas members changed the label for the sweet potato gnocchi to "Vincent Yam-Gogh Gnocchi" in honor of our Youth Art Month mascot. That made me smile.
 The opening night party was pretty fun. They had boxes and art supplies set out to make sort of a stacking exquisite corpse game. There was also a photo booth with lots of St.Patrick's Day props and we were treated to live music and Irish dancing.
 Each morning we took a shuttle from the hotel to the convention center. It was very convenient.
 We left at lunch time on the 2nd day of conferences to go to the Chicago Art Institute. All conference attendees got free admission to the museum as well as the Van Gogh's Bedrooms exhibit. There was quite a long line to get in, but totally worth it. At least it wasn't rainy!
 The Van Gogh exhibit was great. I never thought a painting of boots would bring tears to my eyes.
 I was pretty pumped to see American Gothic by my good friend Grant Wood in person.
 The Art Institute has just an amazing collection. We only saw a fraction of it. Someday I'll have to go  back to Chicago and have a whole day dedicated to the museum.
 I also got to do some research for a lesson on viewing artwork in person v. through technology when I was there. The thing that totally blew my mind is that there is a border of red and blue dots around the edges of Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte. I never knew!
 Friday evening there was an improv show put on for conference attendees back at the convention center. Our shuttle driver took a little detour so we were late, but it was still entertaining.
 Saturday morning was the portion of the convention I was most excited about. There were several sessions on TAB offered that morning. I was practically giddy on the way in and kept geeking out pointing to art teachers I recognized from online TAB communities, even though I got kind of nervous and didn't actually talk to many of them.
 The convention center was ginormous. In addition to all the art teachers, they were also hosting a Comic Con. I was excited to see a really good 10th Doctor impersonator.
 Another exciting thing from the convention is that I got to meet Marcia of Art is Basic in person! After being blogging friends for years, that was pretty cool. We also met Anna and Elsa and had to take a picture to send to our kids at home.
 William "Bill" Strickland was the last general session speaker and he was also very inspiring. Some take aways from his talk are "environment drives behavior" and "beautiful environments create beautiful people, prisons create prisoners". He described building arts and technology schools in inner cities. You should seriously look him up. You won't regret it.
After our last session on Saturday, the Kansas members who were still in Chicago made plans to eat some pizza. The restaurant was super busy so we ended up waiting for our pizza and taking it back to the hotel where we hung out and ate in the executive lounge.

A lot of people describe coming away from NAEA being totally inspired and refreshed. It wasn't quite like that for me. Was I inspired? Absolutely. But more than anything, it made me see where I want to go and how far away from that I still am. I knew this year would be a transitional year in my new school, and I am just anxious to plan how next year will be different.

Ok, so here's a bit of a side story about one of the most memorable parts of the trip- the ride to the airport. Three of us ordered an Uber (the other had an earlier flight) and piled in to an SUV with our really nice driver. I was in the front passenger seat and my other friends, one of them pregnant, were in the back. We were about a mile from our hotel when another driver ran a red light and we t-boned them. Now, I'm not one to curse, but apparently I did when I realized we were going to hit the other vehicle. It all happened very fast. It took us a minute or two to make sure everyone in our vehicle was ok. The friends in the back were covered in coffee (thankfully not too hot), a bag that had been at my friend Tranda's feet was on my lap, and my glasses were at my feet. Our driver was the first to recover a bit and realize we should check on the other driver, who we saw was passed out. Our driver ran back to his vehicle to call for help while I was still standing there trying to remember how to use my phone. I had been trying to check in to our flight on my phone before the accident and seriously couldn't remember how to get to the phone part of my phone.
Thankfully, we were about half a block from a fire station so they were on the scene so quickly. The other driver went to the hospital, but since he had woken up, I'm assuming he was ok. My pregnant friend, Courtney, was going to get checked out but decided to do that with her doctor at home as a precaution. Tranda seemed to be fine other than having a mark from the seatbelt. As soon as we were stopped I realized I'd hit my leg just under my knee on the dash but since I was walking fine, I just wanted to catch our flight and get home. Our Uber driver was amazing. He was very attentive and caring and even paid for our next Uber ride to get us to the airport. Somehow we made it through security and to our flights on time.
By the time we got back to Kansas City, I was getting more uncomfortable and had developed a nice bump on my leg. I called to get a substitute for the next day as I was getting stiff and knew it would be worse. I'm so glad my mom told me to go to the chiropractor because I had a "classic case of whiplash". I got to see the x-rays and they were very interesting as I thought it was just sore muscles and had no clue how messed up my vertebrae were. I'm finally almost done with the chiropractor and so, so thankful that nobody was seriously hurt.