Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I've been thinking lately about a lesson I taught in my first year and trying to figure out how to write about it. I've felt like I can't commit to one teaching philosophy and the class I'm taking this semester (History, Theories, and Philosophy of Art Education) is making me reflect and question my teaching even more.

The students printed bubble wrap to make a background, sprinkled sand on the bottom, and cut and glued a fish on top. Here is something I wrote in the post:
I am too afraid to let Kindergarten students loose with bottled glue, so I put a squiggle of Elmer's at the bottom of their paper (students chose either horizontal or vertical layouts) and the students sprinkled sand.  I bought a 50 lb bag of play sand at Lowe's for a few dollars and probably only used about a cup for over 100 students.  I placed a little dish of sand at each table and after the sand was sprinkled, the students bent their paper to dump the excess sand back in the dish.  I love the texture the sand adds to the artwork- it makes a nice tactile connection to the element of art.
At the time, I didn't think there was anything wrong with this. Until I got a nasty comment telling me I should find a new career. I wasn't really "afraid" of bottled glue, I said that more as a joke. I didn't apply the glue because I wanted it to look perfect, I did it to save time and clean up with my back-to-back classes. The students told me what kind of line they wanted and I did a quick squiggle so they could get the fun part- sprinkling the sand! If I were to do this lesson again, now that I have more experience and confidence, I would probably just make sure I allowed time for the students to apply the glue. But, you live and learn. I understand the criticism, but my mom always taught me that you "catch more flies with honey." I would have responded much better to encouragement or constructive criticism. Wouldn't it have been nicer to say something like "don't be afraid of the glue bottle, the kids can handle it if you let them practice!" I know that's what I would tell 1st-year-teacher-me if I could go back in time. I hope that I always remember to say things out of love and never just to make people feel bad.
*Maybe I can clarify... I'm not looking for a pity party or saying that comment still haunts me or anything. It definitely wasn't a "comfortable" comment to read. But after I got over the surprise of it, it did make me think. The point is that we should be kind to others, including ourselves and forgive our past "mistakes".

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to your first year of teaching?


  1. I had kind of a terrible first year. I would say, "don't take that job!" Aside from that, I would probably tell myself to order decent supplies. I was the first art teacher at that school, and didn't have much money. I ordered the cheapest scissors possible. They were complete trash. It's always good to continue reflecting on your teaching. I'm sorry you had a nasty comment.

    1. Ah, supplies! I would also tell myself not to order cheap paint!

  2. As I recall, I was so busy that first year that I rarely came out of my room for air (even ate in there, I think)!! I tell myself to lighten up and go into the teachers' lounge occasionally!!

    I was curious enough to go back and check your original post on the fish lesson. I can see why you might still be holding onto feelings about that comment, but, if you are, it's time to let them go. You may have seen the recent post and MANY comments over at Patty's Deep Space Sparkle that was prompted by a troublesome comment. I said there and I say now, life is too short for negatives. Just as with children, there is ALWAYS a way to word a comment constructively. And ... you are right, I think we get braver and more comfortable more freedom in the classroom with each year if teaching:))

    1. I really was trying to turn the negative into a positive here... Seeing the post at DSS and my class have just been making me think about that. I kept deleting and re-typing. I guess my point was just growing and giving ourselves a break for past "mistakes".

  3. Okay, first I am totally on board with you. Sometimes (especially with Kinders) there are things that you do in your classroom that can cause fear. Like finger paints, yes they are beautiful, but as a teacher it is our job to think about all facets and sometimes the mess and clean-up can be overwhelming. So don't question yourself there friend. Anyone who thinks you should get over it and get a new career is nuts. I mean, have they seen the seriously amazing things you let your kids do?
    This same fear could be applied to a high school art teacher who fears over things like exact-o knives and power tools, etc. If we didn't fear then we wouldn't be very good teachers because we wouldn't be thinking of the whole picture.

    Okay that is my little rant, because honestly, I think you are a wonderful teacher and people should learn to build one another up. Sigh.

    If I could go back to...uhhh...just last year (haha) I think I would just tell myself to never forget that what I'm doing is important. Kids need art. They need that outlet. Never forget it and never let the kiddos forget it either... That's what I'd tell myself then and now. :)

  4. I shudder when I think of my first year teaching - at that time art teaching seemed to be more craft teaching! I was limited in resources with no classroom, the only sinks were in the restrooms and a 3 story building that I lugged buckets of supplies up and down stairs all day long!
    Now I have 4 sinks in my own classroom that comes complete with TWO storerooms and modern luxuries like a kiln, Activboard, TV, phone and laptop!!
    One thing that definitely helped that 1st year is a willingness to try new things and a quest to do it better the next time...as long as you commit to that, don't be so hard on yourself! Everybody makes mistakes when they try something new!!

  5. I would go back and tell myself to have confindence in what I am doing in my room. I still remember the morning a parent called me at 8:02 (class started at 8:10) to yell at me because her son was being harrased in my class by another boy. After yelling and cursing at me for 15 minutes, I hung up bawling. (Many thanks to my principal for starting that 1st period class for me). Later that day I moved her son around the room to protect him... only to have him seek out the boy who was harrassing him.
    It was hard to convey to the parent what was happening in the room between the boys. Today I am much better at being honest with parents and keeping track of issues in my room.
    But I also miss my 1st few years ideas and beliefs. I still love teaching art but there are days when I can tell all the paperwork/initiatives/IEP's/etc... have changed what and how I teach.

  6. My first year I remember thinking that all of my years in school and the short time that we are actually given to student teach in NO way shape or form prepared me for what I had embarked on! I had 8 classes each of 1st - 5th grade. I saw them all once a week for 30 to 40 minutes depending on the grade. I teach in two schools - one I was on a cart,
    the other I had a room ( with a carpet !!! ) who puts the art teacher in a room with a carpet?!?!You can all imagine what it looked like after 2 years of teaching art in there with 1st and 2nd grade! There was no Behavior Disorders class and no one had taught me how to work with MH or Autistic children. Needless to say I was stressed out! Now 24 years later I look back and laugh at some of the events that at the time made me want to cry! I look back and realize that I would not be the teacher that I am today without all the learning I did from my mistakes. I feel blessed to be in the same district for 24 years and I love all the people I work with. We all support each other. My special needs students are some of my favorite kids and always put a smile on my face! As for the rude blogger to your post... let it go, some people are just miserable and feel they need to make everyone else as miserable as they are! There are times I won't give some 5th graders bottled glue!

  7. I am in my first year right now and I feel that everyday is a learning experience... ahhh hindsight! Like the Thomas Edison quote about finding 10,000 ways not to invent a light bulb- I find a bazillion ways how not to do something. It can be disheartening, but overall I feel like I am doing a decent job reflecting on how things went and trying to write notes for improvement in the future. I try to keep my sense of humor and wits about me as often as possible!

    As a fellow blogger, it is too bad about the nasty remark, I know how those can continue to sting. Good for you for reflecting on your lesson!

  8. Being an art teacher is a difficult job that people don't understand until they get in the classroom and have back-to-back classes.

    It's easy to leave a nasty comment on someone's page when you live 100 miles away and never have to face the person you're writing to, however nasty comments spread hate through the internet. The person who left the nasty comment should be ashamed. If they had a problem with the way you teach they should keep their mouths shut or present it nicely.

    I think your blog is fabulous! Keep up the great projects!