Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer Slow Down: Professional Development

This year I was able to secure a grant from my district that allowed me to attend the AP Institute hosted at the University of Texas at Arlington. I attended the AP Art History course for two reasons:

1. I felt that with this knowledge I could incorporate more art history and critical thinking skills into my own lessons at the middle school level; and

2. Should I decide to apply for a high school level position, having this certification would make me more marketable.

That being said I LOVED learning about teaching AP Art History! Mr. Darracott was our instructor and has such a wealth of information to share with us, plus he was able to secure the brand new 15th edition of  Gardners Art Through the Ages: A Global History AND Gateways to Art AP Edition for us! These text books are super expensive!

Some key things that I learned over this 4 day intensive course:

1. There are 250 works of art that are used to create the AP Art History exam. That is A LOT! Also that covering EVERYTHING might not happen and that is okay.

2. It's not about MEMORIZATION. Which is what I did in order to survive Art History in college. Really it's about helping the kids to understand the world through art and being able to help them respond with discussion or writing.

3. I can use the information I learned in this course to enrich my studio classes. It is hard to get students talking about art, but I learned some great strategies that might make it seem less scary for them and easier.


5. I don't know it all and that is okay! I learned about artists that I've heard about before, for example Shirin Neshat, and artists that I had no clue about like Maria and Julian Martinez. I am floored by all the information that I have been missing since being out of school and teaching. I need to get out there more!

In a future post I'll write a little bit about how you might break down a work of art in your classroom for students to understand it using the Form, Content, Function and Context method. It might seem like a lot of work, but the knowledge and understanding you gain from it in the end is worth it!

Have you ever been to the AP Art History Summer Institute? What did you gain from your experience? Share below!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Summer Slow Down: Which is better elementary or middle school?

I get asked this question a lot, whenever I explain that I originally began my teaching career in elementary art and only transitioned to middle school in the last few years.

Which do you like teaching better? Elementary level or Middle School level?
In my own opinion this isn't a fair question. To me its like comparing apples to oranges. I will however give you my likes and dislikes of both.

Elementary School Art

The good stuff:

1. The kids are so SWEET. Teaching art in elementary school makes me feel like a celebrity. When I see students in the hallways its all waves and smiles and little kids screaming my name! Even students that had a few behavior issues were adorable!

2. Seeing the kids GROW. I taught 5 years in elementary which means my very first class of Kindergartners completed the 4th grade when I left. Seeing them go from identifying the primary colors to creating more complicated artworks was truly the best part of my time there.

3. Parent PARTICIPATION. Every time Open House came around my art room was completely filled to the brim with families coming to see their students artwork. Seeing parents proud of their students was always a great feeling.

I could live without:

1. Seeing the kids only ONCE A WEEK. With 700+ students and six different grade levels (k-5) I would only each class once a week, which made long term projects hard to complete. And don't get me started on Monday holidays, this meant that instead of seeing students 36 times a year, I'd see them sometimes 7 times less depending on how many holidays we had. Or field trips. So much missing time!

2. ACCIDENTS in the art room. Do I need to explain?

3. Being constantly asked to "BORROW" supplies. I have a small budget, nothing extra. Please don't ask.

Middle School Art

The good stuff:

1. The students CHOOSE to be in art (most of the time). I don't teach an entire school of 700+ students. The majority of my students have a genuine desire to be in the class and learn something about art and I get to see them everyday instead of once a week.

2. The skill level is HIGHER. I see a lot more developed talent in middle school than elementary, which is to be expected.

3. I get to teach CONCEPTS. Middle school students can understand ideas behind their art and specifically use that to create art from ideas.

I could live without:

1. The DRAMA and ATTITUDE. I can't tell you how many times that I pull students into the hallway, and act as a relationship counselor instead of an art teacher. Or the students that are blatantly disrespectful just to seem cool to their friends.

2. I typically get loaded with EXTRA students. It's no ones fault really, our school tends to be over crowded and we have few elective choices...and most students that aren't already in a musical course can't jump in mid year.

3. Students who say "IT'S JUST ART." This has happened numerous times. The students who have had me before KNOW this is the biggest pet peeve in my class and I will sit and lecture for 20 or more minutes if this comes out of someones mouth. In fact if someone says this the other kids turn in shock with their eyes wide and look at me.

What grade level do you teach? Pros and Cons? What is your preference? 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Summer Slow Down: Taking time to Breathe

Although I am going to be attending some professional development sessions this summer, I'm really going to take time and completely take a breather from work.  While I love what I do I also can recognize that in order to be at 100% and refreshed to teach, we sometimes have to take a step back and cleanse the pallet so to speak.

I'm hoping to travel, create some art that isn't school related, visit some relatives, relax and recoup from what a long year that has been. It's okay to take a break and recharge, no matter what others may think.

What do you do during the summer to recharge and relax?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thursday Think Tank: Letting Students Explore Art & Creativity

Coming from a background in elementary art, its hard to think about letting students plan and execute their own ideas. In elementary its all about step by step demonstration and always hovering and helping as many students as possible. Whether its helping a Kindergartner hold a paint brush correctly or showing a 5th grader how to blend oil pastels correctly, you are constantly involved in the process.

This being my third year teaching middle school art I've come to this place where I understand that a part of being an artist is being able to let students be creative on their own. Taking your hands off the process is hard, but in the midst of letting go beautiful art is created.

Some students I can trust to work independently, but others need some guidance. With that in mind at the beginning of the year we talk about Concept to Creation. This is what I call the process involved in creating their own piece of art. 

This project was created by an Advanced Art student last year as a personal project. She was commenting on the idea that women's bodies don't belong to them, and that they are seen in certain ways by other people. It was very powerful. I feel because I was able to let her discover and explore a topic that was important to her, this students artwork became something more than what she expected and more than what I expected.

What opportunities do you give your students to explore their own concepts and creativity? A station? Or a personal project? Let me know below!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Life Changes in an Instance

Spring Break starts tomorrow! *insert teacher happy dance*

Around this time of year I start getting that itch...the urge to begin planning for NEXT YEAR. It's a time for self evaluation and reviewing what worked and what didn't work and what failed miserably. This is the time that I start planning to make adjustments to the curriculum and how to restructure lessons and how to more effectively teach them.

I started this post before Spring's now the end of May and a lot has happened. The week after Spring Break, the day that I hung the Spring Art Show this Mother passed away. Everything came to a screeching halt, I didn't even attend the art show this year. Honestly it's been hard to think about anything let alone what I will be doing next year, but time goes on whether we do or not. I'm doing a lot more with my Dad and that has helped.  Although I haven't been as active on this blog as I have been in the past...I think I'll be updating more as time passes. Thanks for understanding.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday Mayhem: Library Night!

Every year our AMAZING school Librarian holds Library nights throughout the year! These nights are basically an open house for us and the elementary schools that feed into our school to come and explore the library. My art club participates by helping create activities and this year we have incorporated face painting! This February our theme was "Love, Your Library" and it was a blast!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Teacher Talk: How Pinterest has become the Death of Creativity.

Be honest. You spend hours upon hours pouring over it. It's the best thing since cutting out magazines and saving newspaper clippings, a place where there's no such thing as "just one more minute", the site that has single handedly stolen countless hours of sleep from you, otherwise known as Pinterest.

You can find the wikipedia definition of pinterest here. Lets face it though, it's a black hole. It NEVER ENDS. NEVER.

So, why the dramatic title you ask? Think about it. When was the last time you had an original idea that didn't come from pinterest? *silence* That's right, most of the lesson plans, ideas I've had for crafting or party ideas have come from pinterest.

But where is the INNOVATION? 

Where are you as an artist or teacher forming new ideas, thinking outside the box, expanding concepts, building from the ground up, solving problems with creativity? It seems to me like pinterest is growing up a generation of artists who will need others to show them what to do, and how to do it DIY style.

Now I'm not trying to bash pinterest, I love it and its vast array of ideas, creative quotes, new forms of art to explore. BUT in the back of my mind lately as an educator and as an artist I am thinking: When was the last time I pushed myself creatively without referencing someone else's idea? Have I lost all my creative originality? The answer I give myself is: no. If I had lost my creativity I wouldn't be questioning it.

So what do I do to break out of the static of a creativity coma?

1. Take a breather.

You know how you need to cleanse your palette in-between different types of sushi with ginger? Thats sometimes what I need to do after planning lessons for my students to clear my head and get a blank canvas in my head. This might include going to a coffee shop and relaxing alone or taking a walk.

2.  Visit a museum. (Or two. Or three....)

Maya Angelou was correct when she said: "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have." So creativity produces creativity. When I visit a museum I try to spend the whole day or several ours with my sketchbook just drawing things that catch my eye or make me think. After all art comes when we are responding to something in our life, or a question or a thought or ANYTHING REALLY.

3.  Surround myself with artistic minds.

Again creativity produces creativity! I go to art shows and meet up with the creative minds in my area, talk about art, listen to what they're doing, and collaborate! That always helps me come out of a creativity coma.

4. Start creating. (even if I have no idea what I'm doing.)

I'd like to take a quote from my favorite creativity inspiring children's book The Dot by Peter Reynolds "Just make a mark and see where it takes you." True story: I have a nice white covered sketchbook I got in high school from Walden Books (by admitting this am I showing how old I am?) and I was so afraid to "mess up" that I never had the courage to draw in it. To this day I still have it and it is still blank. Of course, I've learned that even mistakes can become beautiful creations, but I keep it as a reminder that I shouldn't be afraid to just make a mess and see what happens.

What do you think about Pinterest? Has it enhanced creativity or hindered it? How do you break out of a creativity coma? Share below!