Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer Slow Down: Updating my Art Educator Portfolio

At the end of this year a few positions opened up in my district for middle school art teachers. And although I loved my current place, at that moment I thought to myself "This would be a great opportunity for me to try something new." Along with that I wanted/had to do a few things like:

1. Update my ANCIENT resume. No one needs to know that I coached a Blast Ball team in college or where I did my student teaching anymore. Also my address has changed TWICE since I've updated this bad boy.

2. Put together an Art Educator Portfolio(<---This is live binder a great resource for sharing files and keeping everything digital). Previously all I had to show was my college work and internship. I have experience now, gotta show off a little bit. Lesson plans, art club, blog shots, event planning and grant awards = BRAGGING RIGHTS. This is the only place where I can view the cumulation of all the hard work these past years. This is my own little personal showcase.

NOTE: I had a lot of help with the resume part! Andrea Keller is one of my best gal pals and biggest supporter when it comes to venturing out and trying new things! Also my best friend Mariam, who teaches in middle school, looked over my resume as well and gave me some advice. Gotta keep people around who challenge me to be better thats for sure!

2a. Update my Artist Resume. While I teach I am also a photographer/artist and do art shows when I have time. I had to go back and list a lot of the shows that I've participated in over the few years including various shows with ArtLoveMagic and Piranha Bear, and also a few contests that I've participated in(Like this one here that I actually won!).

3. Try to get an interview(if only for practice).  I am feeling a tad bit rusty and out of the loop when it comes to applying for a job, it has been 5 years after all.

4. Take a risk. Before I applied for any jobs I did several things. I prayed, A LOT. I made a list of PROs and CONs of taking a new position, new school, different responsibilities and different students. Most importantly I had to *dun dun dun* speak with my Principal. She was so understanding! I couldn't have asked for someone better.  I was very nervous, but after I explained everything to her she was very supportive. She is definitely the real deal when it comes to a principal. After all, her job as the top administrator on campus is not only to keep the best interests of the students in mind, but to also help you grow as an educator. Which is really what I was wanting to do, by applying for a new position.

So after this whole thought process, filling out paperwork and making sure I had a paper resume ready, everything was done and I felt so relieved. Then I waited, and waited and waited...and I never got a call or an email. I spoke with my Principal and the window for accepting transfers in the district was about to pass, so at this point it wasn't likely I was going to be contacted.

THEN...miraculously on a Sunday afternoon I got a call! I was very excited and feeling positive. I met the principal the next day after school and she asked a lot of great questions that I may or may not have been prepared for. Here are a few that really stood out to me:
1. List these in order of importance and explain why: Relationships, Rigor, and Relevance.
2. Describe your classroom management style.
3. You have one minute, tell me why I should pick you.
Interviews are a little bit of a blur for me, and so these are really the only ones that I clearly remember. I think its an adrenaline rush really, I literally feel my heart beat in my ears and my face feeling flush as I left the school. That last question really caught me off guard since I'm not one to talk about myself much less basically give a "sales pitch" so I stumbled on that a bit. However, I think it went smoothly and we had some great little conversations as she was asking and I was answering questions. She told me she'd contact me in the next few days so all that was left to do was wait. Next week goes by and no call. Afterward I find out later there is a new principal and hope seems lost then I got an email for a second interview over the phone with the VP and that went really well.

Then I got on an airplane and a few days of not having internet here in Malawi, I was able to access my work email on someones phone and I was offered the job! I am officially going to be a middle school art teacher this next school year! What a leap, but what an opportunity! It'll be a challenge, but I am excited to see the next level and their passion for art grow!

I didn't hear anything after a week. Was I a little bummed? Yes. Am I going to let this get me feeling defeated? No! I really feel like this was a great experience for me, even if it didn't pan out like I thought it would. I revved up my resume, updated my portfolio and felt like I took a risk professionally that I normally wouldn't have if I wasn't surrounded by such a supportive administration and colleagues. All in all I consider this a win in my book!  I wrote all of this prior so I definitely consider this a win in my book!

Have you taken steps to keep your Educator Portfolio at the top of its game? Have you ever considered changing positions?

Check back next week for a short blog titled: Is it REALLY art?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Slow Down: How I create lesson plans.

This post was written before I set out for Africa, hopefully I'll be able to add some images while I'm there!

In everything there is a process and, lets be honest, as artists/teachers sometimes our process can be a little chaotic and all over the place. So let me just give you a little glimpse into how I create lessons for my classes.

As with everything I sometimes work a little backward...I see an art project or a piece of work from an artist and take that an apply it into the lesson. So for example I might see a beautiful piece of carved wood and think... "How can I use the standards/curriculum and teach this to my students? What is the objective? Whats the history behind it? What is the necessary vocabulary? What materials would I need? How will I store this? What does the finish product need to look like?"

SO MANY QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER! But we make it work don't we?

At the end of the year I create a very rough outline of what the next year will look like for each grade level K-5th. I use this template here. (The link leads you to a livebinder, which I think is pretty awesome, and you can download the template if you want, like I said its a very BASIC template for a rough outline.) Then I fill it in with the criteria that we have in our curriculum and also certain artists and shows/deadlines for the new year. I like being able to see the BIG PICTURE.

Blank 6 weeks outline template.

My lesson plans have changed a lot over the past five years, here is the one I was using last year for my K-5th classes. I really liked having it all on one page; schedule of times, objectives, TEKS, everything across the board. It also helped me visualize scope & sequence.

This year I wanted to do something I learned in a book called Teach Like a Champion. It's called Double Plan(click the link for a very brief summary). Basically you write in the lesson plans what the students expectations are at certain times in the lesson/while you're teaching.

Very basic double plan lesson.

I also included the skills that are mastered or should be mastered in this lesson as well as a little check box so that I can keep up with which classes miss a day because of field trips or other things that come up during school. It's really helped me keep up with how well my students are retaining the information and mastering the techniques.

Just before school ended I found a binder with my previous lesson plans and I think I want to go back to the six columns so its easier to see everything that's going on right in front of me, now the question is how do I incorporate the Double Plan method which I've come to like...decisions, decisions.

What do your lesson plans look like? How do you prepare for a new school year? 
Thoughts on the new TEKS?

Check back next week for how I updated my Educator Portfolio.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Slow Down: Things I'd wish I'd known as a First Year Art Teacher

After five wonderful years of teaching art there are definitely some things I wish I had known my first year that I know now. Let's also keep in mind that my first year of teaching I was FRESH out of college, I'm so thankful that the administration hired me right out of the gate even though I was very young and my only experience was student teaching and volunteering with kids and youth at my church.

1. Keep records of EVERYTHING.

For example, supply orders. If I had remembered to keep copies of quotes and such I would not have ordered an abundance of light blue paper. Gosh that light blue construction paper, I will never have to order any of that for a few years. SERIOUSLY. Also behavior issues, documentation is key if you ever have to call parents or write a referral, but also good for taking time to brag on students who do really well! Also keeping records of which artwork/student is in the art show so you don't repeat the same students year after year.

2. Get out of the room more AND learn the names of everyone on STAFF.

Art teachers can sometimes turn into solitary creatures resembling moles...they stay in their room, burrow in, and never venture out into the hallways unless summoned by a faculty meeting or the copy room. The first year I ate lunch in my room a lot, I learned quickly I needed to make sure I was connecting with the entire staff. I didn't want to be the one referred to as "Oh, the art teacher in room 103..." Art effects everyone, therefore I should try and get to know everyone, or at the very least know their name.

3. Build a creative network.

I never realized how many art teachers were on the internet, let alone had such great ideas and were willing to share them! Not only that, I wish I had spent more time with the art teachers in my district the first year.

4. It's okay to take a day off.

The kids will survive one day without you. A sub will come in and it'll be OKAY. I used to worry obsessively about who would come in my art room if I had to get a substitute and if they would be able to teach what we were covering etc... I learned to get over that, but I still try not to be out unless it's absolutely necessary.

5.  Attend the state and national conferences.

The first year I could have gone to TAEA, but I declined. I was too worried about missing time in the art room with my students! When I did finally go the next year I was so glad! Such a great community and lots of great ideas and resources shared! It helps me feel like I'm not alone in the universe.

6. Never wear your favorite pink capri pants to school. NEVER.

Something(oil based house paint from a students project)will inevitably get on them and stain them. Then you take them to the dry cleaner(after you wash them at school in the Life classroom, thank God for that extra pair of black pants in my gym bag) as a desperate last chance of salvaging your favorite pink pants you will get the hanger back with a tag that says "We tried and tried, but couldn't get your stain out." One of my saddest days as an art teacher EVER.

7. Get a schedule and stick to it.

I still struggle with this sometimes, we know that chaos is sometimes just plain normal in the realm of art, but I try to have a schedule of certain duties each week that I want accomplished before the weekend. For example, inputting grades on Friday before I leave school, or making my lesson plans for next week on Wednesday before the weekend. Even updating my blog on specific days, this I think I've really come a long way on!

8. Plan your lessons like a sub is coming into your room.

Step by step instructions are key when it comes to the art lesson plan. When I didn't do that and I had a sub, I had to write it all over again with instructions, I had to think like someone who had no art background. It's good to be very detailed so that you don't have to rewrite lesson plans for subs and also when you have evaluations your administrator knows exactly what you're doing and why.  The first year I taught I used the template left by my predecessor. After a while I felt like I needed to add more "meat" to it so I revamped it and created a whole new look. The design has changed several times over the last five years, I'll be posting more in depth about lesson plans next time.

I hope you can relate to these little bits of wisdom! As art educators it sometimes feels like we are alone in the universe so anything to help me feel like we're all in this together is a great help!

Enjoy the rest of your week and come back next time for a glimpse into how I make lesson plans!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thursday Think Tank: Confessions of an art Pack Rat

My first year of teaching I had less than a week to normalize myself with my new classroom and create lesson plans for the first weeks of school. I didn't have any idea what materials there were in the deep recesses of the cabinets.

At the end of last year EVERYTHING, and I do mean EVERYTHING, in my room had to be boxed up and packed away for our schools reconstruction. I didn't have anytime to "cleanse" my room of supplies that weren't usable. I may be an art teacher, but I definitely can't stand having things junking up my room.

This year I had a little help! Some of my former students came to help me organize and clean out my room before the summer break and I am so thankful! I know it seems to go against everything I stand for as an art teacher, but I had had enough! There were supplies, like a box of peanuts, that I have had for years and never used. I'm sure I could have found something to make with them, but sometimes I just have to say no to myself and let it go, let it gooooooo! Yes, yes I did!

I also enjoyed having my little helper because she found a lot of fabric and helped me get it all in one place! It's given me an idea for an assignment next year. Seriously? I am already getting excited about NEXT year and this one just ended!

Look at all that fabric! I also found THREE blenders!

I'm sure I can't be alone when it comes to finding supplies you didn't know you had! I found three blenders, plus a hand held mixer and some extra plastic sewing needles in a box that came from who knows where. I love finding new things in my room, it's like shopping without spending money!

Not to mention now I had less things to pack away and clear for the summer. Here is what my classroom looks like when I leave for summer vacation:

My ninja turtles are guarding my technology for the summer!

Do you EVER throw anything away? Give it away? What does your classroom look like at the end of the year?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Inspiring Kids: A Reading Challenge!

Right now I'm traveling, but here is a quick blog about something fun that happened at school before we got out for the summer!

So one of our 5th grade classes read the book Mrs. Malarky Leaves No Reader Behind. And their teacher Mrs. Davis, who I have worked with for the last 5 years challenged her kids to do the same thing and read 1,000 books! If they did then our AP Mr. Love would then have to camp out on the roof of our school!

I didn't know about this until I found out that there was a ladder to the roof in a back closet of the school. I even climbed up myself! It was so much fun!

Just a side note: LeVar Burton is running a Kickstarter for Reading Rainbow and if you grew up when I did it was such a special part of your life! Check it out, do your research and maybe make the choice to donate!

What do you do to inspire and challenge your students?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Summer Slow Down Favorite iPad apps

Summer slow down begins! I'll be posting once a week every Monday so tune in!

I can't remember which conference I went to, TAEA or NAEA, but I had just received a grant from our district so we could have iPads in the art and music room! I was so excited and I found a session for apps used in the art room and sat in the front row eager to learn. Problem being the apps that the presenter mentioned were sometimes costly and there was no demonstration on how to incorporate the apps into a lesson. Total bummer!

This year the last six weeks of school I wanted to go paperless(except for some planning paper) and all we used were the iPads! CRAZY & SCARY for the art teacher that's for sure, I mean what kind of art teacher doesn't use paper and pencil?! BUT it was AWESOME!

Kids researching an element of art using the app for BrainPop Jr.
Using an app called Story Me to present information.
Using an app called Hello Crayon to create movement in an artwork.

At any rate I wanted to share with you all some of my favorite iPad apps that I discovered this year in the art studio! 

1. Educreations
Is a great app and so simple to use! You draw, insert pictures and use multiple pages in this app. Not only that you can RECORD your voice and what you are drawing to create a video. We used this app to create drawn animations as well as stop animations. This can also be used to create presentations for any number of subjects not just art! I have 4th grade presenting about artists and 3rd grade about the elements of art. 

2. Story Me
Is perfect for any sort of comic/graphic novel unit along with a literacy connection. You can insert pictures into a layout and add speech bubbles, captions and even create a "cartoon" effect. My usual end of the year project for 5th grade is the graphic novel. They have to know the parts of a graphic novel, panels, gutter, speech bubbles, captions etc... and come up with a plot, setting, have a beginning, middle and end to their story. This year however the twist is that their final product must be made with technology of some kind. Story me is just an option of course.

3. ThingLink
Is an awesome way to get a lot of interaction between the audience and the presentation. You insert a picture and can add icons that either include text, a link, or a video. So if you're giving a presentation on, let's say panda bears, you can actually link a video of pandas in their natural habitat or insert information about their place of origin, diet, etc... This is also an option for my kids doing research right now.

4. Hello Crayon/Color Pencil
Let's draw! It's pretty straight forward, you've got different materials to draw with using either a blank page or a coloring page.  This is great for my kids who want to create backgrounds for other projects.

5. BrainPOP & BrainPOP Jr. 
Ummmm HOW AMAZING IS BRAINPOP!? Until my partner in crime Andrea Keller (website & twitter here) showed me all the wonderful things that BrainPop can do I had no idea that they offered a lot of art related videos! Not only that the kids can respond to these videos in many different ways as well. 

Did I forget to mention that they have lots of lesson plans to pick and choose from? AND as an educator you can search by the standards that you are looking to cover in your classroom, I can't say enough about these great sites that are also in app form!

6. Mix & Color
Kids can explore how different colors work together to create other colors. Definitely great for Kinder and maybe a refresher for 1st and 2nd grade. 

7. Origami
I would like to use this for those kids who always finish EARLY. No matter what you do, they just can't seem to take their time or they do it right the first time and they are just plain done.  This app gives step by step tutorials on how to create some origami animals. It's limited, but just enough to be useful and not too complicated. The directions are written out and animated to show the direction of the folds. Pretty neat!

It's so easy the kids didn't need my help at all! I'm not sure
if that's a good thing or a bad thing...
Completed origami heart.
8. Shapes
For toddler and preschool yes, but still a good tool for assessment of knowledge, and for my ELL students who need some extra practice time.

9. Camera Awesome!
Lots of cool effects with this cool camera app! The kids can learn about the rule of thirds while editing their photos using different effects and contrast.

10. Drawing Carl
Another drawing app with more of a variety of materials to choose from. 

11. Color Speak
This is great especially for ELL students. The kids can tap on a color to hear how it is pronounced, but switch the mode to record their own voice, my students can use english and spanish to practice as well!

12. PuzzlePlus: Art
A fun game that helps with kids space recognition while using famous works of art! 

I made this for the kids to take home this summer, hopefully they either have an iPad or know someone who does. The best thing about all these apps is that they are FREE! Here is another blog that I follow called The Elementary Art Room! they recently also posted about some iPad apps that I definitely want to give a try!

Do you have iPads in your art studio? What is your favorite app and how do you use it in your classroom?

Tune in next week for a list of things I wish I'd known as a first year art educator.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Last Day of School: Reflection for 2014

Bittersweet End

The final bell has rung, 
the students have all gone
I smile to myself 
as silence fills the halls.

-Ms. Alkire

Just breathe. That's what I am telling myself right now as the 5th graders are walking across the stage and graduating down the hallway. I'm trying my hardest to keep the waterworks at bay, because when it starts it just won't stop. 

Every year I am always a little sad to see them go, but this year it is different. I took in a small group of kids in a little after school art club and I have never felt so attached. I can't imagine what homeroom teachers feel like, having the same children everyday for the entire year and then having to say goodbye. I might also be effected by the fact that I've taught this particular group of kids for 5 years now and I can't imagine my school without them. So many stories, so many memories, I will truly miss them and remember one of the best years we've had together.

I haven't written poems lately, but as the final bell sounds I am feeling a bit reflective.  The 2013-2014 school year was a great one for me. I challenged myself to use more technology and to create more rigor in the lesson plans, challenged my students with artist statements and creative exercises. I started this blog when I didn't think I had a lot to say and now all of a sudden I can't stop sharing my experiences! I ventured out with my Mini Da Vinci's and Art After Hours and got so attached to students that I don't know what I'm going to do with myself now that they are gone! I was awarded October 2013 teacher of the month, helped with the 5th grade play, I submitted proposals for PD sessions in our district and a load of other things! It all happened so fast, where did the year go?

I think this year has definitely been my greatest ever and I can't believe it's over! What a wonderful way to end the first five years of my career, here is to the next five!

Sum up your year for me, how was it? Good? Bad? Challenging? A great learning experience?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

C.A.R.E. Day 2014 & the last day of Mini Da Vinci's

At our school we have a C.A.R.E. Day (Celebrating Authors and Readers at Elliott), the kids are expected to write and illustrate their own book and share it with their assigned group.  Every teacher participates and we are all expected to dress up as a character from a book that our class has read.  I really enjoy this day because it allows me to have students from every grade level for an ENTIRE day, not just 50 minutes. We read our books together, play literacy games, make crafts related to reading and we even eat lunch together. I took our kids into the courtyard for lunch today since it was so nice!  Today the courtyard was full so we ate on the stage in the cafeteria! It was so quiet and calm the kids really had fun! I even took them to recess for 15 minutes!

As we are expected to dress up I opted for a character that is very dear to my heart, the art teacher in Peter Reynolds book The Dot.  You know in doing this I realized that her name is never mentioned in the book, I am going to have to ask Mr. Reynolds if she has a name...

Here is what I needed for my outfit:

1. Big glasses (Found a pair of sunglasses at the dollar store)
2. A beaded necklace (borrowed from a friend)
3. A horizontal striped shirt ($5.00 at Walmart, for some reason I didn't own one)
4. A cardigan (in my closet)
5. Crazy sky high hair (I tried to do three, but it just didn't work so I did a top knot)

Total Price: $6.00

The final result! I paired it with jeans and some colorful shoes!

I kind of imagine Vashti's teacher as a hipster, therefore I must have coffee.
Please ignore my hair, I'm getting it colored this weekend!
The final comparison! What do you think? Did I do a good job?
Today was also the last meeting day of the Mini Da Vinci's. We basically had some time to get all of their projects out to take home and enjoy each others company while we worked on taking down some posters in the studio. It was a bittersweet, I really enjoyed getting to know the kids this year and seeing them grown as artists. I'm going to miss them so much!

What will I do without these kids next year?!?!

What character would you dress up as if you had to choose? What do you dread doing at the end of the year?(I hate the goodbyes :/ )

Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday Mayhem: How I relax during the End of the Year Scramble.

The end of the year is a whirlwind for me, like for most of you art teachers out there I'm sure! I sometimes don't realize that I won't see a class again until it's too late and I have to hunt the students down to return artwork. Field day, field trips, play performances, awards ceremonies, and a number of other things get in the way the last few weeks of school. Not to mention all of the paperwork, deadlines, textbook inventory(YES, I have textbooks. Crazy, right?) and grades that need to be put in before the last bell rings.

Add that with the fact that I am doing a photo shoot for some sweet sixteen pictures this weekend, taking down the classroom and trying to prepare for Africa (18 DAYS! EEP!) I might just be feeling a tad overwhelmed here. Okay maybe a lot overwhelmed!  SOOO MANY THINGS TO DO! Then also yesterday some lovely people from the district came into my room to see if there would be a way to get the kiln into my room with a proper ventilation system. Which if they put it where they mentioned I'll have to move and box a lot of stuff from that space, just another thing to add to the list!

So to relax and take a breath I've been doing some collage work. I love how it doesn't take much thought process to cut up magazines and pictures and put things down on paper.

I just got this fresh sketchbook from Half Price books. I keep this cute bag in my purse with a pair of small scissors, double sided tape, washi tape, pens and other odds and ends, whatever it takes to keep me creative really!

This will definitely be traveling with me to Africa. I won't be posting as often, but I'll have a few scheduled updates for the summer one coming up will be about iPad apps that I use in the classroom so keep a lookout!

How do you cope with the end of the school year?