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!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Thursday Think Tank: Why I'm getting Rid of Portfolios Next Year

The last three years in middle school art, my students have had "portfolios."

After every project the artwork would find its way into that portfolio and stay there all year long, then the last week of school those would be sent home.

I've made a bold decision not to do that next year.

Here are my reasons why:

1. The parents have no idea what we are doing in class.

2. It wastes valuable paper resources and its expensive.

3. When collecting artwork for the art show it is time consuming to pull artwork and look through portfolios.

INSTEAD, next  year I will changing things up a bit.

1. I will have a digital portfolio(a suggestion from another art teacher), take photos of every students artwork to keep a record of work completed and also as documentation in case of parent concerns. These can be uploaded to an online portfolio, like Artsonia or something else as long as I have parent permission.

2. Art will be displayed after every completed project.

3. Certain artworks will be pulled from the display, recorded for the Spring Art Show and our yearly district wide showcase called iCreate, "matted" and labeled for the Spring Show and stored.

If I do this all though out the year it will save me a lot of time prepping for the art show and save me the time of trying to have students keep their work organized. I've come to this place in my teaching career where I realize that there are certain expectations that are unreasonable for the specific students that I teach. When I pass out portfolios I typically see them in trash cans all through out the school, but hopefully by passing out individual artworks as soon as they are complete, that will help students appreciate the hard work they've put into their art and seeing the results of that...instead of it staying hidden in a cabinet all year.

I'll let you know how it goes, until then more changes are coming for next year!

What are your thoughts on portfolios in the art studio? How do you instill an appreciation for their art in your students?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thursday Think Tank: A Day in the Life of an Art Educator!

I just wanted to do a quick run down of what my typical day looks like for all of you!

5:00 am Wake Up, Get Ready, Breakfast, & Hit the Road!

7:15 am Arrive at School Put my Apron on!

As soon as I arrive I put on my apron. I may not always need it, but its like my badge of honor and it helps me keep track of things that I normally set down somewhere and lose. For example the control for the projector, I'm always losing that! I also keep pens, sticky notes and erasers in my pockets just in case.

During this time I also make sure my objectives are correct for the day, change the date/agenda on the board or update any information that needs to be updated.

7:30 am during this time if I have tutoring I am usually helping students with their work or they are working independently. I also take this time to prep materials for the day or cut paper if we're beginning a new project.  During clay season, I'd be loading or unloading the kiln to get it ready for a firing.

8:10 am Bell Rings and students come pouring in!

8:15-11:42 am I have FOUR Art I classes made up of 7th and 8th graders. Art I is our art design course or basically introduction to art. The students learn basic skills, and all about the Elements and Principles of Art.

11:45-12:17 pm LUNCH This year I enjoy having lunch in the Library since it is less crowded than the teachers lounge.

12:20-1:10 pm This is my conference period. I use this time to update grades, put away materials before my afternoon classes, or hang artwork. IF I have time I even update my blog or post on my school Instagram account.

1:13-3:45 pm I have THREE Advanced Art classes this year. Advance Art 3D Design. So we tackle a lot of 3D projects like the Home project, and Altered Books.

3:45 pm My 8th period class usually helps to stack chairs and clean the floor before they leave. In our school we walk all the students out into the main hallway at the end of the day toward their respective exits (Bus Riders, Car Riders, Walkers).

4:00-5:00 pm

Monday I have ART CLUB. This year our name is S.A.S. (Secret Art Society) we help out with Library nights and other activities and events that go on in the school.

Tuesday once a month we have a district Art Department Meeting at one of the middle schools. We meet and share different ideas, lesson plans and talk about district events in which we are participating. I'm excited to share some future projects I'll be involved with this year!

Wednesday is reserved for our weekly staff meetings on campus. This year I am also in charge of

Thursday & Friday I try to go home on time unless a student asks for extra help.

Saturday is my day to relax!

Sunday I try to finish up any lesson plans and also review what I've got planned for the week. I also take this day to make lunches for the week so I don't have to worry about it.

There you have it! I'd say its nothing too special, but it takes a lot of work!

What does your day typically consist of? Comment below!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday Mayhem: Altered Books

A little abstract cover carving.

This was done at home!

For all your sneaky phone hiding and charging needs!

"It's a portal."

Check out this habitat!

Altered book with some hidden fossils!

Look at all these altered books!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Last Minute Field Trip!

At the end of last year (May 2016) one of my students submitted a proposal to our Principal and asked if Advanced Art and Humanities classes could take a trip out to Dallas and tour the galleries around. It was a super fun experience and Mrs. Sterns our Humanities teacher created an amazing scavenger hunt for us all! In total we took about 80 students with 10 chaperones! What a great day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

ATPE Middle School Teacher of the Year 2016!

I feel like I'm catching up on a lot, since my blog has been kinda of dead as of late. Last year, not only did I win my campus Teacher of the Year but also the ATPE Middle School Teacher of the Year!

Mr. J who was the ATPE High School Teacher of the Year!

My Principal and I!

Cool award!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Project HOME 2016

Last year students were asked to interpret their idea of "home" into a visual representation. Here are the results.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Thursday Think Tank: Printmaking Social Issue

Last year I stumbled upon this amazing art teachers Instagram @artofteaching (you can click that link to see it) and she had a great idea for printmaking and was kind enough to email me when I asked her about the process, so all the credit goes to her!

Real Talk: I've never done printmaking with real printing blocks and ink as a teacher in my entire 7 years of previous teaching. In elementary it would have been too expensive to buy materials like that for over 700 students. Since being in middle school, while I have taught basic printmaking skills, I never had the materials for an entire class until this year.

So you can see that I was a little nervous and was glad to have the help of a more experienced teacher for this project.

First I began with my advanced students by simply asking them to discuss what they believed a social issue to be. From there we discussed the different types of social issues and where they fit in within different communities within the globe.

A social issue is a problem that influences a considerable number of individuals within a society. 

The different areas of social issues that we addressed were the following:

1. Self
2. Family/School/Friends
3. City/Community
4. Texas/USA
5. Global

After brainstorming as a whole, the class then spent time drafting a design based on a topic of their own choice. Once they finalized their art, they then rubbed the pencil drawing onto the blocks and began carving. Students were expected to create a test print, a ghost print, and then two final prints. They were also expected to label them correctly as artist prints and then label the Edition on their final prints.

This project was done just before the elections in November, so a lot of these were influenced by politics.


Writing an artist statement!
I had many great projects come out of this and I was very impressed by how much my students really cared about these different topics. I am one proud art teacher!

How do you incorporate world topics and issues into your curriculum and how do you create meaningful discussions? Let me know!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Coping with Seasonal Students

Yesterday I received an email that a student had been withdrawn from school and that he would not be returning.

Even though I never experienced this while growing up, as a teacher I now have 20-30 students every year that arrive and then leave within months. Some of these students return, but the majority I never see again.

Right now I am sitting at my desk and looking at the cabinet thinking about the portfolio filled with art projects that have been left behind. I am thinking to myself,

"What was the last thing that I said to him?"

I am a firm believer that every person enters our lives for a specific purpose. You don't know what they are going through, you don't know the family problems they might have or their academic struggles. That being said I try to make the best of the time that I do have with them. I try to treat every student with respect and dignity, even if they can seem challenging at first. I think to live my life this way not only shows anyone who crosses my path that they are worth respect, but that they deserve to be treated like a decent human being.

The last time I saw this student was after school on Friday. He was waiting for his bus. I asked him how his week had been, what he was going to do when he got home. I asked him what his favorite class was and how he was doing grade wise. He mentioned to me that it was math, that he enjoyed being with that teacher, and he felt he was doing better than before. I said I was proud of him and shook his hand and I remember him smiling, looking proud of himself.

That is how I will remember him. I hope that he remembers that I encouraged him and treated him with respect, even if it was only for a small period of time.

As an art teacher, my position in a students life teeters on being a content teacher and counselor of sorts. I have the privileged of  being a listener, encourage, an advocate. This is what I remind myself of, especially when some of the students I teach are only here for a season.

How do you cope with students that leave? What do you hope they take with them as they go?