The day I realized it was okay to go crazy for art.
So...I love art history. Love it.
When I go to museums and galleries, I literally want to jump for joy, pump my fists in the air, clap...just express my love for art. And I never did. I always kept that inkling to run and do a cartwheel to myself. Until a little over a year ago.
I was selected to attend the Robert Rauschenberg Power of Art workshop in DC...I think it was 2009?...anyway, side note, teachers- look at this link, they select about thirty art teachers from across the nation for this, it is A-MA-ZING...
Ok, back on topic...excited about art...so one perk for me was that my friend Lauren lives near DC so we got to spend some time together when I wasn't in my workshops. One of the the things we did? Visit the National Gallery of Art.
And, I guess I couldn't hold it in any longer. I started doing jumps. Actin' silly. Just trying to express how excited I was to be around all of this art history. Lauren commented that it was the most fun she had ever had at an art museum. It was for me too!
So I kept that memory in my back pocket...til I went to Minnesota last year...and saw Claes Oldenburg's 'Spoonbridge'. And...I just had to...leap. (pic is in the slideshow) John was there and took the picture....then again on my recent trip to Chicago, I felt compelled to do the same thing. Only...I was by myself. So I took my pictures. It was fun. I did get a few folks to take pics for me, and it was just...fun.
Here is my idea. I teach in a rural area. Many of my students have not ever been to a gallery or art museum. Now, I am a grant writin' diva, but I can't always secure funds for field trips, and certainly not for all of my students. When I show art and talk about artists with their lessons sometimes it is hard to make that connection because they don't always have the prior knowledge.
So what if they saw the same artwork...and their art teacher was in front of it, lookin' all silly? Or excited? Yes m'am.
I just had probably my best first week of school EVER. Seriously. If the rest of the year is this amazing...fingers crossed.
In the rest of this blog post I have just posted a few things that I do for the first day of school that, well..work. They just do. Its a bit random, but just some things that might be helpful.
If you don't have this book- go buy it. For real. I had a chance to hear Harry Wong speak as a part of my North Carolina Teaching Fellows senior conference. Looking back on it now, I realize how fortunate I was to have had this experience. The book itself is so useful and applicable to any classroom...but hearing him speak, that is on another level.
So...that is my absolute shameless plug for this book that really helped me to set a solid foundation for my teaching practice. This is my tenth year teaching and I still use ideas from this book.
He talks about the importance of establishing your Rules and Procedures on that first day. It clicked for me and that is how I start class every year. The way I figure...if I tell them from the first day...then they know my expect. Honestly, there is nothing worse that someone getting mad at you for something, well, that you didn't know wasn't okay to do. Sounds silly maybe? But if I specifically tell them and model for them small things like how to enter the room...well, then they know to slow down, take a breath and come into the room in a calm manner, showing me they are ready to learn, and setting the tone for class.
Here are my Rules and Procedures.
Mrs. G is my teacher!
One concern students have the first day is, 'am I in the right place?'. Besides the big ol' ART sign and Mona Lisa on the door I also stand at the door to greet my students with a smile.
I make sure my name is outside my door- and my credentials. I want my students to know that I am a highly qualified professional art educator. I list my degrees, I list my NBCT status. They need to know that I take pride in my profession and I they are in good hands.
Seating Chart...bling edition
I always have a seating chart. Period. With having so many classes, I put together this board that sits on an easel outside my door. There is a sheet protector attached to it so I can have all the seating charts in there for the day, the students find their seats as they come in the door, and when I close the door I actually pull the seating chart for that class, put it on a clip board and write notes on it, changes seats, etc.
So...how do they know where to sit? Signs, of course! I found these big 'ol paperclips one year at Target in the dollar area (I love that spot!) and it is easy for me to label the tables using these.
When the students come in there is a slide up prompting them to get out a piece of paper, part of a PPT I use on the first day.
Here is what it looked like this year;
Welcome to Art, 2012-2013
A letter to myself...
One of the teachers here at my school placed a few boxes of envelopes in the resource room...and it gave me the idea to have my students write a letter to themselves as their first activity. This is new for me but I am happy to report it was a big success.
My prompts are listed in my opening PPT, but here is the gist of the prompts I gave;
The main thing I want to stress is that for this to be effective you have to stress that this is for THEM. They are the only ones that will read the letter, as it will be sealed. When my students really made that connection...they just kept writing and writing. My intent was not only to set the tone for the year, to get them focused and to think of goal setting, but I wanted to give them a chance to do something for themselves, to capture this day, this moment in time.
I labeled each class, secured them with rubber bands and I will hold onto these until the last day of art class, which for my 6-8th graders is in May. So much can happen between now and May, they are going to grow so much and change and I want them to remember how they felt on the first day of this year.
Anyway, I will update in May as to how this worked out in the long run!
My teaching situation is unique in that I teach 5-8th grades. Weird, huh? Middle School...and then one elementary class. But I love it. I did do the letter activity with my 5th graders, but I also like to have them make name cards. This serves three purposes. First, it helps me learn their names. Second, it helps me quickly assess their work style and basic drawing skills/creativity. Third, I can see what they are interested in, see a little of their personality. I have my 5th graders for only one nine weeks then I get a new group and they are my biggest class so I have to make an extra effort to get to know each of them.
And...Marzano. Gotta have that, at least around these parts. One thing that has worked for me is to print my 'scale' on bookmarks. The kids get a bookmark, which is always helpful, and they have a tool for showing my their level of understanding of whatever we are working on at that time. They can place these on their table and point to their 'number' when I walk by and then we can talk about why that is the best description for them or they can hold them up. I have even had kids take extra to use in their academic classes, which I think is awesome!
I go over this with my Rules and Procedures.
Scales on the wall
I have the scales posted in my room (of course)...here is how I have my scales described and it works for me.
4-'I got this Mrs. G! ...and I can teach it to someone else'
3-' I understand...but I might need a reminder'
2-'I understand some of what you are sayinh'
1-....ummmm...I need some help!'
Okay, so I really am that much of an organization junkie that I made a to-do list for my teacher workdays to maximize/account for my time. I really did.
But...I think it helped. It forced me to write out some of the things I hoped to accomplish, which I wrote in with pencil, going back and forth between things at the computer physical tasks in 30 minute increments, then making notes about what I did.
It helped me to accomplish a good amount today, and not to fixate on any one thing for too long...which tends to happen.
Here is a link my printable to-do list
Teachers at IMS...please feel free to check out this room- it's for all of us! You can take from the room or you can add to the collection. I just ask that you make sure any item that once contained food/beverages is cleaned and dry before leaving it in this room. I hope that this will be a real 'resource' for you!
Okay...so one thing to know about my current teaching assignment is, well, I work at an awesome school but...it's,well... older. Ok, it's pretty darn old. We just got a new building the other year but, well, I am still in the older section of the building and have to deal with issues that come along with that...but one thing that is a positive..they have moved teachers to the new building, leaving empty rooms...and I have made use of those. Last year I turned the old ISS room into a resource room, a place where teachers could find (and bring!) items like plastic containers, and newspaper and msc. boxes. (I will do a take pics and do a separate post on that, definitely would recommend that if you have the space.) Also, the old cafeteria is now open for me to share with the band director. We use it as a rehearsal/3D art area and area to display art and music projects. It is kind of our showplace.
So where was I? Oh yes, old building...but a chance to use space creatively. This year the two classrooms beside me are vacant, so I set up one like a traditional classroom with the desk set in rows. I figure this is a good breakout area for quizzes or formal presentations. And the other classroom...well, I turned it into a drawing room. (below, put the cursor on the picture and drag fro side to side to see a pan of the space)
The newly created 'drawing room' is connected to my regular art room.
One thing about my art room...I don't have any windows.
Art teachers, I heard that gasp.
Yep, no windows. But not anymore! Now I have created a space where I can have natural light. My intention for this space is to use only dry media, due to the fact that there is no sink in the this particular room and the floor is carpeted. I want to use this space for still life drawing and figure studies.
...so excited to have some LIGHT!
I arranged the tables in a large U-shape with the intention of finding a sturdy table that I can place in the middle of the 'U', but also that I can move if needed for a standing figure. This space will allow me to leave a still-life set up without having to worry about items being moved. Also, it is a large room and this set up will allow me to move freely throughout the room, not only to monitor my students behavior but also to be available to help them with their work. AND...I have natural light! I can't wait to test out this new drawing room!
A place to plan...
Another thing that I set up- a dedicated space for my short and long range planning.
I feel like sometimes I get distracted at my desk with the computer being right there. This empty classroom next door has a big desk (left) with plenty of place to spread out my calendar and art resources. I think it will be a good option to have this area to escape to if I am having trouble focusing.
I have worked in brand new classrooms, newer classrooms, old classrooms and really old classrooms. Not every teaching space you get will be ideal. I have learned that sometimes you just have to make the best of what you have. I may not have a brand new classroom, but I do have this opportunity to branch out and I think that my students will only benefit from this.
"Don't find time for art, MAKE time for art."
I am going to keep reminding myself that. I have to. See...school started back today, and summer break has been awesome, but I am glad to be going back. Ever since I was a little kid, I have always loved school... been excited about the first days...as a student, and even now as the teacher. I woke up at 4am this morning ready to jump out of bed and start my day, which for the next few days will be teacher work days...which leads into teaching...and coaching...and clubs...and working out...and just basically my life. But I have to keep artin'.
I really do love teaching art...but...I love making my art. Many times as an art teacher it is hard to keep making your own art. To be frank, some folks don't think that you are an artist if you are a teacher.
I am an artist.
I am an art teacher.
I am both.
For all of my art teachin' friends out there, let's support each other, remember why we got into this gig in the first place.
Alright, now bring on the new school/art year!