Wednesday, August 24, 2011

the closet, part II

I think, I think, I am done organizing the supply closet.
This is what it looked like before I started.

Now, six or so hours later, I have a much better idea of where things are.
Table with the paint pumps is on wheels! Portable supply table, what, what!
Everyday supplies in labeled box tops
Tempera near the bottom, acrylic near the top, print making and pen & ink in the middle
All that dust covered yarn stayed put. Other textile/ 2D materials filled in the open spaces, with 3D supplies on the bottom shelf.   
School starts in two weeks. I am planning on going up to Vermont (and maybe getting "hurricane-ed in" ) to try to relax before new teacher orientation next week. Now that the closet is done, I think I am in good shape. My goals are to finish some bulletin boards and get the first few weeks outlined.

What are you/ have you done for the first day of school?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

the remix edition

Beware of the supply closet!
Today I tasked myself with organizing the supply closet. After making friends with the custodians on my way in (so nice and helpful! score 1- new art teacher) I learned that just recently did they go through the 20+ years of accumulation in there. To be fair, it was pretty organized, and I am sure I could have gone the year without doing it, but as the new kid, I want to make sure I really know what I have to work with. Plus, organizing the materials to the way I feel I am going to work, will make it that much easier. (I have totally hid all of the 3D materials behind the door!)
Before I attacked!
After Day1
I have started to make piles of like items to be placed together on a shelf. I am debating if I should make a library with all of those books. My concern is that they are either instructional or have naked people and would need to be set aside anyhow. 
 Check out all that yarn! And it is totally covered in a thick coating of dust. Its tragic. I hope I have enough courage to try weaving on some cardboard looms.
My thought is to organize left to right, 2D to 3D. I have plenty of cupboard storage in the classroom as well, with one so far dedicated to paper, and two others for kids' work. That leaves me two to organize and possibly rearrange. I know the kids are in middle school, and therefore more capable, but I am thinking that caddies with markers, crayons, everyday essentials, be stored in one of those cupboards, (more accessible) will save some time during our short 50 minute periods.

You'll notice a bunch of empty spaces in those pictures and thats because its all been  placed here:
Spread out over the front four tables, ready to be sorted tomorrow.
I have to say, I am pretty excited to paint with my middle school friends. In those plastic bags on the bottom left of the bottom picture, are never before (seemingly) used liquid watercolor!
Also sorting today I found all of this:
Tons of wack- a- doo assorted wire! I will have to make a wire based sculpture or perhaps turn a gesture drawing into a wire statue.
Finally, I found some of these:
I think they have to do with hook and rug, or perhaps jewelry making, as I found others in a box of those things, but I really don't know what it is. Do you?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Job Jitters

I am a part of the TeacherArtExchange list serve through Getty and I sent out an email earlier today asking for advice. It dawned on me that there is an entire community of art teachers in the blogosphere, so I thought I'd post it here too and see what you all think. also, I hope my crazy mug shot caught everyone's attention! :)

After working at a small, private, Catholic, elementary and middle
school for three years, I am starting in September at one of the five
public middle schools in my city! I am super excited as I have been
trying to get my foot in the door for years, and am really thankful
for this opportunity to keep growing as a teacher.

I will be transitioning from about 250 kids, grades 2-8, to upwards of
600 middle school aged kids. I'm nervous to say the least. I know I
have been hired because I (appear to) know what I am doing, but with
no curriculum in place to follow, just the MA state frameworks as
guidelines (which I've basically taught to in the past) I have to
start from scratch again and I'm a little overwhelmed. Aside from an
introductory name design or mandala, I need to start organizing some
units and/or lessons and nail down what supplies I have to work with.

Does anyone have any advice for organizing a middle school curriculum?
What materials (and brands) are a must have for a successful program?
More over, does anyone have any advice for a first year, part time,
middle school art teacher (whose going back to school part time

Feel free to leave a comment!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Goals for the 2011/ 2012 School Year or Activities (techniques/concepts) to Revist

F.Y.I. It has been ingrained in me since my days at UMD with my all my art education professors, to say "activity" instead of "project."

Looking through my photos, I think I have posted about most of the lessons I documented last school year. There are a few however that didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, for various reasons. So, with a new school year (at a new school and with new age group) just weeks away, I think I will make a list of things I'd like to "re-do" or try again.

I tried a pattern (strips) pumpkin paper weaving last fall, with 3rd grade.
Ultimately, like any activity, there were fantastic woven pumpkins, while others were finished, but not entirely correctly. I'd like it to have a higher success rate.
see at the bottom left and top right
A few things didn't work:
1. Being the "new" art teacher, I only had these students for a few weeks at this point, and I did not fully know their capabilities. Some knew how to weave, some did not.
2. Timing- if I recall, this "one class period" lesson I found in a Scholastic book, took us two class periods.
3. Not having the right words- something I struggle with is phrasing directions in an appropriate, "kid" language, while still using the correct art terms and formal language.

If I did this again, I would possibly do some lead up, practice weaving sorts of activities. I think I would also make the pumpkin warp bigger for smaller hands. I would also nail down the language that would work best, before presenting the material.

As I will not being teaching 3rd grade this year, my goal would be to teach weaving this winter. There is a TON of yarn at my new school, and pre- notched cardboard looms begging to be used! The one other time I taught weaving, I had 12 kids in the class and I made the looms myself. I think making a small tapestry during the cold New England winter will be a perfect activity for my seventh or eighth graders.

Observational Drawing

Now transitioning to all middle school, all the time, I need to get into a different mind set. Middle school kids get it stuck in their head that art, and in particular drawing, is only good if it is realistic. While I don't agree with that, and will try to change their minds over the course of the year, I do want to give them tools to become better drawers.

These two observational drawings are done by 5th grade students. I feel like the process worked well and I would like to use it with my middle schoolers this year.

I had a couple of boxes at the back of the room, filled with the random nick nacks only art teachers could have. (Seriously, a fish on a stick!) I randomly called on a student to select an item. I encouraged certain sized items, but the choice was theirs. They then brought the item to a table in the front of the room, and the class sketched. After a few minutes, the next student selected an item and placed it behind the previous item. As a class, we made observations using key terms, and added the new item to the sketch. We continued this process until our square was filled. Over two classes, we did about 4, small sketches. 
We had also talked about value and had previously completed a "shattered" value, abstract drawing. I feel like the transition from that activity, to this drawing helped the kids understand the concept more completely and then were able to practically apply the idea. I feel like there could be more contrast in the values in these drawings, but then I have to remember that this was 5th grade! How great is this 5th grade drawing!? And, in just 2 classes?

So back to middle school, a goal for the year would be to complete more activities that build drawing skills.

Two little characters that when placed next to each other, evoke fear and anxiety in the hearts of some art teachers. --I tried this past school year, I really did. Not until the end of the year, but I did try.

Actually, both 3D- ish lessons we did came from There's a Dragon in my Art Room. We made abstract cardboard sculptures in 5th grade and Louise Nevelson inspired shoe box top reliefs in 6th grade. Unfortunately I do not have photos of the cardboard sculptures, as we finished them about a day before the end of school. However, I managed to collect so many pieces of cardboard, that I lugged two boxes full to my new school yesterday.

There are two reasons why I feel like I avoid 3D activities:
1. The "engineer" part of my brain is not strong. I feel like I would be unable to answer construction questions.
2. Managing 100+ student works is like trying to flamenco dance. I don't know the steps, I don't know how to contort or balance. Chances are I am going to fall or step on some feet. However, with practice, the dance can be beautiful.
So for the new school year, my goal is to learn, plan, and manage a few more 3D activities.

Seriously, how cool would a wall of these be?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

every new beginning...

...comes from some other beginning's end.

After a long two weeks (and a few days) of waiting, I was offered the part time, public middle school art position. It feels absolutely amazing to have finally reached one of my life goals. I mean, it would be more perfect if it were full time, but over the last five years I've learned a thing or two about getting your foot in the door and waiting things out. I couldn't be more excited though. Really, this will be a great move for my career. I have never been this happy to have stuck with my career choice, as I have in the past year, and I am looking forward to growing in my new job and in my master's studies.

There are two things that I did not foresee being so difficult with this transition:
1. The conversation with co- workers, who were recently informed by our principal that I will not be returning. I feel many are genuinely happy that, as a young person, I have the opportunity to leave the private school and make a more decent salary. But I can hear the disappointment in their voices. That is probably a great reflection of me as a teacher, but my immediate reaction is to frown and say sorry.... like, "sorry for your loss." As if we are at a funeral! Its painful. And if that wasn't enough...

2. Telling the kids. I know, I know, I am so dramatic about this.
Never before this school year was I greeted with hugs, coloring pages, giant smiles (even from middle schoolers!) and gifts of doodles from home. I had 8th graders stop by after school to help clean up (as part of a class assignment, but they came on the regular). I have had some of these students for a handful of years, and have seen them grow.
Maybe this emotional attachment (which I am sure I will be over in a month or so) is because this is the first school I have ever taught at. Or maybe it is just because that is the kind of teacher I am. Who knows.

Either way, the rumor mill works fast in this city and I know the wheels have started to turn. With school not in session, many kids will find out when school starts again, but for those I have at camp next week, I will hopefully find the words to tell them. In the meant time, the 3rd difficult thing about the transition will be cleaning out my classroom. Why are art teachers such pack- rats!?


So, chucks, crayons, and a little creativity will be transitioning from mainly elementary lessons, to middle school lessons come the fall! I am already thinking about the first day of school... watch out!