Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hershey Kisses and Coal

I am still a little in shock that we completed the week relatively unscathed.
I pumped myself up for a long week of behavior issues, attitude and anxiety after students received their progress reports and we all waited for the holiday break. (Thats awful, but like a big game, you have to psych yourself out) Maybe I got used to the high energy of middle school students before vacation, but the week was calm while students continued to work on their value drawings.

I didn't want to be a complete scrooge, so Friday we took it easy.
I started class, when technology was working for me, with the Disney short, Paperman. If you have not seen it, go do a quick youtube search. The imagery is beautiful and the story is classic Disney. There is no dialogue, but much like the images students have been working on, it is a visual language.
As the movie came to an end, I passed each student a baggie with three Hershey Kisses and a black piece of paper (my dorky art teacher self referred to the paper as a lump of coal... nerd). I asked students to try not to eat all the candy, but leave at least one to try to draw on the black paper with charcoal.

It was not an easy challenge. However I was not met with resistance... either students now know me too well or really didn't mind. I forgot to take pictures through out the day, so the selection above was from my last class. 

I wanted to try it out too! Thats my drawing above. 
The last twenty five minutes or so of class, students chose their own art adventure. I had these handouts and supplies available. The top half of this handout came from Tiny Art Room. I added another challenge and re-phrased a couple of things.

All in all, students were entertained, I snuck in some learning and we're now on VACATION!

Friday, December 20, 2013

What do you do to Recharge?

A couple of weeks ago around 2:30 Tuesday afternoon, I felt blind- sided by a cold. Sniffles and aches; I was in bed by 7 o'clock. I debated taking the next day off, but we had a school wide meeting about a new state initiative that the high school art department was asked to pilot. I felt obligated to be there. (I am glad I was since I was singled out in a crowd of 100+ teachers) Plus the rest of my day would feel like cake with only 44 minute classes. I then debated taking the following day, but I had Art Club and I hated to disappoint, especially after not having club due to Thanksgiving.
Sooo, that Friday it was.

I hate sub plans.
I left a "creativity test" that was a sheet of Xs, asking the students to change as many x's as possible into something... a windmill, a shoe... whatever.
Next, the students were asked to complete their homework (due that day) or continue sketching for their long term value drawing. Not the most exciting or productive substitute plans. But some took advantage of the time. In case of emergency, I had left the substitute with outlines of shoes, asking that if students were not participating, that they should select an outline and practice realistic shading.
When I returned on Monday, the room was in good shape and it appeared that a few students took the time to work on homework or the alternate shoe assignment. My co-worker said the sub was great and the students mentioned that she even tried to engage them in conversations about some of the pieces hanging in the room. (*sigh* thank goodness)

As for me, by Friday morning I was feeling WAY better. I had gone to bed super early the nights previous, but felt like I could use a solid "mental health" day.

I stayed in bed til almost 7am. I made myself a massive breakfast of eggs and home fries, did two loads of laundry and packed for our weekend away. That left me almost three hours to paint...
I even think I finished my first painting since returning from Nantucket.

I have been working slowly on this painting since September. It is only 5 inches by 7 inches.

Having the time for myself was an incredible way to kick off the weekend. I brought my sketchbook up to our weekend away and in between watching movies and reading, planned the companion painting to the piece above. The time away from home with nothing that had to be done, was really rejuvenating. Our friends were up too and before we came home, we had an awesome brunch together. The three days were just what I need to get back into the swing of things at school and to power through to the holiday break.

What do you do to Recharge?

Monday, December 2, 2013


There's this comedian who writes for SNL and has a stand up routine or two. I totally can't share it with students, but he has one joke about being at a party as a high school student and yelling "Scatter!" when the cops show up. I always have his tone of voice in my head when I tell my students to SCAMPER.

. . .
What on earth is SCAMPER?
It is only the greatest and most amazing acronym I learned about in my graduate career. And as an education major, you know I learned a whole bunch of acronyms...DESE, NCLB, MTEL, MCAS, DDM, SMART, SSDD...

SCAMPER is an acronym to help one through the creative process.
I was first introduced to it through an assignment for my Creative Thinking course last year. We were asked to gather a bunch of stuff from our kitchens and design a system. I grabbed a steamer, chopper, rubber bands, can opener, baster, cheese grater and a flashlight/lantern. I was so stumped. What could I create that had a function with this junk? I played with it for over two hours before I quit and went to bed.

I thought that a clear mind and a new perspective may help to solve my problem. I also really tried to consider SCAMPER'ing. How could I use these words to help me?
And then I got it... I magnified my objects, took some apart and endlessly rearranged to come up with

a rocket ship that launches a space station (and if I remember correctly, harnesses energy)

I felt like I had such a break through.

SCAMPER is perfect for that road block situation.
Or for where my students are right now in the planning process of their long term value drawings. Many are using some printed references and wanting just to copy the image. I have challenged them to SCAMPER. Or for those that have one sketch that is just "eh," SCAMPER helps them to look at their work through a new lens.  
For me to go through the creative process and experience first hand how awesome and helpful SCAMPER is was totally a benefit. If I could make stickers and put them inside each of my student's sketchbooks, I would. It is a great tool that I can see the benefits from in the planning process.

Go SCAMPER everyone!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

High School Spirit

Working at a high school is much different than working at an elementary or middle school. That's a given. But the atmosphere in a high school right before the big Thanksgiving Day game is like nothing I've ever seen.

It starts with Spirit Week.
Each day, from the Wednesday before the game until the Wednesday of the Pep Rally, has a different theme. Grades compete to see who has the most spirit and results are announced at the end of the day. (Although my freshman get the impression that it is rigged for the Seniors to win.)

The first day was Celebrity/Character Day (I did not participate). The next, mix and match/ opposite day. You can see my outfit above. That Friday was Boston Strong/ New England Sports. Monday was Pajama day... it was the coldest day so far this winter and with the heat hardly working in my room, I loved that I could get away with wearing a sweatshirt and slippers! Next was Color Wars: each grade and staff were assigned a color to wear. Everyone seemed to get into this one! The seniors in particular were decked out and must have had shirts printed ahead of time. Plus there were girls walking around in pink tutus and guys in pink tights. (The attire made my evening a little easier, but I will get into that in a minute) The final day, the day of the Pep Rally, was Blue and White day.

So Tuesday after school...
Actually, let me back up to last year. On the day of the Pep Rally last year, I walked into the art room, the door somehow already unlocked, scraps of paper everywhere, unwashed brushes in the sink and our paint supplies seriously diminished. What happened?

The night before the Pep Rally, the tradition is for each grade to decorate a hallway and make posters for the gym. Remember, Spirit Week is a competition. So somehow students got into the Art Room unsupervised and took what they wanted... I was new and part time, if someone had told me, I would have been a little more proactive. I was also seriously annoyed. So this year I decided to do something about it.

I approached the principal a couple of weeks ago, asking if there was any money to supply students with paint not from the art budget. I went out and purchased some tempera paint and will be reimbursed. We have plenty of not so great brushes and somehow a good supply of poster board. I also asked if it would be okay to charge students twenty-five cents for the boards and have the proceeds go to the Art Club.

I have to say, everything went pretty smoothly.
I put the paint in small containers and coffee cup holders like I used to with the little ones.

I had the desks pushed together into giant tables and other supplies like scissors and tape out and available. If students wanted to take supplies outside of the art room, I took down their names, holding them responsible. (I only lost two rolls of tape!) Through the night there were probably up to fifty students in the Art Room and out in the hallway.

By 5:30 though, I was tired and hungry, having no idea that they were going to stay so long! I asked the dozen or so still working to wrap it up and shoot to be out of the room by 6. I had a great group of Juniors make sure the tables were scrubbed and even had some out in the hall washing the floors.

Between poster board and butcher block paper sales, we made $15.50 and the room was still intact. The art department may not have gotten a shout out at the pep rally, but I was happy to give up my time to be a silent part of a spirited tradition that brings the students together in good fun.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

DIY Decor

My bureau is usually a mess. Not necessarily because of jewelry, but that doesn't help. (I'm really bad at putting laundry away and I don't know where the best place is to store receipts.) I saw this on Pinterest about a month ago and decided I should give it a shot.

I purchased some peg board at Lowe's and after some trial and error, I found the color that I wanted. Valspar spray paint is the best. Below you can see my messy room and the curtains I love, from which I try to base all bedroom decorating ideas. I also have a Monet print that has served as color inspiration for pretty much all rooms in our apartment. Next to the bureau is my makeshift closet. We have two closets and a pantry in our two bedroom apartment. No linen closet. I turned the eave into a closet with a closet bar and a tension rod to hold curtains. 

And my new jewelry organizer. I decided to put the pegboard into an old frame I had. This is puts less holes into our rented apartment walls. Otherwise I was going to use mirror hanger rosettes. 

Tomorrow I will hang some 's' hooks and get this party started!

I know I might be jumping the gun a bit, but I also started a DIY holiday project. I have seen a bunch of Christmas card holding wreaths on Pinterest. Again, since our place is rented, I have felt bad about taping our cards to the wall, so I decided this year to make a place to hold cards. I bought a wire wreath frame, fifty clothes pins, red ribbon and a bag of styrofoam balls. I had the light green spray paint from the DIY project above and purchased some hunter green to complement this project. 

After spray painting the clothes pins, I hot glued them to the wire frame. Noticing that they were not going to stay very well, I ran some red ribbon around the back, hot gluing and hopefully adding some stability. I also wrapped the ribbon around and between the frame. Finally, I hot glued the styrofoam balls to add some extra decoration. I am pretty happy with the results and can't wait to start clipping some cards in there! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Celebrity Half Challenge

A huge emphasis in our Art One curriculum is learning about observation and value in drawing. To be totally fair, I drew a lot in high school, but didn't really "get it" until college. As a second year high school teacher, I am still trying to find that balance of what is art one really about and how can my students be successful?

Term Two started with some observational drawing, value scales and vocabulary. We discussed cast shadow, full light area, half tone and reflected light, taking notes and practicing gradations. I did the same along with the students, under a document camera that I am borrowing from the Drama department, which was projected in the front of the room. oooh ahhh technology. But it caught the students' attention! We then drew pumpkins like the ones above.

Next we broke things down into simple, geometric shapes. Under spot lights on tripods, students observed cast shadow, full light and reflected light on spheres, cones and cubes. This part was totally boring to them. I knew it and tried to emphasize that everything they will draw from here on out can be simplified to these shapes... and that this was so important that I am counting it as a "project" grade.

I kind of just threw together the next assignment as a filler between observation and their own value drawing, but I am so, sooo glad I did. Inspired by this pin, I typed up very specific directions, with a vague rubric, as I am counting this as a mini project grade as well.

Students were asked that as they finish their observational shape drawings and value scales, to go into our small (six) computer lab and find a picture of a celebrity.

After cutting the picture in half and pasting one side to a new paper, they were asked to observe the value and proportions from the discarded half or the pasted side, in order to recreate the other half.

I am overjoyed for these kids.
Many were taking pictures of their work with their cellphones before turning it in. One even posted it to Instragram and another told me he was trying to prove to his mom what he had accomplished in art class.
From a teacher stand point, this was a fabulous exercise. Students didn't want to "mess up" because they wanted their celebrity to look as real as possible. They had to draw upon everything I have taught them about observation and measuring, as well as value, and making comparisons between lights and darks. The face can even be broken down into spheres, which they had already drawn. As students were working, they were actively seeking feedback from me and their peers, taking photos and making considerations about how to improve. What more could you ask for!?
Again, I am so very proud. From here, students have been given the task to create a drawing that uses value, communicates an idea and defines the space. Many are overwhelmed by the openness, but we spent a couple of days in the library looking for images and inspiration, so our creativity gears are turning. Look for value drawing final images sometime in December or January!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Drawing, as an adult, continues

I don't think I have EVER been kicked out of a bar. There was the one and only bachelorette party I went to where we weren't even allowed into the bar... But I have never been asked to leave a bar...
Until this Thursday.

So if you missed the previous post, I am taking a drawing class that meets in a different pub each week. This week, due to the location, my classmates sort of trickled in, finding a few seats here and there at high tops and at the bar. I sat a few seats down from the teacher, next to one of my classmates who works for a children's book publishing company. We each ordered food and drink and casually sketched and chatted as we waited for our food. After we ate, my classmate and I agreed that our vantage point was a little spent, and eyed a high top table. A waitress hesitantly came over after we settled in, asking if we would be ordering anything, as these tables were part of the dining room. We each said that we would order and she brought over a drink menu. Upon her return, she asked if we could move back to the bar, since there was room.
I was a little annoyed, but I understood. We were not going to be a high paying table since we had already eaten. We awkwardly went back to the two seats we just occupied, explaining to the bar tender (whom we asked prior to moving if it would be okay) that we were asked to move. I don't think she really minded after we both ordered another drink.

As I was working on this drawing
a woman, I later identified as a manager, started speaking to our teacher. I couldn't hear what they were saying behind me, I was in "class" after all trying to focus on my work, but it sounded like she was concerned. Like a game of telephone, the message that we should stop drawing people made its way down the bar.
Before I could even start another drawing, the manager looking woman started speaking loudly from behind the bar, at the teacher. "You couldn't even respect my wishes..." What? One of my classmates spoke up mentioning that we had all been there for at least two hours, had paid for meals and drinks. "Are you asking us to leave?"
Pretty much.
My classmates settled their bills and discussed going to a dive down the street. It was about 8:30 at that point (class is from 6:30- 9:00). I opted to settle my bill, finish my drink and go home. It was a school night!
My children's book publishing classmate decided to do the same and we ended up staying til 9 talking about books, illustration and the state of education and literacy in MA and the nation. I might have scored a free Caldecott Award winning wordless picture book, as well as some networking that might allow me to get in touch with illustrators willing to talk to high school students. Let's just say she works for a company that appreciates dots and ish. (mom, those are titles...)

So really, I was defiant and didn't leave the bar. The drawing may have stunk that night, but the intellectual conversation and networking was absolutely fantastic.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fashion as an Art Teacher

If given the chance, I'd wear something like this everyday. Jeans, t-shirt, hoodie and a pair of chucks. Most of my "kick back" shirts promote the local sports team, or like this one, beer. (The 'V' or peace sign stands for Victory brewing in PA). Definitely can't wear anything like this to school! So when it came to dressing for the MAEA conference, I panicked a little bit. What does a young art teacher wear that looks professional and creative?
On day one, I went with this.
I've felt a little like I am cheating this year, as I tend to wear different colored jeans and variations of t-shirts. My purple jeans above are a perfect example. Paired with boots and a blazer (made out of sweat shirt material!) I feel like I dressed it up a bit and stayed true to what I am most comfortable in. The blazer and black t-shirt are from Target. The sweater and jeans are from Ann Taylor Loft. The boots are a recent bargain found at Marshall's. They are by BOC.

On the second day I assumed others would be a little more casual. I was right, but I would still wear this outfit on any given day teaching. I paired navy cords with heeled booties, a collared shirt and sweater. I love a bargain and picked up the Not Your Daughter's Jeans cords at a local discount shop called Frugal Fannies. The collared Liz Claiborne button down I bought on clearance, per usual, at JCPenny. I wish the sweater from H&M fit a little better, but I made due, rolling the sleeves and folding under the the scoop neck. The scarf is a hand me down from my mom years and years ago... she thought it was ugly and I tend to wear it with everything!

I wore the sweater earlier in the week too, at parent/ teacher conferences. I paired it with a sleeveless dress from H&M, since my room was getting nice and toasty and I anticipated some anxiety perspiration. I threw on a pair of tights and ankle high cowboy boots that I have had since I started teaching, plus a silk scarf that was most likely my mom's in the 80s. 

Looking at these outfits, I guess I keep it together pretty well. When I first started teaching, there were some teachers in the building that still wore pants suits and other wore high heels. I've always tried to be comfortable yet professional. This year it all comes down to comfortable pants and shoes, paired with layers and sweaters in all colors. Seriously, I have red, yellow, green, blue, purple, khaki, black and gray pants, plus sweaters in gray, black, blue, brown, purple and yellow. I have really been enjoying my Dansko clogs and Clarke's wedges in tan and black. Having enough basics that can be interchanged really seem to be the key. I'll just keep trying to play off my jeans!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Greetings! From Day 2

It is a beautiful fall morning here, just south of Boston. 
Driving down to the South Coast, not to be confused with the South Shore, the last two days, the sun warmly greeted me, rising through the trees much like the image above. I don't always get to appreciate the beauty as I rush off to work in the morning. The chance to relax with hardly anyone else on the road and my music coming through the speakers, was very welcomed.

The second day of the MAEA regional conference was held at UMass Dartmouth's New Bedford Campus, also fondly called the Star Store. Before the university purchased the building, sometime before 2001, the building was a store, hence the name. The artisan program is housed here in addition to gallery and studio space.

My studio space was behind the column on the right in the photo above. I had a large table, a section of cork board and access to print tables and the dye kitchen pictured below.

I spent a lot of time here junior and senior year, wearing my blue apron, plugged into my first ever iPod.

The first session I took yesterday was absolutely for selfish reasons and I'm not afraid to say it! (Nor was I the only one!)  I spent many hours at these printmaking tables as an undergraduate and when I saw that my professor was leading a workshop, I absolutely had to sign up. While he couldn't remember my name, he did remember my face!

The photo process printmaking that was demonstrated for us would seriously need to be adapted, modified and previously prepared if it was to work with even high school students. I think the biggest take away as art educators was the idea of inquiry. There is so much left to chance, or the unknown, between light exposure times, how much time in the developer, what certain materials and pigments will and will not do... the list could go on... but printmaking can provide students with a sense of play and questioning that students can so often loose with painting or drawing. I guess that's what I took from the session. Others may have had a hard time with it, but beyond printing making for oneself, I can see it could benefit the students.

The second session I attended was about how a small, disjointed, hardly recognized art department became a power house in a now regional-ized high school. The quote above is placed on every bulletin and program this department publishes. I left the session empowered by some great ideas and much to think about over the next years...

I totally skipped the lunch provided by the conference, even though the buffet the day before was awesome. Instead I opted for the local burrito joint, No Problemo. I "checked-in" on Facebook and let me tell you, my friends were all sooo jealous. There are a bunch of places to eat and shop in New Bedford, in fact the little down town area, complete with cobblestone streets, has had a bit of a comeback in recent years. But nothing beats No Problemo. The food is fresh and tastey and the music and skate culture is popular with the clientele and staff alike. Its the kind of place that writes on the chalk board near the tip jar "a free kiss with every tip." (I didn't get mine.)

This has gone on way too long. I will wrap up with this:
The UMass Dartmouth Art Education Association Student Chapter had a great presence at the conference. You could tell that each was involved in some capacity or another, from attending the sessions, to guiding conference goers, to discussion panels. The buttons on the right and in the middle above were being sold by the chapter as a fundraiser. They are trying to raise enough money to represent UMass at the National Art Education Association Conference in San Diego this spring. In addition to the buttons, students produced 8"x8" art works, displayed in a gallery the second day of the conference, and held a silent auction.  Both are fantastic ideas (that I might need to steal borrow, for art club) and I wish them luck with their endeavor!