Sunday, September 29, 2013

Proud to Be UMD

I woke up this morning feeling like yesterday was a bizarre but lovely dream. 

My university's homecoming events were announced over a month or so ago and I decided that for the first time ever, I would attend. I was enticed by the promise of a Resident Assistant Reunion AND Orientation Leader Reunion.
I know, I am a huge dork.
But it was because of my experiences with these two programs that I am the person that I am today.

At the Resident Assistant Reunion there were groups of these canvas prints with photos of RAs throughout the years. The one above has a bunch of folks I was on staff with. (Thankfully?) I am not in any of these photos. I spent two years as an RA and it was probably the hardest I have ever worked in my life. I am so thankful that senior year I was able to live in the brand new apartments and focus on my studies, particularly student teaching. I lived with three other women who were "retired" RAs and I have to say, we had a blast, amongst the trials and tribulations of college life.

My junior year of college I was an Orientation Coordinator for Family Orientation. The other OCs and I called ourselves the "Party of Six" that year. Above is the party of four who could represent. The other two are working in upstate New York and could not join us for the weekend.

I had a fantastic day between the reunions, the beer tent with a bunch of (650!) alum, dinner with friends and an evening, self guided tour of campus.
I look back and realize how much I really did grow up in four years. Others may argue that high school was the best four years of their lives, but for me, college was it. The people I can call my friends know just how shy I was as an eighteen year old AND  how by twenty one, I could confidently address a group of parents or a class of high school students.

I may have never, ever wanted to go to UMD with its ugly buildings and not quite far enough away location, but it was the best decision of my life.
Rolling Stones and newspapers across the country may have dragged UMD's name through the mud in recent months, but I could not be more proud of from where I have come.

Maybe one day I will be so lucky to return as a Professor of Art Education.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Proud Teacher Moment

The weather has been absolutely spectacular lately. I don't know if learning to paint has made me hyper vigilant about light and color, but I can't help but smile, as I am seeing my city in a different way. Today I took the photo above after venturing down a path I had never taken before at a local park. My boyfriend's family home is on the other side of those green trees. Sometimes I wonder what my childhood would have been like if I had grown up here. But then I don't think I'd be as excited about the landscapes (and everything else I love about it here) as I am now, in adulthood.

I will try to use these when the weather gets cold and I am forced to paint indoors.

I was at this local park because it was the annual Art Festival, hosted by the Art Association. I met the president last spring at a luncheon honoring students for their Lion's Club Peace Posters. We exchanged info and I promised that I would pass along entry forms to my high school students, as the association wanted to increase their student submissions. One of my super talented students submitted a work, but I didn't know what it was until today when I went to the show.
That's my assignment! Well, I am sure that by no means is the lesson original, but I was so excited to see that he submitted a piece from my class. The assignment was to create a portrait without drawing a traditional portrait. His image is an amalgamation of album covers of his favorite band. He completed it with Prisma Color pencils and Sharpie. I am thrilled for him. Best in Show- Young Artist!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

High School Week One

Open House is this evening, so while I am chilling at home before heading back, I figured I'd keep my head in the game and blog about our first few weeks.

I have to admit, I wasn't super jazzed about starting school this year. I don't know why. Maybe because summer was so short and we did a lot of traveling? Not enough beach time? Either way, it was very out of character.
A week or so before classes started though, I was on Pinterest, per usual, scanning for ideas, and came across a book recommendation. A Retired Art Teacher Tells All. I have purchased other books about teaching art before, so I was a little skeptical, but this one was specifically about teaching high school and the Kindle edition price was right! Now having read most of it, I wish I had had a hard copy to mark up, but I have my little composition book of notes, and a couple weeks' worth of experience to prove it was worth the $7! 

I followed the author's suggestions about the first few days of classes, within my comfort level. I would have loved to do alphabetical seating assignments, but with students adding and dropping the class like its going out of style, I couldn't commit. (Although after one class in particular, which is bursting with 27 students, I had to assign seats. It worked to my benefit to wait, if only to see who could handle sharing a desk, since I only have 24.)

There is still however no great way to go over the nitty gritty of expectations, guidelines, and grading. But I think that by keeping it simple and asking students to sign the course overview, like a contract, we started off the year with a great mutual respect.

My course goals were straight from the book:

By the end of the school year, every student will:
1) Improve his or her artistic abilities
2) Improve in his or her ability to express ideas and feelings through art
3) Expand his or her appreciation for all forms of art

I tried to stress that we are all coming to the art room with varying abilities and that the end goal is not to compare ourselves to the person next to us, but to where we started out. And to find out where we started out, we drew. And drew and drew. For the first four or five days, without much instruction from me at all. More on that later...
·      Keep a positive ATTITUDE.
·      Be RESPECTFUL of yourself, including your own work, of others and their work plus Ms. Art Teacher, and of the environment, which includes the art materials and classroom.
·      TRY your best. Effort counts.

I am a pretty firm believer in these classroom guidelines. I also enjoy that they spell out ART!
By drawing on the very first day, after signing the course overview, students realized (I hope) that this is a serious class. From day one, they heard me cheering for them to think positively and to try their best. Now at the end of week three, I am still impressed with their focus and drive and could not be more excited to keep teaching.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

THIS is what I have been working for

I have been a little absent from blogging since school started. While I have a general idea of topics I want to write about, its hard to sit down and type sometimes. Some of it is because writing is a slow process for me. (grad. school was not pretty at times!) But mostly it is because, for the first time in my life, I have free time!

There is prep time built into my schedule at the high school, so for the most part, I don't have to put in hours after school. I will be hosting Art Club once a week, but I decided not to start until October. Between PD sessions about the new teacher evaluations, open houses and the what not, I felt it was better to ease into  it.  I have also been pretty good about walking after school, at least a half hour, every other day. It doesn't sound like much, but I have never had a fitness routine, ever, so this feels great and I want to keep it up.
the view from my walk today.
That's actually why I wanted to blog today. I feel so stinkin' lucky! My school year is off to a great start. While it is my first year full time at the high school, I feel very comfortable. My class sizes are just a little smaller than last year, 28 tops instead of 30, and the activities I planned for the first few weeks have really set the tone for the year. I plan to write about them more in depth, perhaps even later tonight, but for now, I am totally excited about where this year will go.

I feel like I worked so hard for years, between my undergraduate degree, working as an RA, then student teaching, to working at an after school program and parochial school, to working on my Master's and getting my foot in the door in a public school system. Everything feels like it is finally paying off and I am so lucky and excited.