Tag Archives: observations

2016-17 Year in Review

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It’s that time.  Another school year has come to an end.  And, in honor of me finishing out my 10th year, I will count down the 10 biggest things that happened this year.   Not everything that happened this year was good.  In fact, it was kind of a crappy year.  But, I did learn a lot and made some great relationships with me students.  So, without anymore drivel from me, let’s do this.

10. UNITY:  I will admit, I saw the Unity Project video on Facebook, and I was in.  I emailed my principal and he was all in.  I created a gofundme project for it and through the kindness of others, the project was funded quickly and I was able to go shopping for materials.  It was a great way to kick off the year.  I had so much support from other teachers and our student body.  While there was a few hiccups along the way (one being when a students thought he could climb on a pvc pole and he broke it), in the end, it was an amazing installation.

9. THE PURPLE HOODIE: I had a tough student this year.  He was hard to reach.  He didn’t talk much, and he often had his purple hoodie pulled up over his head.  I started the year off by giving him some space, and by asking his monitor teacher for some strategies with him.  It took a while, but we built a relationship.  He spent much of his time during his class in my office, but he would do the work I asked him to do.  And believe me, he did not like making or talking about art.  After a while, he would come in during lunch to hang out and chat.  He did this at other times as well.  We built a relationship where I could be honest with him and give him a fair dose of snark and it was all okay.

There was this one day that was bittersweet.  It both made me sad and touched my heart at the same time.  He came into my office one morning during tutorials, but there were already like 6 other kids in my office.  I said hi, and he looked at me, but then left as quickly as he came in.  I sensed something was off.  I figured I would ask him later that day.  He didn’t show up to class.  When he returned the next day, he told me where he was…talking to some people in the office.  When he told me why, I was saddened.  I won’t go into details about why.  And I know this is weird, but it touched me that I was the 2nd person he came to find to talk with him.  The first wasn’t in her office, so he came to me. I care very much about this young man.  And, I am glad I gained his trust.  Sadly, he has moved to another city with his father.  But, rumor has it, he will be back next year. Relationships can sometimes matter more than art making.

8. ESCALATION: I have a co-worker that has been teaching with me for the past 10 years.  We get along on the surface, but when you look closely, you will notice we couldn’t be more different.  For starters, we teach on complete different ends of the art spectrum…he’s dbae and I’m TAB.  We don’t play well together and it has been building up for years.  I finally got up the courage to talk to an admin about the situation; I went in with the intention of seeking advice in how to make our department better and how to work with him.  It was suggested that we circle up, a restorative discipline term.  Basically, it was like mediation.  He basically refused, and one day it escalated between us in my classroom.  Luckily, I was on conference and I held my cool. We still haven’t worked things out, and I have been told our head principal will eventually talk with us, but I’m not holding my breath.

Why am I adding this?  Well, this was a big event that happened this year.  I think it needed to happen.  I would have liked to go to mediation, but I am mostly okay with the outcome.  The fact that I spoke up and I was honest about my feelings and that I took ownership that I wasn’t innocent in any of it was big for me.  I don’t like confrontation, nor to like to create waves in my workplace.

7. SCHOLASTIC ART: This year, I finally got up the nerve to enter my students work in the Scholastic Art contest.  I was so nervous.  I see the potential and awesomeness in my students’ works, but do others.  My kids don’t make “normal” pieces, and often times it’s not what “they” consider gold seal work–one reason I don’t enter into our state art event.  But, I was told Scholastic was different.  My kids didn’t win anything, and after looking at what did win for my region, I wondered about the judges.  But, that is neither here nor there.  I am so proud of my students for trusting me.  I still think they were shafted because their work was super cool.  I know, I’m biased.  I look forward to next year and entering more student works.

6. DALLASThis year’s Texas Art Ed Assoc held it’s yearly conference in Dallas.  I presented not once, but twice.  I presented once about grading and TAB…it kind of bombed.  I was told it was fine, but I know better.  The other presentation was a overview of HS TAB.  It went really well.  Beyond the presentations, I participated in my first live twitter chat, got to have great burgers and beer with a friend who I met in Chicago at NAEA16, I met the terraforma cards guys, and I got to throw some bowls for a local empty bowls event.  It was a pretty fun time, I must admit.  It was a much needed and much appreciated work-cation.

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5. THE BIG APPLE NAEA17 was held in my old stomping ground…NYC!  There was no way I was going to miss a chance to go “home”.  I don’t even know where to begin.  I got to room with 2 of my favorite TAB ladies.  I got to finally meet and hangout with Melissa Purtee.  I stayed in a hotel in midtown.  I lived in Queens, so the hotel stay was new and so cool.  I got to go to the MOMA, which is in a completely different location from the last time I went there…over 20 years ago.  I had a fabulous dinner with other TABbers, provided by my fabulous mentors, Diane and Kathy.  Times Square had become something I couldn’t believe…so bright and shiny.  And, I got to have a reunion with one of my closest friends from college.

4. 4th Annual THS Art Show:  Six years into my time at THS I asked if we could have a high school art show.  Up until that point, there wasn’t any.  This year marks the 4th year that I have put up a show that celebrates all art made at our school.  I don’t just show off my students and my co-worker’s students.  We include any other elective where art is created–welding, fashion, photography, floral design, culinary, and we include our teachers.  It is a lot of work, but in the end, it is so worth it.  This year I was worried that it wouldn’t go off well.  (See the escalation paragraph above.)  But, I put that aside and just focused on the art.  I think it was a great turn out.  Students sold their work, and not just to their parents.  The rain stayed away (every year it rains at the beginning of the show) during the show itself; I do believe it rained earlier in the day though.  I found a better way of hanging the paintings, almost none fell down this year…the rain always brings the humidity and that doesn’t play nice with how we used to hang out artworks. Granted no one from central office showed up, even though they were sent formal invitations, but I’ve come to expect that.  And quite frankly, those who are important, like parents, friends, teachers, and the community, showed up in support.  I look forward to celebrating our students again for years to come.

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3. A SMILE LIKE I’VE NEVER SEEN: Art is a funny yet fabulous thing.  It can grab hold of the most unlikely and unexpected people.  This year I was lucky enough to witness this.  I watched a student finish a project early and ask me if I could show him how to use the wheel.  We weren’t slated to use the wheel for months, but who am I to stop a student from learning to art.  That week, I knew art had put her hooks in him.  Over the next few months, I watched him grow, and learn, and create.  I watched him create bowl after bowl, vase after vase, each time honing his skills, and using every ounce of clay we had.  But, it was more than that.  I saw the passion for what he was doing rise in him.  I saw a smile, and a light in his face when we talked about ceramics and his work.  I am so glad that he decided to sign up for beginning ceramics.  If only he found it before his senior year.

2. RESTORATIVE DISCIPLINE: Our school started to implement a new behavior management system.  It is called restorative discipline, and for the most part, it is meant to be proactive instead of reactive.  It is not something that the entire campus learns at one time.  It is done in stages.  I know that seems odd, but after learning about it, it makes sense.  I was lucky enough to have been asked to be in cohort #2, which began it’s training 2 weeks before school ended.  It is so much about community and building relationships…which is right up my alley, and why I was asked to be in the 2nd cohort.  I personally think it was cool to be asked knowing why they asked me.  (Some were asked because they thought that teacher was lacking in that area.)  Anyway, so far, so good.

But, more than being part of the next cohort, I did participate in a couple of tier 2 circles this year…these are reactive, but they can make such a difference.  I had one student who I kept butted heads with, and if she kept it up, we knew she was headed to our alternative center.  We circled up and we both spoke our piece and listened to the other person.  We made a contract and tried to implement it.  We hit a bump and had to re-circle.  But, that time worked.  We now have an amazing relationship, and don’t tell her, but I will miss having her in class next year.

1. NO MORE THEMES: This year I dropped the themes for my art 1 and art 2 classes.  I instead went with artistic behaviors for major units.  We worked our way through: artists solve problems, artists communicate, artists, observe, artists steal, artists represent, artists abstract/don’t represent, and artists work in a series.  This was a major step forward for me and my students in our TAB studio.  I think it really was more meaningful to them to really understand what artists do.  It really made a huge difference, the switch that is.  I could see it in their work; I could see it in their exploration; I could see it in their understanding of art making; and I could see it in their growth.  And, at the end of the year, I had the least amount of work left behind I have had since making the leap to TAB.

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It has been a very interesting decade of art teaching for me.  I have changed so much.  My teaching has changed so much.  I like to think it’s all for the better.  I keep learning new things, about art, about teaching, about students, and most importantly, about myself.  I often wonder what is going to happen next, which is something that keeps me interested and wanting to go to work every day.   What obstacles will I face and will I overcome them?  What new things will I learn?  What new things can I teach someone?  What new relationships will I make?   What new surprises will I find?  I think it’s this last one that I really enjoy because I love being surprised by what my students do and learn and create and tell me.  It is what makes it all worth it.

NAEA 17: New York City Reflections

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When I arrived in the city, it had been too long…almost 7 years….and so much had changed.  Even though I had lived in the city for many years, I had never actually stayed in Manhattan, so I was pretty psyched for that.  And, to stay in midtown…oh the excitement. I arrived at JFK, and took the airtrain to the subway to get to our hotel.  The first thing we did that day was check into the conference so I could get my badge and the bag of crap that I didn’t need or want.  I mean really, who needs a paper-thin bag full of magazines and other things that weren’t eco-friendly.  Unfortunately, I had to carry that around for the rest of the afternoon, but I digress.

imag9930.jpg    We then headed over to the MOMA.  I was a little bummed that I didn’t get a discount with my badge like I did last year in Chicago. (And if I was supposed to…. ::sad face::) But, no big deal…the MOMA was fantastic.  I hadn’t been to the museum since it was in its old location, many moons ago.  The new location is great, and so much bigger.  I am a fan of modern art, so I really enjoyed this visit.  It even sparked a discussion between my friend and fellow TABber, Hillary, about craftsmanship.  We were both noticing the same things about the paintings and sculptures of famous artists; things that made us question why we ask our students to paint/color/draw a certain way when these artists wouldn’t pass that “craftsmanship poster” that is floating around.  We are in the midst of discussion of a proposal about it for Seattle…

That evening we ate Mexican outside.  Made me long for the days I lived in the city.  I am glad we had a chance to eat outside because this would be the almost the last time we could…thanks Obama for inventing global warming.  It turned imag9974.jpgwicked cold while we were there.  This Texan implant wasn’t having it.  Anyway, that night we went to Times Square.  Man, totally not the same as I remembered.  When did it turn into a 24-hour sunlight extravaganza?!

Enough about all that touristy stuff.  I really should be writing about the conference and sessions and all that artsy stuff. Thursday morning started off as a dud.  We went to the first general session, which was the keynote speaker, Jeff Koons.  Boring.  I don’t like his work, and I find he is so boring to listen to.  He was quiet toned and just wasn’t what an estimated crowd of 7000 members needed to jump-start their conference.  We left.  If only Tim Gunn could come and speak again….

Over the next three days I went to several sessions on TAB/choice. img_20170316_173427.jpgTwo were by 2 different men, both with wicked cool mustaches.  In fact, I scribbled their mustaches in my notes.  Both men were interesting and full of information that I already knew.  I guess that is what happens as you move up the high school TAB ladder.  One thing that I did take away from Andrew McKee’s (red mustache) presentation was the “style book”.  It’s basically a place to save ideas, get ideas of what they like, are into, etc.  So the students can pull from that when they create their work.  I mean I have my Pinterest page that I refer to often when I create my work, but I don’t “require” my students to do that.  I think it might be helpful to incorporate something like this in my art 2 classes next year…and also maybe my ceramics classes.

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I went to a very interesting Raku session, which of course now has me wanting to write a grant for a raku kiln.  Thursday afternoon I went to an MCAD session on drawing as thinking.  We basically spent the 50 minute session doing a bunch of drawing warm-ups. It was a nice break, and it left me with some great exercises to bring into my classes next year as we move into block schedule.

The rest of my session were, like I stated above, choice/TAB sessions.  While the sessions were fabulous, (I’m looking at you Cynthia Gaub, Joy Schulz, and Melissa Purtee), I felt a little empty.  And, it’s nothing against my colleagues.  I am just looking for something more…something more than what I already know and am 100% agreement with.  I am looking for more than an intro to what TAB/choice is. I want something for those of us who have been doing it a while.  I hope that makes sense.  I did have an “a-ha moment” during Joy’s session.  For years, I thought Joy had this magical way of pulling greatness from her students.  After sitting through her session, I get it now.  She is so organized and her analytical side really affects how she works with her students.

The final session I want to talk about was a super-session.  It starred Katherine Douglas, Anne Thulson, Sharif Bey, and Olivia Gude.  It was amazing.  These four leaders really hit it out of the park.

These were my lasting thoughts from the session:

~Do we intervene: how, where, when, why, how much (OG)
~concept=something we use; not something to possess (OG)
~2 sentence curriculum: what do artists do? the child is the artist (KD)
~art supplies are materials; concepts are materials (can’t remember if this was OG, I think so)
~How do we keep students in that magical place as they get older? (OG)
~we have the capacity to exist in many art worlds (OG) [personally for me, this meant a lot]
~Sometimes LESS can be liberating (OG)
~We’re getting lost….ON PURPOSE (OG)

I know it seems that Olivia gave me much to think about, but Kathy always gives me much to think about…I wouldn’t be here without her.  Anne gave an activity to try for next year when we talk about “artists observe”.  It will get my students out of my classroom and really looking at the small, mundane details around them.  And Sharif…oh Sharif….we are kindred souls and I think we should totally hang out.

imag9999.jpgWhile I enjoyed the sessions I went to, I did think the selection, for me anyway, was limited.  I don’t understand how imag9987_1.jpgsessions are selected.  I don’t understand how they choose to schedule which ones and when.  I also don’t understand why so few TAB/choice sessions are offered, when clearly, year after year, the sessions offered are packed–which was another downside to conference in NYC…small rooms…or at least those rooms that held popular topics were small.  And, rooms that held research sessions (no offense to research) were in these huge rooms with few attendees.  And when I say TAB sessions were packed, I mean, way over room/safety capacity, on the floor seating, out the door, room temp went up 15 degrees packed.  NAEA needs to work on this.  It is just ridiculous.  I pay a lot of money, out-of-pocket, to attend the national conference.  I want to get my money’s worth.

imag0028.jpgMy favorite part of the conference is always the part where I get to see and hang out with my TAB/Choice mentors, colleagues, and friends.  I even got to meet some new friends whom I have only seen on the interwebs.  I want to thank Kathy and Diane for setting up the amazing dinner we had Friday night.  And, thanks Diane for making me not sit with Hillary and Liz.  It was fabulous to get to chat with Melissa, Joy,Cynthia, and Anne for a while.  Spending time with those that get it, and get me, is always a good time.

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I hope to make it to Seattle next year.  Cynthia promises it will be a fabulous time.  So, hopefully, at least one of the sessions I propose or co-propose will be accepted.  And, maybe someone will help me write a grant and/or convince my school to pay for it…I just can’t afford another year.

The Art of Being Observed

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Every year it happens…the official observation that one of your administrators must do so you can be evaluated about how good of a teacher you are.  There is always much discussion on this in teacher groups…no matter what subject you teach. Some teachers are all about the dog and pony show–changing lesson plans or adding in things that wouldn’t normally occur on that day.  Others take a more “I’m just gonna go about my business” type attitude.  This is how I teach, come and get it.  This latter camp is where I fall.

Yes, I choose the day based on what we are doing.  And yes, I try to have my observer come in during my best class.  But other than that, I don’t change a thing.  I try to ask for a date where we might be doing something other than just a complete work day, but if I don’t have one of those, I let the observer know and I roll with it.

I don’t agree with the dog and pony show.  I don’t understand stopping what you are doing to show some “home run” lesson. It doesn’t seem honest and authentic to me.  Why would I want an evaluation that isn’t really based on how I am as a teacher?  If it is not something I do everyday, then it’s not me.  I want to show what it is like in my classroom, every day.  I want to know if there are practices I am doing well or practices that need improvement.

I’ve heard some teachers say they show the admin what they want to see so that admin will just leave the teacher alone the rest of the time to do what they (teacher) thinks is good and what they want to do.  This doesn’t make sense to me either. Why would you want others to think you’re something you aren’t?  If you feel you have to change for an evaluation, why is that?  Are you not comfortable with how you run your classroom?

I had my formal observation last week.  I finally received the evaluation on it today.  It confirmed what I had known, that I was doing good things in my classroom.  She saw the learning and creativity that happens every day in room because we ran the room like we did every day.  Nothing changed.  My students did exactly what I thought they would–the participated, they talked, they joked around, they learned, they made art.  They did that the day before my observation.  And, they did it the day after.