Tag Archives: reflection

Artists Observe

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This will be the first in a series of several posts about the units and activities my art 1 students are participating in to get a good grasp on the artistic behaviors.  Last year my art 1 students went through an “artistic behaviors bootcamp“.  After going back and looking at what we had done, I felt it was too fast and there wasn’t enough depth to each behavior. We spent a day or two on each behavior, but it was like we just glossed over the behaviors and my students never really understood them.

This year, I am spending a week or more on each behavior.  We are doing activities that focus on the behavior, while building skills in various media and techniques.  I think this will be a better solution.  The students may not be making as many finished artworks at the moment, but that will come when second semester rolls around and the studio is really much more open.

Our first behavior that we focused on was “Artists Observe”.  I found a powerpoint at Ian Sands’ Art of South B page that was perfect for what I wanted students to do.  The week was split into 3 activites.  First students created mindmaps/had class discussions of what they like to observe and what kinds of things artists would look at when observing something. They then moved onto a 3-day sketching activity, where they learned sketching techniques and sketched from life.

Our second activity included learning to shade and a group activity, originating from Melissa Purtee, where students would get into groups of 3-4 and together create a large shaded sphere.  It was very cool to watch the students work together, within the time frame, and figure out how to make values darker and to replicate the sphere I demo’d for them.

Our final activity brought the students in the world of 3-D.  We spent our final day doing the Tantamounter.  Faculty lent items that the students replicated in an artful way.  They had to make decisions, work in small groups, and create a copy of the original item.  They had a 30 minute time limit to complete their piece.

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After the weekend, students came back on Monday and spent the day reflecting on our unit.  We went into the hallway and discussed the spheres they had created, looking critically at the spheres and trying to take non-objective judgement out.  They added tiles to their BlendSpace lessons, reflecting on what artists observe means and how the activities we did correlate to the unit idea.  They also reflected on what they learned from our unit activities.

The rest of the week will be spent on building some color drawing skills before we move on to another artistic behavior unit.

Top 9: 2015-16 Year in Review

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It’s been a week since the 2015-16 school year ended.  I have taken a week off from doing any work, but it is now time to take a moment to reflect on the year. And, what better way to do that than to do a top 10, well, a top 9…close enough. Normally, a top 10 would only be the best things, but I thought I would add some of the not-so-good as well.  I mean, we all like things to be puppies and rainbows all the time, but let’s get real folks…it ain’t.

9. New Ceramics Curriculum…or should I say lack there of.  I decided to go balls to the wall and go full-on TAB with my ceramics students.  This is the last year I will have had any students that were part of my sculpture program–from before I made the switch to “all clay, all day”.  And, if you were to walk into that intermediate/advanced class, you could tell which kids those were.  But, I digress.  For the most part, for my intermediate and my advanced students, they were given complete freedom.  They were allowed to work on what they wanted, in the time frame they needed.  I did have some themes with guiding questions to help them if they were stumped, but they were in no way “forced” to follow those themes. If you are wondering how to do a single-media TAB class….read this!

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The Ceramics Graveyard and Senior Totems Sculpture Garden at THS

I think this was a great decision.  It allowed the students to move at their pace and do what interested them.  Are there some kinks to work out concerning the structure of the class? Of course.  I plan on doing a “Technique Tuesday” type of thing.  I will have a demo day once a week to show different things they could use in their work, like sprigs and molds and glazing techniques.  I also am revamping their technical reader and going to incorporate that more into the class.

8. Braeden, The Beginning Ceramics Student Who Learned More Than Me.  I was fortunate enough to have that student this year that many teachers dream of having.  That student who falls in love with your subject matter so much, that he or she just becomes a sponge and soaks up everything.  Who during their free time spends it watching videos and reading about the subject.  Who is in your room working and learning and creating at all times of the day.  I had that student this year, and his name is Braeden.  I had Braeden in art 1 his freshman year, but for some reason, he decided to stop taking art for 2 years and finally returned to me his senior year for art 2: beginning ceramics.  I often wonder where he would be if he hadn’t taken that time off.   He started off as a normal ceramics student, doing the required beginning projects.  Then all of the sudden, he changed.  He found a passion.  He found what he wanted to do with his life.  He would come in whenever he could to practice throwing. He learned to make his own clay.  He learned about glazes and different types of firing and their temperatures. He attempted to make his own wood ash glaze.  It was amazing to watch his lust for learning about all things clay.  I eventually had to tell him to stop learning because he knew more than I did.  Of course this became a running joke, and I love it when he teaches me new things.  I loved being able to have those conversations about ceramics with him. I will miss that next year.

7. Starting Over, again, and again… Sometimes you think you have a great plan. And sometimes that plan, no matter how awesome YOU think it is, sucks.  This was the case with my art 2: painting/drawing class this year.  I won’t go into too much detail, as I wrote about having to start over with this class here.  But, I will say I learned a lot from that class.  It is okay to stop and rewind.  You HAVE to do what is best for your students, and if that means if what you are doing isn’t working, then try something else.  However, if you are going to “start again”, you have to keep your students informed about what you are doing and why.  I had that tough conversation with them.  I told them I wasn’t feeling it, and that I thought they weren’t where I had thought they should be.  That we needed a new direction, and this is what we were going to try.  They looked at me with puzzled looks, but they were willing to try.  I think in the end we started over twice.  But, they say third time’s a charm for a reason.  By the third start, we figured it out.  We figured what worked for them, what they needed to grow and be successful.

Like my ceramics classes, I do have some things to tweak, like the timeline for the artistic behavior units, the digging deeper sections, and how we get to full choice by the second semester.  I wish I could open the studio to full choice sooner, but seeing as my co-worker isn’t TAB, and my art 2 classes are a combo of his and my students…I have to do a little work to make sure all students understand the TAB studio.  It’s all good though….my kids could probably use a refresher anyway.

6. Two Wonderful Opportunities.  I work hard, both at my job and as an advocate for TAB.  So, it is nice when someone else recognizes what I am doing.  This year, not one, but two different people recognized this.  First I was asked by my friend, Betsy Murphy, to come and speak about TAB at the T(exas)AEA High School Division meeting at the 2015 conference. I was honored that Betsy, once my mentor, now my friend, thought of me in this way–that I had something important to share with my colleagues.Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 10.37.47 AM

Second, I was asked to present at the AOE Winter 2016 Online Conference.  I presented about the assessment model I was working on.  It, again, was an honor to think that something I was doing would be of interest to other teachers.  I hope that it helped people make a connection between assessment and grades.

5. Speaking of AOE…Blog Finalist Here.  That’s right, Me, Jean Barnett, author of Art
Class by Mrs B, was a finalist inRisingStarFinalistHI the Art of Education, Blog of the Year, Rising Start category.  I didn’t win, but I think it is pretty cool that I made the list.  I even got a nifty badge to display on the blog.  Oh yeah!  I write my blog with the hopes of not only documenting my journey, but also of helping another art teacher by sharing with I have learned along the way.

4. Art Club I have been at my school for 9 years.  For 8 of those years, my co-worker “ran” the art club.  Well, I wouldn’t really call it running an art club.  I’m not really sure what it was. This img_20160211_220850.jpgyear I took over art club.  I can’t remember the exact reason why he was willing to give it up, but he did, and finally it was mine.  When we started, the club had no money (in fact the account had been closed due to inactivity), and they hadn’t done anything in years.  I advertised the club.  We met every Friday morning during tutorials.  We elected a president, a vice-president, a secretary, and a treasurer.  We sold popcorn, made Duck Art t-shirts and sold them, and even held a painting party.  Was it the best art club?  No.  Did we do a whole lot?  No.  But we did paint a mural in our computer lab, and I am glad to say that we did have a few hundred dollars in the art club account by the end of the year.  Furthermore, we still had members returning to meetings at the end of the year. So, I call it a win!  Small steps people!  I am so proud of the kids.  Next year will be even better.  I know it.

3. I am Not Invincible, But At Least My Admin Believes in Me. I like to think that I am invincible.  That nothing is going to bring me down, except for maybe myself.  And, that was definitely the case this year.  I won’t go into details, but I did have an incident this year that caused me to pause.  I can’t change what happened, but I can say that students can be unpredictable and retaliate in damaging ways.  Luckily for me, I have some students that know who I am, what I stand for, and what my students mean to me.  They were honest and I commend them for that.  I also learned that I have an administration that believes in me and what I do in my classroom.  My principal understands the climate of the art room, and how it differs from an academic class.  We had a long talk about it, and when I left his office, I knew that finally, I had an administrator that finally understood.

2.  School Art vs. Authentic School Art vs. What the Student Really Wants to Make Art This was something that I had not had a ton of thoughts about until I attended a session by Justin Clumpner at NAEA16 in Chicago.  He was talking about an AP student he had who wasn’t making the work or getting anything done.  Then one day he saw her sketchbook and asked her why she wasn’t creating works like her sketches.  Her reply, “I didn’t think I could.  I didn’t think this was ‘school art’.”  I thought that was an interesting concept…school art.  In TAB, we talk a lot about “authentic art”, and what our students are making is authentic art.  And, I thought that I encouraged authentic art and that my kids were making what THEY wanted to make.

That was until the end of April this year.  I happened to come across a tweet by one of my art 1 students of a painting she had just finished at her house.  I tweeted back to her that I thought she should do that in class.  When I talked with her about it the next school day, I asked her why she didn’t do this stuff in class.  She said she couldn’t figure out how to work it into the themes we were doing.   That’s when the lightbulb went off.  As much as I thought I was empowering my students to bring their own life into their artwork, and as much as I encourage authentic art…maybe I wasn’t doing all that I could.  I don’t have an answer yet as to how to really encourage it more, but I have an idea to work through over the summer.

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The Twitter Painting

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The Final Artwork

And, just as an aside, while this girl in particular worked hard all year, I never saw her work like the way she did on that final painting.  She learned so much and was so proud, and I could tell she was a little sad (but still proud) when I said I wanted to keep it to display in August when we returned to school.

1. Knowing You’re on the Right Track  Deep down in my heart, I know that TAB is what is best for my students.  It keeps them engaged.  It really helps them to grow artistically. And, it makes them think and reflect.  My years of running a TAB studio have been my favorite years of teaching.  But, sometimes, it is hard.  Sometimes you feel like the kids just aren’t getting it.  You feel like maybe the “others” are right, and you aren’t really teaching them anything.  You doubt yourself and your program.

But, then something happens. You assign a completely open final artwork for your art 1 students.  You see 90% engagement. You see growth at its peak. You see that they have been paying attention all year.  You see the research and the planning, the trials and errors, the experimentation, and the pushing forward all come out of the students.  Yes, I was physically exhausted for the last 2.5 weeks of school.  Yes, my room was a constant mess, for which I apologized to Connie, my custodian, on a daily basis.  But, I was happy.  I was proud.  I knew I didn’t need to doubt.  I hope to remember this next year when I will more than likely doubt myself again.  I can’t wait to display all this wonderful art in August.  I did include a few pieces from my art 2 class’ final work, Artists Work in a Series, in the slide show.

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Hope your year was as good as mine.  After I finish recharging over the summer, I will look forward to implementing what I learned from this year.  And I do want to take this opportunity to say thanks to my tribe for helping me and encouraging me along the way.

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Finally Figuring It Out

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It took the better part of the year, but I think I have finally figured out my Art 2: Painting/Drawing class.  Last year I ran art 2 the same way I did my Art 1.  All of us were new to TAB, so, I felt the need to make art 2 different wasn’t necessary.  But, this year, since I had some kids from Art 1 in my Art 2, I had to change it up.  I started out with an altered books unit I had done for many years.  It is basically a way to get students exploring using media in different ways.  However, the kids were not exploring and were not really understanding the purpose of the book, but they did them anyway.  In my gut, the class just felt off.  I told the students this, and they kind of looked at me funny, but were willing to just go with it.

After about half-way through the second marking period (we run classes for a full year, broken up into 2 semesters consisting of 3 6-week (mostly) marking periods) the class and I “started over”.  I stopped with the altered books and put them into the storage closet. We went back to what I knew worked–themes.  Students were coming up with some great ideas.   I thought things were finally on-track until I was talking to a student during our second theme and asked him how he was thinking of proceeding with his idea.  I asked about media and paper type.  He looked at me like I had 5 heads.  Then I took a look around the room, and I began to think the class looked like it was a beginning class, not a class that had gone through a year of high school art already.  Yes the students had good ideas, but the artistic process stopped there. There was no skill development, there was no risk taking, no reflection, no connections.

At this point, what does any good art teacher do?  Do they just keep on keeping on?  Or do they reflect on what is going on and change things to help better the learning and understanding?  I chose the later.  We would “start over” just one more time.

By this point, it was the end of the first semester.  This gave me the much needed time to really reflect on what my students needed.  It was at this point I was going to try a unit style that Ian Sands developed.  It involves 3 parts:  digging deeper, challenge, and create.  (You can find examples of his units here.)  I borrowed his unit, Artists Steal.  The students were successful.  I mean, there was still work to be done, but for the most part, the transition was a smart one.  I could see them beginning to have a deeper understanding of things artists do and how they, artists, create their artwork.  Many of the kids used what they created in the unit challenge for their artwork.  I was impressed by the level of understanding of appropriation.

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Sponge Bob

Next it was time to create my own unit.  I followed the “formula” for the unit and I decided that our next unit would be “Artists Tell Stories”.  I came up with a digging deeper section, a challenge and a create section.  With this unit, I saw several of my students really looking at artwork and finding out the story behind it or reading the story it was telling.  They were also providing an excellent reflection on the video they chose to watch.  Link  Link  Link

They say third times a charm, and they were right.  I am glad that I went with my gut and stopped and started things over twice with my students.  I can really see the growth taking place now and I can see their work having deeper thought and deeper meaning.  Is this by any means perfect?  Of course not.  It is a work in progress.  They know that.  If it were, we would have done our current unit (Artists Represent), and the next two (Artists Abstract and Artists Are Non-Representational) first.  But, hindsight and all.

I’ve got a couple of things to change on the structure of the units…like removing the option to create a pinboard of artwork.  I found this isn’t lending itself to any deeper understanding.  And, I need to work in more skills bootcamps, but that will come.  Right now, as much as I want this particular group of students to explore different ways of art making, all but 1 or 2 don’t really want to, I think right now that momentum they’ve got going with exploring things artists do is more important than interrupting them to explore painting or printmaking or something like that.  It’s all about choices and finding the right balance in the class.  And with one and a half marking periods left, I feel I have made the right decision for both them and myself…..but mostly them.

I always say that my TAB classroom is a living entity that ebbs and flows with the needs of the students.  My art 2 class this year proves that.  If you are feeling a class is off, or they need something they aren’t getting at the moment, stop and reset.  It is okay.  It can only help.  Be transparent about what you are doing; your students will understand. Mine did. And remember, it’s all for them.

I need more than the PD I am getting.

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While I was driving home, my mind began to go over my day in my classroom, just like it always does.  Every day.  On the long drive home down Hwy 79.  Today I was thinking about what I was doing…or rather not doing.  My students have very successful ideas and many interpret the themes thrown at them in out of the box ways.  They make me very proud in that area.

The area of concern for me is the realization out of those ideas.  What questions am I not asking? What activities can I be doing to help my students in this area?  What are other TAB teachers doing to help provide their students the resources or help to flush out their ideas?  And how can I implement that in my classes?  How can I push my kids to develop the skills to bring their fabulous ideas to the next artistic level?

Let me be honest here…I am a little jealous of those TAB/Choice teachers that are able to help develop and “pull” both the great ideas and skills from their students.  This is a goal of mine.

So, where is this post going?  Well, I was thinking I need some kind of PD on how to achieve this in my classroom.  How do other teachers run their classes?  What types of activities do they do?  But, I need more than just Twitter chats and Facebook groups.  Don’t get me wrong, those are fabulous resources, but I need more.  I need more than the 10-15 minute presentation from AOE conferences.  I want more than the 30 minute presentation from my state conferences.  I want more than the ones I can get at national conferences.

The best PD I have ever went to was the 2015 TAB Summer Institute.  Why? Because I not only got to be face to face with like minded people looking to learn what I wanted to learn, but because I got to have in depth conversations about topics that were important to me.  I need to discuss and ask questions in the moment to help with deep understanding. I also need to see a person.  They body language and facial expressions helps me to learn.

My question is, how can I get the professional development I want from the teachers who know what it is I want to know?  How do I make that happen?  How can we, my PLN, make that happen?  I know we all can’t afford to fly to one place to do this…otherwise we would all be going to Boston this summer.  And, I know I am not alone in feeling this way.  I can’t be.  But, there has to be a way.  Someone please help me figure this out!!

Year in Review: Part 1: Highlights

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My school year officially ended on May 30th.  Yeah, that’s a Saturday.  It sucked, but what ‘cha gonna do? Anyway, as always, the end of the year is bittersweet.  It’s a joyous time as I get to watch the seniors finally be set free to fly.  But at the same time, it’s sad because I have to watch the seniors finally be set free to fly.  As I watched them throw their mortar boards up into the air Friday night, I wondered many things.  Did I do enough?  Did I teach them enough?  Did I help them to understand they are more than the small town they grew up in?  Did I give them enough room to create and imagine?  Did the lessons I tried to instill really sink in?  If not, will they eventually sink in?

Once I am done questioning myself specifically about the seniors, I take time to reflect on the past school year.  I look at what I learned.  I look at what I can improve.  I look at the triumphs.  And, I look at my failures.  A lot happened this year.  I don’t think I can talk about it all in one post.  So, stay tuned for a series of  posts where I can focus on the learning and the failings from this year and how I can move on and improve for next year.

In the meantime,  let me use the rest of this post to show some of the highlights of the 2014-15 school year at THS.


 VARSITY FOOTBALL TEACHER OF THE WEEK

I was honored by our Varsity Football Ducks as the final teacher of the week.  The teacher chosen gets to don a jersey and hangout on the sidelines for the game; however, I chose to sit in the stands–better view of the whole field.  This game was special as it was a play-off game at “The Palace”–a huge stadium on the outskirts of Austin.  It was a very cold night, but I dressed warm and cheered my heart out.  The boys played hard, but unfortunately ended their season.  I was honored by them a second time that evening as they allowed me to share in their emotional ending.  The boys were not afraid or ashamed to show the tears in their eyes as their high school football careers came to an end.  I kept the jersey and hung it up my office.  I don’t think I was supposed to do that, so don’t tell nobody. 😉

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THE BIRTH OF THE LLAMADUCK

My classroom got a new mascot this year.  While my intermediate/advanced worked on their morphing animal project, I too thought I would join in the building.  And, thus the birth of the Llamaduck.  Part llama.  Part duck.  100% awesome!!  The duck sits proudly in the room, welcoming all who enter.  Kids like to pick him up and hug him.  They rub his head.  They try to steal him–like I wouldn’t notice he was missing.  In fact, one day he was hidden and I couldn’t find him.  It was a sad afternoon. Many seniors thought they should be able to take the llamaduck home.  But alas, I said no–the Llamaduck must stay in the room.

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COSTUMES, WIGS, AND STUFF

This year my room was visited by Miss Mia Wallace and Ms. Frizzle.  I love to dress up to show my school spirit.  Celebrity day and favorite cartoon character day were no exceptions this year.  I also dressed up for pajama day with some comfy slippers and yoga pants.  I think my cheesehead hat and cheese earrings also made an appearance to support the Pack, but I just don’t remember.

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NAEA15 IN NOLA

You can read all about my adventures in New Orleans here and here.  It was my first convention, and definitely not my last.  I had soooo much fun and learned so much.  I made new friends and connected with “old” ones.  I look forward to Chicago…I hope.

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APRIL TEACHER OF THE MONTH

It is always a wonderful thing to be recognized for all the good you do in your classroom.  Sometimes in art we feel overlooked and underappreciated.  So, when I won the Crystal Apple Award for April, it was a great surprise.  And a happy one.

2nd ANNUAL HIGH SCHOOL ARTS SHOW

This year’s art show went so much smoother than last year.  I was prepared earlier.  I had students take the wheel the day of, which made all the difference.  It downpoured that evening, but that didn’t stop the community from coming out and celebrating the amazing young artists we have at THS.  Here is a link to the slideshow of artwork.  It’s long, so don’t say you weren’t warned.  (Eventually there will be a link…I haven’t quite finished editing yet.)

NEW COMPUTERS ARRIVE

We are a 1:1 Macbook school.  Our computers were starting to run slow because, well, nothing is built to last for very long anymore these days.  Our district was able to update our laptops, starting with the faculty.  They are so shiny and light.  Love them.

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#LETHIDDEWALK: The Movement

Hidde was our exchange student from the Netherlands.  He is an amazing person.  He played in our Duck band.  He tried to play soccer, but some UIL rule wouldn’t allow him to play in actual games.  He is smart, funny, and super talented.  I was lucky to have him in my art 2 class this year.  I wrote up a student spotlight on him here.

Anyway, at some point, it came to light that he was not going to be able to actually walk at the graduation ceremony.  For some state/district reason, it just couldn’t be allowed.  Of course, the student body didn’t want to know the reasons why, they just wanted him to walk with the rest of his class.  They took to social media and soon it was everywhere…the local paper, the Austin-American Statesman, KVUE (local ABC affiliate), and even Good Morning America.  It was an interesting last couple of weeks at school.  Hidde was given a certificate at our awards ceremony, but was not allowed to walk.  He was recognized by the Valedictorian at graduation…and luckily Hidde was up on the stage with the Duck band to come forward and be recognized.  One last cool thing is he has a rap song, written by Hidde, produced by a student who goes by T-Hall, and placed on T-Hall’s SENIORIT15 album.

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TEXAS FLOODS

If you haven’t been watching the news the past week or two, well, then get thee to a tv man!!!  Central Texas has been flooding. We’ve been in a draught for many, many years now. On Saturday May 23rd, insane rains poured over Central Texas and wiped out numerous homes along the Blanco River in Wimberley.  If that wasn’t enough, on Monday, 2 storm systems came through–producing a few tornadoes and combing into one storm, leaving  behind a ton of water and flash floods along a wide section of Central Texas.  Taylor was not left out.  Many neighborhoods found themselves underwater. Some district faculty and students ended up with water in their homes–some losing everything.  Our high school was also the recipient of the flash floods.  Our front vestibule and offices were water-logged. Water seeped under the gym floor and gathered in the athletic offices.  It reached as far as our cafeteria. Workers came in around 11pm Monday night and continued to work throughout the day Tuesday–part, if not all, of both gym floors will have to be replaced and the carpets will all have to go as well.  While it is dry now, it could have been worse, and it is sad to see my school community hurt.  Our speech teacher started a collection and it felt great to be part of an amazing teacher/staff community who donated so much to help the town.

LAST WORDS

It was one of my best and favorite years teaching in my 8 year career.  I have decided that teaching art is truly my calling.  It is where I need to be.  I have fun every day and I make the most special and lasting relationships.  Every year my kids ask why I drive so far to work, and I tell them it’s because of them…that they are make it worth it.  I will miss this year’s seniors, but I know they will do great things.

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#DuckArt

#DuckArt

Art Teacher 4 Lyfe

Art Teacher 4 Lyfe