Spring Showers Bring… Mud

It’s been muddy out there and it’s going to get muddier with more rain coming after Easter. I was hoping to do more things outside this spring break, but it looks like we’ll be sticking with indoor activities like going to the local children’s museum and an art museum. I haven’t dragged my kids there because one is sort of hyper. We went there with my art camp last summer and she was pretty good, but we kept it to one hour and we were with a tour guide. She’s almost a year older, so I think it’ll be a fun thing to do. Plus, they have an audio tour, so she can have the job of carrying the device until she gets bored with doing it.

This is a great Youtube video for kids to watch before going on a trip to any museum. I used it with my summer camp kids and it really worked.

I had a bad experience one year where some high schoolers misbehaved at an art museum. They were literally wrestling one another. They were loud. They touched things that weren’t meant to be touched. They pushed on barriers and leaned over rails. It was absurd. Had they ever been to a museum before? No. Had I prepped them on how to behave in a museum? No. So, it was a combination of ignorance and lack of preparation on my part. As their teacher, I failed them. Their parents also failed them by not taking them to any museums which is why I need to be responsible for my own children’s education in that way. From now on I will always show this video–until I find another that I like better.

Anyone have any good tips or recommendations on how to prepare students for a trip to a museum?

Sub Tub

In past years I’ve struggled to develop sub plans. Generally, I just instructed my subs on keeping the current projects going. It worked because I was only teaching high school. It kinda worked. Often there would be messes when I returned–ruined paint brushes and the like. I realized that regular classroom teachers needed to be told to give the students 5 minutes to clean up at the end of the period or they just wouldn’t give them the heads up. Weird, but I guess it’s not usually something they have to worry with.

Since taking on middle school in addition to high school classes I’ve had emergency plans printed and ready to go. This year I got even more prepared. Thank you to “Draw The Line At” blogger Jen for posting her Sub Tub for Art. I haven’t gotten as fancy to include photos–yet. I may do that sooner or later. I think my room is pretty organized and I have labels with pictures on everything. I may just include a hand drawn map with labels for where materials are. I did adopt her idea for a binder/folder that explains everything.

At my school, teachers sub for other teachers most of the time. We rarely call in subs, though we have a few for really busy days or long-term needs. Since my subs know the kids and the building, I don’t have to worry about them needing to know what to do in case of an emergency, but I still included that in my folder. I labeled my folder “Sub Folder: Read This First” and I keep it in the front of my “Sub Tub.”

My tub is just a milk crate that I have hanging folders in. I have them labeled by lesson and organized by class. Each class has at least 4 different sub plans with handouts and instructions in each folder.

This took some time to put together, but it was there for me when I had a stomach flu and was out for 2 days. It was there for me when my kids had the stomach flu a different time from mine and were home for 4 days. It’s there for me when I have a meeting coming up and I can just make the note for the sub to do lesson such and such in the 7th grade section of the Sub Tub and thanks! all instructions are included and read the folder cuz it has important stuff in there.

My favorite part of my sub folder is the “How’d It Go?” page. Even though we leave sub slips for each class and our AP does it for us when it’s an emergency absence, most teachers do not leave any comments on them. No feedback! None. I can tell by the state of my room how it went, but still, they should let me know something. By having the “How’d It Go?” page in there my subs have left me notes about classes and what they got finished and where the work is and who was absent and who was missing their sketchbook and it’s just nice to get a little insight into how the class went. I’m really thankful to the teachers who take the time to do that for me.

I think there are some other policies and procedures that I want to add to my sub folder and I know I will add more lessons. It is a work in progress and will probably always be, just as everything is in my job.

On creating art. My first post as a response.

Mrs. ATHG,

Glad you posted this and had your epiphany to see how you create. I think just being an art teacher–or a teacher period–is a creative outlet. However, it’s not for me–it’s for them. I also went long periods without making art. Last summer I got into poly shrink and made a ton of charms that I now have to put onto string and such to make into jewelry. This year I’ve been drawing images related to words in a small paperback dictionary and I’ve been “doodling” with some micron pens I got for Christmas in a sketchbook I keep with me. In my classroom I pulled out a large canvas that I’ve been literally scared to mark on for YEARS. I got some sharpie paint pens and I’ve been doodling on it 5, 10, 15 minutes at a time here and there between job-related tasks. Sometimes after school I’m waiting for my kids at sports and I can’t do another school-related task, so I draw on my canvas. When I’m in the car waiting for my daughter at piano lessons and girl scouts, I doodle in my book I carry in my purse. I draw while the TV is on. Last winter I made a series of watercolor birds from my favorite bird-watching book from when I was a kid. After my first 2 years of teaching I started putting my own artwork in the art show. One year it was an illuminated initial I did as an example for my high school art history students. Last year it was the bird paintings. This year it will be the giant canvas doodle.”What’s that?” my students ask. “It’s a doodle,” I tell them. “No it’s not! A doodle is what I do in the margins of my notebook.” “You’re right, a doodle is something that doesn’t get planned out first. That’s what I’m doing, just on a larger scale. It’s still just spontaneous drawing.” “Wow.” Yeah, that’s right wow! Art is art and art doesn’t have to be something that requires long amounts of time like when I would work in the dark room for 10 hours straight in college. I still sometimes draw for 4-5 hours straight when I’m at home… well, I might take a break for a snack or potty, but I know I’m starting episode after episode of some series I’m bingeing on while drawing.

I do think it’s important for art teachers to be artists. It can help us understand and relate to our students if we are creating art. We expect them to do it, to sit for 45 minutes a day or at least once a week and use their creative energies and work on something diligently until it is finished. Why shouldn’t we expect a fraction of that effort of ourselves?

We expend a lot of energy planning and implementing our lessons and projects with and for our students. We don’t have the luxury of a lot of time to devote to our own art, but we can find some time for it.

I am inspired by friends of mine who continue to make art for themselves. Good for them! They push me to do the same thing without even meaning to.

Sincerely, Ms. Elle

When I was student teaching, the other art teacher in the school said she didn’t like to do her own art. I think everyone in the faculty room was a little surprised by that. She shrugged and asked the math teacher if  she liked to do math on her own. “Uh, yeah, I do! It’s fun to just do problems just for the sake of doing them.” Well said. I like doing art “problems” just for the sake of doing them. I open to a page in the dictionary and scan for a word that spurs an image in my mind. Then I draw that image on the page. Problem solved!

Will I ever “show” my dictionary art? I have grand ideas of cutting out the pages, pasting them to other paper, and adding more drawings and paintings to them… maybe gluing pieces of lace or broken jewelry around the borders. We’ll just see if I ever get to that.

Another way I do art is summer projects. In the past I have spray painted frames black so that I could frame some of my art I did in college and put it on my living room wall. I’ve also spray painted metal yard furniture a pretty blue. I painted a chair to use it as a planter. I painted 2 end tables to match my couch pillows. I always have an idea for a summer project brewing all year long. This year I want to draw my fancy doodles on a wall in my bedroom. I also want to paint my night stand.

Unless you have to work in the summer or have little children to take care of, you have many days for your own studio time! Art teachers unite! We are artists! We have degrees in art for god’s sake–let’s do what we have studied to do: create!

One of my college advisors told me you have to be a teacher first, then an artist. I go back and forth with this theoretically. In actuality of course I am a teacher first. It’s my job. I make my livelihood by teaching, not by selling art. What do you think? Are you an Artist/Teacher or a Teacher/Artist?