Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How to Draw Out the Very Best Artwork from Your Students

How to Draw Out the Very Best Artwork from Your Students

I transitioned ALL the classes I'm teaching to something that is much more student-centered and promotes and allows greater range for individualized thinking, envisioning, and stretching. It's taken some real figuring out on my part but I'm happy to report that since doing this in the beginning of this year - it's going SWIMMINGLY. And why? Because I was able to figure out much of what (the above linked) notes is important within the new approach of teaching that I am not happily invested and engaged in with my BRILLIANT and adventurously thinking and imaginative students.

The linked article totally sums up, qualifies, and validates my newly adopted strategizes in all of the classes I find myself in. And also - doing it this way wasn't that hard, it was only different than what I used to do! (And I consider the difference that now exists to be BETTER.)

Monday, October 27, 2014

How the Walker System saved the student art gallery (and my sanity)

Gotta love when I can review something and like it enough to say lots of good things about it. If you're an art teacher (or gallery manager) who has a love/hate relationship with displaying artwork, you gotta see this!!! 

Don't mean to just put product reviews on here or even videos but I'm having such a good time figuring out iMovie as I've never really used it before. Also, videos are just kind of easier for me to do over written blog content. *shrug* Just tryin' to keep it real. ;)

Friday, September 26, 2014

It's official! And we even have the jacket to prove it...

It's would just happen that I would go and make some proclamation on here about how I don't know the next time will be when I'm on here and then I'm just all of a sudden on here two days later all, "Hi! I have one more thing to say..."

*insert awkward smile and wave from me here*


More than three years ago, I embarked on a journey that finally ended (with an unexpectedly beautiful flourish) TODAY. I cannot be more delighted and overjoyed to report the end of such an incredible... hmmm... fight? 

To be completely fair, it's not been a fight so much as it's been me just persevering and seeing this all the way through. And that is? It's the jacket that you see me wearing as I'm doing something that I rarely (well, honestly more like never) do - a bathroom selfie. I honestly cannot even believe that I'm wearing this jacket because... well... it has taken me YEARS to be able to get this jacket approved in order for it to be made to begin with!

Here's the thing: Nearly EVERY student-interest group/team at my school is (very obviously) visibly represented when you gather our students together in a whole group. The athletics teams all have official jackets and other sorts of team apparel. The choral, performance arts, and instrumental art groups have matching (read: UNIFYING) apparel that they "sport" with great pride. There's even students of certain social studies classes that get matching shirts every year at the end of the course study as a way to celebrate the bond that they have formed together and the love that they have discovered for what/how they have studied it. But the VISUAL artists in my school? Well... we (because I include myself in this) have allowed our artwork to be seen but never ourselves and while being behind the scenes is something that we very much enjoy, we (meaning: the art students AND myself) have always wanted to have some matching (read: unifying) "gear" to sport in school colors and in solidarity with our brother and sister artists who we spend all of our time designing and creating alongside in our beloved art studio spaces. 

I am a person of dreams as much as I am a person of prayers as much as I like LOVE to MAKE. THINGS. HAPPEN!!!! There have been SO many dreams that I have shared with the student artist community and we have always said, "Hey! Why can't WE get jackets too? We can even design better ones than *insert any other jacket that everyone else has here*..." (We really aren't trying to put other people's jackets down. Seriously.)

So after enough talking (and lots more praying), I got to work on trying to make an official jacket happen for the visual art student community. I drafted up a few designs, put out "feelers" for which ones were most preferred and then approached administration to get their blessing to do it. I was given a little bit of a maybe but ultimately a no. I was bummed but hardly discouraged because the issue was a matter of our uniform policy (that we have and try very hard to keep to for very good reasons). I went back to the drawing board in both literal and figurative ways and I tweaked the things that they said could stand to be tweaked and then I approached administration again. I was told maybe for even less time and then no even faster than the first time. I wasn't bummed though and instead I became very VERY determined to not take no for the final answer. 

Time passed and administration changed and every time I approached them and asked again and almost always with the same outcome and (for me) the same determined response. The more I was told no, the more I believed this to be just a problem that required a more creative solution that needed to be thought through. It only took me YEARS to get to a point where administration stopped giving me no's after their maybe's and their maybe's started looking more like OK. I don't even think it's because I "wore them down" - though I'm sure my persistent did that a little bit - and it was more that prayer is a strong force to contend with AND I was also willing to flex and bend and compromise with what was being requested of me and the whole business of this jacket. 

Long story a little longer, today I am wearing the OFFICIAL jacket that has been so many years in the works and at times that felt like a (pipe) dream more than anything. It's really only me and 11 other student artists wearing it but the offer was put out to everyone to join with us and we're all hoping that now that people are seeing the jacket? They will be encouraged to join us and get one for themselves and I will be more than happy to place a second and much larger order with Custom Ink. Maybe the next order will be even cheaper than the $49 that it cost us since the more jackets you order at once, the more everyone saves!!!

I would love EVERYONE at my school to be able to wear this jacket if they want to because the way the visual arts works is that I get to see/meet/know nearly every student at my school. Some just take the visual art courses for the general education/graduation requirement but even those student artists really treasure their time in the art class they take and want to take more even if they don't intend on ever "doing" art again beyond their time at the school. 

I also think that EVERYONE at my school ought to feel as if they can rightfully wear this jacket because I do believe that God has seeded the gift of creation within all of us because He truly did create us in His own image (and He is the master artist if there could ever be a master of the masters!) and because I believe we are called to be imitators of Him? Well... that means every last one of us is 1) called to create, 2) enabled to create when we seek to answer the call, and 3) CAN rightfully identify ourselves as ARTISTS because when we answer the call to create and then we create in His name and for Him - we are artists no matter where we come from who we think we were before we acknowledge and embrace ourselves as artists. 

Today is a day when big prayers were answered and blessings were provided with abundance and I couldn't not mention it here on the blog no matter how flaky I've been and how many times I've promised you that I would be scarce here. I had to tell you about this day. I had to tell you about how great God is and show you how he delivers in mighty ways when you dream for Him, PRAY to Him, and then CREATE FOR HIM. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Do I have to go back to the future?

This morning (Tuesday, 9/23/14) in the studio classroom
Clearly,  I have not held up any bargain/promise/proposal I have previously made to resume blogging. I am not even going to try and apologize about it anymore because I'm actually not all that sorry.

I mean... this blogsite has been really important to me. (Don't get me wrong on that.)  It has (more than) served its purpose of connecting me with other art teachers and working artists and designers. It's also been a terrific resource for folks if/when they have really REALLY needed it - be it for lesson plan ideas OR set/scene design ideas/how-to's/graphics for the many theater productions of which I have worked. I have gotten some awesome emails and comments from readers (about all of the aforementioned) and with every single one, I'm constantly humbled and amazed that anybody else thinks what I have done here has been useful or good.

(Please don't read all of this as a cry for validation and passive-aggressive request to feed my ego. I just seriously feel like I am 1) not that great of a writer to begin with, 2) OK enough at sharing what I have shared and 3) still learning so much myself that I am hesitant to "consult" because I'm still figuring things out myself/for myself - basically, I know I don't have the "answers" so I'm not trying to give anyone anything that is "half-baked.")

Related to all of the previous, the "fasting" I did years back from social media and then eventually from my electronic devices at large, I have found that since I have tried to return from that fasting, it's been hard for me to have very much of an appetite to keep up this particular blog anymore. I find that what I really crave (and am drawn to do) is to be more present in my classroom and with the incredibly talented (and hungry) student artists that I have been blessed to come to know. Despite how contradictory this sounds (especially since I am sharing this with you via digital social media), I find that one of the first things I want to do in order to start and end my days, are things that are not digital/virtual and are as tangible as possible.

In the past I used (and hated) using a teacher planning book/notebook. While I had lesson plans, I disliked writing them and I preferred using any (even every?) number of digital mediums/apps to write and archive them. Over at least half a decade later, I'm admitting that "my way" - of doing as many things digital as possible - is not nearly as productive or useful as I once thought. Through much too much trial and error, I've discovered that actually WRITING lesson plans in tangible ways (on real paper) has made teaching and learning (for both myself and my students) that much more tangible and REAL than it ever has been in digital format. This isn't to say that I have now decided that technology is bad but just... I have a new understanding of what it is good for and it's no longer as good for me (and my teaching efforts) as it once was.

My very well used Teacher Planning notebook - NOT digital!!! Thank you, Erin Condren for this amazing teaching tool. 
I've applied the understanding of the need for tangible things and organization in other areas of my life too. While I still use iCal across all of my devices, I don't rely on it as my sole means to keep me on track and on time. I have alarms and reminders set for things but I don't require them because I am actually remembering things before they remind me to not forget them. This is all because I'm using a paper planner (also from Erin Condren) for my non-teaching life...

I have no idea how my life was ever functioning at all without this Life Planner. Seriously. How did I do it? (Answer: I didn't)
The above looks fancier and like it requires more work to maintain it (as seen above) than what it actually does and I'm so thankful for that. I've come to find that it is true that when I fail to plan, I plan to fail and this has a domino effect in every direction of my life. This isn't to say I've become this incredibly regimented and "by the [planner] book" type of person of routines that cannot be deviated from and structure that is so rigid it hurts. Quite the opposite, I'm more relaxed and at peace and fully present than I ever have been in all of my life. I don't get worked up over stupid things and I'm truly able to do things like keep little things little because I have taken the time to better know the size and weight and TIME that most things take up in my life. And if something unexpected arises? I know how much size/weight/TIME I have leftover (or not) in my life in order to be able to squeeze/fit it into the time and energy that I DO have because I can see it so clearly as it's laid out in my planning notebooks.

None of the previous was ever possible for me when I did things digitally. Perhaps there's something wrong with me that doing this digitally has worked like this but I have found I just can't do things digitally as much as I have thought I could. I feel like doing things digitally (and thus asking less physically and cognitively of myself) has ended up giving me less HEART and SOUL to actually LIVE life as I know I have been called to do rather than giving me "convenience" and saving me time, energy, or money the way I have thought it worked when digitizing is used to its greatest degree.

Anyway, all of this is to say that 1) I'm still not clear about what I'm to do with this here blogsite though I know I'm not taking it down and 2) I'm still choosing to be more present in my actual and physical life more which consequentially means I am also choosing to be less present here (on this blogsite) and until further notice.

I hope you all understand. I hope that even what I am sharing now (in addition to what I have already shared) is relevant and useful in the dreaming, Praying, and CREATING of your own decision. In the meanwhile, I am being still and remaining in a holding pattern where I'm praying for each and every one of you, this blogsite, and myself so that I can better understand where/what I should create next.

God bless you, all! Have a great rest of your week and see you whenever I see you...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Let the planning commence!!!

My Erin Condren Teacher Planner arrived in yesterday's mail!!!! WOOO!!!!! Decided to do a video for the unboxing so you can see what I selected for my own customized Teacher Planner. 

If YOU are interested in getting an Erin Condren Teacher Planner. I have some coupon codes that will save you $10 - that's about the cost of domestic shipping (that I got and is the cheapest option) + a few more bucks savings. Two of them are general use and one is a teacher coupon code that expires. Please see below for codes...

:: Coupon Codes for $10 off ::
Automated referral code so I can get product credits 
Teacher Coupon code, expires midnight PST on 10/15/2014 =>TLP1014TXG9EJWUL 
First Time ordering code, no expiration date =>WELCOME10
[If you want to read the rest of my review that would have been included in my video, click through to get through the break! Thanks!]

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Working my way back

Hello everyone! Hope you all are enjoying your summer with however you are selecting to spend it. Despite my best intentions to spend my own summer doing things of relaxation and leisure, I have been doing nothing of the sort. :-p Sometimes divine callings and the complicated demands of life simply require things that deviate from your best laid plans. 

Despite the aforementioned, I'm definitely thinking about the start of school (in less than 25 days!) and returning to the classroom AND blogging here. *YAY!* As always, I have grand dreams and great intentions. However... it's safe to say that that sort of stuff always lands me within my own embarrassing failures (AND in front of quite the audience at that). I'm doing my best to avoid the previous though and one way that I have learned aids in such prevention is coming up with a reasonably sound and executable plan. Does this make me sound like someone who lacks the ability to dream and spontaneously create? (Which is an individual who is far from the one I have known myself to be most of my life) I don't know. All I do know is that I have learned very much that it IS true that failure to plan all too often lends to me planning to fail no matter how/what I might intend, hope for, dream of, or scramble to make happen. 

All of this said, this coming year marks the 9th year of my teaching career and the 7th year at my current school where I am in my 2nd year as department head but incidentally? It will be my FIRST year as the sole Visual Art Teacher and having my very own classroom (though I had my own classroom years ago when I was in public school). 

It's all very exciting but also quite daunting at the same time. I'm going to be teaching all of the courses that I have been teaching in addition to three other intermediate/advanced courses. I will also be working closely with the principal and the academic dean to "chart" a better path for the visual art curriculum which will likely involve a huge overhaul of the courses offered (including new course descriptions, clearly defined and communicated study "paths" for art students to navigate, and other things that fall into the realms of "etc."). Does all of this sound a little like chaos waiting to happen? I am being realistic and saying that it quite possibly does. Still, I'm determined to take all of what I have learned and know I'm able to do in order to steady myself so that when the waters (that I'm metaphorically on) start becoming choppy, I don't end up so motion sick that I cannot do what I am determined to try and do - which is stay the course!

For the past couple of months, I've been anticipating all of the things that I know I will need to do better and one of those things is being more organized, concrete in my forward thinking ways, and documenting all of because my memory and retention isn't nearly what it used to be. Truth be told, I don't use a Teacher Planning book despite trying to use one year after year only to have the thing be crushed at the bottom of my teacher tote bag before even half the year has arrived. In thinking back on my failed attempts to do this better (because I NEED to do this and I don't deny it), I came to some conclusions about what my natural work habits are and how to adhere to those so that it's not such a chore to do classroom and teacher planning.

One thing in particular that I learned is that the teacher planners/organizers that I have used in the past aren't that well suited for the curriculum/content that I teach and/or the approach that I take in the classroom. I was able to identify the things that I believed would be essential for the unique things that I sort of require that seemed like they should be readily available. I set out to find a teacher planner that would as many of these things as possible and despite my best efforts (and they're pretty decent and it's safe to say that if something is out there I. WILL. FIND. IT.), I was turning up empty handed and becoming increasingly frustrated. 

As things happened, I was about to give up after MONTHS of dealing with this and then I finally found what I believe is a bit of a "holy grail" for my finicky teacher planning needs... HELLO, ERIN CONDREN TEACHER PLANNERS!!!!!!

I don't know where these things have been and why I haven't ever heard of them before but I know about them now and I have already ordered my own planning book and I am IMPATIENTLY awaiting its arrival - that should come just in time for teachers work week a week and a half BEFORE the first day of school. 

Please know that I'm not plugging this product because I'm getting any sort of compensation from them at all and I haven't even gotten mine yet (but I hope to share an initial review and then follow-up review eventually) about my thoughts on it. If you know anything about Erin Condren products, you might note that they are a bit on the pricy side but honestly? I am not a big shopper and so when I do spend money, I am always willing to have it be something that is worth the money (however much it might be) so that I don't have to spend any more money again because I have to replace what was supposed to work to begin with. 

I've ordered my Erin Condren teacher planner and I'm so excited to get it soon!!! If you don't need a teacher planner, she also has a life planner (that's still pretty amazing if you ask me) and a wedding planner (also amazing and I recently bought one for a friend as her engagement gift). If you are interested in ordering an Erin Condren planner (of any type) too, you can do so and get a $10 coupon toward it by way of THIS LINK (which is a referral link from me and it allows me to accrue credits toward my next year's planner). 

Anyway, I'll let you know when I get my planner but just wanted to pop on here to say hi with an update of how things are in my niche of the world and also let you know that I am certainly interested (and thinking deeply about!) how I will get back on here more often than not (at all). 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Please continue to hold -- Thank you!

Original works of art by my almost 6yo daughter (left) and an artist I just love named Katie M. Berggren (right)
Popping on here to say hello just to see how you all are doing (albeit) without me.

Despite the quietness that has remained here on the blog, plenty has been going on for me! In my time away, I have still managed to occupy myself with more than enough that makes it even harder for me to want to come back - though I AM wanting to do that eventually and not just close this blog completely.

In my time away, I have come to realize how important it is to take the leave of absence that I have. I haven't been here on this blog and I even "pulled the plug" on my instagram as well!! My pause in blogging was something that I knew I needed but doing so on instagram too? That's something that just ended up happening just because I must say, it's been really Really REALLY nice. It's given me back something that I have lacked for quite too long - which is the real opportunity to be much more fully present in my life. Just as blogging stole that from my teaching and professional life, instagram definitely did that in my personal and family life. By taking myself offline though, I have reclaimed all of the things that I so willfully gave up without realizing that I ever did so in the first place.

I have a little more than a month and a half of teaching left and then I will be brought right to the start of summer - which already is chock full of all sorts of things to do. It's a wonderful and glorious thing to realize not only how full my life has become but also to not feel like I can't fully enjoy any of what I have been so blessed to receive. If you have ever considered taking a "leave of absence" from the online world? I would encourage you to not be afraid to just go for it. It will give back you in dividends what you never realized you were already giving endlessly of yourself within the virtual realms.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

What to do now and next

Hi! Sorry for not being around for a long while. I don't have any good excuse of how/why it happened like this other than to just note that I really really needed a break from this blog.

I have been blogging on and off (but mostly on) for over a decade now and (if you've never tried to before) it can be quite a lot of work getting in the habit, staying in the habit, and delivering fresh content. This is especially true for content specific or niche blogging (which is what I do here). After I finished my masters degree (about October/November time) I found that I really and truly needed a mental break from writing papers and doing research and trying to get back on the metaphorical horse after doing such an amazing amount of blogging last year was only harder because of the break that I needed. So? I took the break and that's why it's been so radio silent here.

So I'm back here today to post this but honestly? I don't know when I will be back again and I am still trying to pray about what to keep doing beyond me just feeling like I need to be still and focus on other things (than this blog). I find that by not blogging here, I am much more connected and present with my 5.5 year old daughter and husband and students. I am thinking a lot less about how to churn the life and art teaching on my everyday into blog content and more about just being fully present and focused. This year for the One Little Word campaign I decided on the word "treasure" and I think it's going to work much better than last year's word of "joy" because it's been a focus of mine most recently in what I do, how I do things, and how I regard things before me. I've become so much more aware of the need for me to have less of a life virtually and more of a life actually.

I have loved this blog so much but I really and truly feel like I will probably not return to the posting schedule I had last year because it made it really difficult for me to have the time and energy I now know I want to have for my family and my students and to serve my school community. Blogging so much also makes it difficult for me to create artwork for my own professional development. I haven't painted in months and having realized this I decided that I needed to change that by trying to do something of my own art creation because I was starting to feel stagnant.

I have never kept up with a sketchbook OR done watercolor painting in all of my life but I recently started to do both in an effort to get beyond my own prejudices and learn something new that I had previously been so staunchly against. I got a visual sketchbook for both myself and my daughter and we have been trying to do a page a night in our books with either ink and watercolor or just plain watercolor. We both have less than a half dozen finished pages but it's been amazing so far and I am amazed that I was ever so against daily art creation (like in a sketchbook or visual journaling) OR watercolor. I have been "doing it wrong" the whole time. Thankfully, I have seen the light.

A page I finished last evening in my journal after everyone in the house was sound asleep.
I know I don't want to abandon this blog but I also know that how I have done it in the past is not a way that I can keep doing it in the present or in the future. I have a lot of content on here and I am regularly getting unique hits because of people finding things I have archived in the way of art lesson project ideas. (I'm so glad that what I have shared continues to be so useful to others!) Still, well... maybe it's time for me to deliver less that ends up being much more because it has greater substance at least as it applies to what I originally create - either in my painted sketchbook or with my own explorations of the creative process, creative callings, or what I am learning about the art of teaching art.

In any case, I hope you all are doing well in your classrooms and with your own artwork. I have previously "preached" the importance of being an artist as being actively creating art pushing yourself to do better design and stretching your creativity. I think perhaps it's time for me to do that sort of thing rather than giving myself endlessly to the efforts of others, the development and understandings of their creative processes, and enabling them to create beautiful works of art. That's what I do every day and when I leave work, I need to do a better job of allowing myself the same sort of gift.

So, I'm not quitting this blog or even taking it offline in any way. It'll keep being here. I just might be here less often but perhaps at the same time with a more worthwhile presence.
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