Tag Archives: reflections

Working with “The 10”: Ceramics Packet Reflection

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My friend, Ian Sands, developed a system called “the 9“.  They are packets based around the basics of subjects of art that artists create.  It’s not about content, but more about category that art would fall into.  The packets include: the object, architecture, nature, landscape, figure, portrait, imagination, non-representational, and conceptual.  He introduced them to me some time last school year, and I thought they were wonderful.  I’ve been successfully using them with my art 1 students this year.  They are a great introduction to art categories, while allowing my TAB students to make lots of meaningful choices.

I tested them out last year with one of my classes, and thought that they would be a great tool for working with my ceramics students as they move along their artistic journey.  Sometime last spring, I began planning how to use Ian’s model for my ceramics program.  I began researching and decided that for the most part, ceramics artists’ works fall into most of the same categories.  But, I discovered that there are 10 categories, instead of 9.  They include: nature, animal, architecture, “figure”-ative, functionality, imagination, non-representation, portraiture, the object, and conceptual/installation.

Following Ian’s template, I created consideration questions for each packet, changed up the suggestions and geared the planning around requirements I have for my students.  I am very happy with the development of my packets.

Now, here’s where I am dissatisfied with “The 10”.  I rolled them out in a way that I find isn’t working the way I hoped.  I thought it would make my students more independent, so I introduced it with my intermediate and advanced students.  (They meet at the same time.)  I think this was my mistake.  I should have used it with my beginners after we completed the “have-to” portion of our class.  Seeing how my art 1 students are growing using “The 9”, helped me to see this.  Currently with my beginners, we do ceramic artistic behavior units right after finishing our “have to” section.  We just began our first unit, Ceramic Artists are Inspired by Nature, but I think that after this unit, we will pass out sketchbooks and move onto the next packet.  Nature is one of the packets after all.  We will continue through the rest of the year going through packets, picking up next fall with where we left off.  Then we will dive into deeper meaning with Ceramic Artistic Behavior units.

I will continue with my upper ceramic students in the way we are working. With the exception of one student, they are all seniors, and I’m not too worried about it.  They are working and learning and growing.

They say it takes 3 years to really build up a program.  Like I previously stated, this is the 5th year of the program.  I’ve been playing around with it, trying new things each year to replace things that weren’t working.  I feel I finally have a great grasp on the program and the progression it should take to truly have my students behaving and thinking like artists.  The timing of “The 10” was the final piece of the puzzle that finally fell into place.

 

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Example of “The 10: Nature Packet”

 

2018 Texas TAB Lab

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One would think that by now I would be sitting in the sun, sipping margaritas and enjoying my summer.  One would think that if one didn’t know me.  I have 2 kids and the Texas sun is way to hot to sit under all day.  Now sipping margaritas…that’s another story for another day.

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My third week off for summer was spent doing some very important and exciting professional development–the Texas TAB Lab (#TxTABLab).  Lori Wallace and Julie Bates20180613_0938451693010827.jpg honored me months ago by asking me to help out with this year’s mini-conference, by heading up the secondary portion of the conference.  This year was our second event.  At our first meet-up, there were about 30 of us tops in this small conference room in a hotel in Waco, TX.  Ginger Tapia set the whole thing up and it was wonderful.  It was there that an event was born.  This year, TAB Lab was definitely the place to be, as we more than doubled the attendance with 67 teachers.  And, I am happy to say that the secondary peeps went from about 7 or 8 to almost 20.  It’s a good time to be a Tx TAB teacher.

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Let’s get to it.  Our main meeting hall was the Frank Fickett Center  (FFSTC).  The hotel suggested it because the conference room was not going to hold us all.  It was a wonderful space to be in for 2 days.  The conference kicked off with one of our keynote speakers, Katherine Douglas.  She was unable to make it to Austin, so she spoke via interwebs.  Among the many fabulous things Kathy spoke of, she told us in regards to child art that “adult eyes need to learn appreciation for it”.  She also shared her 7 goals for her TAB studio and her students.

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  2. Get materials and tools to explore idea
  3. Explore/Make idea, with false starts, change directions, mistakes
  4. Know when it’s finished
  5. Put away materials/tools properly
  6. Reflect/Share ideas
  7. Think about what’s next

Thank you Kathy so much for joining us.

That afternoon we went to visit some classrooms.  The elementary teachers broke into 2 groups–visiting both Julie’s and Lori’s classrooms in Pflugerville.  The secondary teachers made the long drive to Taylor to visit my classroom.  I am so happy they made the journey.  In spite of the 80+° room temp, it was an amazing experience.  I talked briefly about my journey, then we toured my room and how it was set up.  We talked about daily activities and classroom flow.  There was much conversation…conversation that lasted well past when I thought we would leave.

 

We went to dinner at Rudy’s BBQ and went back to the FFSCT for some more art chat and some Paper Smaché with the one and only Clyde Gaw.  Paper smaché is like paper maché, but Clyd-i-fied.

 

Our second day opened up with our second keynote speaker, Clyde Gaw.  I bet you thought he was just here for Smaché.   He was also here for the cardboard. In 20180613_092720-1358794459.jpghis presentation, he told us of his journey–his life journey–from the train tracks by where he grew up to his current job as a high school TAB teacher in Indiana.  It was interesting to me to hear how and when he met people I know (or know of), like Clark Fralick, Diane Jacquith, Kathy, NanHathaway, and John Crowe.  My biggest take away from Clyde that morning was the rhizome.  He likened things to it and called us rhizomatic. (def 1 def 2).  If you were’t at TAB Lab, but you are meeting up with Clyde at some other TAB event this summer, I’m sure he’ll talk about it.

 

The rest of the day included a working lunch, small group sessions, mini-presentations from attendees and 2 guest speakers, Priscilla Lamb and Manuel Gamez.  Priscella presented on Autism and Special Ed.  Manuel is the Fine Arts Director for PfISD.  It was interesting to hear the perspective of a non-teacher, someone in admin.  He very much supports the arts and really likes TAB.  Bonus for Lori and Julie. We ended the day with some gelli printing with Lori and some faux screen printing led by yours truly.  Unfortunately, after testing the screen the night before, I didn’t wash it fully and the prints weren’t as clean as I would have liked.  But, my fellow teachers were cool with it and didn’t complain.

 

After dinner, many of us met back at the hotel conference room and had some cookies, milk, chat, and arting.  It was a fun way to end the day.

 

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Friday was our last day and Lori had set up a great activity at Austin Creative Reuse.  ACR is a store that is supplied by donations.  It is a TAB teacher’s dream.  Well, and it’s the dream of artists and crafters and people that are into reuse.  We met in the classroom at ACR and split into 2 groups.  Those with the late birthdays went to the store first.  I have already been to ACR, so I knew what was up.  The others were new and were in amazement.  After shopping time, we went back and we participated in what was essentially like “Chopped”, but with art materials. We worked in groups of 4/5.  We were given a theme of “represent”.  And we went from there.  I was fortunate to get with a group where we all just flowed and worked well together.  Our sculpture was called “Bond”.

 

All in all it was a fabulous conference.  I am so glad that I was able to go and that I was enable to pass on my knowledge to others.  I know that I didn’t provide much of what I learned at Tx TAB Lab, but if you are curious as to what was shared, visit out Padlet.  It has links to almost everything.  I look forward to next year when I hope we go even bigger…it is Texas after all…Go Big or Go Home!  Until then, I have Facebook to be able to talk to my new TAB friends.

 

The 2017-18 School Year in Review

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Another school year has come to a close.  That makes 11 for me.  The 2017-18 school year was a good year for me.  I had a couple of bumps in the road–that one student who felt she no longer needed to be here (luckily she is still here ♥) and the whole grading issue with me not being in compliance.  Overall, it was a fun and happy year.  So, without further ado, let’s take a look back and see what went down.

⇒ I entered 3 students this year into Scholastic Art and Writing.  We didn’t get any awards or even mentions, but I am proud that I was able to enter the work of these 3 young women.  I think we were robbed, but life goes on, right.

⇒ I was honored when Diane Jacquith and Kathy Douglas asked me to have a small part in the 2nd edition of their book, Engaging Learners Through Artmaking.  I speak of how I include current artists in my curriculum through an activity called Artist Monday.  Students watch a short video and then answer some questions about the artist and what they create.  Artists are always current, and many create art in ways that go beyond the traditional ways my students know about art making.

⇒I took my upper ceramic students on a field trip…on a Saturday!  It was so much fun.  We went to the Texas Clay Festival in Gruene, TX.  My students got to see a woman who was burnishing a pot and talking about terra sigillata.  They saw a variety of artists and got to see what people would be willing to pay for ceramics.  And, they got to watch a raku firing.  I am so glad that we went.  The fact that they were willing to give up a Saturday to go on a field trip was tremendous.  I hope to make this a yearly activity.

Seattle 2018.  This year’s NAEA conference was in Seattle.  I was lucky to be able to present not once, but twice at this year’s conference.  And bonus for me, both were with my very good friend and amazing TAB teacher, Elizabeth Honeysett.  We presented on Single Media and the TAB Classroom.  Liz talked about her jewelry classes and I talked about my ceramics classes.  We also did a ticketed event–The Secondary Choice Demo Room.  This was extra fun for me because I got to see adults make art.   Seattle was a blast.

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Restorative Discipline was brought into my school in the 2016-17 school year.  Each year they train a small amount of teachers.  I was lucky to be asked to be part of the 2017-18 cohort (cohort 2).  I really like restorative discipline because it focuses on relationships and community building.  It stresses being proactive instead of being reactive.  It was a great fit for me because I am all about relationships and community in my classroom.  We had many trainings throughout the year, which kept me always reflecting on my teaching.  I reflect anyways, but the reflections from the RD perspective made me think about things I sometimes gloss over.

⇒ RD brought the academic circle into my teaching practice.  In RD, there are many types of circle activities you can do with your students and the academic circle is one I really liked.  I utilized it in my ceramics classes.  There had been a disconnect between what my students researched on a artistic behavior and the art making that went along with it.  The academic circle filled the gap.  It allowed me to check what my students learned on their own. It allowed my students to share and connect with each other.  It allowed for questions.  It allowed for students to see ceramic art their peers were drawn to.  And, it helped to clarify the big idea for the students before they moved to the creation of their work.

⇒ I applied for a grant and was award it!  In our community, there is a Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 11.42.27 AMfoundation called the Taylor Educational Enrichment Foundation (TEE) that offers thousands of dollars in grants annually.  I finally got the courage to write a grant proposal for a raku kiln kit.  When the day finallyarrived when we would find out who would be awarded, I’ll admit, I was nervous.  I heard the band and the cheerleaders coming down the hall.  I kept hoping they were coming to me and not going to walk on by.  My principal ducked his head into my office and told me to come out into the hallway.  I was so excited.  I was dancing around my classroom.  I have since ordered and received the kit and I can’t wait to set it up and teach my students how to raku this fall.

⇒For a few years, I make and gift some special seniors a piece of “Duck Art” pottery.  It started when some seniors bugged the crap out of me for cereal bowls.  So, as an end of year gift, I made bowls and gave them each one.  On the inside of the bowl, there was a duck.  The next year the seniors weren’t into cereal so much as they were coffee.  So, the image was transferred to a mug.  Each year, the duck image changed, but the sentiment was the same.  I made X# of mugs–all similar in shape, color, and image–and handed them out to the lucky ones I had forged relationships with.  This year, I wanted something different.  I really don’t like being a production potter.  I don’t like making the same thing over and over.  I decided to make each mug different and glaze each mug different.  The only thing that was my thru-line was the Duck Art medallion I made.  I made a sprig, which was a good lesson for the students, and went from there.  At the end, the students got to pick which mug they wanted according to their tastes and what fit well in their hands.  This has become the new and final senior Duck Art Mug.

 

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The Duck Art Mug!!

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The lefties

Those are really the bigs things that happened this year.  Like I said, it was a good year.  I made some stronger relationships with both students and colleagues.  I am sad that my ceramics seniors are gone.  They were a great group of kids.  But, I am excited for those returning next year.  I learned a lot about my teaching and how I want to move forward.  I really understand the end goal I have for my students–both those that will be with me for a year and those that will continue on.  I have worked hard (and continue to) on how to help my students meet those goals.  I have much in store for next year…I hope to implement “the 9”, courtesy of Ian Sands, with my art 1 class.  I have taken the 9 and created my own version–“the 10”–which is geared for my upper ceramics kiddos.  And, our principal decided to split the AP Studio art program between my co-worker and myself…so that will be interesting.  I am happy with my 11th year, and I look forward to another fun-filled TAB-tastic year in the Duck Art Studio.  But, until then, I will relax and enjoy my summer.

NAEA 2018: Seattle

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I have always wanted to go to Seattle, so when I saw that the National Art Ed conference was going to be held there, I was going no matter if my session proposals were accepted or not.  Luckily for me, I was selected to co-present twice for the Seattle conference.  That meant that I could get reimbursed by my district for the cost of admission to the conference.  (Every little bit given back is helpful.)

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I woke up at 3:30 am to start my journey to the West Coast.  It was a long day, but the beauty of the city made it worth it…not to mention that I was meeting up with 2 of my favorite fellow TAB teachers, Liz and Hillary.  We were able to get out of the city proper and experience Kirkland.  It was so beautiful, and if we could afford it, I would so pick up my family and move there.

But I digress.  Let’s talk about the conference.  I spent this conference a little bit differently than I had in the past.  I barely went to sessions, and instead channeled my friend and fellow Texas art teacher, Arlene Shelton. I wandered around the city for a large portion of the time.  I spent a morning walking in the rain (and snow) down to the MoPop museum.  I took my time and photographed parts of the city that often gets overlooked.  I spent one morning with Joy Schultz walking around Pike Place Market, getting lost in the colors of fresh fruit and flowers, and marveling over the artisans booths.  Hillary and I went on an adventure to dinner one evening and along the way found Jimmy Hendrix, Dick Blick, and rainbowed crosswalks.  I paused for over a half hour Saturday morning to stand in solidarity as my fellow Americans walked in the “March for our Lives” protest.  And, I drank more coffee than I would like to admit.

 

 

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I did go to a few sessions, and I did present twice (these 2 sessions will each have their own posts.)  But, to be honest, it was tough to find things that interested me.  I went to every ceramics session I could find, but there wasn’t much that was new to me. In fact, one session got me so fired up…  Let’s just say, as art teachers, we need to stop perpetuating techniques that are dangerous.  No matter how cute it is.

Out of the 6 or 7 sessions I attended over the 3 days, several did stand out.  I went to one that was about STEAM…well…it was really anti-STEM/STEAM.  One of the speakers was Cindy Foley.  She is amazing to listen to and I could have just sat and listened for hours.  She is so passionate.  (And, did you know that STEM really means “Strategies That Engage Minds”?  Yeah, neither did I until Cindy told me so.)  Another session that was wonderful was by Pam Ehrenreich.  She talked about how she TABs in her high school class.  Ask her about her “Random Objects of Treasure” collection, you won’t be disappointed.  Clara Lieu gave a session on art critique.  I found it super helpful as having student critique each other is one of my weak areas in my classes.  Every year I do improve though, so there’s that.  And, finally I went to a session by Candi Poll-Price on assessment.  It was fantastic.  I was sad I had to miss the end, but my session was next, so I had to take off early.  (Also, I needed some more coffee.)

20180321_1839052022233196.jpgI hadn’t planned on spending the conference going to so few sessions.  I had hoped there would be a ton for me to learn.  Unfortunately, when I looked through the program, not much stood out to me.  There were TAB sessions, but many were for elementary or they were sessions to get you excited about TAB.  I already am excited about TAB.  I don’t need to be convinced how amazing it is–for both my students and for me.  I know this is going to sound a bit egotistical, and that is not my intention.  I felt there wasn’t much for teachers, TAB teachers specifically, at my level in the ways of development.  Things I want to discuss and think about are above the beginning levels.  Don’t get me wrong, those types of beginning level sessions are of extreme importance.  And, I love presenting and giving.  I just need to be getting something too.

I am glad I went because I had numerous important conversations with my tribe at the TAB dinner and at other eating events.  Funny how food and drink do that.  Those conversations are what I really got the most from this year.

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I will not be attending NAEA19 in Boston next year.  I am opting for another Boston event–the TAB Institute in the summer of 2019.  I am looking forward to the amazing things I will get from it and from the teachers who will be attending with me. Until then, thanks Seahawk fans for accepting this Packer fan into your town for a few days.

Compliance and TAB

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Compliance and TAB are two things that seem not to go together.  As a TAB teacher I want my kids to think beyond the rules and explore and make art because they want to…not because they are trying to be compliant with “school rules”.  My friend Ian Sands says that making art for a grade is not a reason to make art.  I 100% agree with him.

Unfortunately, there is an expected amount of compliancy that goes along with our traditional school experience.  And, it bucks at what I believe in my heart is what is best for my students.  In this case of compliancy, I am talking about my compliancy…the compliancy of the teacher to what the district expects.  Even when it goes against what you believe in, you have to be in compliance.  If you don’t and you try to fly under the radar, eventually you will get called on it and the end result is not fun. (Even if your principal understands completely what you were doing.  His hands are tied because even he has a boss with expectations to answer to.)

The biggest issue dealing with non-compliance in my mind is grading.  As a TAB teacher, grading is the worst.  I don’t have little check boxes to fill in.  I don’t have an answer key.  I don’t want my students to work in my classroom because they have to.  I want them to work because they want to.  How do you grade that?  I don’t want to grade every warm-up, every bell ringer, ever activity….because for me, that takes away from the learning and makes it about a number.  But, if I don’t grade those things, how do I remain in compliance with the minimum amount of major, minor, and homework grades the district tells me I have to have?

I don’t have the answers.  I do on the surface.  I have reworked a bunch of assignments so I can meet the grading requirements I am expected to have.  What I can’t answer are the internal dilemmas that arise when it comes to what I believe to be in the students’ best interest and what I am expected to do.  That for me is the hardest part.

Reflection and the Final Survey

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Every other year, I like to provide my students with a final survey to see where they are at and to gain some insight on my teaching from the students POV.  If you don’t already do this, I highly recommend it.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the data you receive.  (Also, it’s nice to hear that our students love us every now and then. 😉 )

I created several google forms, breaking them up by class.  I think there are different things to know from the different students.  The insights of a student that has had you for 3 or 4 years is way different than that of a first year student or a student that was only there for the fine arts credit.  Also, if you have a single media class, you can form the questions to reflect that.

“What I liked most about how you ran our art class was how you had a great relationship with your students and your class was the class everyone looked forward to everyday.”

” you’ve taught me not to judge people for who they are”

“I learned that you have to trust yourself and learn to take risks.”

“I think when you pushed us we got better”

I asked a variety of questions, ranging from the students telling me their strengths and weaknesses to how they felt about my teaching methods.  I asked what they liked and what they didn’t like.  I asked what they had learned and what they wished they had learned.  I also asked what I could change.  Kids are pretty honest.

“the artworks we did were fun because we could do what ever media we wanted to do as long as we could fit the needs of the project”

“I liked how we had the prompt or whatever and then you allowed each individual person to take their time to make their art and you helped each person with their specific questions.”

(Favorite part of class) “being able to use a lot of the equipment freely” & “being able to talk to you about anything”

One thing that I think is important when creating the forms is to make almost all questions as required.  It makes the student think and add to previous answers. The only ones that are optional are “Name” and “Anything else you would like to add”.  If a student thinks he can be more honest by remaining anonymous, then that is a good thing.

(I’ve grown as an artist…) “because when I run into a problem I can figure out a way around it instead of getting frustrated and starting over again”

“You ran [class] like were weren’t just kids and you trusted us to use the tools effectively and whenever we wanted.”

“I loved that you would give us a broad topic to help get an idea of what we want to make our art of, but what we actually made was up to us. So we had freedom in our art.”

“I loved that you gave us a topic that we had to base our artwork on, but that you didn’t push us into doing anything. You let us create the artwork that we wanted and let us use whatever media we wanted”

As I sat this morning finally reading their responses, about a month after they filled them out, I made some notes.  I jotted down some of the things they liked.  I jotted down what they wished they had learned.  I made notes on things they felt would have helped them grow more.  I even wrote down some quotes that I didn’t put in this post. And, I have to admit, reading their words about how much they enjoy the TAB studio/pedagogy really helps to solidify that I made the right decision when I made the switch.  I’ve been TAB for several years, and I rarely doubt the decision to go ther, but it is still nice to hear from those that it truly affects that it was a good thing.

I am glad that I waited a month to read the responses.  Enough time has passed that my mind is fresh, but it hasn’t been so long that I can no longer hear the voices of my students in their responses.  This list will help me when I go in about a month to work out things for next year’s classes.  I can know what is missing, and what not to change.  Now, I don’t agree with everything they said.  I know some kids didn’t like writing about the artists we learned about and some didn’t like the computer stuff; that I won’t change because I do think it is important for their artistic growth…they just don’t see it at the moment.  But, I was surprised by how many liked learning about current artists and how many actually liked the drawing tests.

I have been doing surveys for as long as I have been teaching, but I think this year’s surveys were the most informative.  I think I finally asked the right questions and got responses that will be able to help me create a better studio and learning experience for my students.

“Most people just take art because they need a year of fine art and honestly that’s why I took art, but as the year went on I started to really love this class and making artworks.  I can’t wait to have art again next year!!”

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Printmaking Exploration

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Printmaking Exploration

I decided to start the second semester off with some good old exploration.  I was going to jump right into my “Artists Steal” unit (appropriated from Apex HS), but then I changed my mind and thought we needed to get messy for a week and a half.

We don’t have a printing press at school, so that limits what we can do.  However, that didn’t stop me from coming up with 6 different techniques involving making prints.  I got this idea from Cynthia Gaub and her art around the room activities.  The students would be asked to explore 5 out of 6 techniques and reflect on each technique.

I set up the counter with the 6 different “stations”.  We would learn about block prints (with EZ cut), collograph, stamping, styrofoam plates, monoprinting, and faux screen printing.  I laid out the week and a half in a short PowerPoint, explaining I would only do demos for cutting blocks, inking plates/pulling prints, using the gelatin plate for monoprints, and how to set up the screen for screen prints.  For the other techniques, the students would have to rely on the example cards I had created the year before.  Some of it required some thought on their part on interpretation of the card.

The students were asked to reflect on their findings of each technique.  They could either write their answers in their journals/sketchbooks or they could start a new BlendSpace lesson and reflect there.  I gave the students 7 questions to choose from…they have to answer question #1, then pick 4 from the remaining 6.

  1. What was the medium/technique explored?
  2. What qualities/characteristics does the medium/technique have?
  3. What makes the medium/technique different from a similar medium/technique?
  4. What did you like the best about media/technique and why?
  5. What did you like the least about media/technique and why?
  6. What could you use this medium/technique for?
  7. What other information would you like to know about this medium/technique?

My favorite part was reading the variety of questions they had for #7.

  • How is this art? (re: screen printing)
  • Is there an easier way to reverse when doing blocks?
  • Could block printing be done on a larger scale?
  • Was styrofoam printing invented by someone on a budget?
  • Who came up with block printing?
  • How do you add multiple colors?
  • What can you do with the collagraph technique?
  • Why is it called collagraph?
  • What is the right amount of ink?
  • How do you keep ink from getting on certain points on the styrofoam plate?
  • What other tools can be used to dent into the styrofoam?
  • How many layers can you do on a monoprint?
  • Do people really use the collograph technique and make a living with it?
  • How can you draw cleaner in the styrofoam?

Here are my thoughts on this activity:

I really think this could be a good way to explore different ways of printmaking.  While I showed the students some examples of final pieces, I don’t think I really let them know “how” different type of printmaking could be used.  They tend to think that each technique must be used alone and don’t consider mixed media, texture, background, layers, etc.  So, I would figure out a way to bring that into the activity for next year.

When it came to leaving some of the work to them…  relying on the example cards I had created the year before, I was hopeful that they would figure it out…I was wrong…most didn’t and they ended up asking me.  Sometimes they didn’t even try to look at the cards and make some educated guesses at what the process was.  This was frustrating to me as part of my philosophy does have the expectation that the students are responsible for their own learning and that I won’t spoon feed them.  I know they are high school students, but that can’t be their excuse for everything.  I did find myself smiling when I would hear a student asking another student.

I think perhaps I could show some videos or require them to watch a video as part of each station so they could see other artists use the technique or see what it could be used for. Then, they could use that as well for more informed reflections of the techniques.

My other thought, and this happens every year since moving to TAB, is how to get kids to actually use printmaking/stamping in their artwork.  Do they really not like it?  Do they not see it as an artwork?  Do they (the students) see it as too much to add to their process when art making?

I will continue to do this Printmaking Exploration Activity, but I will make some needed adjustments to enhance the learning and the take-aways from the activity.  One adjustment might be some requirement of what they need to create from the prints…so they put more thought into what they are doing.

Since originally writing this, I did have one student revisit monoprints and the gelatin plate.  She really enjoyed the process and was glad she was able to use it again when creating a non-objective piece for our “Artists Don’t Represent” unit.

Artists Communicate

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Our most recent, and final artistic behavior unit, was a closer look at the behavior, Artists Communicate.  This unit was set up a little bit differently than the other units.  We didn’t do as many activities prior to the artwork.  And, this was the first unit where my students created their own original artwork…from conception to artist statement.

We started off with a video on an artwork/installation piece by artist Maxwell Rushton.  As a little background, on Mondays we do what I call “Artist Monday”.  I show a video ranging in length from 3 minutes up to 10 minutes about a current artist.  (Artists Have a Global Awareness of Artmaking) When I choose the video we will watch, I try to keep it in line with the big idea of the current unit.  So, back to Maxwell Rushton.  He created an installation called “Left Out“. It communicates a message about homelessness and our perception of the homeless population.  Students reflected on the video on their BlendSpaces.  Another video I showed over the course of the unit was about Latina printmaker Kirsten Lapore.

One other short activity my students did was a simple sketchbook assignment.  They were asked to break one of their sketchbook pages into 6 boxes.  In each box they had to convey a certain idea–without using the items in the description.  Descriptions included: smell of a fresh baked apple pie, feeling of loneliness, sound of an approaching train, the taste of a hot pepper, the feel of lambskin, and an alarm clock at 5am.  The activity forced students to think of line, shape, and color when creating their sketches.

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We spent a day, which probably was really boring until about half-way thru the slide show when the students got to participate.  I showed a slide show that also touched briefly on planning and research.  (This was the boring part.)  Then we got to the communication part and the slide with 5 photos of artworks.  We discussed what they thought the meaning was.  I talked about what the artist intended.  Then we discussed what the artist did to convey those ideas and messages.

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That night, after a full day of that slideshow, I realized that the works I chose were very heavy with meaning.  I wanted my students to know that artists also communicated other things that weren’t so steeped with deep meaning.  Here is the pinterest board with the images I chose.  I set up Padlet boards for each class, and one by one I would put up an image and the students would chime in with what they thought the artist was saying and how they determined that.  I was impressed with my students.  They really read the images well.  It lead to great discussions.  As things were posted, I would say some things out loud and ask questions.  I could see the students contemplating, then some would reply out loud with their thoughts.

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This brought us to studio time.  My young artists were asked to fill out an artwork proposal for what they wanted to create.  My students really put a lot of thought into their work.  Some students knew what they wanted to communicate, but didn’t know how to convey that.  Others knew what they wanted to make, but didn’t know what they wanted to say about their image(s).  That’s where the meetings came in.  When a student turned in their proposal, I read over the form and wrote down questions and comments.  Then I went and talked with each student.  It really helped me to understand their thoughts, and it helped them to see what “tools” to use to help convey their message…colors, line, composition, viewpoint, symbols, etc.

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One thing that I was really impressed with was how much my students prepared for their final artworks.  Some gathered photo references.  Some did sketch after sketch trying to improve their skills.  Many watched videos to learn new skills–such as drawing and shading eyes.  I had students trying out new mediums.  They were all so into what they were doing.  They put so much into their artwork.

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Anyway, we concluded the unit by setting up weebly websites/blogs.  I wanted my students to have an online portfolio; something different than the BlendSpace.  I see the BlendSpace as a place for research and collecting thoughts.  The websites are for finished artworks with artist statements.  They are something where they can show off their work.  We learned about artist statements and looked at statements by my artist friend, Roger Mudre, and at my artist statement.  So, now when my students finish an artwork, they take a photo, write an artist statement, and create a new blogpost.

For the first time in a long time, I felt my students’ artworks were at the same caliber as those from the students from my peers, such as Joy Schultz, Ian Sands, and Melissa Purtee. Their students always seem to have so much depth in their art, and now my kids did too. Proud teacher moment, if I do say so myself.  I hope we keep up this momentum because I can only imagine how amazing my students will be by the end of the year.