I’m Feeling the Luck O’ the Irish!

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One of my students helped write a list of words for our class during X week. I really like her fancy way of writing the letter S! It’s amazing how fancying up that one letter creates a font-like effect. Love her accompanying illustration too! Her dad noticed the sign and immediately recognized her personal artistic voice!

Exciting news!  I found my camera! It had been missing for two months, and last Friday I asked a coworker if he had seen it, and he had it in his office!  He told me that someone found it in the parking lot and turned it in to him. I knew I had grabbed it from my classroom, but I assumed that it had gotten misplaced in the shuffle at home. I had searched my classroom, the art studio, the main office, and my house. The memory card is missing, but I had a spare!

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day today, and I made green smoothies today with my students. We used spinach, green apples, pineapple, banana, and green grapes as well as some almond milk. The kids absolutely loved the smoothies. We went through about five quarts with 18 children! I tested it out on my own personal teenage sons at home tonight. Sadly…they aren’t as adventurous as my kindergarten students! (And I didn’t even tell them it had spinach in it!)

I also set up some precut rainbow colored paper strips, black cauldron shapes, shamrock shapes, yellow circles for gold coins, star stickers, and tempera paint. My morning students got the idea to make cauldrons they could put coins in by stapling two cauldrons together. They also decided to make leprechaun hats and beards.  This meant doing some problem solving to figure out how to create hats. We ended up deciding to make headbands and then staple hat shapes to the headbands. The bright orange paper beards were quite a sight!

The sticker stars were a big hit. I had a child that made a face on the cauldron using stars. I had another write his name and surround it with stars. I had another cover the handle of the cauldron with stars. In the afternoon one of my students painted a cloud and rainbow on her cauldron. Another student cut a different colored square for each letter of her name making a rainbow across her cauldron. Though I have to admit….that I prefer studio time when kids generate their own topics, it was nice to see how many different ways the children explored the St. Patrick’s Day theme with the available materials.

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Last week was Z week and one of the prompts I put out for the students was zigzag shaped paper strips. I was able to use up some interesting scrap papers as well as some colorful construction paper. One of my students  even created her own Zentangle style designs on her zigzags. She was justifiably proud of the way she wrote her name with zigzag letters too!

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Here are some additional pieces of Zig zag art:

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The one below is made by a little boy that’s crazy about the Seahawks and for the past two months all of his art work has been Seahawks green and blue. I like how he created some three dimensional zigzags!

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Hope you enjoy your Saint Patrick’s Day! I’m toasting mine with a Guiness as well as a green smoothie!

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My Message to the Badass Association of Teachers

francifularts:

When learning is truly meaningful to students they do not resist, complain of boredom, or count the minutes until they can leave. Students will stay past the end of the school day, students will beg for more time, and they will be proud of their accomplishments. As an educator I have experienced both sides of the equation. In positions that I have truly been able to support student learning I have left work on cloud nine. In positions in which I was under pressure to “cover” the material and prepare for tests, I have left work ground down and exhausted.
If students are to truly achieve their potential, their individual interests must be supported in the classroom, because that is what motivates them to become lifelong learners, innovators, entrepreneurs, and successful, happy people!
The bottom line is that more teachers, mentors, and caring adults are needed in children’s lives to help them achieve their potentials. Our current system of education is like most businesses. Everyone is expected to do more with less. American workers in the past few years have been touted as being even more productive than ever recorded previously. At the same time most workers are making far less proportionally when you compare the cost of living than Americans did 50 years ago.
It would be expensive to hire more teachers and assistants, but not only are our nation’s children the most important investment for the future we can make, but I feel assured the results would surpass our highest expectations.
In my humble opinion, children should be supported in learning through play not just in preschool, but all through elementary school. In middle school and high school they should have opportunities to work on special projects they are truly interested in where they can problem solve and use skills like reading and writing and quantitative analysis to effectively communicate their learning to their peers.
The factory system of education where we churn large groups of children through the schools, and force them to sit doing meaningless paper tasks for hours on end, give them a pitiful amount of outdoor recreation time, and for the most part extremely abominable school lunches is criminal in a nation which is one of the wealthiest in the world.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

I was uneasy with the name , but I got over it.

The reality is that the Badass Association of Teachers fills a need. Teachers have been beaten up in the media, and have seen state after state strip away their academic freedom, their rights, their status in the community.

I was invited to join and to write an address to the BAT. This is it.

And here it is in full (by the way, I am uncomfortable with the name lie many others, but our struggle requires militants and BAT is the point of the spear):

Message of Support from Diane Ravitch to the Badass Teachers Association

Dear Members of the Badass Teachers Association,

I am honored to join your group.

The best hope for the future of our society, of public education, and of the education profession is that people stand up and resist.

Say “no.” Say…

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It’s Been a Long Slog, but a Rainbow’s in View!

I often think about my blog. It seems like a lifetime ago that it was something I really enjoyed working on. It’s sad that it’s been months since I’ve posted anything. It’s even been months since I checked my site visit statistics. I was actually surprised when I checked this evening that I had had anyone viewing my blog, as I haven’t had any new posts since last year.

My new job this year has really zapped my energy level.  Not only have I been learning how to take care of everything that’s required in regards to state licensing and supervising employees, but I have some really challenging student behaviors to contend with, not to mention developing a whole new curriculum. I haven’t read a Teacher Tom post  or the Teaching for Artistic Behavior list serv (my two favorite things on the web) since Christmas. I’ve just been swamped and overwhelmed.

Between working a lot,  trying to keep my ravenous teenage sons fed, and keeping my house in a nominal state of order I just have not had the time to write, or the energy to share much. Then a few weeks ago I lost my camera, so I have no photos either! It’s a bummer because it was a nice camera, and the memory card had some great photos on it! Sadly there will be no photos with this post!

In any event, today was a really great day, and this week overall has been pretty good! It’s Friday evening and I’m not so wiped out that  all I can do is order a pizza and watch a movie before I collapse into bed!

One of my most difficult students left our program for another program. Monday was his last day. Monday one of my assistants called in sick, and we had to do some scrambling to find a substitute, which also added to a bit of the craziness. Señor Difficult knew he was leaving and had even less incentive than usual to do his best. Monday was an exhausting day. It was a sad day too. Despite the challenges he presented, I really liked Señor Difficult. Today we got a new student and he is a good listener, follows directions, and is very cheerful and smiley! Hallelujah!

Fridays are our art studio days, and my personal mantra is Friday Fun Day! All of my demos since January have related to sculpture. One of the things that students in past years have really loved is creating things from boxes. This year’s class has mostly ignored my box full of cardboard tubes and  boxes. Today I read the book Not A Box by Antoinette Portis which is about a bunny that has all kinds of imaginative ideas about what the box really is. When the kids got to the art studio almost all of them headed for the 3-d construction center to grab a box. They made some wonderful homes for their stuffed animals, Lego men, and dolls. One boy made a ferry boat. One girl made a castle. It was also the first time this year I’ve gotten out the glue gun. I’ve wanted the kids to use other kinds of attachments, because the glue gun though a quick easy way to attach things, is not really very permanent, long lasting glue.

This year my afternoon class which is larger and has the most challenging students, has had to help me not only put away things like scissors and glue, but get all supplies back on shelves, wash the tables, and sweep the floor as the art studio is not our exclusive space and we have to prepare it for the next group. And remember these are five and six year olds that are having to help me do this. It’s been a really challenging part of art studio day. Instead of taking the 15 minutes it’s supposed to, it’s taken  half an hour, and we’ve rarely had time to share what the kids have created. The sad part about that is that the gallery walk and sharing is one of the main things that inspires the student artists to come up with new ideas. The sharing opens up the doors to new possibilities and ways to use materials as students inspire each other. Today the kids zipped through the clean up and we had time for a gallery walk and sharing in the morning and the afternoon. I was so happy! The main reason I think we were able to zip through the clean up was because Señor Difficult was not there. It gives me a lot of optimism for Art Studio Fridays to come!

I hope I find my camera!  I hope the rest of the year is as great as today was! I’m optimistic, and hope to have at least a monthly posting until school is out for the summer!

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Tomorrow is Friday!

This painting was created with a q tip rather than a paint brush.  I found students actually seem to have better control of the paint media with a q tip than with paint brushes.

This painting was created with a q tip rather than a paint brush. I found students actually seem to have better control of the paint media with a q tip than with paint brushes.

My life as a kindergarten enrichment teacher still is a bit of a rollercoaster. Some days are joyous and filled with wonder, hugs, and the magic of childhood. Thankfully most days are good!

This colorful bridge was quite a bone of contention as the builder did not want other children to drive their trains on his bridge. Thankfully.....there were other roads and bridges for children to use!

This colorful bridge was quite a bone of contention as the builder did not want other children to drive their trains on his bridge. Thankfully…..there were other roads and bridges for children to use!

Some days are grueling filled with five year old drama kings and queens, bandaids, administrative work, and skeptical coworkers.  (One of my assistants has a habit of grumbling about my hands on and up to your elbows in paint messy open ended activities I have on offer. She’s not quite convinced that a constructivist approach that supports student creativity is the ticket. But she suffers nobly for my cause! None of us is perfect, and though she grumbles she also does some great work with the children.)  I still haven’t found a work-life balance with this job. Too many hours working, and not enough family and relaxation time.

Sand volcanos erupting when vinegar is poured on baking soda in the crater. Lots of sand on floor, but highly worth the clean up time as kids oohs and ahhs proved!

Sand volcanos erupting when vinegar is poured on baking soda in the crater. Lots of sand on floor, but highly worth the clean up time as kids oohs and ahhs proved!

I have to admit that Thanksgiving break was absolutely necessary to my sanity. It was something to be able to sleep in four days in a row! I cooked up a feast on Thanksgiving and enjoyed leftovers with my family all weekend.  We played board games, went to see a movie, and I read a novel. Boy did I feel indulged and revved up to get back to work this week!

These plastic interlocking blocks have been a huge favorite this year with the boys. Generally they are creating spaceships, blasters, and bombs. This robot warrior is probably the most complex creation so far this year. Suddenly about an hour after it was put up in the window for safekeeping it toppled over which was a surprise the children liked. Even the maker was a good sport about it and laughed.

These plastic interlocking blocks have been a huge favorite this year with the boys. Generally they are creating spaceships, blasters, and bombs. This robot warrior is probably the most complex creation so far this year. Suddenly about an hour after it was put up in the window for safekeeping it toppled over which was a surprise the children liked. Even the maker was a good sport about it and laughed.

Pinterest has been my greatest teaching aid this year. I can search a topic like hedgehogs and get all kinds of ideas and resources to share with my students. I  make new boards each week to organize my curriculum ideas and themes. I can turn my ipad over to my assistant and say, “Use the cloud board to find the video I selected on types of clouds, and show photos of the different types of clouds.” This week was M week and one day I read the Steven Kellogg book, “How Much is a Million”.  The next day I was able to show a wonderful video I pinned from  You Tube of James Earl Jones reading one of my favorite books Millions of Cats (by Wanda G’ag).

A week ago I made this white, glittery playdough.  It was the first time this year I made unscented playdough. The kids were just really tough on me because it didn't have an exotic scent. This week we had green peppermint scented playdough which was student approved!

A week ago I made this white, glittery playdough. It was the first time this year I made unscented playdough. The kids were just really tough on me because it didn’t have an exotic scent. This week we had green peppermint scented playdough which was student approved!

I still sit on the fence about whether I should continue in this position next year or go back to my homeschool groups. Part of me reminisces so fondly about those students and the classes I taught, and part of me is really enjoying the depth of the relationships I’m developing with my students because I’m with them five days a week. I think that next year will be so much easier and hopefully less time consuming, because of all the ground work I’m laying this year. The paycheck is a major carrot, but I often wistfully think about the block collection I left behind, the small classes with almost perfectly behaved children, and the time I had to create some of my own art.

We had tried basic paper weaving.  Then I showed the students how paper weaving could be used in non-traditional shapes and ways. I was thrilled when this student created a paper woven bird!

We had tried basic paper weaving. Then I showed the students how paper weaving could be used in non-traditional shapes and ways. I was thrilled when this student created a paper woven bird!

I think the highlight of this first week of December was yesterday when one of my students that often seems inattentive to the lessons I present was playing with some yarn pom poms. I had put out the pom poms for a craft activity and she was enjoying sorting them by color and pairing them up. She said, ” Look teacher, this white one doesn’t have a buddy.” This absolutely thrilled me, because several weeks ago I introduced the concept of odd and even numbers by putting on my own drama queen moment with some plastic bear math manipulatives.  I made the bears cry when there was an odd amount and a bear was left without a buddy. ( When I asked my assistant to use the same approach in the afternoon she wasn’t thrilled. My assistant really pooh poohed my lesson saying, “Oh they can’t possibly understand that.” I had to grit my teeth, but I also realize she has her own way of presenting information which suits her style and personality.) I wasn’t happy because I could secretly gloat about my assistant’s comment (well maybe not entirely true!), but because my approach had connected with the children. A parent was dropping off his daughter and I shared with him the “odd/even” pom pom moment. He confirmed that his daughter is also making connections and discussing what she’s doing in the kindergarten enrichment program on a regular basis at home.

I wish I could show you the photos of the students digging in tubs of dirt and absolutely loving holding the earthworms they found there as part of one of our science activities. thankfully the worms aren't as picky about internet privacy so you can see them!

I wish I could show you the photos of the students digging in tubs of dirt and absolutely loving holding the earthworms they found there as part of one of our science activities. Thankfully the worms aren’t as picky about internet privacy so you can see them!

Each day I think about supplies and equipment I’d love to acquire for my class. Most of the time I’m too busy setting up hands-on activities or putting materials away to sit down at the computer and order them. When I’m not at work  I’m at home cooking playdough, searching my bookshelves for that certain book I want to read to the children, gathering materials I need from my garage which is my teaching supply warehouse, or looking at Pinterest.

I brought some tumbled glass back from the Washington Art Ed Assoc. convention and today the children really enjoyed creating mosaic trivets which they'll be giving as gifts for the holidays.

I brought some tumbled glass back from the Washington Art Ed Assoc. convention and today the children really enjoyed creating mosaic trivets which they’ll be giving as gifts for the holidays.

Tomorrow is Friday which is our art studio day and I’m glad to have made it through another week!

A collage for Grandma created two Fridays ago in the art studio.

A collage for Grandma created two Fridays ago in the art studio.

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Photography: “Time is a Dimension…”

francifularts:

I really enjoyed these photos and thought I’d share them!

Originally posted on Katerina'sGift:

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Photographer: Fong Qi Wei

source: a-pistefto.blogspot.gr

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Beware of the Chompers!

I’m finally starting to have fun on my job!  Here’s what we’ve been up to this week!

We made fresh peanut butter with my Champion juicer and then made peanut butter playdough so we could create hedgehogs and other critters.

We made fresh peanut butter with my Champion juicer and then made peanut butter playdough so we could create hedgehogs and other critters.

This hedgehog's got a mohawk!

This hedgehog’s got a mohawk!

Paper plates turned out to be quite an inspiration for my young artists!

One of my quiet student's has really shown a flair for painting and drawing in the last few weeks!

One of my quiet student’s has really shown a flair for painting and drawing in the last few weeks! I just love how the little bit of orange in this drawing has so much impact against the blues and greens!

Two girls were proud to tell me they were creating a picture together. I was excited to tell them, “It’s wonderful to see you collaborating!
P1080952 I like how the children combined two types of building materials and the stuffed animals in this creation. I imagine the animals were vying for who would be king of the hill!

P1080954 This week our special letter was H. I saw a simple craft to create a house on Pinterest. I love how my students made such a variety of houses!

L. had so much fun narrating the story about his haunted house. He kept adding more and more monsters and creatures and the story became quite detailed. I wrote down his story and tried to get everyone else's down too. They can talk so much faster than I can write!

L. had so much fun narrating the story about his haunted house. He kept adding more and more monsters and creatures and the story became quite detailed. I wrote down his story and tried to get everyone else’s down too. They can talk so much faster than I can write!

Love the textures and feeling of movement in this piece by R.

Love the textures and feeling of movement in this piece by R.

P1080967 Katelynn's house

Love how the glue looks like snow in this collage! I also love the fact that she cut it out and didn’t have a rectangular picture like everyone else.

.... came but dad slept in the closet.     Pretty amazing story for a five year old!  Love how she included three dimensional pieces in her creation. Those are the chompers and you better watch out, because they might chomp on you!

…. came but dad slept in the closet.
Pretty amazing story for a five year old! Love how she included three dimensional pieces in her creation. Those are the chompers and you better watch out, because they might chomp on you!

Happy Halloween!

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Whack-a-Mole

It's always darkest before the dawn! (N is for Night and recently the students created night paintings when we were learning about nocturnal animals.)

It’s always darkest before the dawn! (N is for Night and recently the students created night paintings when we were learning about nocturnal animals.)

I’ve had an incredibly difficult start to the school year. In fact it’s been a real nightmare! Thankfully things finally seem to be gelling and coming together in a positive way! My morning class has been ok, but my afternoon class has had me pulling my hair.

Last Friday several boys were playing with the plastic animals in the block area. My instinct was to redirect them to using blocks to build something for the animals, but I restrained myself.  After about 15 minutes they got the idea to build a zoo all on their own.  I was happy I didn't interfere!

Last Friday several boys were playing with the plastic animals in the block area. My instinct was to redirect them to using blocks to build something for the animals, but I restrained myself. After about 15 minutes they got the idea to build a zoo all on their own. I was happy I didn’t interfere!

I started a new job as a kindergarten enrichment teacher this fall in a program I formerly was only responsible for art enrichment one day a week. That means that not only do I teach art, but I teach the entire curriculum from literacy, to math and science, to Spanish. (I try to approach it all from an arts perspective, because I strongly believe visual arts, music, movement, and drama really are fundamental ways that we learn and retain information.) I was hired last minute, and I had to hire two assistants even more last minute(!) from a very sparse pool of applicants.  However, the worst thing has been that I have a very unfortunate mix of children that are “like chalk and cheese” to borrow a phrase from my new favorite TV show (Doc Martin: which I’ve absolutely needed to watch every Friday night to decompress).  I felt like I was playing whack-a-mole in terms of behavior issues the entire first month. I’d get one situation in hand and suddenly have two or three more pop up, and even with help from assistants we were barely treading water.  As my supervisor put it quite aptly, “Your students are positively feral!” After a month, two children that provoked the majority of behavioral issues left the program which was a huge help. I still had my work cut out for me to shape up the rest of the “major players”, but finally that really seems to be happening! Most of my students are actually super sweet, cooperative, and wonderful, but the difficult ones seem to make the great kids invisible, primarily because they create so much stress and drama. I have been so exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally, and it finally feels as if my life is getting back to normal and my energy and my smile are back!

A student found a witch hat someone  left in the art room and was inspired to play with a Wizard of Oz theme and he drew this witch.

A student found a witch hat someone left in the art room and was inspired to play Wizard of Oz with a couple of other students and then he drew this witch.

When I got this job I was really happy because instead of coordinating several part time jobs I’d have one full time job in one location. I was also happy because I’d finally be making a living wage after quite a few years struggling and piecing together part time jobs. Soon I found myself thinking, “How am I going to make it to the end of the school year, I barely have the wherewithal to make it to the weekend!” I wanted to quit. The work I’d had the past few years as an art educator (which I’ve shared with you in this blog) had been demanding, and time consuming, but it was energizing and most importantly fun! All I could think of was that I had given up something that had really made me happy. I wanted to go back to my homeschool students. I wanted to be teaching art exclusively instead of being responsible for the whole curriculum. I felt guilty knowing that having a new teacher would be another upheaval and set back for this group. Then I began to realize my supervisor was considering firing me. She never came out and said it, but I sensed it. I realized I didn’t even care if I got fired. In fact it would have been a relief, and I kind of wish she had! Now that things are finally going well, I know I’ll make it through the school year. There will probably always be challenging moments or the occasional difficult day, just as there always are no matter how great your job is, but as long as things are mostly hunky dory I know I can muster up what’s required.

My students always love painting with metallic watercolors. This student create a cast for her arm with her metallic watercolor painting.

My students always love painting with metallic watercolors. This student create a cast for her arm with her metallic watercolor painting.

I’m still feeling as if I’m barely treading water in terms of all of the requirements of my job, but that’s definitely par for the course with a new job. I’ve been wanting to write this post for a couple of weeks now, but today was the first time I got home from work early and had the time to write it!

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Students and I made sand dough. One of the students used the empty sand dough container to create this very “loose parts a la Reggio” creation.

Despite all of the challenges I do have some photos to share! There have been some activities that students have enjoyed and had fun getting creative!

Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy students created art with leaves and rocks today, which was the first sunny day we've had after a very foggy week.

Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy students created art with leaves and rocks today, which was the first sunny day we’ve had after a very foggy week.

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