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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About francifularts

I am an independent art educator. I had my first experience teaching ceramics when I was 24 and worked in the University for Youth program at the University of Denver. As an elementary school teacher I always found myself integrating the arts across the curriculum, which led to me working as an artist in the schools. In May of 2008 I began a master's program with Lesley University in their Creative Arts in Learning Program. It was a truly transformative and incredible experience which led me to decide to devote the rest of my teaching career to teaching art, and through the arts. About the same time that I completed my master's degree in January of 2011 I was hired to teach art in two different programs. I have never been happier in my work as a teacher, and I really appreciate the wonderful professors and cohort of fellow teachers I studied with at Lesley University. I also want to thank all of the wonderful arts educators that I have met online through the TAB/choice list serv for their thoughtful posts and insightful suggestions for teaching art!
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5 Responses to Whack-a-Mole

  1. roylcoblog says:

    These are lovely photos. I’m sure that there is huge pressure now to make your new career work with the challenges that you face everyday, but it’s all part of a lifelong learning experience and your hard work benefits the children who are fortunate enough to have you as their teacher. Best of luck with your endeavors!

  2. It really has been quite a learning experience! Hopefully if I ever have another super challenging group I will be much better equipped to handle it!

  3. Lauralee Deluca says:

    Hi Francis-
    I had heard that you were really busy, now i know how and why! Looks like you are doing great work. Congrads on you new position-i think!
    If you get a chance on your way home Friday, stop at the LARC gallery and see the new show and vote for your favorite piece. I’m hoping to get enough votes so i can display my stuff there free for 3 months. Whoops! Maybe you are too! If you are too tired i certainly understand.
    No need to respond, i understand busy like few others do. Good Luck and Have Fun!!
    Lauralee

  4. Hi Lauralee, I’d be happy to stop by the LARC gallery and see your work and vote for you to receive 3 months of free gallery space! I’m assuming it’s felted wool pieces. Unfortunately I don’t have any new creations to display, as I’ve been pretty preoccupied with my new job. Things are going much better there, and I’m starting to imagine that I might actually have some time to create some art or tend my garden here soon!

  5. Beth says:

    Oh, My Gosh! How are you doing it? Can you hang in there? I too find the imps in my art classes a problem and am very discouraged sometimes. It has been a challenge for me to learn to discipline other people’s children. I am getting better, and my steps forward feel like a big triumph, but this is definitely my weak area. I appreciate your honesty. You told it like it is!!!!! It’s so hard to balance freedom of expression with enough structure to keep some children from being disruptive….Good luck! I hope things keep getting better.

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