Who’s that tired lady I thought was my teacher?

Lizard Queen presiding over her minions! (Definitely not the metaphor I want for my teaching and classroom experiences!)

Lizard Queen presiding over her minions! (Definitely not the metaphor I want for my teaching and classroom experiences!) (Collage by Bronwyn)

The past few weeks have been intensely busy, and I’ve been feeling wiped out and drained.   It’s hard to believe that it’s only been three weeks since spring break!  It feels more like a lifetime! Instead of leaving school on cloud nine after a day of art with the kiddos, I’ve been leaving school grumping and dwelling on the challenging and difficult moments in my day.

Wondering if this could be me after a tough group of short people!

Wondering if this could be me after a tough group of short people! (Drawing by Audrey)

I realized that my schedule has been busier than it was earlier in the year because I’ve been teaching some additional classes at the new art store in my town.  My kids have also had more extra curricular commitments which has made me have to chauffeur them around more, which in turn means dinner later, and any chores or school prep get finished later too. Although the school year will be over soon, I’ve still got a lot of deadlines, and school events looming. There doesn’t seem to be such a thing as winding down, it just goes full bore up to the last day!

I was beginning to think that perhaps I just don’t have my heart in teaching any more, because I was feeling annoyed  with a few students for blurting, or talking when they were supposed to be listening for instance.  (I try to keep my talking to a minimum so we can maximize studio time.  And kids have no restrictions on conversing and collaborating during studio time!) I don’t want to get to the point that I hate going to work!  When I reflected more seriously about my feelings I knew that in my heart, teaching is my calling, and spending time with children really brings me tremendous joy. I was simply tired!

Pooped out Teacher Frances backed into a corner by seemingly endless work and life responsibilities!

Pooped out Teacher Frances backed into a corner by seemingly endless work and life responsibilities! (Sockpet by Phebe)

 

I don’t know if it’s the great weather we’ve been having, getting to bed earlier, or just realizing that I need to focus more on the positive, but I feel as if I’ve come out from under the dark cloud which was shadowing  me!

We’ve had an unusually gorgeous spring, and the kids are anxious to be outside.  And who can blame them?  Here in the Pacific Northwest great weather has been in short supply  for several years.

I came home last Friday and got my sons to come help me with some yard work outside. It was the best therapy ever! Saturday morning I got up and made a list of things I needed to do on the weekend, and I actually got most of them done! Sunday I was able to  spend some time on school work preparations, which included testing a photo sensitive dye on fabric. (Inko Dye…really interesting results….looking forward to more experiments with students!)

Samples of Inko dyed fabric  from Sunday experiments. The animals were made with silly bands.  The stars were created with plastic cut up from an old school folder.

Samples of Inko dyed fabric from Sunday experiments. The animals were made with silly bands. The stars were created with plastic cut up from an old school folder.

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I’ve had a great week at school so far, and I feel excited about the activities to come before school ends! And now that I’ve gotten some major tasks off of my to do list, it actually does feel if school is winding down!

Student challenges will always be there. However, having a good sense of humor, and empathy are essential! There are always alternative ways to approach problems, and there’s no sense banging one’s head against the wall, when one can tunnel under, leap over, or make a detour. Sometimes that’s changing and adapting curriculum, and sometimes it’s trying a new strategy for managing challenging behaviors.

So….enough sturm and dross, and on with artmaking! I just heard Pierce Brosnan’s interview on NPR, and I loved how he finished by saying, “It’s work. Nothing comes from nothing. It’s always about doing, and showing up, and trying to get better at the job.” That desire to stretch, try harder, and discover the “new” in what is potentially “old hat” is what keeps the flames burning and the energy flowing in any work whether it’s acting, teaching, or running a cash register at the local grocery store. And I’m so glad I haven’t thrown in the towel, because after all, life isn’t always a steady trajectory!

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Color mixing exploration by Bronwyn

I just found out that today is Teacher Appreciation Day, and that my post about overcoming burn out couldn’t have been more ironically timed!  I’m here to say that I appreciate the opportunity I’ve had to be a teacher, and my students are incredible teachers that I learn from every day! My most heartfelt thanks to my  students for making my life immeasurably richer and for sharing your zest for the pleasures to be found in little things like watching an ant, to the big things like painting a bold stripe of red across a painting!

Gelli plate monoprint created by Izzy

Gelli plate monoprint created by Izzy

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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 Who’s that tired lady I thought was my teacher?

  1. roylcoblog says:

    Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! I love that you progressed from an anxious and overwhelmed tone to hopeful and excited with a newfound sense of joy for your work. It sometimes seems like therapy even just to write it all out! I love the artwork that you’ve experimented with and it ties in so nicely with your poignant theme about exploring ways to rekindle that joy and zest for teaching, even when all the odds are against you. Wishing you all the best!

  2. Thanks for your kind words! Glad you enjoyed the art I shared! All of it was created in the last week by students in my classes! I’m off to another exciting day at the homeschool enrichment program! I just loaded the car with art supplies, and am sipping some tea before making school lunches and mustering the troops to head out to school!

  3. Beth says:

    I did a printmaking session with 3rd through 5th graders last year and it was SO EXCITING but logistically difficult. We used that styrofoamy stuff you can draw on with a pencil and regular paper and water based printing ink, (for clothing preservation and realistic non-solvent clean-up…but it didn’t stick well.) Nonetheless the results were beautiful. Ink went EVERYWHERE! What is the best way to do this. The children loved it. I feel like writing a lot of exclamation marks. Beth

  4. I really love styrofoam printmaking with students too! I also use waterbase printing ink with my students, and have had good results. Personally I’ve been please with the Dick Blick inks I’ve purchased. I usually put the ink in tin pie plates or even on paper plates. I let the kids use the brayers in one color and then another. The color combinations are far more interesting. We do make a mess! The hardest thing with the young students is keeping fingerprints off the print. I demo wiping my hands off and picking up the print carefully….but a construction paper frame around the print hides a multitude of smudges!

    A drying rack is also an incredible piece of equipment to have in the art studio. The prints go on the shelves and are not spread out all over the floor or tables. I got mine from Discount School Supply on sale for about $100.00.

    With the choice studio approach I only have 4-6 students exploring printmaking at a time. I don’t offer printmaking until the end of the year when students have become quite independent and can function well with other choices such as drawing, collage, and 3-d construction. All have the opportunity to try printmaking, but not all do. Usually about 3/4 of the group will filter into the printmaking station to try it.

  5. Beth…I thought of another helpful strategy with printmaking. Have the kids ink their styrofoam plates on one end of the table and have them make the prints on another end of the table so that the inking mess stays away from the printing area.

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