First Saturday

holding handsI’m sitting here at the kitchen table the first Saturday after school started this week. We had the students Thursday and Friday. What was old in May is new again in August. It is my nineteenth year of teaching elementary art in a small rural Texas school and my first days of school were good.

In the hallway the first day I saw a mom come in with her fifth grader. Mom had on what we used to call “a house dress”, big wire curlers and fuzzy house shoes. The daughter was holding her hand and grinning from ear to ear. The Granddad was carrying two bags of school supplies. They stopped and the Granddad said to me,”She said her mom couldn’t embarrass her the first day of school.” The girl laughed and posed with her mom for a selfie. As they separated and the girl walked on to the gym the mom looked like tears were close. But she also looked happy. And so did her child.

Harry Wong’s words ring in my ears. “The first days of school are so important.” As I welcomed my students this year I remember again that the first two things in their heads are, ” Am I in the right place?” and “Does she know my name?”

On the first day of school, your name is the only thing that really belongs to you. Everything else, your time, your brain, even when you eat and go to the bathroom becomes part of “the schedule”.  So to a kid, ” my name”, “my seat” and “my chair” become a big identity thing. After a couple of months of summer freedom that comes as a shock to the system.

Lots of good things happen. Like a student that brought me a cookie at Meet the Teacher night. It said something like”May your days be great and your coffee be strong.” I can’t remember exactly because I ate that sucker the first day of school. It helped.

I get to see big brothers and big sisters walk their siblings around my room and say ” I used to sit here.” And “This room looks so small, I thought it was bigger!” I even had a former student bring their child to meet me because they were going to be in my class this year. I’m getting old.

Even the challenges are somehow familiar and endearing. “No you can’t say fart.” “No, you should not make a fart noise even if you are not farting.” There is nothing in the world funnier to a fifth grader than a fart.

I had a small sixth grade class practice safety drills. As we practiced the lock down drill the mood turned quiet. They were sitting on the floor, away from windows with their backs against cabinets. I turned off the lights to show them how the room would look, “See, we can still see each other with the light coming through the cracks in the blinds.” I told them how my number one job is to keep them safe, even before teaching art. And you could see the concern in their eyes. I hate that our world has put that concern there. The one student said, “It’s ok, I’m a black belt.” Everyone laughed and came back to their seat. But I got hugs as they left the class.

And so I realize once again how precious these children are and what a privilege it is to be with them each day. It was a good start.

 

 

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Clay Rams

#mwisdmatters

Being a Mineral Wells Ram has its advantages. Like creating a great little pinch-pot ram to remind you of your great school. Travis 4th, 5th and 6th graders are starting to finish up this fun clay project in art class. Glazed with our school colors and created with a lot of enthusiasm and imagination some little rams are making their way home today!

3-D Snowflakes

#mwisdmatters

It has been unusually warm here in north Texas. I’m not complaining mind you but I’m craving a little Christmas weather.

The kind of weather where a pot of chili with cornbread takes the chill off your bones. The kind of weather that makes cider and hot chocolate taste good. Sweater weather. So time for a little snow artwork.

My good friend Billie Slater used to bring her Cadets into the building singing…”Pray for snow….pray for snow….” in their best Native American chant rhythm. Well I’m not quite up to that vocally, so we are making snowflakes. Big 3-D snowflakes. I found a very clear tutorial here on the wonderful blog, One Less Headache. Add good instructions plus a sprinkling of science and math and voila, 3-D snowflakes.

 

I have my winter board done too for a little extra snow mojo.

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Let’s get this straight…..not sleet…not ice..I want snow, the big fluffy kind you make snow ice cream with.

Every Once in A While

feet-716257_1280#mwisdmatters

This is the long haul in teaching. From the enthusiasm and excitement of the first day of school in late August until the Fall Break in November. More and more on weekends I turn to my husband,who is a retired teacher, and say, ” Listen.” He says, ” I know, no one is saying your name, asking a question, tugging on your  arm…it’s quiet.”  I smile. He understands.

But yesterday, something happened that shook me out of my ” Oh my gosh, what now…” mindset. A small quiet fifth-grader, a slender wisp of a boy, did something so grand…..

We were at recess playing a game called ” Steal the Bacon”. Two classes line up at either end of the gym and when their number is called two children from either side run up and try to grab the “Bacon” (a cloth bundled to look like a slab of bacon ) and run back to their side without being tagged.  All children are included in recess games, so several students that have special needs are in the line-ups.

Not once, but twice, this quiet young man was paired up against a special need’s child. Both times, he let the special need’s child win, in a moment that was not too obvious but full of understanding. Both classes in the game applauded, no complaining. It was one of those moments in teaching that happens every once in a while and takes your breath away with its compassion. And in this bitter election season it gives me hope for humanity.

I asked the quiet boy privately why he did what he did. He looked up at me and said,” My mom told me that if someone is like that, it is my job to take care of them, to let them win if they can and feel good.” Good job Mom. I told him I was proud of him and gave him a 200 club ticket, something we do to promote unsolicited acts of kindness. So in this long haul up to Thanksgiving I am thankful to teach a child like that, to experience those moments and learn from them.

Image Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

 

 

 

Andy Griffith in the Art Room?

I began studying the Grant Wood painting, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, in fifth grade this week. The study of the painting is followed by a student composition that shows their understanding of the bird’s-eye point of view used by Wood.

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I began the class with an analysis of the painting based on a great lesson plan, from Picturing America, a project from the National Endowment for the Humanities. I asked my class how many knew the story of Paul Revere’s ride.  Not one hand went up. Ready for this I had remembered an OLD episode of The Andy Griffith Show I had seen. I like to use video clips to illustrate my lessons. For this technology-laden generation, anything that appears on a screen captures student’s attention immediately.

My kids were shocked to see a black and white image appear and one young one popped up with, “Oh, my grandma watches this all the time!” Body-blows to my ego non-withstanding, the five minute clip shows sheriff Andy helping history come alive by telling the story of the ride of Paul Revere. In my opinion, a great telling of the story, which made my students look again at Grant Wood’s painting with new eyes. It was a great class.

Wikiart Image

publicdomain

 

Like I Said..

dog-1240645_1280It’s a good thing to keep journals when you’re a teacher. That way, when you finally do go round the bend, the docs can read your journal and say ” Ah yes, this was the exact moment she slipped over the edge.”

 

..just after New Years’ a few years back

We were discussing the concept of space in artwork (the area around, within and between objects) in a 5th grade art class. I’m using food as my example because that always gets their attention. I’m talking with one student who is obviously not getting it.

Me: “Tell me the name of a food that has a hole in it.”

Student: Nothing. Silence. Crickets chirping.

Me: “OK, I’ll give you a hint. You eat it for breakfast and you buy it at Dunkin….”

Student:  “Pancakes? ”

Really. You can’t make this stuff up.

Me: “Class, help him out.”

Class: “Donuts!”

I’m trying to make this student feel better, so I say …

Me: “Let’s switch to another art element, texture. Here’s where you can use texture in your drawing. If you want to draw your pancakes with something sticky running all over them. Great texture. What would that sticky stuff be?”

Student: “Butter?”

Me: “……OK.”

Priceless.

..just before Thanksgiving a few years back

A student in my 6th grade art class tells this story as his “one Good Thing that happened to you this weekend” story. We are talking about Thanksgiving dinner at the time and this young man says, ” My Dad likes turkey but he doesn’t like to shoot them, so he catches them in a bag.” I let that sink in for a minute and then say, “Really?”  ” Yeah,” he says.

“We have some property that’s fenced in with tin and we corner the turkeys. But this one got out and it chased me and pecked me.” Laughter fills the classroom as he is enjoying the telling and I’m thinking, “Probably so.” He goes on.” So we kept that one as a pet.” “Really , the one that pecked you?” I said. “Yep.” he says. ” I named it Speedy.”

Priceless.

 

Photo: CC0 Public Domain, Pixabay

 

Bad Hair Day

Pattern.

Repetition of shapes, lines and colors is one of the strongest organizing principles in art and it takes practice to see it and create it.

A simple and fun drawing exercise called Bad Hair Day on The Incredible Art Department website helps bring this concept into focus.

Fun, because everyone can relate to “bad hair day” and useful because it emphasizes the use of a repeated shape as a pattern. The “hair” is divided into at least five sections. Each section must have a different pattern in it.

This started out as a sub project, but my 5th and 6th grade students enjoyed it so much we continued the project over several says. Here are the results.