Waters

fall-foliage-2942443_1920Today, my heart hurts for a young life cut short.

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters.”
Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

 

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Simple

#mwisdthankful

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Today I am thankful for the simple things that can make a teacher’s day.

  • My husband packed my lunch for me.
  • I actually used the right key to my classroom door instead of trying to open it with my car key like I did yesterday.
  • The copier was working and had toner and paper in it when I got there.
  • There are Oreos in the snack machine in the teacher’s lounge.
  • It didn’t rain today so there was no indoor recess, in fact it was beautiful out there today at the bus circle.

Life is good.

Speedy

#mwisdthankful

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You just can not beat kid stories. I am so thankful when they make me laugh.

A  student steps up to the plate with something to tell you with “that” look on their face. (“Oh this is gonna be a good one, you think.” “Swing, batter, batter……”) Every one of these is true. You can’t make this stuff up.

“Yeah, my mom just got a new puppy. It’s real little and hairy, I can’t remember the name but it starts with a P. Oh yeah, it’s a Parmesan.” I said, ” I think you mean a Pomeranian. Yes?” “Yes.” Close, he was very close.

“My mother was in a car accident and lost a leg.” I said, “Oh I’m so sorry. Is she ok now?” Child says “Oh yes, she’s ok now, she has a prostitute.”  I said, ” I think you mean a prosthetic. A leg made for her by the doctor, yes?” “Yes.”

One child to another: “Well you know, if you use your inhaler when you don’t need to, you can get ammonia.” I said, ” I think you mean pneumonia. I don’t think you can get that from using an inhaler improperly.” “OK, but that’s not what my mom said.”

“Now what was the name of the artist we studied yesterday that used the pointillist technique of painting?” Student, waving hand wildly says, “I know, I know…Sewer Rat!” I said, ” I think you mean Georges Seurat, yes?” “Yes.”

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 said, “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.

What Does Art Mean?

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#mwisdthankful

Today, Friday November 10th, I am thankful for the experiences my students give me.

As an elementary school art teacher, I get asked a lot about the meaning of art. What does this abstract art mean? What is the purpose of my child taking art? What did the artist mean when he or she painted that? My reply is,” What does it say to you?”

You want to know what art means?

Today it means a tall, timid shell of a girl, with wispy hair, standing at my desk with a paper card in her hand. “Today is my birthday.” she said quietly, not seeking the ranting Happy Birthday song that usually follows that news into a classroom. “Well, Happy Birthday!” I say, “Are you doing anything special?”

“I don’t know.” she says, eyes darting away from my face. I sense I’ve said the wrong thing. “But my Dad made me this.” She is holding out the card. “You want to see?” “Sure.” The card shows a princess in a Disney–style gown; a scroll proclaiming “Happy Birthday Princess” in elaborately hand-drawn tattoo letters. The card is a much folded piece of white paper, the image beautifully drawn in delicate pencil.

“My Dad is in prison. He made me this for my birthday.” Her eyes search my face for any sign of disapproval. I mentally bless this father who loves his child.

What does this art mean?

When I look at this card I imagine time melts away for the artist as he works and the air takes on that super-charged feel at the edge of a storm. That moment when the summer air is replaced with the cool rush edge of the weather and the first round, fat drops splatter your face. This art says all things are possible. It says “Child, you are loved in this world.” It says, Child, wait and see and don’t lose hope. Ever.”

“Tell your Dad I think this is wonderful and he is very talented.” She smiles at the father that is miles away, but here in the room as she folds the card carefully into her pocket.

That is what art means for me and for this child today.

Conversations

#mwisdthankful

freedom-from-fear-1943Our Superintendent challenged us to share reasons we are thankful for our school district, coworkers and community for seven days. I missed yesterday, so this post is for Thursday, November 9th.

I’m thankful for the great conversations my job allows me to have with my students. Thursday, our warm-up activity was to define the main idea behind an artwork. I chose Norman Rockwell’s famous Freedom from Fear, one of a four painting series that Rockwell did in 1943. I chose it because the next day was our Veteran’s Day Celebration and this painting illustrates how our armed forces keeps this nation free from fear.

What always surprises me is the children’s gut reaction to this tender scene of a mother and father tucking their children into bed at night. The room gets quiet as they take in the moment. Their responses were all connected to parents. “Maybe the children are sick and the mom is taking care of them.” Seeing the newspaper in the father’s hand, one student said, ” The Dad has been reading them a bedtime story.”  I wondered how many of my children have these moments in their homes. But they all sense somehow that is right that children should be safe. Rockwell is a master of visualizing what is good about people.

It was only after we dug deeper into the history and timing of the paintings that they understood the message of how our Armed Services defend our right to be free from fear. We talked about honoring those brave men and women on Veteran’s Day. A powerful message during these uncertain times.

So today I am thankful to be able to pass on the traditions and history of our great country in conversations with my students.

Image: By Goku iroshima – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16925982

 

 

Lucky Hearts

#mwisdmatters

There are a few moments in life where you stop and realize how lucky you are. I had two moments like that at work this week, where friends did something nice for me, just because they are friends. First it was Carolyn, who crocheted me the darned cutest donkey I have ever seen. donk

Not because she had to or because I asked her to, she did it out of the kindness of her heart. I have four miniature donkeys that I adore, you see. A clichéd phrase, “out of the kindness of your heart”, but this tiny technicolor donkey poked into my teaching mailbox made my day. Carolyn has the biggest, most caring heart. She is crocheting animals for all the teachers at Travis.

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Then in the same week, Arinda stopped by to give me a snuggly blanket she had made for me with photos from my Facebook page. Arinda, a gifted teacher and coach, retired last year. We have shared many a laugh and a few tears as part of the great Fine Arts team at Travis Elementary in Mineral Wells, Texas. This picture is of a Fine Arts Team lunch a few years back. Look at how relaxed those faces are.

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These moments made me stop again and marvel at the extraordinary people I have had the luck to work with in the past and still work with at Travis. It is true that the people you work with make all the difference in how happy you are at work. We all come to the table with different gifts, different personalities, different challenges but somehow it works. I am grateful for friends like these.

Lines, Laughter, Eclipses, Bats and the Poop Emoji

 

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This second week of school was a great mish-mash. I focused on teaching the art element line with all three grade levels, 4th, 5th and 6th. We got a good start by creating sketchbooks, (5 sheets of paper folded in half and stapled). It is still amazing to me after more than twenty-three years of doing this how the simplest things that are easy for adults (well, most adults) need to be considered and taught slowly to a child. Things like how to fold a piece of paper in half and get the edges to match up. How to use a stapler safely. If you’ve ever stapled a finger you understand the need. Um…it hurts like the devil ( I speak from experience) and when those little tines bend under your skin…trust me, you don’t want that.

Their sketchbooks become a place for students to practice, from a warmup with a five minute drawing exercise each day to a place to write vocabulary words and spell them correctly. We moved from identifying and drawing different types of lines to contour line drawing.  I’m a big believer in Betty Edwards’ Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain methods so contour line drawing is big thing for me, teaching them to see that the edge where space and an object touch is a contour. How to see that if you draw the object you are also drawing the space around it. At the same time we are still learning classroom routines, like who opens the door if someone knocks, who passes out supplies and artwork? What happens if I’m absent? What happens if I’m tardy? Where do I go to catch my bus? Can I trust this strange lady teacher who is trying to get me to do all this crazy stuff?

We touched on the first of our safety drills for fire, lockdown, tornado and shelter-in place. I made this into a group project, where each student group presented to the class how they should behave during the drill and then we discussed an changes or problems. They love playing the “what if” game. “What if a big meteor comes down through the ceiling and the door is on fire, what would we do?” What if a gorilla got loose in the school what would we do?”  So, I stock up on super hero answers, they laugh and then we practice the real stuff. A big responsibility, teaching them how to be safe. Speaking of heroes, hats off to our valiant Assistant Principal Andy Pool who safely corralled a bat on the front walkway in front of our school. I was walking with our 6th graders to the cafeteria when they saw a bat on the ground through the glass front doors of our school. Immediate chants of ” A bat! A bat!” Have you ever noticed that if there is ANYTHING kids are not supposed to see, that’s the first thing their kid radar zooms in on? I kept them from going out and Mr. Pool took care of the bat. We have an amazing bat sanctuary near Mineral Wells and they very quickly came and took the little guy away. We also had the solar eclipse this week, which we watched safely in our classroom on the NASA website. Amazing universe we live in.

We drew a familiar object, a glue bottle, and discussed how to use hatching to show a light source and shading. They were just great, these kids, little sponges, game to try whatever I asked, for the most part so anxious to please, so critical of their abilities. It is the most delicate of things, maintaining fragile egos while carefully pushing students to improve. I practice a lot of ignoring technique when I hear the dreaded “I can’t draw.” I sometimes play the I’ll draw one line, you draw the next one to get them going. I try to pick the simplest warmups . We drew emoji’s (a big hit) except for the poop emoji that I forgot is all the rage now in that Emoji movie. So if you see poop emojis in your child’s sketchbook, I apologize.

But the thing the kids like the best this week was gesture drawing. That’s where you have one student pose and the other students have one minute to draw them. I have them use marker so that they can’t erase (sneaky art teacher). They LOVED this and the drew happily and laughed at their drawings. I quickly found my extroverts in each class that like to strike a pose. Thanks to Mrs. Sneed for letting me borrow the sports equipment. The final day this week was fun too. We drew contour line self portraits. I wanted a baseline drawing for each student so we can compare that to how they draw themselves after I have a chance to teach them over the next 10 weeks. I’m excited to see the results. So we broke out the mirrors. It is always fun to see how they see themselves. Lots of hair fixing went on at first. And teeth checking. Lots of freckle counting too. And I got asked about scars a lot. “Can I draw my scar?” You find out a lot about kids when they draw. A good week, even with the poop emoji.