The 10th Piece – Must we suffer for our art?

The 10th piece – Must we suffer for our art?

It was the middle of my second year teaching art at the private school when I was approached by board member wanting to know if I could come up with a special art project that would involve all the kids.  She wanted it to be on permanent display and to have The 10 Commandments on it.  At that time the school had just a tiny number of students (just over 20?), but they spanned in ages from K to 10th grade. 

A Ten Commandments Art Project. Involving all the kids.  ??? I know, right?

I was sweating over this.

But inspiration comes from surprising places. It was when I was slipping on a bright colorful paisley print skirt that I GOT IT!  Hallelujah!

We would make a colorful mosaic in a similar pattern.  All my kids were capable of cutting and gluing (with different degrees of success). We could then glue the lettered 10 Commandments on top of the mosaic background.

This was before I knew anything about blogs where PAINT CHIP ART is all the rage!

Very proudly I determined that these little pieces of colorful goodness would be the perfect inexpensive, thick material that could be cut for our pieces.

Yes, we just keep on reinventing the wheel don’t we? 

I had saved paint samples left from building our home years earlier. This artist can’t get rid of anything! So I had quite a few.

But, Hear this Oh Lovers of Paint Chips:

A resourceful mother got on the phone and got boxes of old paint chips donated!!!  Apparently the store she contacted would periodically THROW OUT old samples when a color line was updated.  This was in 2006; I have no idea if stores still do this –      ‘cause I still got a whole box full!  Hee! Hee! Hee!

But it certainly could be worth checking out.

I borrowed a cricut machine from a friend to cut out words from heavy black cardstock.  A parent made the 8’x4’ board and the kids and I primed it.  Working from the skirt I sketched the design for us to follow with our colorful pieces.  Yes-it was a teachable moment.

Not long into the project it was very apparent that the meticulous cutting and gluing was loved by some and disliked by others.  My little ones put a few of their pieces on the board, but spent most of their time cutting snips of color for the other kids to glue in place. Yes, I believe this qualified as fine motor skills practice, don’t you?

I think I dedicated two art classes to the group project before moving on.  I gave older students who enjoyed it the option to continue working.  Just about everyone connected with the school added a few of their own pieces. Parents, fellow teachers and I worked on it like an old-fashioned quilting bee.  Some kids stayed after school to cut and glue.  Time was ticking and I realized we were so not going to finish by the end of the year.

But like many “over-achiever” teachers I know, I had taken on this project and I was determined to see it finished.

Cut to a Saturday night around 10pm – my kitchen and living room COVERED with papers, blades, more scraps of paper, letters.  I was cutting the 10 commandments and it was taking decidedly LONGER than I thought it should. 

Do you remember those infomercials for cricut?  All the smiling ladies with their beautiful completed projects – all done with just a few touches of a button?  

It was so not like that.

So glad God didn’t need to cut out the letters that way or poor Moses might still be up on that mountain….

 And then it happened…

PAIN!!! INTENSE CHEST PAIN!  Hard to breathe, ROLLING AROUND ON THE FLOOR PAIN!

All letter production HALTED!  Grandma came to spend the night with the kids. And the 45 minute drive of AGONY to the EMERGENCY ROOM ensued (fadeout)…

The truth now…do share – Have you required medical assistance in the pursuit of art?

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Piece #9 – It is still missing pieces…

Piece #9 – It is still missing pieces…

I have it at my home. It is hanging in the hallway at the top of the steps, one of only a few places it would fit.  Every time I climb my stairs –there is a bittersweet memory.

I see it, smile, remember, and long to finish it. 

The image on the top of this very blog is from this unfinished mosaic that belongs to the small private school Greater  Perry Community Christian Academy.

TO FINISH OR NOT TO FINISH….

My art kids started it.

But the school closed.

And. It. Was. Not. Done.    Sigh….

What do you do with a project that spanned over a couple of years, was signed and worked on by almost all the kids that attended this school? Had it been completed it would have been moved on to hang on the walls of another private school – a place where no one has the memories of big kids laughing while working on it – a location where no one there remembers all the little fingers that put color on it. 

It came home with me.  Maybe I’m supposed to love it and remember…

There are countless hours of work left to do.

I do find it exceptionally gratifying to cut and put the small little pieces on it….

Or should I host mini reunion work days?

Have you ever had to leave a special school project unfinished?

 More on why we started this large project to come.

 

Piece #8 – Top 10 reasons you should consider teaching private art lessons:

Piece #8 – Top 10 Reasons why you should consider teaching private art lessons:

10.  No grades.

9.   No commuter traffic.

8.  Talented students who spoil you with their creativity and ideas.  Your students LOVE art.

7.  Supportive parents.

6.  Individualized instruction. You can focus on your student’s needs.

5.  You are teaching a student, not just a concept or project.  You really get to know the kids.

4.  Your students’ victories in art mean more to you.

3.  Teaching is part of your life, not your entire life.

2. The opportunity to create alongside your students.  I don’t work on their projects, so I demonstrate all the techniques and ideas on my own.

1.  The freedom to take a project in a new direction because your one student has a great idea.

 

 

Piece #7 – Entangled in Zentangles

Piece #7 – Totally entangled in zentangles

Have you seen this book? No, I mean really…I can’t find my copy.  I remember looking at this thin, smaller-than-most book and thinking I would be sure to put it where I could find it quick.  You know, with the “really cool” books that you really dig right now?  This is not the first time I have lost it. Yes, I did a high and low search for it once before on the morning of an art class…..did I find it in time?  NOooooo.  Did my student and I still attempt to zentangle? YOU BET!

It all started with the new book section of my local library.  They had it sitting all proud and interesting along with those dull books on things like nutrition and exercise.  Of course I went right for it.  (Shout out to Newport Public Library!)

I thought of Megs – my bright and shining student Megs, who likes pen and ink. Megs is a busy, active, extremely creative lady who is involved in everything.  She and her family (and young grandchildren) run a produce farm. She quilts and sews and is always trying new art forms. In past winters after the outdoor chores lesson, she has come to take art classes with me. Megs likes making small, intricate, detailed drawings.  This book is so up her alley. She got art-happy the minute she saw it.

 I promptly ordered my own copy and have pulled it out often.  The book is well-drawn with fun examples of this simple step-by-step pattern drawing.  The patterns are built upon each other and then before you know it they appear very complex and detailed.  They also look ultra cool.

 That’s not all folks!  It’s Therapy!  This type of drawing promotes that wonderful therapeutic effect that occurs when your hands are busy and you are engaging in a creative process that is fun, but not too demanding. It’s great to zentangle alone, but it also promotes that “quilting circle” experience when done with others.  If interested in more, you can check out Sandy Bartholomew’s site here.  Me?  I’m still hunting down the book. Not under the bed….

Piece #6 Education is ironic?

Piece #6 Education is ironic?  

I just finished a taking course on Assessments in Standards-Based Education.

IT’S OK. I WON’T LET YOUR EYES GLAZE OVER!

A very clear goal of Standards-based education today is to provide our graduates with the ability to adapt to rapid changes in technology, to solve problems, to work with others, and to think creatively.

“Authentic assessment” is a fancy name for projects, portfolios, oral interviews, experiments, debates, recitals, and theatrical performances.

 You know, the fun stuff…

These projects require kids to go beyond the basics.  They have to demonstrate a basic knowledge of a subject and expand on it to produce thought-provoking results.

Here is the ironic part…………

I found it very ironic that the most positive examples of successful authentic assessments mentioned in the class occur in the arts and in coaching.

Teachers in the major subjects of study are instructed to learn from the music teacher who gives immediate feedback, who provides an opportunity for a performance evaluation. 

The coach who teaches his players to practice over and over and then to perform is given credit. 

And it is the drama teacher who takes the kids from learning to speak clearly, to understanding and memorizing lines.  This knowledge is put to the test in a performance that also includes the building of sets and creation of costumes. Technology is used to provide light and sound. 

I SO don’t even need to go into what the art teacher brings…

“Real world” types of projects are used in these areas of study daily.

 Now, when lack of money is an issue, what is currently being cut from our schools?

HERE’S THE IRONY………

These classes that promote creativity, problem solving, and adaptability…

(all listed as major goals of standard-based education- see above)

are deemed not critical and are the first to be taken from the students.

Now, that being said I generally believe that if you are going to point out a problem you need to offer a solution.  ? ??   Do YOU have one?

Piece #5 – “We are sooo gonna be in trouble!”

#5 – “We are sooo gonna be in trouble!” 

So not the words you most want to hear in the middle of an art class.  Not to mention it was a small class, only two energetic brothers…

One said to the other “wait till Mom sees  this mess!”  O.K. Now I have some  concern, because if these two guys are thinking it’s messy…. 

I was only gone a flash – a mere minute to run down to the basement and get a forgotten bottle of paint.  Really.  Two at  most…

The kicker was that the boys were including me as one of them, and we all were headed for trouble… I will confess that I made the rookie art teacher’s mistake….I taught the lesson without trying it ahead of time.

 You see it just looked like so much fun when I saw the project online.  But because I didn’t want to get the shaving creme out ahead of time I didn’t realize how important it would be to spread the cream with a spoon. I did not know how the thick, foamy, sticky stuff would be so hard to work with once the boys got it on their hands…and faces…and the table…and the floor.

In the end we made marbalized Easter eggs that turned out ultra cool. We  learned about color.  It was a fun process.  And the truth is if these boys thought that was messy – we have some fun art classes to look forward to.

By the way….their mom was in fact pretty happy.  That was one mess she did not have to clean up.

Here is the link to Kelly’s blog  where I was inspired.

Piece #4 – What happens when an art teacher takes classes in Standards-based Education

Piece #4 – What happens when an art teacher takes classes in Standards-based Education…

Whew! Doesn’t that sound like a thrilling topic! This winter in my year of schooling I took five different classes on the subject.  FIVE. 

There were reasons I did this:

  1. The classes were free to educators (yea!).

  2. The classes were online classes (school in pj’s another plus).

  3. The hours counted as Professional Development.

  4. The courses required a serious amount of paper writing (eh-)   

  As an art teacher I must admit to finding the information at times irrelevant to my area of speciality.  I’m not going to get into a deep debate about the entire educational system.  HOWEVER…..

There should NEVER ever, ever, ever be an “US vs. THEM” mentality between teachers.

 What regular classroom teachers do is HARD! Nevermind the issues we all deal with:   behavior problems,  time limits, increasing number of students, etc.   Working to align standards and instruction and all it entails is difficult.  It is time-consuming, and unless the teachers are incredibly creative with their time, it leaves less and less room for ALL THE FUN STUFF.  You know…. all those little extras that make learning memorable and fun.

I have always respected the teachers around me, but my level of understanding for what dedicated and talented teachers have to do has increased.

Our students need everything we can offer them, strong core instruction, amazing arts programs, foreign languages, technology education, great sports opportunities, and more.  Instead of fighting to keep our own programs in schools, ALL OF US need to work together and come up with a solution that will provide every opportunity for our kids.

Thus sayth this art teacher….