I wonder all the time.
My mind is always turning and I am always thinking about why things are the way they are and what could be done to improve various situations that are dysfunctional...
Right now, I wonder why I bother. Mind you, I realize I am writing this to no one...
I've been really frustrated with systematic things lately - things that I can not change on my own. I get consumed with wondering why I bother going out of my way when so few care.
But that's just it - I CARE. I place value in the reflection process I go through to write this blog. I place value on the opportunities I pursue for my students. I place value on the big projects that shape my practice even if the people who sign my check don't bother to notice. I place value on my involvement with the larger arts community.
I believe in reflection. I believe in promoting student art programs. I believe in public art projects. I believe in the impact the arts can have on the community. These beliefs are part of my identity. They are part of who I am as an educator and who I am as a person.
I have to remember this because I will not let a dysfunctional system change who I am.
Art is a supply intensive course - no matter what grade level you are teaching. You can get by with nothing more than a text book in some courses, but in art, you need a variety of materials to make the magic happen.
I have not received my supplies for the school year yet. This is a very unusual situation - one that is full of drama and scandal which I can not discuss. If I could, this blog would be so much more interesting, but you would likely think I was making it all up because the scandal is that unfathomable...
So, no supplies in the art room. Twice this week I printed out lesson materials and got ready to start the day with a lesson in mind only to stop myself abruptly and realize - I HAVE NO "X" - "X" being the integral part of the supply list for that project. These realizations occurred about 10 minutes before the children arrived for class. Fine timing!
Simple things like a lack of glue and colored pencils are causing me to restructure my entire year of lessons. At first this really upset me - the order was good and made a ton of sense to me. My lessons were designed to build from one to the next and to bring the students from a more structured series of activities to a more free set of activities and now the whole thing is flipped.
As much as the change is messing with my head, I think the change may end up being beneficial. We are doing some very free lessons at the moment in place of my usual start to the year that contains more tightly structured lessons. The change is interesting because the students are being introduced to art in a very loose manner and their reaction is full of excitement and enthusiasm. I even had one student respond in his artist's statement that he "used to hate art and think it was boring but now I think it can be fun". I am hopeful that this hook of fun art will stick and I'll be able to reel them in to enjoying more structured projects as well. I'll keep you posted as it is always an adventure!
I always think that things will be different when we start a new school year... that the technology issues will be solved, that the supplies will arrive on time, that the course offerings will be equal from day to day and the class lists will be balanced from period to period.
I don't know why I think this.
I have to accept that I cannot change the system in which I work. I have to accept that I cannot fix the issues that plague a large district. I have to adapt to changing technology that doesn't always work. If I don't do these things, and do them quickly, I am bound to have a miserable year.
A few bright notes... My school desk top computer is now functional and connected to the Internet. It is also updated with a version of java that will run PowerSchool - our new "system" for everything pupil related. The PTA fed us a nice lunch. I have all my student handouts, forms, and presentations ready to go for tomorrow. None of the art supplies have been delivered which means that none of the art supplies need to be unpacked and put away...
I'm going to make an effort to choose a better attitude for tomorrow and focus my energy on the things I can have an impact on - my students and my
Today was kinetic sculpture day with Meryl Tardash. Meryl is a college professor and sculptor working with kinetic, or moving, artwork. She has had the opportunity to produce a number of public art pieces, many of which make us of mobile structures. I found today to be a huge challenge because of the patience required to find balance points. Patience is not my forte but Meryl had patience to spare and helped me to grasp the idea of asymmetrical balance. We talked a great deal about the work of Alexander Calder and how he was the first artist to create suspended works. Meryl spent time explaining the science behind kinetic works of art and specifically the physics of asymmetrical balance (d(istance) X w(eight) = w X d). I have a friend who infuses his physics class with art by having the students build functional mobiles and I would like to pursues
Yeah... So, today the amazing people at PAFA gave our small group of art educators a tour of the storage area - aka the basement. There are 4 main "vaults" and a print room. As you may suspect, this behind the scenes glimpse into the life of art objects is thrilling and emotionally charged. PAFA has some awesome work stored in the basement!
Each vault has a series of racks made of chain link. These racks slide in and out to view and access the works hung on the links. In the last vault the registrar had 3 large Warhol prints leaning against the cage racks. I was carefully walking around the Warhol to peak into a stowed rack of early American paintings and accidentally nudged the Warhol's ground support with my foot. It tipped ever so slightly and I thought it was going to fall. Thankfully, it did not.
Needless to say, I kept my distance from that point on. I'll tie this post to my teaching practice by saying I will have a bit more understanding in the future when a student breaks something of little value in the art room.
All in all, the PAFA summer program was a refreshing and inspiring week of professional development. I can't stress enough how valuable time like this is to my teaching practice and to my sanity.
Despite being extremely tired and leaving the house late, I managed to get to PAFA early for Thursday’s session. I found myself alone, with my self. Well, self portrait that is…
I saw a resemblance of me in the image, but somehow older and more frail. Was this some sort of psychological message I was sending about my “self” or had I screwed up the image in some subtle, yet meaningful, way that produced the aged, fragile appearance? I got down to business measuring my face and comparing those measurements to the image using a pencil, a mirror, and my thumb. Turns out, though there may be some deep hidden psychological truth in my decrepit representation of self, I had actually drawn my nose way too long. This simple and relatively small mistake altered the entire image in a significant way.
This was not a difficult fix – technically speaking. However, taking an eraser to a basically complete drawing that didn’t look horrible was a bigger emotional challenge than I had expected. I felt a strong sense of empathy for my students as I began erasing my hard work to make corrections. This is one of the greatest challenges in the art room – realizing that fixing it is more important that being done with it… and also, realizing that it is worth the time to make those corrections – not only for that image, but for future images as well.
I am so thankful that I took these W.I.P. shots so I can see and remember the changes that were made to create the final image. Having this collection of progress shots will also be helpful to share the transformation of this drawing with my students. Realizing that my nose was too long was only the tip of the lesson I learned from today’s drawing,
Middle School Art Educator. Adjunct Art Education Professor. Non-Profit Arts Organization Board Member. Artist. Arts Advocate. Dog-Mom. CrossFit Enthusiast.
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