Saturday, June 30, 2012

I can't wait to get out of here..........................

Far too often I hear "I hate this town", "There is nothing to do here", "I can't wait to get out of here" from my students.  Truth is, they don't really hate it, they are just anxious for the change that comes with graduation.  I always tell them someday you will miss a part of this place, you may not return, but you will miss something about this town. They don't believe me.

I will admit, I said pretty much every one of those comments myself when I was in high school. and I did leave, moved to a bigger city,  but when the opportunity(JOB) arose I came back to a smaller place very similar to home. It was about 25 minutes away from my job. It took a little time for me to really appreciate it though. Last night I was reminded about what makes this place so special. Mr. MAC and I went with our good friend Steve to the downtown area of Mansfield for some live music. We saw an amazing Gospel Blues Band at the City News ; a newspaper, magazine, and cigar shop.  We followed that with a cheese plate on the patio of another downtown establishment so we could sit and hear the Bands on the Bricks, which is the outdoor courtyard/parking lot made entirely of bricks. At the end of every month in the summer they bring in live music. Great music, great company, and great cheese. We continued to Relax....a coffeehouse and gallery open late to hear several small sets from different musicians, with the headliner being Jeff Bell, an artist and musician.  This was all in the same city block. An area of Mansfield called the Carousel District. I would be remiss not to mention the other businesses that were already closed at 5; the galleries, the antique shops, the yarn store, bakery, hair salon, yoga studio and the famous Mansfield Carousel.

The town that I teach in is similar to where I went to high school. A farming community with a great little downtown area, with eclectic shops, local events, fantastic coffee house with a university right up the street with tons of events the entire community can participate in. They don't have a mall, or a Panera,  but those are only 20 minutes away. They do have a Starbucks though. I am blessed because both communities are arts rich and value the arts. They have embraced the arts for the cultural, social, and economic benefits. They recognize their importance. This year, I am going to ask my students to investigate their communty a little bit more, and find some of those special places and arts opportunities to appreciate, and ways to invest in the arts for their entire lives. I am doing this for two reasons, one because we have added some emphasis on arts advocacy in our State Standards, and two, because I think they should see what their community really has to offer. Some day I know my students will miss their community, but if they learn to appreciate it now, maybe this will help them remember.  But until then, I am glad to be home..or at least a place very much like it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

top 10 perks to being an art teacher

You should know, these are not reasons for teaching art, or reasons for having art, but rather subtle and sometimes under appreciated perks to the job of being an art teacher.



No one thinks twice when your clothes don't match. or have paint on them. or have holes. or have tape. or coffee. They actually kind of expect it.


It is acceptable for you to dumpster dive, in fact people kind of expect it. A big bonus is when you can convince someone else on the faculty to do it with you.


28 students, 4 different levels, all on different time lines, and with different needs. You can tackle that with only one cup of coffee.

7. APRONS!!!!

You have a wardrobe of funky aprons that you can use to cover up the spilled coffee, unmatched clothing, or paint stains.


It is never boring! In fact, it is almost like having a different soap opera every period, every day.


or hobby knives, hand drills, and coping saws and spray paint.


You have an appreciation for what paste, plaster and clay all taste like.

3. SHARPIES!!!!!

No explanation really needed.........and in a pinch they serve as makeup as well. 


You keep current on all the new slang and the surprised look when you catch students using some of that slang is priceless. "YES, I know what that means, and no... you can NOT say that in here or even talk about it"


and my number one bonus to being an art teacher


It is what keeps usand so many of our students coming back every day to school.

What do you think is the best perk for your job?




Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Vacation? ummm.....huh??

I am not going to lie, I am sure there are teachers out there who do nothing their entire break but vacation...but I don't personally know any of them. I usually spend my summer vacation working.yes... working. Working on being a better artist, on being a better teacher, on building connections, on reorganizing and restructuring my classroom, and working on that massive pile of laundry that accumulated between the early May arts festival and the June graduation ceremonies.

Michael DeMeng demo on paint
I realize that because I don't have to punch a time clock and I can actually sit with my coffee and catch up on facebook before I start most people don't consider it work.  But, everything I am doing is bwork-related.  For example, I am in the process of completing 17 hours of online coursework through ed2go(CRAZY I know) and I only have 9 more to go. I can now be the master of my own wiki, create beneficial pod casts, use Microsoft Word 2010 and PowerPoint 2010 with incredible ease and have created a workbook and other learning aids for my classroom. soon I will be the master of differentiated instruction and assessment. And while I am really enjoying the online graduate work, I do like the hands on workshops just a tad bit more. Especially when they are taught at the Small Studios in Westlake, Ohio by the illustrious Michael DeMeng.
Watchmakers results

If you look closely,
you can see the blue
Demeng's workshops are all about assemblage, or Ahh-sem-blahge. They cover techniques that I can use in my own art and teach to my students. They are filled with laughter, anecdotes, and plenty of puns.  I started the first workshop, Mad Watchmakers,  the next day after school was out. I should admit, I hardly considered it work though. It was very relaxing and enjoyable. As a teacher DeMeng is encouraging, knowledgeable, and comical. While I was learning from Michael and the other artists in the group, it was the perfect way to start the summer. Two whole days of tips and techniques, and creative influence and two fully finished, well almost finished, projects......well worth it.

The second workshop with Michael was creating a shrine to the Saint of Discarded things. This is my piece. Not finished of course but I had a creative block early on. I plan on adding lights, a footing, and maybe a mini handle for the top. I also still have a lot of painting to do yet. I plan on leaving it the vibrant yellow. I have already located a place in our home for display and have sketches started for a few more variations from all the junk I took with me.
After the DeMeng workshop I had a breather for a few days before attending the Golden Acrylic Paints workshop in Ashland. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the instructor was CEO Mark Golden. What a fantastic person. I was amazed at the generosity and responsibility that Golden paints feels towards their employees and their artists. Their humanitarian actions are humbling.  I already use their paints with my sculptures but their mediums I wasn't familiar with. I can foresee a huge monetary commitment on my part for home and for school! I can't wait to incorporate some of their products into my classes!

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Little Redirection.......

I'm not sure about the rest of you, but growing up I always knew I wanted to be an artist...or a dancer(HA).......but really, I knew I wanted to be an artist. I loved that when I put pencil to paper people really saw what was there, unlike my dancing which was met with averted eyes. I didn't really want dance lessons, or piano lessons, or baton lessons, although I did like being in parades, but what I did want was an easel and all the things that might go with it. Pencils, charcoal, I loved to paint and ultra fine pens and permanent markers!! A little slice of heaven.

I don't think I ever expected to grow up to be an art teacher. In fact, I know I didn't. I was only in FTA(Future Teachers of America) for the letter and honor points. But when I went to college, I had a long discussion on the financial aspect of being an artist, mainly that I wouldn't be receiving any help financially from my parents if I went for "ART". So I declared physical therapy my major and signed up for as many general ed and fine arts classes(as electives of course) that I could. Eventually, I started researching art careers and I stumbled across Art Education. I changed my major and yes, eventually told my parents. I actually liked education. I transferred to a school that had a better arts program, (GO FALCONS!!) and started on my way with methods courses and some heavy studio coursework.

I think everyone of us in that ART ED graduating class thought that being an artist and an educator would be easy because they go hand in hand. But there is a fundamental difference between being a professional artist and a professional educator and juggling both is something that I struggle with. I am not going to pretend I am in galleries, that I am represented, and that money is rolling in, although I wouldn't mind it, but I am producing and creating.  Mostly small commissioned pieces and work for friends and loved ones. It took a long time to get to the point that I could even want to do both again.

But I did find that there are a few things that I needed to help make me more successful...first ..a dedicated work space other than my classroom or kitchen table. Actual work time while at not gonna happen at least not with my high schoolers. They keep me busy enough.   Second, I needed a dedicated work time. It just so happened that I had to sacrifice my daily walk on the treadmill. Um yeah, that "sacrifice" isn't really working out though so I will be adjusting the schedule to include both this summer.  I also needed my own "holy grail". Something I could jot down ideas in whenever they hit or wherever I found inspiration. I have one for home and one for school. Actually I have about 15 total because I always misplace them. Sometimes they are old abandoned sketchbooks, or a moleskin journal-still missing, or a new sketchbook from a vendor, and sometimes they are just a yellow legal pad but I always have a sharpie or a uni ball to jot with. and last, but not least, I needed to have a sense of humor to deal with everything life tends to throw out at you at one time

Anyways, this blog is mainly about that struggle, the choices, we make to do both, the experiences, influences and everything else that shapes us into artists AND educators, with some of those classroom escapades thrown in for some comic relief. Just be thankful it isn't a video of me dancing.