Couple of things, sweethearts. A) Here is your prompt for your writing assignment due Tuesday, September 22:

The Neschers antler is one of the very first portable works of art that has been carved with a zoomorphic figure. Consider the works we have studied from the Paleolithic area and complete the following:
  • Select two other works you believe share similarities with the Neschers antler, and discuss why
  • Explain the significance of zoomorphic and anthropomorphic works of art in the Paleolithic era.

Secondly, I have gathered all our materials together for Egyptian art! You can find all the vocabulary terms, key works, key work images, and key ideas/points of the chapter in this Google Doc. Feel free to print it and print it to class to make your study cards as you go! Annachell had a really hard time with StudyBlue and digital cards, so I decided to adopt Quizlet instead. I’ve already made a class set of vocabulary terms and study cards for your images. Make sure you check “show definition first” for the images, otherwise you will get all of the information first instead of the artwork! It’s up to you which ones you would like to use, but remember, I will be checking for them the day of your first exam!

Speaking of first exam, I have set a date for our first test: Tuesday, October 6th. You have Monday, October 5th off school (and I have a teacher work day). We will be testing on all our Paleolithic works, Egyptian works, Greek works, and Roman work. 🙂 We’re about to start moving quickly.

I will be gone Tuesday, September 22nd, for a training for our class. I will be leaving you an assignment that I expect you to complete to the very best of your ability. We will be relying on it and your reading for the lectures Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (and your quiz), so take it seriously!

I’ll see you guys tomorrow. ❤


Hey, babies. Here’s your article to read before your quiz Tuesday. Things to consider: What other works come to mind when reading this article? Why? Specifically consider Central Mexico. Should you need the Galileo password, it’s mine. No. Seriously. Mine. M-I-N-E. ❤


Friday, August 28th

Today is tricky. 

I am torn between an absolute high and a magnificent low. 

This morning, the Spirit Club arranged our first ever flash mob in the commons. Our school spirit is shameful, and a group of fantastic teachers and I have decided that has to change. Our JV cheerleaders dispersed themselves among the mingling students this morning and busted out the loudest, turnt-est cheer that led into a huge huddle and lots of dancing and just good vibes. 

It felt like such a success. One small step to something much bigger that can be accomplished if a group of people only tries. 

Third period came and my co-worker informed me one of my students was in the hospital. Of course, any teacher’s instant reaction would (or should) be concern, worry, and asking lots of questions. But B didn’t have to tell me why this student was there, because I already knew. 

I knew because Tuesday he pulled me out of class and told me he was tired. That he was done and didn’t know what purpose he served any longer. “No one needs me anymore,” was what he told me. “Sometimes I feel like if I didn’t come back, no one would miss me.” The sad thing is, though, that I know it’s more than just a ridiculous hard time with the select group of assholes at our school that’s causing him this momentous grief. Rumors of his home life have been circling for ages and they have solidified like lead in my heart. 

Tears rolled down my face, hot and unwanted, as I stared into the face of one of the kindest souls you could ever hope to encounter in your lifetime. “I would miss you.” I was at a loss and in total shock. “I need you,” I continued fraily. 

“You don’t need me, Ms. Mockett.”

I’m not sure how many teachers have had that moment where they know it would destroy them if they lost a student… If they have felt, for an eighth of a second, that mounting and ravenous fear curling warm and unkind in their bellies, but this was that moment for me. If he didn’t come back tomorrow, I knew it would destroy me. I sobbed and grabbed him by the shoulders. “I do need you. Don’t you know that? You are the reason I wake up in the morning. The reason I did all the things I have done to be able to teach you. The reason I smile and the reason I got through the worst break up of my life. I love you, you idiot. Don’t you know that? How can you not know that? High school sucks and people are cruel and unjust, but your life hasn’t even begun. You don’t even know how many people are going to need your love, your kindness, your selflessness, your sweet spirit. How much I need it…” 

It wasn’t enough. To know I have a student that feels so small, so insignificant, so unloved, makes me furious. How can you not love them? How can you be so selfish? 

I wish he could see how many students shed tears over him today. How many teachers talked with me about what we can do to help. I wish he knew that I love the way he laughs, the he wears all black nearly every day and that I have been dying to sew that hole up in his hoodie for ages. I wish he knew that his comics are hilarious, I love his raps and that he has such sweet eyes. I wish he knew that if I had a son just like him, I would be the proudest mother in the world. I would feel like I had done something so damn right. I would feel unworthy. 

The world is in fucked up flux of hatred and kindness, and I feel all the time that hatred is starting to win. 

I’m over it. I am so over it. Get with the program. Is it always easy to love someone? No. Is it easy to put others before yourself? Not always. Is it easy to pay close attention and look for more than what lies on the surface of the hundreds of students you teach a day? Bless those that try. 

Is it easy to be kind? 

Mull that over the next time something sour, hard, and unjust hits the back of your teeth and wants to spill from your mouth. You have the power to save a life by being a decent human being. And if that is asking too much, well. We’re a hell of a lot worse off than I thought. 

I wish I could transform my attic space into a room like they have in the Madeline books, where all the girls have their beds in a row. I wish I could take in every child that responds to my love because they have no other source of it coming in. I wish I could make them smoothies in the morning and wash their clothes and hold them when they cry and take their phones and lecture them when they act out. Sometimes I think I could foster my kids and never marry and it would still be more than enough love. My cup would still overflow. I wish people who can’t love would just stay the hell out of life and pass the ones they don’t want to me. Because I will love them all. I will give all my love away because I know I will always be able to make more. I would Miss Honey the hell out of them. 

Miss Mockett’s Wonderful Home of Misfits. 

My heart hurts. I’m angry and I’m confused. I have never felt this way about anything in my life. And I’m not entirely sure I’ve even wrapped my head around it to its full extent. Not yet, anyway. 

Know that my love is endless. That anyone reading this can find it from me. That I will give you whatever I can make your life better. Don’t take yourself from those who have yet to meet you. You would be doing the world a huge and terrible disservice. 

Please. For all that is good and right in this world, be kind. And tell people you love them. Do it every day. Never let them doubt, never allow them to feel alone, never give them the opportunity to fear what life holds in store for them. 

You have that power. Use it. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Caitlin and Savannah walk up to me during fifth period, Caitlin’s arm around Savannah’s shoulders. Sav has a look on her face that I recognize far too well. You know, that one where you smile so you don’t cry?

“That douchebag that was her boyfriend dumped her on her birthday! What the HECK is that?” Caitlin is Savannah’s best friend, and a damn good one. I adore these girls for a multitude of reasons, but particularly for their love of Christ and clean mouths. Those are two areas of weakness for me. It always makes me smile when Caitlin inserts school appropriate words the places I would choose a more enthusiastic alternative.

I look at Savannah, who isn’t wearing makeup today and is burying herself deep inside her hooded sweatshirt. I wrap my arms around her and pull her into me as her shoulders start to shake. Caitlin is going off on a tangent about this kid, but all I can think about is how heartbreaking it is to see Savannah heartbroken. I squeeze her tight and whisper things to make her relax and make her laugh, because sometimes laughter is the only cure for tears.

“He is an idiot, baby. Truly. As is probably every other teenage boy in this town. You are the biggest catch anyone could ever meet, and the next person should be running just trying to keep up with you.” She sobs again and whispers against my cream cardigan, “I thought he was different.”

I run my fingers through her hair and rock her as I think of the millions of times I’ve told myself the same thing. I thought he was different. “We always do,” is all I respond with. A minute passes and I give her a final squeeze and let her go, wiping the tears from her eyes with the sleeve of my sweater. “Hey,” I say, and she looks up at me with red eyes, “you’re here today, and we’re having a mellow one, so just relax and breathe. It’s going to be okay.” Sav nods and as Cat takes her back to her seat, Michael walks up to Savannah and gives her a hug. The words that come out of his mouth floor me. Something to the effect of, “you’re one of the most amazing girls I know.” I watch in amazement as Savannah laughs and returns the hug with a murmured “thank you.” He turns to me at the board and stares.

“What?!” he asks.

“I’m just… I’m so proud of you, Michael. You’ve come such a long way.” Michael, as much as I adore him, used to be a bit of a jerk. He gave no thought to how his comments might be interpreted by others and was constantly wreaking havoc on girls’ emotions and self-esteem. Over the course of a year, I have watched him work so hard at being a better, kinder, and more empathetic person. He succeeded.

I get everyone moving on their assignment and start to circle the room. Michael loves to sit up on the back counter while he works. He waves me over, and I peek at his AP T-shirt design, and then look up at his face. I can’t quite read his expression, but soon he answers my question by saying, “you almost made me cry up there. At the board. Telling me you were proud of me.”

I laugh and pat his knee. “Don’t cry! It’s true. You’ve come such a long way. Your heart has grown so much. I am proud of you.” Tears well in his eyes and I grin before walking away, knowing if I linger, I’ll cry, too.

Michael, the Boy Who Did

Michael, the Boy Who Did

Teaching isn’t just about the content. It’s about the context, being relevant and being true, being fair and just and always doing what is right for them and by them; it’s perfecting the practice of eliminating bias, prejudice, and stereotypes. It’s about being the mom and wiping away the tears and giving reassurance; it’s about being the boss and demanding more, pushing for more, because you know they are capable of doing more. It’s about real conversations: hard ones, easy ones, weird ones. It’s about being a good role model, a powerful and empowered teacher, a positive, influential force in every life you cross paths with. It’s being consistent, empathetic, and kind, even when you really, really don’t want to be.

About 100 cranes in and 900 to go... Maybe 340 in progress.

About 100 cranes in and 900 to go… Maybe 340 in progress.

There’s this funny image I found once on Pinterest of a Golden Retriever. Across the picture it says “be the person your dog thinks you are.” I believe my mantra has become “be the woman your kids think you are.” Of all the people they could idolize, what if they chose someone who was good and honest and stood up for what they believed in and those they loved?

'Naja and Ali; precious APeepers.

‘Naja and Ali; precious APeepers.

Every day that passes is a quiet confirmation that I am in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. Saturday, the JV Volleyball girls had a tournament. Three of my girls play on the JV team, but one of them in particular, Amber, is just this radiant gem of a human being. I mean, holy shit, that is a child who will cherish every interaction, every gift she is given, seize every opportunity that comes her way, will challenge herself and everyone around her while always moving onward and upward. She has one of the kindest spirits I have ever encountered. I have the insane gift of teaching her twice a day this year (swoon!) and told her I was going to come to her matches.

So Saturday I show up and sit in the stands with her momma. It’s easy to tell where Amber’s sweet spirit came from, because her entire family is a group of saints. We chat about how Amber is doing, if she’s enjoying her classes, the norm, when her mom looks to me and says, “Amber really loves you. She’s so excited about having art twice a day!” I laugh.

“I know! It’s so wonderful! I feel really spoiled!” In my head, I acknowledge that most anyone would love having art twice a day.

“What colleges have good art education programs? Amber has made up her mind that she wants to be an art teacher just like you.” My heart does a little dropkick against my sternum and tears find my eyes hard and fast, stinging like mad. Is this what it feels like? I never in my life thought I could love a job as much as I love mine. And now, to hear from a mother, than their daughter wants to take on that same path is the most exciting, flattering and moving thing I could ever imagine. This is exactly why I do it: to let my kids know they bring me joy, that they can make a difference, and that it is okay to love everything about your life and everything about your job. People think it’s about money and excessive comfort and having the things that you want. Bullshit. It’s being present where you are and loving everything you have and letting that be enough. They will always be more than enough for me.

Austin's amazing mixed media sample: two different media on two different grounds.

Austin’s amazing mixed media sample: two different media on two different grounds.

We will take on the world, one paintbrush, one canvas, one unit exam, and one bad break up at a time. Through it all, my kids know who has their back, and that I love them for exactly who they are right now and everything they might become in the future.

Stand your ground. It’s sacred.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lesson plans are done. For the most part. It’s Thursday, and tomorrow is Friday and I get to wear jeans and enjoy a quiet weekend of AP ARHI studying, lesson planning (always), volleyball tournaments (yay, JV! So many of my artists playing this year), a cold beer or three, laundry, cooking, Scandal and the Office. But mostly AP ARHI studying…

We decided in Sculpture this week that we're going to create a 1000 crane installation piece. Swoon. Every day, make.

We decided in Sculpture this week that we’re going to create a 1000 crane installation piece. Swoon. Every day, make.

It’s been a wild week, a little weird and discombobulating in some places. But as far as I can tell, my new kids on the block are going to be awesome, and absolutely fantastic comedic relief. They are hilarious, and our freshmen are so well-behaved! (Knock on wood!)

One of our main focuses this year has been honing in on the positive — something that can sometimes be difficult. Teaching is not an easy job, and it makes me a very cranky individual when someone assumes it is. While I am well aware that not every teacher should necessarily be a teacher, for those of us that actually give a shit about it (a very large one, in fact), it is an exhausting and involved job. Especially if you want to get better with each passing year (which, let’s be real, anyone willing to be stagnant in a career should gtfo anyway). It is far from a 7:40-3:30; I have homework, I work on the weekends, I work some nights until six thirty, with and without kids. There is the After School Program, sporting events to chaperone or take tickets at, dances to attend, clubs to sponsor, SAT and ACTs to study for, AP study groups and review days, professional learning to attend (and document), faculty meetings, RtI meetings, meetings about meetings, failure intervention plans to keep up with, parents to email, IEP meetings to attend… the list goes on and on. Sometimes, I feel like teachers forget why we do what we do. It’s easy to, in the whirlwind and chaos of the several responsibilities given to us. But forgetting the real reason we are there, what the absolute priority is, is not okay. If you aren’t there for the kids, you shouldn’t be there at all.

DeMarco's beautiful Picasso drawing.

DeMarco’s beautiful Picasso drawing.

This week I discovered two of my boys live in a group home, and have been living together in that group home for the last four years. One of them is very detached, careful to keep his distance and rarely engages in conversation with me. He’s a fantastic artist, a total perfectionist with an amazing eye for detail. The other is a sweetheart that loves to talk, loves Breaking Benjamin, and may get to rejoin his family in a few months time.

I know it’s hard to stay optimistic, energetic, and upbeat when you’re tired, not sleeping well, constantly working through that to-do list in your head, interacting with 160-180 kids every single day, keeping your room organized, setting up your word wall, making sure you’ve documented every important date in every calendar, electronic device, and agenda you own (because we all know it’s more than one), to keep parents informed of what you’re doing in class and keeping up with grading work, when you have a hard time remembering to eat a proper lunch, and missing your family and your precious two year old at home. It’s hard to make work your number one priority when you have so many other things in your life that take precedence. We get that.

Those boys don’t get to go home to a family. They don’t have parents to argue with, siblings to lie to or piss off or sneak out of the house with, someone to call when they’ve had a terrible day or a wonderful day. They don’t have their own bed; they eat the food they are given, and the two meals provided at school a day are sometimes all they will get; they don’t have nice clothes; they don’t own or rent a home; they have a hard time finding a job because they have a hard time trusting others, getting transportation, relying on someone else to help them help themselves; they can’t keep friends because they’re moving back and forth from foster family to foster family because their own family doesn’t make the cut. They don’t know what it’s like to have anything steady, solid, reliable in their life. They are up in the air, always. Graduating high school will be an accomplishment to them of the biggest kind, and they don’t believe themselves worthy or capable of college, a career, a life outside this tiny ass town. They don’t know what it’s like to be admired, trusted, or adored. So listen to me right now, because this is the most important thing I’ll say: They have you. You chose this path. Of all the things you could have done with your life, you decided to teach. It shouldn’t be for the paycheck (and we all damn well know it isn’t), or the summer vacation, or the benefits. If you don’t love the kids, ALL the kids, then you need to get out. Go away. Because you are all some of these precious humans have. You are it: the end game, the make or break factor, the one person to push them just far enough to maybe crave more, or better, feel they deserve more. Don’t you understand how lucky you are? Don’t you want them to have a life as beautiful and wonderful as yours?

And it isn’t just my two boys. It is every single kid that steps foot in your door. Every punk out of dress code and every boy screaming at the top of his lungs down the hallway. Every girl in a crop top and purple hair, asking for attention, positive or negative, just to have someone look her way and acknowledge her existence; the kids soaked up in the video games, blaring Drake and Fetty Wap through their Beats, brawling in the driveways of the Ellingtons after school and posting it on YouTube; the studious boy planted in the front row of your AP Macro class and it’s the student that will never look you in the eye or speak a word. They are the siblings with nice cars on their sixteenth birthday and a daddy who did well in construction, and the frizzy haired girl who loves anime that has to live with her friend, because her house just isn’t safe; the ones hooked on meth and the ones pulling themselves out of it. It is every student who was told they could, and every one told they couldn’t. Don’t you get it? You are the constant, for all of them.

So do all of us a favor: Stop, for the eight hours you are with them, thinking about yourself. It isn’t about you. It was never about you. This career is meant to be selfless: you are paid to teach, instruct, mold, inspire, motivate, encourage, discipline, and love. Of course, all the expectations and burdens of a teacher are absurd, insane, ridiculous, unrealistic, and I’ll be damned if any of us can actually excel at all of it. But if you’re going to do a good job at your job, remember why you have your job: they need you. And someone else deemed you worthy of teaching them. Your students deserve a good education because that is what is going to keep them moving up and on and forward. Right now they are rude, and callus, and sometimes downright foul. But can you blame them when every adult who is meant to help, meant to love, meant to care turns their back, neglects them, or treats them like a burden? Like a waste of time or breath?

We all know you have a life (except the kids – they don’t think you do). But these students are part of it, because that is what you chose. So love them like they’re yours for the few hours you have them, and then go home to your family, your sweet baby, your cat or dog, your couch and Scandal. But on the clock, remember where your heart should be, and that a tiny flint of love can set someone’s entire world on fire in the most beautiful way.

Just a little. That's all it takes.

Just a little. That’s all it takes.

Invest in them, and nearly all of them will be good to you. Over and over and over. That is all they want. Give a shit. They shouldn’t ever have to ask that of you; it should already be a given.

You have the power. So be all in, or get all out. There is no in between.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I am trying really hard to remember what my first two weeks teaching were like. Or even the first month. I feel like I cannot recall anything from the first three, other than brief blips, names, and photographs taken.

"how i adore you" -visual journal page

“how i adore you” -visual journal page

I have about 100, maybe 110 new students this year. We’re working on balancing out classes, trying to get everyone comfortable and situated, readjusting IF (which is similar to an Acadex/Study Hall type of deal), meeting and meeting and meeting, printing schedules, signing for 504s, writing lesson plans, getting our Word Walls set up, still trying to recall names… There is something sort of lovely to be said about the absolute chaos that consumes the first month of a new school year. Last year it was just a matter of mucking through it, surviving it and keeping my nose about water. But from the perspective of someone who finally feels like maybe they’ve gotten the swing of things, just maybe, I have learned I can laugh when our SLOs tank due to technical error; it’s okay to mix up DeVonte and DeAnthony the first two times you’re guessing; it isn’t the end of the world to have a morning meeting, an afternoon meeting, and an afternoon training. Really, more than anything else, I find beauty in knowing I will survive it all; nothing that transpires will end me. And those kids… God, those kids.

My precious APeepers before the bell rang today.

My precious APeepers before the bell rang today.

This year is a tad different. Okay, a lot different. Perhaps even a shit ton different. The best part of it is that I have kids that are really, truly, absolutely mine. Doesn’t that sound selfish and greedy? Good, because it is. I love knowing the kids that pass through my door during third, fifth, and seventh period are there because they chose to be. Particularly my fifth period, because not only did they choose to take my class, but to take an AP Art History course that I have never taught before (which, by the way, fun figuring THAT out. AH). That’s a brave soul, and I have seventeen of them in my presence every single day. Taking a new challenge head on. They amaze me.

Melina came to visit and brought me some goodies all the way from Germany! :)

Melina came to visit and brought me some goodies all the way from Germany! 🙂

The new kids seem wonderful, but at the beginning of week two, it’s always too soon to tell. I feel like I won’t have a real grasp until October rolls around, and I’m just thankful I feel like I somewhat know what I’m in for as the year unfolds.

Not much to post as of yet… More to come, with a little hilarity, I’m sure.

Follow our Instagram: @alcovyhsart
Follow my personal Twitter account for ridiculous quotes from class: @KaitlynnMockett

8.2.2015 – a new beginning.

I am so thankful for coffee.

You know, it’s truly incredible how many things can happen over the course of one year. What can transpire in twelve months? Fifty-two weeks? Three hundred sixty-five days? (or is it 366, since it’s a leap year this year?)

I taught one hundred forty-seven high school students last year. Launched a photo club. Attended endless faculty meetings, RtI meetings, secondary art curriculum meetings, department meetings, PLCs. Watched our Varsity soccer girls climb their way to the state championships, took tickets at every home football game, even though we didn’t win a single one, took casual Friday way too seriously, break ups and awkward first dates and trying to figure out what woman I want to be. I’ll tell you something: those kids helped me figure it out in three months. A year with them taught me more about myself as a human being (and what kind of human I actually am versus the one I wish I could be) than the whole twenty-three I have spent on my own trying to figure it out. I watched my first set of seniors walk across a stage in May, elegant in their caps and gowns, and cried (but when don’t I cry? I ALWAYS cry). They make the impossible totally and completely possible, and the days I absolutely hated myself, they loved me. They loved me so hard and so well and so truly. They spoke to me with honesty: “Mockett, you look like shit today.” “Whatever boy is giving you a hard time, stop thinking about him. If he doesn’t call you, he doesn’t deserve to even look at you.” “You look tired. Is everything okay?” “Is this what happens to all first year teachers? They come in so excited and eager to be great, and then they get tired and discouraged and they suck, like every other teacher?” “You are our generation’s savior.” “Stay wild, Mockett; we love you.”

Summer Upload 2015 126

Our seniors at the High Museum of Art!

Was it scary? Oh good God, there are no words. Being in charge of that many humans is already enough responsibility. But being a grown woman, a role model, an authoritarian and disciplinarian, the one with the knowledge and the skills, young and fearless and so damn tired? THAT, my dear friends, is terrifying. And so empowering.

This year has taught me more than how to teach. It’s taught me how to love. And I don’t mean Disney princess, hearts-for-eyes-emoji love. I mean big love; I mean you-make-me-crazy, I-don’t-know-anything-about-your-life, I-have-to-learn-to-not-judge, why-does-he-want-baking-soda, do-people-still-say-that, your-mother-doesn’t-feed-you, you’re-allowed-to-sleep-in-class-because-you’re-paying-your-family’s-rent, colorblind love. They humbled me, brought me to my knees and made me re-evaluate my life, my priorities, my ideals. Some of them were a nightmare. There is no skirting around it. They were mean and hard and cruel and cold; they were unloved, unappreciated and misunderstood. I learned to love them, too. Without reciprocation or expectation. That is the kind of woman I have become. That is the woman I always want to be.

Now. Don’t be fooled. I still have so much work left to do. I have many flaws that need attention, skills that need to be sharpened, a teacher voice that needs to be properly channeled and consistent. But overall, I love them all. I have, I do, and I will, because that is the one thing in my life I know I can be good at. This is what I am good at.

I did a crap job of documenting my first year. I think the most important things to remember are that I made it out alive, and I am going back for more. My goal is to give this page and my life a little love and attention twice a week this year. I want to be a resource to first-year teachers everywhere, but also to people who just need something good and wholesome and light in their lives. I want to be good juju, and I want everyone to love my kids the way I do.

I’ll part with a photograph and my year two schedule. Monday’s up. Bring it on. (And bring on the coffee.)

Morgie and Mockett

FIRST: Visual Arts/Intro
SECOND: Visual Arts/Intro
THIRD: Adv. Sculpture and Ceramics
FOURTH: Visual Arts/Intro
FIFTH: AP Art History
SEVENTH: Visual Arts II/Mixed Media

Also, please, if you’ve got time to kill, head over to our Photo Club Tumblr and take a look at my incredible and insanely talented artists’ works. They put me to shame.

Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start there. – Cheryl Strayed

This is your life; are you who you wanna be?

This summer has blasted by. I can’t believe it’s already the end of July. Wanna see my classroom? 😉


My first time seeing my room.

My first time seeing my room.

So… Big things are in the works. I’ve dissected my room and have cleaned it (mostly from top to bottom).  The teacher before me was apparently a legend. For a while I feared I may have big shoes to fill, but then I decided today that I don’t want to fill anyone’s shoes. I would like to make my own footprints, please and thank you.

About a week's worth of work, and three other sets of helping hands. Still not finished, but so close.

About a week’s worth of work, and three other sets of helping hands. Still not finished, but so close.

Open House is Wednesday night. How is my career already here?

And of course, my classroom wouldn't be complete without a bit of Bowers.

And of course, my classroom wouldn’t be complete without a bit of Bowers.

When the stars align…

Sometimes I feel like nights like tonight have to happen. Sometimes you need to lean against your car and stare straight up. Georgia summer is misery and magic: the days are hot and humid, but the nights… the nights are perfect. Tonight I leaned against my little Fit and breathed in all the sweet smells of summer: cut grass, honeysuckle, and gardenias blooming. Maybe it’s all the Doctor Who I’ve been watching lately, but somehow when I close my eyes I pretend I can feel the Earth spinning, and I like to think I can slow it down with my breathing. Sometimes we need to just slow down and feel.

I signed my contract today. For years I have dreamed of what this day would feel like, hoping it would actually come and that someone would deem me worthy. Words fail me. They are not enough. I am finally here. A classroom that is mine, a program to be built from the ground up, the ability to write any curriculum I want (and I PLAN to), and an incredible administrator who is on board with all of it. I might possibly have a team of my own, a club to sponsor and the ability to advocate art in the community… for real. Not just so it sounds good, but to genuinely give my kids (oh my god, they are going to be MY KIDS. YOU GUYS! I HAVE MY OWN KIDS) as many opportunities as the science kid or the math kid or the english kid. I get to show everyone what we are made of. What I am made of.

I get to write. I get to plan. I get to create my classroom into whatever I desire it to be. I get to learn a million new things: how to place an inventory order, what to use to stick posters to the wall, how to display my standards, what happens the first time a kid punches someone in my class (please god I hope that never happens), speaking to counselors about finding help for my students, the first time I get to hear a student of mine place in an art show, get a scholarship to their school of choosing, maybe even elect an art teacher as teacher of the year. So much MAGIC. I am so beautifully TERRIFIED, in the best, most incredible way. The rest of my life is only beginning, and the note on the first flyleaf is this:

“You were fantastic. And you know what? So was I.”

Thank you, Doctor Who, for knowing my life as I experience it. So was I.

Thus the journey begins. Join me? I promise it will be fun.



Half the reason I’m here.

I sent in an application to Forsyth County Schools last week. They asked me write an essay explaining how I will help my students succeed in my classroom and in school. It’s hard, to write an essay to a potential employer. I wish I felt comfortable writing the same way I do on this blog everywhere, but unfortunately, I don’t think that is widely accepted. It a rather blunt and direct way, this is how I plan to help my students succeed, and here’s a bit about the ones who did it for me:

My greatest inspirations for my career were two women: Libba Willcox and Rebecca Bowers. These ladies succeeded a teacher who was a good instructor. But when placed in comparison, there was no scale to describe the difference. It wasn’t because the teacher before was a poor teacher – she was prepared for class every day, we did a variety of mediums, she was kind. But Ms. Willcox and Mrs. Bowers did not stop at the minimum requirements. They did more.
I am a firm believer in that: more. More interest, more curriculum, more relevance to my students, more conversations, more critiques, more standards, more frustration, more choices, more respect, more words, more art, more struggles and more successes. The minimum is not enough. I felt the difference when these two teachers came to our school. I felt invested in and cared about. I knew they faced obstacles to give us the amazing curriculum they did, sometimes paying out of pocket for top-of-the-line materials, other times having tough conversations with other teachers. They weren’t our friends, but they were our allies. They were one my side and I feared their disappointment.

There is so much that happens in everyday life that can leave a student feeling small, unimportant, insignificant, insecure… but to watch a student discover that with a little time, some instruction (and maybe a bit of pixie dust), they can grow amazing amounts of talent is one of the most rewarding things in existence. With this comes strength, courage and pride in their work. They gain the skill of ownership – they learn to claim their work, to set their own standards, and to challenge themselves. But this all starts with the attitude of one teacher. It happens where belief exists. It takes a risk on the teacher’s part. Only in that space can students feel secure and safe. The teacher is the gatekeeper, and must provide that environment for his or her students.

Furthermore, every student is completely different. Standardizing and assimilating their traits, interests and experiences washes away all the magic that they possess. They are individuals, and that is a gift. Differentiated learning is tough to implement, but a necessity to the environment of a safe classroom. I have tried to implement differentiated learning at all levels, and have found a great deal of success at the elementary level. In the school in which I student taught, the art teacher would often have classes with an incredible diversity of students: Asian, Hispanic, African American, lower class and upper class, autistic, special needs, learning disabilities and incredibly gifted. Teaching a class of that kind requires differentiated learning. The instructor has to be prepared to modify and flex the lesson plan per student. For example, this week I have started teaching my Masks unit. The first day is a planning period, in which students trace a template and proceed to draw out or plan a design for their larger mask. It is simply a brainstorming and preparation day to get students thinking ahead before we dive in. Three of my gifted students asked if they could modify the template – they did not want to work within the limits I had set. So I asked them to trace the template and then on top, draw in the modifications they wished to make. On the other end of this spectrum, I had students that could not trace a stencil, and had to assist one on one and follow them through each step as a team. Every student deserves the ability to have a full experience of your curriculum, and many teachers may not be willing to take the time to provide this type of learning.

I am not a believer that every student will like me. I know there will be students who will not, those who will take years to get through to, to uncover and discover. But I know that I will do everything in my power to let my students know I care about them and their success, and that I am invested in their experiences and futures. In the midst of an application, I asked one of my students which option she felt was most suiting of me. The question was: If asked about your teaching, your students would say: 1) I’m tough, but fair. 2) I challenge you. 3) I care about your success. 4) I make learning fun. Her response was “challenge or care.” I take pride in my ability to push my students farther and harder than most teachers are willing to go, because I know I can do it in a way that does not break them, but builds them. I am a motivator, and this translates so well into teaching. Students need an excellent teacher, but they also need an investor, an ally and someone to help make things happen for them. I want to be all of those things, every day. E.E. Cummings once said, “It takes courage to grow up and be who you really are.” I have spent years of my life figuring this out, and wish to bring others to this joyous way of living. My students and I will always live a life full of “more.” They deserve it.

I found my teacher voice.


I can smell my kielbasa cooking in the oven. It’s 8 o’clock and still kind of light outside… spring and summer are coming, which is great, because I feel like all my days are starting to blur together.

Tonight I wanted to blog about my elementary experience so far, but a few other things, too. Like being a grown up and dealing with real life.

what happens next?

Elementary school has humbled me. Coming from George Walton, a great school of incredible support and social status, my Clarke County elementary school has been a huge shift, not just in social classes and status, but in expectations, student behaviors and what is necessary to keep things in check.

One of my weaknesses at George Walton was my lack of teacher voice, or my lack of using it. There is a time and place for teacher voice, at least I feel that way, and I never felt the need to use it at GWA (perhaps that was the problem…), but I have found it.

These past few weeks have been hard. I have come to realize that some things are not what they once were, and also have had to accept that this is okay. At the high school level, I never felt comfortable being assertive, or being an individual who enforces the rules. I felt like stepping into that realm would cause waves, and furthermore, that the students would not respond to me the same way. I was alien in their class. They had never had a student teacher. They weren’t accustomed to having two people to answer to, two people teaching, and definitely not two people enforcing rules and implementing teacher voices. Alas, it was a daily struggle. What is my role? Do I step up and take on more or leave things as they are?

My elementary supervising teacher is everything I am not: organized, a hardass, efficient, methodical, confident. She’s fabulous. She’s got her teaching down to an art (LOL. See what I did there?) She is constantly modifying, changing, adding and taking away from her lessons. She caters to every individual class, and tries her best to do the same with all 600 students. Yeah. 600. Can you imagine teaching that many? And trying to remember all their names when you only see them once a week? It’s hard, but I’m trying to get better. I’m down to about 1 or 2 a table (so 6-12 out of a class of 28… not that impressive).

Anyway. Mary is showing me how to do all the things I never would have thought about until it came up in my room. Planning ahead for kindergarten and first, making all the units line up with the same medium so that I don’t have 6 different messes to clean up with no time in between classes to do it. We get two planning periods a week. Two. That is CRAZY. Some days fly by and others drag on like you would not believe. I’m tired every day, but being around these kids is teaching me so much about myself.

At my school, we have an incredibly diverse group of kids. I have several Korean students, quite a few Hispanic students and there are a handful of special education students, autistic students and gifted students in each class. I have come to recognize that in some situations, differentiated learning only lives in teachers’ dreams, because some days, it is nearly impossible to talk to every student individually. Regardless, as always, I’m drawn to the underdogs. The trouble makers with big hearts, who are having a rough day, act out because they need attention, or cut up in class because they enjoy making people laugh. The ones that take the blame for the disruption, even though 8 times out of 10 (I could be normal and say 1 out of 5? haha) they’re telling someone else to can it, or sticking up for a friend. There is something amazing about having a “trouble maker” walk into class, ask to sit next to me at the table, and sit still and quiet through the entire introduction and demonstration. I love having those same students make something they are proud of and walk around the room to show all their friends (even though those little butts are supposed to be parked in their chairs). It can almost bring me to tears when a student offers to help someone else with their work, or to show them how to do something new. Having a warm, tiny body in my lap, girls tugging at my earrings, students calling “Ms. Mockett!!” at lunch and then asking me how old I am, is there ever a good time to break up with a boyfriend, did you find my purple tail for my dinosaur? They are magic.

We focus so much on the end results when kids are kids that we miss the glory that makes them what they are. Their candid nature, their uninhibited creativity and amazing talent of telling stories while they draw, the grown up conversations they have and the innate, pure, and real sense of wisdom they possess, while still being so new in this big, bad world. I adore them. They keep my heart light and remind me when I so desperately need it that right here and right now are the only things that matter, and that I should be present and wide-awake with them. As always, I am a teacher being taught by my students.

One of my sweet girls is always in and out of trouble, and I met her my first day. She was sitting alone at the silent lunch table, and had her hand raised, so I walked over to her and asked her what she needed. Her face was dirty, her hair was knotted from where her head had tossed and turned on her pillow the night before (or maybe for a week’s time, who knows), and her white shirt had turned tan from the stains and wear. She had holes in the knees of her pants and looked up at me with a frustrated face, holding an orange with a huge hole in the side in her hand. “I can’t peel this orange! I’ve been trying forever but I just can’t. Will you help me?” As I took the orange from her, I glanced at her plate. It was spotless. She had eaten everything on her plate (an unappetizing meal and unripe orange, I might add), including remaining sauces. She looked at me as I peeled her orange, a precious side smile, missing one front tooth. All I could say was, “good job girl, look at this happy plate!” Every day at lunch since then, she raises her hand and I walk to her, and she says, “I made a happy plate, Ms. Mockett!”

I am so humbled.

How dare I ever complain about my life again. Here this precious girl sits, one of MANY in ONE school in one tiny, poor county in Georgia, smelling of stale cigarettes with dirt on her cheeks and holes in her shoes. Last week our students didn’t have to wear uniforms. She twirled her way into the lunch room wearing a bright green dress, with the seams coming undone at the straps. “I got this dress for Christmas! Isn’t it beautiful? It’s my favorite.”

These are the kids that grow up too fast. The kids that are expected to raise themselves, and others. To do what they have to do to get by or to help their family get by. Maybe the kids that don’t graduate high school or don’t go to college because they have to pay their bills first and they can’t seem to get ahead. These are also the kids that grow up and turn into high schoolers. Some of them come out just fine. Some of them drink, mess with drugs, bully other kids because no one ever showed them what love looks like or feels like, hurt themselves as a distraction from their home life, or lack of home. People want to know why I want to teach. I love art. I love art more than a LOT of things. But even more than that, what about the kids that can’t or don’t know how to love anything? Not even themselves? Those are the ones that need us most; the ones who will never call out to you, who will take years to let you in, who will make poor decisions but maybe, just maybe, you can help them find self-worth. Maybe you can instill some pride in those hearts that have been made hard by the world, responsibilities that came too early, losing too much, or just never having enough.

I could be just an art teacher. I could just teach design principles and how to blend pastels and how to collage with magazines. A lot of people do that. It’s probably a more sane and safe option. It probably hurts a lot less. It’s risky to do more, expect more and ask for more. It’s risky to invest your heart into a kid, never knowing just what they may decide to do to it. It’s risky to do more than what your job description requires, knowing no one else is watching or going to give you praise for the extra hours spent, the extra lessons given, the money spent out of pocket to provide your students with worthy materials.

But if you just had one student… If I had one little twirling girl with ruined pants and uncombed hair, and I could make her laugh and make her proud and make her want to be more than she thought she could be before, maybe going home wouldn’t be so bad, if she had something to look forward to tomorrow. A lifetime of people telling you you will never be more or you will never be good enough is hard to reverse. But what if you could? Wouldn’t you want to? Wouldn’t you at least want to try? You could save a life. You could mend a broken heart. You could change their fate. A blue little wisp leading Merida through the forest. It’s a wonderful thought that I like to keep in my head for the days I start to question myself and my abilities.

My twirling, dirty princess reminds me.