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.

Hi.

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.

 

Lost

Man, I hope I get used to drinking black coffee. Life makes so much less sense without creamy and sweet things. 😦

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I can’t seem to buckle down and do something as simple as blogging every day. That is one thing I used to hate about myself – my lack of commitment, but I think the better choice is to only try to improve. Try to get better. And when you think to do it, sit down and do it. So here I am. I’m between study breaks — I take my GACE exam this Friday, but I’m also home sick with a lovely bout of laryngitis, fun! I’m nervous about my exam, mostly because I have no idea what to expect, but hey, what is life, right? I guess it would do me better to never expect anything at all.

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One of Johnny’s cups from the Homage project… he is such a clean and deliberate artist. Love.

Some of you may know (others may not) that my student teaching at George Walton has ended. Friday was my last day. The words are hard to find, and maybe that’s why I’ve been putting this off. I did not know five short weeks could bring so much into my life, and also take away from it. The feeling of loss is still too prevalent, because those kids weren’t really MINE to lose. My eighth graders hurt the most because I was with them as long as Bowers was. I knew them from the beginning. Of course I miss all of the students; I had so many new lights in my life every day. But they are Bowers’ babies, and have had her and loved her for longer. They are invested in her.

Ortega’s test stencil. Phenomenal.

In some ways, student teaching at a high school felt like being back in high school again, but as a new girl. Some days I felt loved over all, others I felt like I had to earn or work for attention or trust. I think it was a powerful and humbling experience; I needed to remember what it felt like to be an outsider in order to appreciate how incredible it feels to be accepted. I learned so much in such a short amount of time… about teaching, but also, and moreso, about myself.

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Ashley, working on her hero, Jennifer Aniston. Those highlights are spot on.

When you make a decision to teach, at least for me, you feel excited, giddy and straight up terrified. I had no idea what to expect, of myself or the students. My students. I know they aren’t ‘mine’ but by the end of it all, it felt like that. My first day walking into George Walton left me falling over my feet. It was a private school, the behaviors and expectations were madly different than my public high school experience, I had teachers to impress, administrators to make proud, my own school to represent. I was working alongside someone who once taught me, and the relationship has changed and shifted since I graduated high school. The question of “what or how are we?” was one I frequently asked myself. What is my role? Who am I to her? Who am I to these students? What am I trying to gain or learn from this? But more than anything else:

“Is this what I am meant to do?”

Can anyone be truly certain of the path they choose at the time of choosing it? We can try to convince ourselves all day long that it’s fact, not choice. I’m MEANT to do this, it’s the only thing I would like forever, it’s the only career that will allow me to have a family, it’s the only way I can make sure my kids are safe, it’s the most logical solution to getting my kids through college, on and on and on. Sometimes I think we sell ourselves short. Maybe instead of looking at things as “well, yeah, this makes the most sense, I guess I should do it” we should see it as a risk. Do I love art? Duh. Do I love high school students? 98% of the time, absolutely. Do I think I can relate to them, write curriculum they will love and be interested in, be more than JUST an art teacher? Yes. Can I change their lives? …I think so? Will I love it every day? I want to say yes, but realistically, I know the answer is no. I guess the point is, even if it makes sense, CHOOSING to do it is still just that: a CHOICE. A choice that can backfire, blow up, explode, break your heart, go terribly wrong… The things we decide to do for the rest of our lives should never be undermined: that is a huge, powerful and risky commitment. Some of us may not see our lives like that: one big choice that determines how everything else unfolds. I do. I feel like being an art educator (and an artist) is the one way my life will unfold the way I hope it will. The magic and happy thought to finding the second star on the right. The secret to loving my life, loving my family, loving myself. By doing something I feel in my heart will satiate me every single day. That loving students and teaching art and growing and evolving will be more than enough. This is enough.

Helping my sweet Sarah on Emma. Another amazing portrait drawing by our 8th graders.

Maybe we should start to say, “Hey. I’m braver than I give myself credit for.” Every decision we make can result in a failure or a mishap. But we still choose them, even after weighing them heavily in each hand.

Olive

Olive amazes me. This girl has an incredible work ethic, and her love of mixed media has been such an inspiration to me.

Friday was a big day for me. My experience at GWA could not have been any better, more powerful, more helpful, more rewarding. I don’t think I could have loved those students any more than I do right now. But having my 8th graders walk in with cupcakes, doritos (one of Bowers favorite things), and a huge card they all signed saying “we’ve been plotting since Monday!” and “we’re so glad we didn’t give it away, it was so hard!” Hug after hug after hug. They made a choice, too. They chose to love back. Chose to trust me, confide in me, invest in me. They didn’t have to do that. I could have been a wild card. I could have put on a face, pretended to be something I wasn’t, not return the love they were so graciously giving me. I am undeserving. I don’t think my 8th graders will read this, but if they do, please know this: you are amazing. You brought this experience to life for me. You were the real deal: my first students that were just as much mine as someone else’s. You taught me that it’s okay to care, it’s okay to open up, it’s okay to ask questions, make a fool of myself, admit that maybe I don’t know everything. And I don’t. Y’all know I don’t. Seeing your faces every day (and missing them now) has made my choice to be an art educator a fact. You have confirmed which I have been hoping all along would be true: I am meant to do this.

Brittany

Britt, working so hard on her portrait. Those eyes blow me away.

I have enough memorabilia to smother an entire board at my new school. The APeepers showered me with love and treats (OMG RACHEL THOSE CUPCAKES. I wish now that I had eaten five more) and beautiful art work. Mrs. Bowers created an insane and thorough “survival kit” for me to take when I begin… she is always thinking of me and going above and beyond to do what she thinks is best for me. It’s truly amazing, and I am so grateful.

AP

AP gems. ❤

I have learned a few things about myself: I am less scared than I believed myself to be, I am not as good at remembering names as I had hoped to be, I get comfortable too quickly, I am a pusher who knows how to properly push (Bowers… <3), I am an encourager and a motivator. And when I feel brave, there are few things that can stop me.

Ash and Kennedy, my sweet pair from first period. Every day they share headphones and help each other on their art.

George Walton, thank you for making me brave in a situation I believed would be impossible for me to find my feet.

This has changed my life, forever.

Song of the Blog:
EVERYTHING’S MAGIC // ANGELS AND AIRWAVES

Day 13 (and fourteen) – Every day blogging is kind of hard.

I love my life, y’all. I really do. When I feel like things are insane and don’t make sense, something happens to make it better. A few posts back, I mentioned that I lost my social media job. This past week, I found two new jobs to help with bills. Granted, they aren’t going to take care of everything I have, and it’s still going to be a tough run the next few months, but I am so excited to be working with Sue and Libby.

Mary's awesome new mixed media work. She's gessoed the surface and is attaching dyed book pages and bleeding tissue paper to the canvas. It reminds me of stained glass.

Mary’s awesome new mixed media work. She’s gessoed the surface and is attaching dyed book pages and bleeding tissue paper to the canvas. It reminds me of stained glass.

I only have a few short weeks left at GWA, and I am dreading leaving. Not necessarily because I am moving to elementary school (although, I am terrified of that) but because I have to leave these kids. Today, Gloria, my supervisor, came to visit and observe my first period class. They were so well behaved and I feel needed and wanted with them, which is something I feel that maybe some of my fellow student teachers do not feel as much of. Working next to Rebecca Bowers has been so good for me. She is the grounding factor — the person who has truly brought this experience to life. I can’t imagine what student teaching at any other school would be like, nor do I want to. I found out today that the yearbook is doing a page on my visit. Who does that? Amazing. They make me feel so special.

Olive, doin' work as always. First period started their mixed media pieces. Olive has big plans for this work.

Olive, doin’ work as always. First period started their mixed media pieces. Olive has big plans for this work.

So first period started their mixed media assignments. So far, everyone seems pretty pumped about the projects they have planned. I am eating it up because I ADORE mixed media — this facet of art making is where my heart resides the majority of the time.

Katherine decided to be brave and try a new medium today -- encaustic. Bowers and I are so excited and want to put melted wax on everything now!

Katherine decided to be brave and try a new medium today — encaustic. Bowers and I are so excited and want to put melted wax on everything now!

The Homage project is going so well. I feel like our fourth period is really getting the hang of the different processes. Bowers and I discussed the project some last week… I was nervous because students seemed a bit frustrated and lost. She told me though, that she was never able to teach more than one process at a time because she could only be in one place at a time. The students have been given three options for this: throwing, coil building and pinch pots. It’s truly amazing what some of them are making:

Taylor working on her coiled vessel.

Taylor working on her coiled vessel.

Ashley smoothing out several rows of her coils.

Ashley smoothing out several rows of her coils.

Dustin has already completed both cups (pinch pots... aren't they stunning?) and has now moved on to his storage vessel! So proud.

Dustin has already completed both cups (pinch pots… aren’t they stunning?) and has now moved on to his storage vessel! So proud.

I’m continuing to work on a mixed media piece of my own — I believe it will be the piece I use in my exit show this spring. It has grown and shifted and is a piece that discusses ups, downs, and constant searching. I’ve decided to be brave and do a self-portrait. Bowers and I discussed (PS – I LOVE how many times I can include those four words in a single blog post… she’s so amazing) the feelings my piece provokes, and I agreed with her when she said a self-portrait is a very vulnerable work. It will pair well with the layering and handwritten text I have going now. I will photograph it tomorrow and post, so you can see the update (if you care to).

This time has passed too quickly. Every day reveals something more beautiful than the last. AP stole my heart today (they do every day, of course, but today was the best one yet). I watched three students try a brand new medium/process they have never done before, I laughed until I cried, watched Aud and Kelly pour too much tempera, made stamps next to Stephen, admired Pellegrino’s portrait, added another layer of gesso and talked a lot about wax… (AB).

I thought a lot today during planning when I was working on my piece. I wrote on it “if teaching is easy, you’re doing it wrong.” I think tomorrow I will add “if teaching is everything you could ever want and more, you’re doing it right.”

I dunno. I am the learned and the learner. The art educator and the artist. It’s becoming harder every day to separate these roles, and I think that is perfect.

Song of the Blog:
THE LIGHTHOUSE SONG // NICKEL CREEK

Day 12 – rainbows and butterflies and words and sharp objects

To love your students makes you vulnerable. Until this week, I never saw that as a weakness. Only when it is turned and made to hurt does one realize the risk involved with loving your kids.

Ortega, powering through her prisma. So gorgeous.

Ortega, powering through her prisma. So gorgeous.

Progress on Caroline's painting!

Progress on Caroline’s painting!

I constantly try to remind myself that there are students who are grateful. There will always be the ones who need someone more than just a teacher — a mentor, a friend, a confidante. Even when those precious hearts show you what you mean to them, it is still painful when others show you mean nothing to them. It hurts to have it happen to you, but it is even more painful to witness.

Progress on Aud's mixed media piece! I think she has done an awesome job depicting Laura!

Progress on Aud’s mixed media piece! I think she has done an awesome job depicting Laura!

Angel and I worked together to get the photographs she needed for her Concentration! She started this week and I am in LOVE with the expressive mark making she is incorporating into her charcoal works.

Angel and I worked together to get the photographs she needed for her Concentration! She started this week and I am in LOVE with the expressive mark making she is incorporating into her charcoal works.

I’m grateful for them both. The ones who hurt, intentionally or not, make you stronger, wiser, and a bit more fierce. The ones who need you remind you why you are there, and what it feels like to make a sound and strong investment.

Layer 5 on my mixed media work.

Layer 5 on my mixed media work.

Rachel's graphite work. The hammer looks like a photograph. They amaze me.

Rachel’s graphite work. The hammer looks like a photograph. They amaze me.

I hope in a few years time, I can read back on this and know I still hold those same values. I hope years from now, I will still be grateful for those that hurt me and those that build me. Because if the ones that hurt are allowed to break things down, then what is left but ruin? I can be of no use to any one if I am ruin.

Faitlin, onto a new work. Her work ethic is inspiring.

Faitlin, onto a new work. Her work ethic is inspiring.

AB embroidering.

AB embroidering.

I have been debating for three days whether or not to post this blog. It’s been a daily struggle, trying to figure out what is okay to write about and what is not, but this is honest and real and hard. I know I have it so much easier than most student teachers, but pain is relative, and this sort of issue is the one that affects me, and my CT, the most. She’s a beautiful person, constantly taking blame for the few faults in her classes. She is an amazing teacher, and I think if I asked her, she might agree that her biggest weakness (and greatest strength) is caring so much about her students. It is easy for me to say, as an outsider and a less invested individual, what is happening in a classroom, but that does not mean I am right. I know nothing compared to the four years she has had these students. So next week, my goal is to hush, to be fair, and to try to react less and observe more. And to be a co-teacher and a friend to this incredible woman who has accepted me and trusted me with the environment of her classroom. It is not my place to change that, nor should I desire it. These kids are only mine by adoption, through her. And I should try my best to see them through her eyes.

Song of the blog:
LOVE WILL TELL US WHERE TO GO // BRIDGIT MENDLER

Day 10 – and eleven

So last night I didn’t post. Because I suck. Actually, there are a few reasons I didn’t post, but that doesn’t really matter. I’m here now, right?

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Sometimes I wonder what else I would write on this blog if I knew it wasn’t public, or that many people could find it. The past two days have been a little tough, and for reasons I should not and cannot discuss, if I want to be considered professional. More than anything else, I wonder when confrontation changed from face to face to behind the internet, and I also wonder how many people get hurt on a daily basis about the careless comments other people make. I also wish I had the guts to defend and protect and step up when it is necessary. After seeing someone amazing get hurt several times over, it’s becoming more compelling every day to put on the Superman suit under my work clothes… I know my followers probably don’t need to hear this, but maybe some of your friends or kids need to: don’t be a coward. Don’t say hurtful things as if they have no consequence. Don’t be stupid and foolish enough to think that you can keep those things a secret when they’re floating around in the universe for anyone to find. And don’t do it to the people I love. Because I’m not afraid. I’m a Hufflepuff, and we are fiercely loyal and never interfere until we are attacked. Once that happens, you better tuck your tail and run. I will dig you out of the ground if I must.

Ashley's beautiful india ink painting!

Ashley’s beautiful india ink painting!

Okay, end rant. Sorry. Other, amazing things have happened, too (and they obviously outweigh any bad!)

Ortega's Tower Bridge is coming along so beautifully!

Ortega’s Tower Bridge is coming along so beautifully!

Bowers finally came back to school today! HOORAY! We all missed her, but I especially did! Yesterday I was with Mr. Reagan, who was SO awesome, but it still felt weird not having Bowers there. Today we were day-dreaming about co-teaching. We decided we would take over the world, if it were possible for the two of us to work together. It was awesome.

Dylis' prisma has progressed so much. These skin tones are so gorgeous.

Dylis’ prisma has progressed so much. These skin tones are so gorgeous.

So Monday we are starting a mixed media assignment with first block! It’s going to be so awesome. 🙂 I love mixed media, it’s one of the things I feel comfortable and confident doing. I actually have quite a few students who are interested in doing embroidery! AB already has this gorgeous piece mapped out, but Kristen is going to embroider her work, too!

KDunn's portrait/mixed media piece in the beginning stages!

KDunn’s portrait/mixed media piece in the beginning stages!

Do you guys remember the project of Caroline’s I was talking about last blog? Take a look at this! I am so in love with it:

Caroline's painting!

Caroline’s painting!

A detail shot of the painting! She used paint palettes and is now adding color on top of them.

A detail shot of the painting! She used paint palettes and is now adding color on top of them.

Bailey's prisma. The reflections are so awesome.

Bailey’s prisma. The reflections are so awesome.

Today, eighth grade had their first “Experimental Friday.” Every Friday, Bowers allows anyone in any of her classes (except for maybe AP) to work on something different, usually visual journals! Today our sweet 8th graders worked on theirs for the first time! Bowers gave a demo on bleeding tissue paper (one of my FAVORITE things ever)!

Bowers giving a demo!

Bowers giving a demo!

Our 8th graders made some BEAUTIFUL pages today — I am so moved by their kind hearts.

Stevi experimenting with bleeding tissue paper!

Stevi experimenting with bleeding tissue paper!

Mallory's visual journal page

Mallory’s visual journal page

Jesse's visual journal

Jesse’s visual journal

Stevi and Mallory tag-teaming a page.

Stevi and Mallory tag-teaming a page.

My beautiful classroom and gorgeous students working hard in their journals.

My beautiful classroom and gorgeous students working hard in their journals.

These kids skills have improved so much in just two short weeks.  They are such great listeners, and have been working hard. I love seeing their faces every single day, knowing they are eager and excited to be in our class. Their visual journal pages were beautiful.

Danielle's visual journal page, inspired by song lyrics by Passenger (I think...)

Danielle’s visual journal page, inspired by song lyrics by Passenger (I think…)

Macy's awesome visual journal page! Love the tufts of tissue paper.

Macy’s awesome visual journal page! Love the tufts of tissue paper.

4th period’s clay project is going really well! We have a lot of students making pinch pot cups (Ted would be so glad!) and the homage idea has been so beautiful. Jade is paying homage to Poe:

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Audrey started a new piece today… it might look familiar to some of you:

Audrey's started a new breadth piece for her AP concentration!

Audrey’s started a new breadth piece for her AP concentration!

I’m so excited. She’s doing the entire base in watercolor, then she’s going on top of it with prisma and chalk pastel. It’s going to be gorgeous.

So today, for the first time in a long time, I took out a big canvas and started a piece. Bowers talked it out with me. It felt so good to just start working something out without really knowing what the end result was going to be. As I started gesso-ing my found drawing board, I realized in a way it really felt like my life. I know that sounds ridiculous, but this past month and the future months as well hold nothing but unknown territory for me. I don’t know how I’m going to pay my bills, not sure I’m going to find a job when I graduate, I have no idea if I will be successful in an elementary school, I have no idea where I’ll be living or what my life will be like… but the idea of all the things that CAN happen are so incredible and beautiful it’s almost worth the terror of uncharted waters.

Maybe it’s okay to let things happen. Maybe it’s okay to not be certain of what’s next in line. Maybe it’s okay to work it as you go and to accept what comes, and what doesn’t. Maybe it’s okay to fail and try again until you figure it out. Maybe all those things together can make something really beautiful…

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Today, after most of AP had cleared out, AB turned around as she was walking out the door and said something magic:

“Love you, Ms. Mockett”

Song of the blog:
AIN’T IT FUN // PARAMORE

Day 9 – Assume the position

So today was an interesting day… (wow, I have had long nails for a few weeks now, but I cracked one giving my clay demo today and I have trimmed them all. It’s weird to type without them!)

Poor Bowers has been sick and hurt all week. Because of this, everything has been a bit wonky and off. I’ve been much more involved with the students, mostly because Bowers has been home or has been with the doctor. It’s given me a great opportunity to step up as a teacher, though, and become comfortable with trying to take control of situations and handle things. (It isn’t easy and it still feels weird, but I keep telling myself it’s okay and that this is part of the process). I am so glad I’m here to help Bowers out though, because she NEVER misses school, ever (today was her second day in the 8 years of her teaching that she has ever called in sick, and she only came in late. She didn’t even take a full day) and I know it’s stressing her out so hard to be gone. Today was a great day.

Mariam's progress.

Mariam’s progress.

So I’ve started to get really good at this clothes picking thing. For the most part, I’ve been staying in Covington, so I pack for five or so days at a time. I’ve got a week’s worth of clothes gathered up. That wasn’t even relevant.

So today my fourth period got several clay demos. It was tough because I felt boring and it took literally the entire class period to give all the demos I needed to… Bowers said I did great, but I’m not used to 50 minute studio time. College has spoiled me that way.

Wedging, ugh. The hardest part of teaching a ceramics unit. -__-

Wedging, ugh. The hardest part of teaching a ceramics unit. -__-

Sarah had this amazing sketch ready to show me today… I could tell she had taken it home and worked on it, which made me ecstatic. I also had an eighth grader tell me today that I needed to read the Fault in our Stars, by John Green. I told Kaitlyn I hadn’t read it and she said “OH! I will bring it in for you tomorrow! It is SO good!” Haha, loving the fact that I’m already borrowing books from my students. I’ll have to interrupt Atlas Shrugged so I can get Kaitlyn her book back before I leave at the end of February. I’m so excited.

Emily's pattern filled prisma.

Emily’s pattern filled prisma.

My fourth period also asked me today how our observation went yesterday. They were SO well behaved. Today at my seminar, I got my results back from my supervising teacher. I got a perfect score. How amazing is that? I was not expecting that in any way, but I am so glad it happened. I have to thank my kids and I cannot WAIT to tell them tomorrow.

McKenzie's gorgeous painting.

McKenzie’s gorgeous painting.

An interesting thought has been moving around in my head the past week or so. I wonder how many individuals confuse caring and having a relationship for your students as being a “friend” with your student. Bowers and I had a really long chat about that last week, and thinking that being friends with your kids and caring for your kids are the same thing really upset me for some reason. They are so different. I would not expect to go out and grab Pho with my students (Kelsey <3). But I do want to hear about how Payton’s race went last night at the swim meet, and I do want to know what Kennedy’s favorite actresses are. I do want to know that Ortega prefers one Chik Fil A over another (that freezer taste, eck) or that Zep loves stuffed nachos from Taco Bell. I want to hear about Libby’s volleyball tournaments and the status of Rachel’s scholarships to SCAD are. I DO want to know what happens in my kids lives, and I don’t want that to be interpreted as being desperate to receive love or trying too hard. I want to know those things because I care about them, and I want to learn them like the back of my hand. They give me beautiful things every day, through their art, their conversation, and their willingness to please. The least I can do is return all the love I can muster as a thank you. They are the reason I am here and want to teach at all. They are not my friends. They are my kids. My mentees, my confidantes, my laughter and my grounding. My life is going to revolve around them. That doesn’t stop when the last bell rings, or when I’m home cooking dinner or out with friends. Those kids possess your heart.

My doodles are evolving every day. My art making has increased ten-fold.

My doodles are evolving every day. My art making has increased ten-fold.

I just wanted to say that my lady dogs made state tonight. Kit, AB, Cedar, Berkeley… I am SO proud of y’all. I KNEW you would make it tonight, I had no shadow of a doubt, but y’all dropped two entire seconds. I am so impressed and proud of you.

Faitlin's new project -- that girl is kicking butt and taking names.

Faitlin’s new project — that girl is kicking butt and taking names.

For all my constant readers (I cannot believe I have those), thank you. Of course, I started this blog for my mom and my grandma, but to know other people find so much joy in it reassures me it will serve a grander purpose. I love knowing I am keeping track of this beautiful thing growing inside me, and I’ll be able to trace it back to the beginning.

Tonight, Kelsey said, “Every time I read your blog, I think to myself, I should be as happy as her.” It’s true. You should. Because this week has actually sucked. I lost my job, I’ve been stuffed to the gills with plans and showers and lessons and photo editing and LIFE, I am exhausted EVERY single day, rest or no rest, coffee isn’t cutting it, I am constantly struggling with feeling inadequate, I doubt myself at times and fear my stronger, firmer teacher voice… But that is still so tiny and insignificant to the magic that is happening in this classroom.

Chris Schulte has taught me to find beauty in everything, and Dumbledore said that everything is there if we can only remember to turn on the lights. We move every day through these masses of people, activities, assignments, conversations… several of us pass through them, contributing nothing and taking nothing, like ghosts. It is a lonely and tiring thing to do, to never love or risk or take a chance on something. I’m just an art teacher, but I know one thing: I have never found more power, courage and beauty in myself as I have on this journey. Follow your heart. Pay your own tuition. Take less hours if you need to. Drop out of school and move to Colorado, if you need to. Invest in something crazy, if you need to. DO IT, because time is too damn precious. Tapping your feet and hoping for the day you are ready to be brave will leave you disappointed. It’s today. It is RIGHT NOW. Because to assume there is a tomorrow waiting for you is selfish. To wait for your life to begin is robbing yourself of the life that is already happening. Encounters happen every time you pass someone, every conversation you have, every opportunity to speak or cry or laugh or BE. Take them. Take them and run.

A thank you to an amazing man who has changed this soul forever.

A thank you to an amazing man who has changed this soul forever.

I’m just a teacher, though. What do I know. #thisisthelife
Song of the blog:
SO IMPOSSIBLE // DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL

lumos

 

 

Day 8 – My first lesson went without catastrophe.

To be more than what you have to be, or to feel more, or to allow yourself to be open and to embrace being scared and afraid, or to embrace being happy and to relish in your failures and your successes. And to find a way to translate that into your everyday life, and into your classroom, and making those ideals relatable to your students.

Today was magic. My Homage lesson plan was a hit.

Today was magic. My Homage lesson plan was a hit.

Today was a whirlwind of emotions, but by some miracle, it did not include nerves. I was a bit jittery during planning, but once I picked up Professor Wilson and escorted her back to classroom, I felt relaxed and excited. I reminded myself to focus on the smallest parts of today and to cherish it. And after I decided this, I noticed the details: asking about Cedar’s weekend, checking in with Parker about his leg and MRI, learning that Camille loves Paramore… It became so easy to just melt into them, and Professor Wilson sat with the students. She’s so wonderful and easy to be around, it was almost as if she was one of us.

Hailey, Parker, Wes, Nick and Ivy looking over their new project (HEHE!) while we get the hot tea going.

Hailey, Parker, Wes, Nick and Ivy looking over their new project (HEHE!) while we get the hot tea going.

Here are the requirements for our assignment:

  • 2 cups (may be thrown or hand built)
  • 2 coasters
  • Box/vessel
  • This vessel must hold both cups (which can be stacked, side by side, or nested)
  • This vessel must have a lid that has a found object for a handle

I will also be looking for a connection between your cups, vessel, and individual. In your handout, I will provide prompts to help you explore various qualities and traits about your individual. These prompts are meant to help you make aesthetic decisions and to develop a theme throughout all parts of your “tea” set.

Faitlin, working with paint dripping. So gorgeous and eerie.

Faitlin, working with paint dripping. So gorgeous and eerie.

Should you be interested in our next assignment, try our brainstorming activity we did at the beginning of class today:

On a sheet of paper or in your visual journal, think of 5-7 people who have influenced or changed you. Write them down.

After thinking about our requirements and introduction, select 1 person from your list and answer at least five of the following questions:

  1. Who are you paying homage to?
  2. How does this person make you feel?
  3. If you could pick 2 colors to describe them, which would you choose?
  4. If this person was an animal, what would they be?
  5. List 3 qualities this person possesses that you either see in yourself or wish you had?
  6. How has this person changed the way you see the world?
  7. How did you meet, find, or come across this person?
Lindsey finished her Loki piece! This photograph doesn't do it justice -- I was just trying to prevent a 'prisma sheen'

Lindsey finished her Loki piece! This photograph doesn’t do it justice — I was just trying to prevent a ‘prisma sheen’

This morning, Kristy came in and said something that really made me happy, “Last night, I was telling my dad about how much I like having you in class.” Le grin. I also was thrilled to help Caroline come up with an AMAZING project. I will be posting progress pictures of it, because I think it’s going to be amazing. It’s mixed media, and revolves around this idea of “unfinished” because Caroline really dislikes having to continue to work on things after she’s “over it” to make it look finished. So we’re playing off that idea and including a LOT of color. It’s gonna be awesome!

Bowers doing a value/shading demo to our 8th graders today.

Bowers doing a value/shading demo to our 8th graders today.

Awesome watercolor. Skills and skeletons are pretty popular in the classroom right now.

Awesome watercolor. Skulls and skeletons are pretty popular in the classroom right now.

Panorama of this amazing classroom.

Panorama of this amazing classroom.

Overall, I’m feeling fantastic. Today was exciting and new and fun, but I think it was interesting and I am hoping the students are looking forward to it! I’m going to take a few photos of sketches and brainstorming tomorrow — Cullen had mentioned paying homage to the Mad Hatter — that could be so gorgeous.

Song of the blog:
TAKE IT FROM ME // THE WEEPIES

I survived. I flourished. I am tired. Today was an amazing day.

Pre-Big Day Jitters

So it’s after midnight and I’m sitting in bed. I just completed the finishing touches on my Homage lesson. Earlier today, I confided in a very special friend of mine about my struggles and fears of being an educator, and in response she reminded me of a very important block of time in both of our lives.

Last summer I realized there were other art educators like me. Last summer I was changed forever by the idea of radical hospitality, creative material, and encounters. Last summer, Dr. Christopher Schulte invited me to take part in beautiful conversations that have since unfolded tiny miracle after miracle in my life. Last summer, I lost any shadow of a doubt that this is what I was meant to do, every day, for the rest of my life.

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Sometimes it’s hard to remember those things in the midst of chaos, confusion, huge life changes, lesson planning, figuring out what to wear, trying to have real and meaningful conversations with students… and then I was reminded that life itself is creative material, and each of those things — chaos included — is an opportunity for a new encounter.

Be still, my heart. The ones who hold a very special place. I learned more than I ever thought possible about myself in that short month. To radical hospitality, *clink*

Be still, my heart. The ones who hold a very special place. I learned more than I ever thought possible about myself in that short month. To radical hospitality, *clink*

What is it about words? Somehow they never seem enough, but sometimes, when you need them most, they do more than actions ever could. Rebecca, my very special friend, conducted research in this class over the summer. She interviewed nearly all of us (probably all of us) at the end of the semester. Today she sent my interview to me.

So I think Chris had a role in keeping us as a unit, and respecting us as future educators and as individuals. Who we are and what we had to offer, and being comfortable with acknowledging us. Sometimes he would look at me and after I would say something, I would feel like I had shared was profound. I mean, just looking at me with this like “Thank you, for saying that.” So much of the conversation I just wanted to be like, I just wanted to hug and kiss people and be like “You are genius!” This is incredible. Do you know what you are doing for my heart? Do you know what you are doing for my future? Everything that is happening in this classroom has completely eliminated any shred of a doubt that I would have had about what I wanted to do. Do you know what I mean? I feel in that way Chris’s role was definitely a unifier, a mediator, a contributor, a strengthener. He was like the backbone, and I feel like we would have gone several of the places, maybe we did, without him, but I feel like it would not have reached the depths that it did, without his contributions, and, and without him allowing us to speak. Maybe his role to was to teach us how to listen, and our role was to be supportive of one another, and to respect one another, and to be open-minded.

Tomorrow is a huge day for me. I know half the people that read this blog understand that this is what I want to do every day for the rest of my life, and I also know that a handful of that half know there are few things in my life I care about more than this. This is not a career to get me through. This isn’t the easy way out, a given gig, an obvious solution. This isn’t what I’m going to do “in the mean time.” This is ALL I want. These students, having a class room, making art surrounded by beautiful souls who fill me with joy whilst simultaneously making me CRAZY, that is what this girl lives for. I am so much less without the existence of this path, and there is nothing I could think of that I would throw my heart into as much as this. The struggle has been real and there have been days I have desperately wanted to throw that towel to the ground and stamp on it and walk away. But there are not enough bad incidents to ever outweigh the good, the incredible spirits I have met could never be ignored now that they have infiltrated my heart, and the passion of the art educators that have taught me shows me I am never alone in wanting the best for my students.

The Labor of Pedagogy

The Labor of Pedagogy

Call me crazy. Call me moronic, idiotic, foolish. You are wrong. I am proud. I am inspired. I am moved and I am moving. I am a believer in encounters and a supporter of radical hospitality. Wide awake… that is what I desperately always want to be.

So here goes nothing. I’m diving in, and I can’t wait to drown my fears. I know this will be everything I could ever dream of, because it already IS. I am only going to find more.

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“You want to know what I make? I make a difference…”