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. 

Advertisements

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.