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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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 7 – Our Friday

Hi, friends. Today was a very big day for me.  My first period class has burrowed into a special place and I’m beginning to feel very welcomed and accepted with them. Yesterday, I was doing my walk-around and noticed Ashley’s visual journal out on her table and asked if I could look at it tomorrow (today). She sent it home with me and I made a page (remember my post yesterday?) for her to glue in if she wanted to. Ashley is a girl after my heart — she loves music (and by love it I truly mean she loves it. Unconditionally). Nearly every page was covered in music lyrics — things that seem hard and true and real and a struggle. It included things that some people may never share with anyone. Knowing Ashley trusted me to see that much of her was a true honor.

My first period has connected with me on so many levels. Yesterday Ashley allowed me to take her visual journal home with her... it was beautiful and packed with song lyrics. I made a spread for Ashley with Incubus lyrics: "There's something about the look in yours. something I notice when the light is just right. It reminded me twice that I was alive, and it reminded me that you're so worth the fight."

My first period has connected with me on so many levels. Yesterday Ashley allowed me to take her visual journal home with her… it was beautiful and packed with song lyrics. I made a spread for Ashley with Incubus lyrics: “There’s something about the look in yours. something I notice when the light is just right. It reminded me twice that I was alive, and it reminded me that you’re so worth the fight.”

Today after she read the page, she walked up to be and gave me a huge hug. “Thank you so much, it’s beautiful.” She walked away and then came the tears. How do you teachers do it? I’m going to cry every day. I’m already at four in a row. I can’t handle it. It’s amazing. She also started a new project today. She’s going to use india inks! So excited:

Ashley's new project!

Ashley’s new project!

Mary's incredible chandelier.

Mary’s incredible chandelier.

Second period, Bowers gave me the courage to help teach. We introduced contour line drawings today. Bowers spoke on contour and gave a mini lesson on line quality and drawing through shapes and line, then transitioned into a contour drawing of their bookbags.

My eighth graders working on contour drawings of their bookbags.

My eighth graders working on contour drawings of their bookbags.

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Bowers working alongside our eighth graders today. One of the things I love most about her is that she makes art with her artists.

Bowers working alongside our eighth graders today. One of the things I love most about her is that she makes art with her artists.

So after we worked on contour drawings, I read an excerpt from a book called “The Things We Carry” by Tim O’Brien, an account of his experiences as a Vietnam soldier.

The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wrist watches, dog tags, mosquito repellant, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water. Together, these items weighed between fifteen and twenty pounds, depending upon a man’s habits or the rate of metabolism. The things they carried were determined to some extent by superstition. For the most part they carried themselves with poise, a kind of dignity. They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing – these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight. They carried shameful memories. They carried the common secret of cowardice barely retrained, the instinct to run or freeze or hide, and in many respects this was the heaviest burden of all, for it could never be put down.

After I read the excerpt, I explained to our students the difference between tangible and intangible — things we can physically touch and the things we carry inside us. I listed out some quick examples of what intangible burdens may be. We then asked our students to talk about ten things they carry – in the form of a list, a poem or a narrative. As they were working, I passed on student’s paper and saw on their list “regret, envy, need.” Tears filled my eyes as I realized that big things happen before high school. Students of all ages feel so much and they trust us with that information. How beautiful. After they walked out and I wiped those silly,  insistent tears from my face, all I could think was “how can this possibly get any better?”

Bowers took a dried paint palette today and turned it into this... she amazes me.

Bowers took a dried paint palette today and turned it into this… she amazes me.

During planning today I decided to write out my ten things I carry in my bag:

visual journal – for the words I can’t find
pencils – to create and erase
fear – of disappointing
pressure – to be perfect, kind, calm, collected, intelligent, funny, professional, wise, responsible, charming, spontaneous, put-together…
worry – that I may not be successful or accepted
mio – to flavor my water… and bring sweetness to the ordinary
harry potter book – to remind me to be brave, even in the midst of dementors
pride – in my accomplishments, in my love for life, in the investments of my heart, and the works and minds of my students
courage – in hopes that one day, when I need it, it will be there
self-worth – if I don’t have it, no one else is carrying it in their bag for me.

Shelby and Animalions in 5th period. :)

Shelby and Animalions in 5th period. 🙂

This weekend Bowers is running a half marathon in Charleston, so she gave me the day off tomorrow to work on writing my curriculum unit that I start teaching Tuesday (EEEEEEEP!).

Even the substitute folder is beautiful.

Even the substitute folder is beautiful.

Madison's gorgeous prisma.

Madison’s gorgeous prisma.

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Bowers and Fellows experimenting with more paint dripping!

Bowers and Fellows experimenting with more paint dripping!

So I promised my likes and dislikes. Here goes nothing.

  • I don’t like gossip. It makes me sad.
  • I like movies, cars, and jokes. Share those all day long.
  • I don’t like things that look or resemble blood or needles. Don’t joke about that. It will never be funny. Especially when I throw up everywhere.
  • I love Star Trek and Harry Potter.
  • Dogs, chai tea, film photography, Tuscan Red, and small lights make me so happy.
  • I don’t like brussel sprouts. Or asparagus. Ew.
  • I don’t like people talking when I’m giving instructions or saying something important. Rude.
  • I don’t mind cell phones – if you don’t touch them, leave them in my class, text on them, send Snapchats, troll Instagram or Tweet the stupid things I say. There’s a time and place for all of that, and it isn’t in my class.
  • I like weird words, making up words, and using the wrong words. The struggle is real, y’all hang in there.
  • I like Tommy. He’s the coolest person I know. Ask me anything about him. I love to talk about him. (You’ll see)
  • Grading is hard. I don’t like doing it, so don’t give me a reason to give you anything other than an A.
  • I don’t do nails on chalkboards, or anything that resembles that sound. Please, don’t.
  • I’m not into people who talk over others, or who love to hear themselves talk. Give everyone a turn.
  • I’m so into awkward. I love awkward like it’s my job.
  • If I could be any fictional character, ever, it would be Hermione Granger. If you don’t know who that is, take a lap.
  • I love to read, knit, collect dogs and eat sweet potatoes

And I’m sure it will be added to… That was surprisingly funny. It’s almost like an “about me” on MySpace. I haven’t written one of those in ages.

Today’s inspiration pieces:

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Song of the blog:
ECHO // INCUBUS

Is it really just around the corner?

I woke up this morning and reached over to grab an embroidery piece I’m working on. It’s for my father and his new wife in their new home. As I’m working on my backstitch, I remember that I learned this in a classroom. I dyed the fabric I’m stitching on. I own 8 embroidery hoops.

My living room has two containers of yarn and knitting needles. The wash rag by my sink is stained from paint. My desk top is completely collaged. I have prints framed in my living room. How beautiful is my life?

Next semester I begin student teaching. These next two months will be my last months in a classroom that will not be partially my own… The last time saying, “oh, I have an 8 am” or “I’m just so ready for this crit to be done so I can breathe again.” My last time wandering the Dodd as a student. The last time I will just be “Kaitlynn” when I am in the school. What is my life?

Is the next step really so close to me? I can finally see the stairs and I am beside myself with excitement. I’ll miss UGA and everything it has given me, but words could never share how ready I am to have students of my own; to change lives and be changed, to make art because I want to, to have students that share their lives with me, or even just one who will. I am so ready to make my life into creative material…

Some fine art majors scoff at art education as a program… Some belittle it or believe it to be meaningless. I giggle. My major is incredible. I learn about myself every single day sitting in these classes. I get to CHOOSE what studios I take, what my emphasis is, what grades I want to teach, what is important to me and what is not. Not only that, everything I learn is intended to be passed along to fresh minds. I get to share everything I know and I want to. Sure, we discuss professional dress and the standards and what we should and shouldn’t say. We also learn how others learn so that we may flex and accommodate all of our students. We talk about what is worthy of art making (which just so happens to be every detail in your life), we discuss why we are passionate and what we care most about, the actual innocence level of children, writing curriculum as a creative act, not as a chore, appropriating standards so they may become helpful tools instead of chains which we are locked to. Why we matter…

Am I shaking in my shoes at the thought of teaching? Of course. But my fear never outweighs the time I have waited, the struggle I have endured, the fire in my heart that fuels the want for this next timeframe in my life.

To my students I have not yet met: I love you already. You bring out amazing things in me — thoughts I did not know I was capable of creating. I want to change your life in some small way and I know you will change mine.

“Be who you were created to be and you will set the world on fire.
St. Catherine of Sienna