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.

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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.

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.

photo 4

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.

photo 5 (2)

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