Wednesday, August 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

“What?!” he asks.

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

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

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

Michael, the Boy Who Did

Michael, the Boy Who Did

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

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

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

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

'Naja and Ali; precious APeepers.

‘Naja and Ali; precious APeepers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stand your ground. It’s sacred.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

DeMarco's beautiful Picasso drawing.

DeMarco’s beautiful Picasso drawing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a little. That's all it takes.

Just a little. That’s all it takes.

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

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

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

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

"how i adore you" -visual journal page

“how i adore you” -visual journal page

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

My precious APeepers before the bell rang today.

My precious APeepers before the bell rang today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.2.2015 – a new beginning.

I am so thankful for coffee.

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

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

Summer Upload 2015 126

Our seniors at the High Museum of Art!

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

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

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

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

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

Morgie and Mockett

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

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

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

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

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

 

My first time seeing my room.

My first time seeing my room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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.

Day 4 – A Case of the Mondays

Whew. I have GOT to start getting more sleep.

Coffee wasn’t going to be enough this morning, and fortunately, I knew that last night when I went to the store. I picked up a Starbucks green tea energy drink, in Raspberry Pomegranate (my favie, yummers!). Didn’t make a difference. The first half of the day I could have been dead on a doormat and no one would have known the difference. Note to self, midnight is not a good bed time anymore. Ten PM at the latest. The struggle has been real.  Anyway, enough self-induced self-pity. Moving on…

Other than my zombie brain during the first two periods, today was a good day. Interesting, if nothing else. My first period is our Art III class, and they are working on a Prismacolor project. Two of my sweet students, Alison and Lindsey, let me photograph their work today:

Lindsey's Loki Prisma piece

Lindsey’s Loki Prisma piece

Alison Ortega's Prisma piece.

Alison Ortega’s Prisma piece.

Second period is 8th grade. Those kinds are sweet, but they’re also brand new. Bowers is so good with names, and I’m trying really hard to get them (usually I am champion status at names, but sheesh! 80 students a day is so much to remember). I’m getting better… slowly, but surely. Bowers and the students have been a big help. I’m glad they are patient with me while I struggle to remember something as simple as their name. Our 8th graders are learning to draw realistically. Today, Mrs. Bowers allowed me to read information sheets they fill out at the beginning of her class. They have a few simple questions, and it’s truly incredible to see what answers to quirky questions (and handwriting) can help you learn about your students. I am so excited.

Ms. Mockett, going to lunch stag today.

Ms. Mockett, going to lunch stag today.

Mrs. Bowers was elected as Teacher of the Month (the third time this year) and had a luncheon with Rotary Club for 4th and 5th periods today, so I was interested to see how things shifted. They definitely did once Bowers left, but 5th period was the biggest challenge. The students are sweet, but they also love to talk and the volume level got out of hand really quickly. I felt awkward trying to reign them in, but I also felt a bit disrespected, knowing they would not normally be so loud and off task if Bowers were there. So today I got to exercise a “teacher” card. It felt weird and I don’t like having to raise my voice because I couldn’t hear myself speak at a normal level. I find myself gaining a little confidence and starting to understand (and remember) how student’s work. I know they don’t mean to be disrespectful, and in truth, they aren’t, really, but I also know they don’t see me on the same level as Bowers (which I am not). It’s a fine line between speaking up and letting things go, but today I spoke up. It was scary, but hearing the class settle afterward made it worth it. Other students are there to work on the project at hand and look forward to art. I want them to be able to hear themselves think, and I would want a teacher that would keep the classroom that way for me.

AP students are submitting their portfolios of their work thus far to Bowers tomorrow. I was asked to help pick some prints and works today. I felt honored and excited; the GWA students are so talented and gifted. I also plucked up the courage to ask my APeepers if I could photograph them for my exit show, and invited them to come. Most of them said yes right away. A few others seemed uncomfortable, but I can understand that. They don’t know me very well yet. I just hope in the next month, they change their mind. I would love to have several faces to show. All of these students are already changing me.

My vocab word for all of student teaching:

My vocab word for all of student teaching:

Kennedy in 5th period told me today that if she could pick any actress to play her, she would pick Carey Mulligan. Camille and I both said Emma Stone. The small conversations like this make me happy. Also, to see a current high schooler still swoon over the amazing talent of Kate Winslet brings me great pleasure. There was an 8th grade girl in class today who knew who Tom Petty was. Perfect. Because Tom Petty songs can never be skipped in Bowers’ class. Never.

Today, one of my girlfriends, Paige, sent me this text:

Just wanted to tell you that you and your blog inspired me to start really utilizing my visual journal. For the first time in almost a year, I made art just because I like to make art. So thank you, really.

And with it she sent this picture:

Paige’s Visual Journal
Paige's Visual Journal

Paige’s Visual Journal

Can I just say one thing? THAT ^ is what I live for. Paige, I love you. Thank you.

I start teaching my unit Tuesday… EEP. I’m working on writing my curriculum tonight. We’re doing a clay unit, I’m SO EXCITED! I’d like to leave a few inspiration pieces, keep my brain juices flowing. Also, doing a song of the day:

APPLE BLOSSOM // THE WHITE STRIPES

jan 13 inspiration

Day 3 – Feelin’ Sassier.

I’m not gonna lie, y’all. I’m TIRED. Like, walked in the door, kicked off my shoes, made a hot chai and hit the bed tired. This is going to take some getting used to. But now I’m sitting in the warmth of a bed. Winning.

Today started off a little crazy. I woke up late (5:45 instead of 5:15, eeeesh), made a breakfast and forgot it until the last minute, hunted for my phone for fifteen minutes (how I could look that long for it in my tiny apartment, I have no idea. I found it in my robe pocket. Really?), packed all my weekend bags and loaded them up in the rain, had to stop and get gas when I was already running ten minutes late, people driving like the world is ending…. it was nuts. Shake my head. BUT! I got more coffee creamer and found my favorite coffee in Keurig form:

8 O Clock Original -- there a few coffees better than this one.

8 O Clock Original — there a few coffees better than this one.

I had some good, easy, fun (oh, those words are so wonderful) conversations with our students today.  In first period students talked about their cars and trucks while I embroidered in my visual journal (can I just say I missed that thing?). Second period we went to the Nicholson Center to hear Theresa Edwards, four time gold-medal winning Olympic basketball player, give a motivational speech. I love that great athletes give speeches that can relate to everyone. One line brought me to tears:

There is no secret to hard work.

Now, ain’t that one of the truest things you’ve ever heard?

photo 2

Bowers’ amazing cupcake collection.

Third period is planning, and I just want to say that my teacher is a phenomenal woman. I was so fortunate to know her and have her before this, but to see her as a teacher from a teacher’s perspective now is something else entirely. She is one of 6 incredible educators who has changed me, permanently.

Three of our boys decided to work with clay in 5th period today and I worked with them. Chase threw a cup, Reid pulled his first cup and Dean centered and started his first vessel, too. I didn’t realize that a sense of pride so strong comes from knowing you helped a student learn something new. Reid threw his first cup, and I found my teacher and asked her to come look. I was so proud of him, and the look on his face when he thinned those walls for the first time will hopefully be an image I remember for ages.  I felt so at ease in the clay room and I wasn’t exactly expecting that. While I have EXPERIENCE with clay, I definitely am lacking in the finesse category. But the right words to say came a little easier today. I found myself giving tips and pointers: “keep as much water out of the inside of the cup as you can” “don’t let the wheel spin too fast after you’ve started to pull — the momentum can throw your cup off center” “Remember, Reid, equal pressure through both arms.” I’m not bragging or trying to give myself props… but I was proud of myself today. It felt more tangible — the idea of being able to communicate instructions and assistance to students. They understood me, and furthermore, listened. I felt confident for the first time since Wednesday (I know, that’s only two days, but those first two days are seriously intimidating and seem so important).

The APeepers (AP Art students) are trying to sort out their concentrations and one of our ladies wanted to try a new painting inspired by Philip Barlow:

Philip Barlow

Philip Barlow

So we took two of her classmates, dressed ’em out and went outdoors to give a shot of our own. Here are my favorites from today:

Kayleigh and AB

Kayleigh and AB

Kayleigh and AB

Kayleigh and AB

I am so excited to see Libby work on these.

I’m feeling a bit of inspiration of my own — I’ve been working on my visual journal and plan to start a new project next week. I’m thinking a painting? Here are small blips of my sources of inspiration this week:

Week 1 Inspiration

Week 1 Inspiration

Time for dinner. I’m going to plan a project to start next week. I’ll fill you guys in… I might even blog over the weekend! Okay, Tommy is poking me, and harassing me until we eat, so I guess I better go eat my Bullrito’s.