Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. ~Twyla Tharp

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Welcome Back!

Well, it's a new school year at Albemarle Middle School.  I am looking forward to the adventures that my students and I will be taking this year.  I've been told by both of the art teachers from my feeder elementary schools that the fifth graders coming up are quite the artistic bunch.  That put a big smile on my face!  The ones that I met during Open House were very excited to learn that they had art every day.  Our schedule has changed a little bit and this year we will be on semesters rather than quarters.  I think that I like this a little bit better since I generally end up seeing most of my students for 2 quarters during the year anyway.  I wish that we had it in our budget to have a full time chorus or drama or language or orchestra teacher but those are just pie-in-the-sky dreams that won't become reality until there are some kind of budgetary changes across the board.  I sure would love it if our students had those opportunities, especially in middle school, though.

This year is the first year that my classroom isn't perfect and ready for students.  Don't get me wrong...they won't notice that things aren't in place but I know they aren't right.  We've had more meetings this year than what seems normal to me.  We did, however, have the opportunity to hear the North Carolina Teacher of the Year, James Ford, speak.  Mr. Ford is a World History teacher at Garinger High School in Charlotte and was very inspirational.  I believe that we are very fortunate to have him speak on our behalf, especially in this current climate of education.

Our Open House was last Thursday evening and I am happy to say that we had a record turn-out.  Attendance in the art room is typically sparse, but I had a nice turnout of students, both past and present come to visit.  I always love to see my kids after the long summer break and meet their parents.  One dad let me know that his son, Trevor, looked at his schedule and was excited to see that art was there.  When asked if he wanted to go meet his new teachers, he said "No, I just want to go see MizzSmiff."  I also had a mom of a former student, who is an amazing artist, come by to say hi.  She told me that her son made her promise that she would come to see me.

We, in the Arts, are being tested this year so I am going to be sure to take a lot of pictures.  None of us on the middle school level are really sure how this is going to work.  When we find out, I'll be sure to fill you in.  We are starting the semester off with One Point Perspective.  I don't know why I do this to myself.  Rulers.  The bane of my existence.  Every. Single. Year.  Sigh.

Welcome to Art prezi

A little bit of beach perspective.  Memories of summers past.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Summertime, summer-time, sum-sum-summertime!

It's here!  Summertime!  Part of me is wondering where the year went and part of me can't believe we finally made it.  Our state testing was rather late in the year so I had my 4th quarter students about 2 weeks longer than I have in the past.  This gave us time to do some catching up and a little bit of assessment toward the end of the quarter.

The last project that we did was a bit of a test.  I reminded my students of the concepts that we explored this year, some way back in September.  I put containers of sea shells on their tables, along with some photographs of seashells and challenged them to fill their pages with drawings of the shells.  I gave them free reign but asked them to show me what they remembered about value and space, drawing from life, drawing from other sources and a few other concepts.  The only thing I asked was that they show me value in grayscale, using pencils only.

This is what they came up with.  I think it is safe to say that we are all dreaming of long, lazy summer days.

I took these pics with my iPhone, so I apologize that they aren't the best quality


I love how they are all different but they also all fulfilled the requirements of the lesson.

I have been trying to figure out how to embed a PDF document here so that I could share my Summer Art Challenge with you but so far, I have not been very successful.  In the meantime, here are a couple of screenshots of the challenges I came up with this summer.  Lots of kids took one so I hope to have a bunch of stuff turned in when school starts back.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful, creative summer and that all of your summertime dreams come true!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

I can't believe it's May

Where did this school year go?  There are 39 (actual, including weekends and such) days left until the last day of the school year.  I haven't posted since the dreaded third quarter...the quarter that never was.  Between the snow days, regular days off and 2 hour delays/early releases because of weather it feels that nothing got accomplished.  The weeks between January and 4th quarter are usually the longest in all Teacherdom, but this year I think that time fell into a (polar) vortex.

Fourth quarter at my school is an interesting time for teachers in the Exploratory hallway.  Because we don't have many class offerings for our students, we generally have students this quarter that we have taught earlier in the year in some classes, classes of some kids we haven't seen yet, and a mix of the two in other classes.  We also have less time due to End-Of-Grade testing, which this year is happening later than ever-the last 2 weeks of the semester!  I always try to find fun and interesting things to do this quarter because I am getting bored to keep the kids excited and interested and to provide a little bit of relief from all of the intense test prep.

I decided to break out the paper making stuff this week.  I have 3 of these molds from Arnold Grummer that I have collected over the years.  They sit in my closet for years at a time until I work up the nerve to use them again.  I forget how much fun it is but truth be told, the students need to be more of the responsible, patient type.  You know I teach middle school, right?  Other supplies that I have collected to make the process easier are 3 blenders-2 from yard sales and one that I have had for years that won't even crush ice. Occasionally people will pop their heads in my room and give me the side-eye when the blenders are running.  Like I would make frozen-frosty-fruity drinks in my class.  During the school day.  With kids in the room.  Sheesh.  I have restaurant bus tubs, cookies sheets and fluffy old towels.  And irons.  Irons are very important because with just 45 minute classes and no where to dry the paper we need to be able to get the paper as close to dry as possible.  In fact, after I finish this post, I am going to head out to scout a few yard sales to see if I can find at least 2 more old but in working condition irons.  I might also head to Sam's club to purchase the Rowenta that I have been wanting and donate my cheapy iron to the cause.  Anything for my students, I say.

I start out the project by showing them a video of Arnold Grummer himself making paper.  Then, I pass around some homemade paper that a friend and retired CTE teacher got for me in Thailand when she went to visit her missionary son and his wife a few years back.  I encourage them to feel the texture of the paper and smell it and take it all in.  Then I show them another video, about how they make handmade paper from elephant poo.  In Thailand.  You can guess what happens next, right?  "MizzSmiff! You made us touch that!"  "Can I wash my hands?" "Ewwwwwwwwwww!"  Muwahahahaha.  What can I say?  It's been a long year.  The art teacher is evil. 

The next day, I go through the process with them and we make one piece of paper.  I let them get into their groups and I stress the safety issues with this project.  I worry about the hot irons, the sharp blades in the blenders, and the water on the floor.  They give me that preteen "OH MY GOSH!" look when I tell them to be careful of the irons and the cords and the slick floor, but I really do worry.  I don't want any of them getting hurt. I threaten them within an inch of their lives so that by the end of class they know that I am dead serious about their behavior and safety.  The next day, I just remind them of the steps and let them go.  Yesterday was the first day that they got to it.  My seventh graders did pretty well but I had to watch them like a hawk.  My sixth graders.  Oh! my wonderful sixth graders.  I really didn't even need to be in the room with them.  They were a well oiled machine.  I am so proud of them.  Sigh.  I'm a proud mama art teacher.  I'm going to try to take some video next week of them working and if I do and it is coherent, I'll post it here.  My 8th graders...well, one of my classes isn't doing this project and THEY KNOW WHY and my other class, which is wonderful, will get started on Monday because we are a day behind because of High School Cheerleading tryouts.  Priorities, people. 

Here are some pictures of the process:
Tearing up the paper before it goes in the blender

Blending the paper pulp

Preparing the frame

Dropping the frame in the water

Pouring the pulp

Leveling the frame. Clean as you go!

This is so much fun!

Working as a team

Getting the water out of the pulp is the most time consuming part

Sponging the wet paper

More sponging!

Using a brayer to press out the water

ShamWOWs are very absorbent

Ironing the paper to get it dry

More ironing

By the end of class, one or two kids had a dry, finished piece of paper.  This is going to be a lengthy project, especially since I PROMISED them that they all would have at least 2 pieces of paper.   We are going to use one piece of paper to make a cover for a book-a summer journal for them to fill up with pictures, thoughts and ideas over summer break and one for them just to have.

Here're a couple of finished pieces:
Patricia called this piece "Unicorn Barf".  I think that is because of the glitter. 

Hayden was so excited about his paper that he asked to go show his mom, who teaches 8th grade science.

Do you save any special projects that you save for the end of the year?  How do you deal with your own anxiety over safety issues in your classroom?  I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Until next time...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Longest Project Ever

During the month of January, we had 15 schools days here in the middle of North Carolina.  Between starting on the 6th of January after winter break, Presidents, Civil Rights Leaders, end of semester work days and snow, time on task has been limited.  We had an early release day and a couple of 2 hour delays that cut severely into my classroom time.  February is not proving to be much better.  We are 3 weeks into 2nd semester and I'm sitting here two days before Valentine's Day, on my couch looking at the lovely snow falling from the sky.  Yesterday, we left school early having only seen my 8th graders, each class for only 30 minutes.

We've been trying to finish up a project on Surrealism.  Surrealism.  Yes.  This weather is surreal.  I'm tired of the project.  Sick. Of. It.  I'm sure the kids are too.  I generally factor in 5-7 days for each one of our projects.  The first day I'll do the introduction, generally with a little art history and background.  The second day, I'll do some demo and let the kids get at it.  I feel like the start of this project was months ago.  Part of me just wants to say 'Forget it' but the other part of me just wants them to finish it up so we can move on to something else. By what the weather folks are predicting, I seriously doubt we will have school until next week.  That includes Saturday school to make up for the snow day today.  I'm a little bit disappointed because I, in a moment of romantical softieness, was going to break out the construction paper (red, pink and purple, mostly), sequins and (God help me) GLITTER to let my young'uns make Valentine's for their sweeties.  Sigh.

It's been a winter full of interesting weather.  Has anyone else experienced a never ending project because of school closings and weather delays?  How do you deal with the frustration of the project that never ends?

I should be at school, but I am at home watching the snow fall.

She's gotten a little further in the last few classes.

Zach photobombing Eli. 

You can't tell yet, but it's a melted playing card, which I thought was a really neat Dali-esque idea.

Painting and drawing.

They noticed that a lot of surrealist art has eyes in it.  Dylan painted a big eye, with lots of little eyes in it.
If I don't get tired of this thing, I'll do a little gallery crawl video when they FINALLY finish their paintings.

Monday, January 20, 2014

End of the First Semester, More Pics and Art Club

I am writing this in my jammies, it's MLK day, I have off and am looking at a 1 1/2 day work week.  It's the end of the Second Quarter, the end of the first semester and all I can say is where has the time gone?  It's almost February, traditionally the longest month in teacherdom, despite being the shortest calendar month.  But after that? March, then Spring.  And I breathe a sigh of relief.

These pics are one of my seventh grade classes working on positive and negative space.  I wasn't thrilled with the way that my first quarter kids tackled the project that I gave them for this concept.  It was all black and white and they didn't seem to put much effort into it so I decided to change it up a bit.

They traced their hands on 12 x 18 paper and added line and pattern in the back ground.

I told them they could color with markers or colored pencils or both.

Oooops.  I told Jillian that I wouldn't show her face but she is so cute how could I not?

Greyson made sure that I wouldn't post her face. 
This next bunch of pictures is from Art Club.  We meet once a week for about and hour, hour and a half or so.  It's very fluid.  I have a core of about 10 kids that come every week and about 5 or 6 more that come a little less frequently.

I have about 50 panels of lauan that the previous art teacher had cut to fit in the ceiling to put in place of the ceiling tiles.

Turns out that I can't use the wood in place of the ceiling tiles as it is against fire code.  Turns out that the ceiling tiles were painted and put up need to come down as well as the paint isn't fire retardant.  They've been up in our school for 10 years so I don't know if someone is going to take them down or not.

Chizong working on softball, while Madison and Keturah look up pictures for volleyball on the computer.

These panels have been taking up space in my closet and I am on a mission to clean it out.  The Art Club is painting quadriptych murals of the sports that we participate in at our school. 

Nicholas working on Football

Dream is doing an amazing picture of a girl playing basketball, while Angel and Caitlyn work on getting the angle of the elbow dribbling correct. 

Caitlyn and Angel

Love these girls.

While the kids were working I watched them, taking pictures and I just couldn't stop smiling.  They were all so independent, getting their paint and materials out without having to ask.  My art room was their art room. It was their space.  If they needed help, they asked me but they pretty much did their own thing.  I couldn't help but feel like the luckiest art teacher on the planet.  

Earlier in the year, not long after my first art club meeting I got very emotional.  I haven't had an art club in years and I had so many kids show up for that first meeting.  I think my last art club was probably 2007 or so. I couldn't help but think about all the kids that would have loved to have come to Art Club after school in those years that I didn't have it. There hasn't been a lot of support for it.  Luckily, our new administration was totally on board this year and is very appreciative of the activities that we offer after school for our students.  Our band teacher stays after school for tutoring, pep band, jazz band and bucket drums throughout the year.  Our CTE teacher has FBLA meetings and has already taken her group to the State Fair.  We have an amazing step/dance team that is facilitated by one of our EC teachers.

I teach in a small town that doesn't have an awful lot for our kids to do after they leave school in the afternoon.  If you aren't involved in a sport there isn't much to do at school when the day is done.  I am so glad to be able to spend time with kids who love art, some that won't ever have my class because they are in band, or just have art one quarter of the year.  In a couple of months, we will be going to the Artalympics to compete in art events.  I jokingly tell them that we better win a trophy (the big one) and while that would be nice, I am looking forward to spending a special day with them.

After we finish our mural, we will install it on the long wall outside the gym.  It's their legacy, I tell them.  Our next project will be doing a mural on the dugouts.  When it is warmer.  Another legacy. 

I'd love to hear what other art teachers out there do with their art clubs.  Do you charge a fee?  Do you just use supplies that you have?   What kind of projects do you do?