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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

It's Second Quarter and Where Have I Been?

I don’t know what happened but I have been a total loser pants when it comes to blogging this year.  I promise I’ll try to be better in the new year.  We are already 2 weeks into the second quarter and I have only done one blog post this year.  It’s not that we haven’t done some amazing art, but it seems like this year kind of got the best of me.  So many of us have said that we have felt ‘off’ this year and while we can’t quite put our fingers on it, part of me feels like this year is just a long continuation of last year.  Many of my classes are the same make up of students.  In some cases, that’s a good thing, and in some it isn’t.  

We have to do ASWs this year.  For those of you not in North Carolina, ASW stands for Analysis of Student Work and is our state’s way of ‘testing’ those classes that don’t fall under the umbrella of regular end of grade or course testing.  Luckily, my county opted out of the method that the state came up with and has chosen to use an alternative way of assessing student growth and proficiency that was devised by another county.  This was explained to us in the beginning of the school year, but it is a little bit confusing and we are all kind of just flying blind with the process hoping that we are collecting samples and teaching our standards in a way that we can show our administrators what we have been doing in our classrooms this year.

That being said, I have been super impressed with my student’s work this year.  I have some super talented kids that love being in my class.  Some of their work has been extraordinary.  It’s so nice to work with kids that really enjoy art and are conscientious about their work.  We’ve done water color landscapes and 3D masks and we’ve collaborated with Social Studies.  We’ve explored new mediums and worked on our skills.  I have about 35 more classes with these kids and I am really going to miss them.

Below are some pictures of our latest projects.  The first set are inspired by Sandra Silberzweig.  We looked at her work and had some great discussions about different ways of portraying faces, uses of color and pattern.  The kids are on to me...they have definitely noticed that I am drawn to bright colors.  We used super big black construction paper and crayola color sticks on this project.  The second set was just supposed to be a quick project that I left for the sub when I had to go get a root canal.  I surely didn’t expect them to turn out as nicely as they did.  I wish I knew who to link back the ‘Silly Sandwiches’ project but it is all over the internet.  

We just realized that next week is Thanksgiving.  Where is the time going?  It’s going to be Christmas before we know it.  Here at AMS we are having our first Bonfire Night this evening.  It’s definitely that time of year.  


Sandra Silberzweig Portraits





























Silly Sandwiches Sub Plan
















Friday, August 26, 2016

We're Back!

Y’all.  Summer. Is. Over.  I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the faster they go.  We just finished a week and a half of professional days and our babies come back this Monday.  As far as opening weeks go, I’ll have to hand it to my principal because these were some of the least painful workdays that I have experienced in my 26 years of teaching.  Yes, I started teaching when I was 7. We had the requisite full day of back to school meetings on the first day, accompanied by a wonderful lunch of barbeque (I’m in NC.  It’s a rule) provided by our amazing PTO.  We had a ½ day, that was more like a couple of hours with the district one morning to talk about the ASW testing that we are going to have to do this year (more on that in a future blog post) and the middle school art teachers (all 4 of us) went to lunch and then back to my classroom to do a little planning that afternoon.  We had a ½ day of health and safety training and another ½ day of PBIS training but other than that, we were free to work in our classrooms.  What a treat!


Having all this time to get ourselves in order has been a blessing.  Did I mention that about a week before we got back to work I dislocated my elbow?  And by dislocated I don’t mean ‘Oops, my elbow slipped out of joint’, I mean full on bent backwards at 90 degrees and the most agonizing pain in the history of pain. I’ve been in a sling with orders to keep it immobile which is easier said than done.  It gets better every day and I think I’ll be okay but this wasn’t the way that I wanted to start my school year, when there is always so much work to be done.  With the help of my amazing colleagues my room is ready to go.  
So, this was the inside of my elbow.  The bruise eventually made it all the way down to my wrist.  With the help of some arnica gel, lysine and bromelain, the bruise is almost gone.


An outside company was hired to strip our floors and when I walked into my classroom on day 2, all of my tables were up on end and my room looked like the hedge maze from The Shining.  Once our custodians got the tables, my desk, bookshelves and everything else in place for me, I needed HELP getting the rest of everything out of my supply closet.  Thinking about the rotten timing of my elbow injury and knowing that somewhere there was a reason for my suffering, I realized that I might need to be reminded how fortunate I really am.  It is SO HARD for me to ask for help.  I struggle with it.  It tortures me.  I’ll try to do anything in my power to not ask for help.  Pride?  Yep.  But also that feeling of not wanting to bother anyone with my troubles.  I had no choice in this matter because there was no way that I could do it all myself so I sent out an email asking for help and was richly rewarded.  Lesson.  Learned.  
See how shiny my floors are?  Still a little bit of fine tuning to do here but it's almost ready.


4 kids per table this year in most of my classes.  1 on each side.  I think that should work well.


My space in the background of the picture.  I might designate the round table as space for extra special' students.  It might be a nice reward.


My little reading area in the back.  The book shelf is full of art history books and artist biographies. To sit back there, you have to do a little bit of artist research or art criticism before you can relax in one of the comfy chairs and draw, read or color.



We had 2 open houses this week, one for 6th grade, which is always fun with the little ones coming into Middle School nervous and looking like deer caught in the headlights and one for our 7th and 8th graders.  Our ‘old pro’s’ came in with hugs and smiles, some looking like they grew a ½ foot over the summer.  There were also a lot new faces in the crowd of students that came to get their schedules and meet the teachers.  Some from the redistricting that was recently done in our county, but we also seemed to get quite a few students from neighboring counties and some as far away as the coast.  It’s always fun to meet new students and I hope that they will be able to get over their nerves quickly and know that they are a part of our family. I remember what it was like to be the ‘new kid’ when my parents bought a house in between my first and second grade years. I have a few things to do this weekend to be ready for Monday when the big yellow buses pull up in the driveway but I am looking forward to school starting back.  Even after all these years, the first day of school is filled with nervous excitement and anticipation.  I am wishing all my teacher friends out there a wonderful, successful school year!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Basket Weaving: Art vs Craft

One of the things that we talk about in my classroom is what the purpose of art is.  More times than I would like to admit, it is driven by a sullen middle schooler asking me why they have to take this class.  We talk about all the careers that are art driven, how art helps you think creatively, gives you a broad worldview and how learning about art helps us to learn about ourselves and other cultures.  We also talk about the function of art and whether or not it is purely aesthetic or if it can be functional as well.  For the last couple of weeks, some of my classes have been learning a basket weaving technique that people around the world, of many different cultures have been using for thousands of years.  


If you google yarn basket weaving, you will come up with hundreds of links that will teach you the process.  It’s a simple enough technique but I impose my own set of standards to make sure that none of us are taking shortcuts.  I introduce the project by showing them examples of baskets, both modern and antique. We spend some time talking about the sweetgrass and pine needle baskets made in coastal South Carolina and I share baskets with my students that I have collected from Senegal (purchased in an import store in Pittsboro, NC), Ethiopia (a gift from a former student who was there on a missions trip) and Charleston (bought on a recent trip).  We talk about how interesting it is that people who lived hundreds of years ago, thousands of miles apart somehow managed to create baskets using the same technique, but with the materials that were available to them.


I LOVE this project.  Once I get them started, which is the hardest part, and they understand the pattern, the atmosphere in the classroom is so relaxed.  We listen to music, talk about what is going on in their drama filled middle school lives and chat about art.  Can art be functional?  Is there a difference between art and craft?  How would you feel if you had to make a basket for everything that you wanted contained in your house?  We make lists of all the things that we keep that are in small plastic containers that you can pick up at the dollar store or bigger containers that we find at Walmart or Target.  It’s amazing to think that EVERYTHING was contained in a woven basket or a wooden box before plastics became so common.  We look around the art room  to see all the things that we keep organized with plastic containers.  I must have 50 things on my desk alone.  We find a new appreciation for our ancestors who didn’t have the luxury of picking out their Tupperware in a catalog so that they can neatly organize their pantry.


I only do this project once every 5 years or so.  The coil can be costly and I have to wait for my friends to clean out  their craft rooms for yarn donations.  It’s definitely worth the wait though.

Here are some pictures of our process and product:
Apparently, standing helps when starting baskets.

Sweet girls

Getting started is the hardest part.

Working hard

I think that this day was wear pink for breast cancer day

OMG Yarn monster.  I have a plan to take care of this.  Really, I do.

LilliAnn's basket

Xee's basket

Kylie's basket

Christian's basket

Courtney's basket

Moye's basket

Julius's basket

Payge's basket

Kaleah's basket

I am super proud of how nice these baskets are turning out.  These are by far the best baskets that have ever come out of MizzSmiff's Art Room!