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

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Middle School Conferences and Two Days Out of My Classroom!

I recently had the opportunity to go to the NC Middle School Conference in Greensboro.  It was a wonderful learning experience and a great time to spend with some colleagues that I rarely get to see.  More on that later, but as you all know, being away from school whether it is for a conference or sick leave sometimes takes more work than actually being at school.   We were gone on a Monday and Tuesday and I knew I had to have a plan so that I didn’t come back to a classroom that looked like it was hit by a tornado.


Thankfully, and I think I have mentioned this before, all of our students have chromebooks so the easiest thing for me to do was to send them an assignment via Google Classrooms.  The best part of that is I could check up on them from time to time and message them giving them little tidbits of encouragement ‘Great Job!  Keep up the Good Work!’ or in most cases ‘Seriously?  What the heck have you been doing all class?’.  


I left all three grade levels an artist study to complete.  It was pretty simple.   All they needed to do was pick an artist and fill in a chart with the information that I asked for, along with some examples of the artist’s work.  As I’ve been looking at their work, it’s been interesting to see what artists they picked and their answers to some of the questions.  


Here’s a couple of excerpts from one exceptional student’s work on Picasso:


About Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and answering the question “What do you see?  How does it make you feel? “This painting is a very abstract portrait of five nude prostitutes from a brothel. It makes me feel like women aren’t viewed as women but as objects that are sold to men.”

About Girl Before a Mirror, answering the same questions: “This painting is an abstract portrait of a young insecure girl looking into a mirror and seeing a young woman aware of her own sexuality. It makes me feel like you have to hold on to the things that make you, you.”

About The Old Guitarist, again, the same questions:”This painting is of an old homeless man hovered over his guitar. It makes me feel as if he must hold on to the things he has because it is all he has.”


Seriously, from an 8th grader.  Before you start thinking that I am teaching a bunch of prodigies, most of the kids gave answers like “Uh, I see lots of colors” and “I feel wonderful”


But it sure is nice to come across a student who really, really gets it from time to time.   Here are links to my lesson in case you are interested:

List of Artists
My example

The NC Middle School conference was held in Greensboro at the Joseph S. Koury center in Greensboro, NC.  Apparently, this is the place to be if you are a conventioneer or conferencer.  It was HUGE!  Greensboro is about an hour and a half from my town and luckily our band teacher, Jess, who also went to the convention, went to UNCG and knew the area well.  We arrived early and ended up at The Waffle House for breakfast.  We had hoped to be able to check into our room before the opening session but no luck there.   Poet and former teacher Taylor Mali spoke to the crowd of teachers and administrators before we set off for our breakout sessions.  Presentations ranged from Line Dancing to Literacy, PBIS to PBL, Middle School Apathy to Middle School Diversity.  We divided and conquered and occasionally came together.  Jess and I started our day on Monday with Drum Fit which was super fun, got our hearts pumping but had I known that I was in for an hour of drumming and dancing I might not have worn a skirt.  So much for ‘professional attire’.  Most of the sessions that I attended were presented by middle school teachers just like the folks that I work with every day.  People that had a great idea and were excited to share.  Teachers, for the most part, are some of the most generous people that you will ever find.  Here, this has worked great for me.  Please, use it,  change it for what might work for you, but what is mine, is yours.  My conference ended with a presentation called ‘Witnessing the Witnesses’ where we had the honor and pleasure of meeting and hearing the story of Esther Lederman, a survivor of the Holocaust.  A great end to my two days.   Aside from all the breakout sessions, I have to say that it was super fun to spend a couple of days away with colleagues that I don’t get to spend all the much time with.  My school’s layout is not conducive to mixing of teams and honestly, I  can go weeks without seeing some people.  If it wasn’t for morning duty and staff meetings I might never see some people, save a passing Hello! in the hall.  We came back with great ideas and yearning to have the time to collaborate together.  If you ever get the chance to go to a professional conference, I highly recommend it.  


Someday, before I retire, I’d love to be able to go to an art conference.

Have any of y’all ever been to a conference?  How do you handle your sub plans?