Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Break. . .Summer Work?

Grad school is killing me right now. All I want to do this summer is PAINT, but instead I am doing a lot of art educational research (quantitative and qualitative data are -sadly- my new bffs). I remember a teacher saying to me when I was in high school that summer vacation for teachers is like golden handcuffs. I've never really understood that until just this summer. Every other summer I've worked all summer at a second job. But, it has always been something easy that didn't require so much thought or stress. . .Grad school = stressful. Whew.

But the summer naps are sooo awesome. I do have to say that. I'm a night-owl artist/creative-type. . .So being able to paint until 3 or 4 am and then nap the next day is crucial.

So after grad school, grad school homework, late lunch and before naptime, I got some giggles by taking the above picture of my malti-poo, Fred.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mack Attack!

A little over a year ago my mom and I were on a long drive home from a charity event we had just attended. It was killah hot outside (hello Georgia heat - you are soo painful) and we pulled through a McDonald's next to a split-highway to get a cold drink. As we drove through this huge -beautiful- mutt was frolicking around the drive-thru line and acutally was pawing his way up to the drive-thru window. I was so charmed by him, I got out to give him some fries. And, that little sweetie didn't want the fries, he just wanted a pet-a-roo.

Sooo, there was no way I could leave him on the side of the highway to get hit by a car after that! I loaded him up in my Mom's car (she was telling me I was nuts!) and we drove home. I was going to send out an all-call email to friends to find him a home, and if that failed, take him to a no-kill shelter (I couldn't afford a big dog in my tiny house).

But, my little brother showed up at my house to check out the dog -who I'd named Mack after his finding place (McDonald's). It was love at first sight. Now, a year later Mack is a beautiful 90lb dog who is so sweet, so loyal, and totally in love with Cole (my baby brother). Cole affectionately calls him his brother. Aww.

So, this week Cole will be 21 and I could think of no more fitting gift than a little portrait of the wonderful Mack. :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

IF: Satellite

An umbrella like a satellite is what everyone needs at the beach!
9 in x 12 in gouache on bristol paper

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Feminist Hulk: I'm in love

Feminist Hulk already has over 15,000 followers on Twitter. You may have already heard of Feminist Hulk. But, wowee, as someone who is an avid supporter of opposing gender rules/binary and patriarchy in nearly all forms. . .I'm in love.

Here is one of my current favorite Hulk (who tweets in all-caps twitters):

Annnddd, Feminist Hulk just did an incredible interview with Ms. Magazine! Go and check it out.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My Art Education Teaching Philosophy

Click here to view this photo book larger

Student Profile

So, in the event you haven't noticed. . .I'm in graduate school right now. Lucky for me, I graduate in December (yay!). The College of the Arts at my university does a cool student profile thinag-a-ma-bob every semester (I think). This semseter I am the student! This was a really cool thing to do (I'm super honored!!!!), and also a little embarrassing (in a bashful sort of way) because there are so many great people in my cohort at school with which I could share it!!

You can view it by clicking HERE

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Do you Slideshare?

Are you an art teacher like me who has TONS of Power-Points? I love utilizing the ability to show numerous artworks at one time. I'm trying to get as many of these displays uploaded to slideshare for sharing.

Do you use slideshare? I think it is such a great concept! I know I've used it as a quick reference for great educational Power-Points! I'd love to share my presentations with you! Do you have any to share with me?

The great thing about slideshare is that you can imbed the presentations as widgets into web pages. This is something I've utilized before so my students can study before big tests etc. etc. I think the useful applications are endless.

You can look me up on slideshare as used KSUMATARTED

Re-Post Junior Ranger Manual

I posted this awhile ago, but didn't have a picture! Last summer, I created all the illustrations for the Kennesaw National Battlefield Junior Ranger Manual for the National Park Service. The Park has a great concept for their manual. In recent years, the Spanish-speaking population around the park has grown tremendously. The problem is that many of the park visitors who don't speak English, don't know the rules of the National Park Service. There have been incidents of people cutting down trees etc. etc. and getting into a lot of trouble simply because they weren't aware of the rules.

So, the park decided to remedy that by creating a manual geared at the children of these visitors who in many cases speak more English than their parents. They hope that in teaching the children the rules of the park, that the parents will understand the rules too. The manual is offered in both English and Spanish.

I had TONS of fun getting to learn about and draw the different types of Park Rangers and drawing Civil War stuff (the park is on the site of a Civil War battlefield).

You can go online and check out the manual here!

A Project Like That

This year, the one of the PE coaches who took some fine arts courses as an undergraduate was assigned to teach some pre-school art at my school this year. I'm sure this sounds kinda wacky, but schools actually pull teachers out-of-field all the time. . . While I was sad I didn't get to teach those cuties this past year, my plate was full with teaching everyone else Art, AND teaching the middle schoolers basic Technology courses (out-of-field for me too).

Everybody punts.

So, at the end of the year the PE coach was reflecting to me about some of his favorite/least favorite projects he did with the kiddos. He mentioned a project wherein they made masking tape men and said just how taxing the project was for both them and him. He continued by stating that while he loved the project results, he wasn't sure if would do it again.

I totally relate. I laughed along with him and said: "Yeah, there are projects like that. The ones that look so cool when finished, but just about half killed you to to get there. Those are what I call the 'every two years projects.'" He looked a little quizzical so I explained: "It is like childbirth. You only do them every two years so after you've forgotten how painful it is!"

Do you have a project you do like that with your students?

Mine would be papier-mache cathedrals. I did this project for the first time when I worked in a class of 35 students at an at-risk middle school south of Atlanta. For nearly 8-10 kids in every class this was there only time out of the Special Education Resource classroom. So, if you know what off-the-chain means, you know what those kiddos were like. But, those stories (and they are hilarious) are for another time. Essentially, after we studied medieval and renaissance cathedrals the students had to apply what they learned about this architecture to creating and completing a large, cardboard version of a cathedral. I sorta made some rookie teacher mistakes in this first round of the project. . .I was only a 2nd year teacher, and a 1st year public school teacher. . .So we had a lot of scissors and sharp tools out for kids who are/were active gang members etc. etc. No one was hurt (only because I was so so so so super scary frightening to them about safety and my fury lol) and they had fun. But, wowee, this project exhausted me.

My favorite cathedral is the one posted at the top!

And, I'm all revved up again to do it this fall.

What's your every-two-year-only-please! project?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Art Teacher Before You

This fall will mark my fourth year at my current school. Since my school goes from PK-3 (as in they are 3 years old) to 12th grade, I really get to know my students. Now that the students are used to me and know my methods, I don't have to do a lot of "What to Expect in Ms. J's Class" stuff at the beginning of the year. I mostly do a an overview and remind kids of how to re-assimilate during those first few weeks.

Not to say it is a perfect method, or that it never changes. Classroom management is ever changing thing for nearly everyone. I have a system that mostly works for me, and I tweak it all the time to make it even better.

But, it took a LOOOOOONG time to get here. The best way I know to explain the journey is in writing a letter to the art teacher who worked at my school before me.

Dear Mr. Grant,

First, I hope I got your name right. My students -formerly your students- tell me that is your name, and as you have thoughtfully affixed it in plastic letters in such a permanent way that I still can't figure out how to remove them from above my -formerly your- doorway I feel it is accurate. Second, did/do you partake in a lot of illegal substances? I only ask because my students love to regale me with stories about your special fairy who lived in the art closest and loved glitter. Or, wait, was that an extended metaphor for something else?

Anyway, whatever your deal was/is, I primarily want to thank you. Apparently you were -or were interpreted as- so scatter-brained and lackadaisical about teaching that even the most meager of my student's projects are met with comments of amazement from colleagues and administration at my school. I know I'm an awesome art teacher, but I hear all the time from awesome art teachers who aren't recognize or appreciated. So, I feel all kinds of lucky that I get appreciated at all, and I feel it is mostly because I am juxtaposed to some kind of interpretation of you. Look, I know that is kind of harsh to say, but, ahem, the kids and teachers have told me some pretty funny stories such as you liked to nap in the kiln room and they once found you in there asleep during class time, you were always sneaking off campus early to avoid carpool duty, you would lie down on the floor during faculty meetings and sleep, pretty much everyday was free-draw day, and my favorite is that your clay lessons consisted of handing kids a lump of clay and saying "Go wild!"

I'm not a fool, and I know the kids love to embellish, but wow, even as half-truths that is quite a track record. It is rumored that you quit at my school because you didn't like all the rules from administration (?) and were strutting off to public schools. I'm wondering how the rules and napping is going for you there? I only ask because I worked with at-risk kids before working at this school and the rules are killah-intense and um, if you nap there you might die.

In any event, I really hope you have learned the word "No," because clearly you didn't while you were here. Honestly, I think you took in every half-crazed thing anyone donated from their homes! I cleaned out 50 nearly full cans of spoiled oil-based enamel wall paint out of the kiln room where they had obviously been happily residing for a looong time. It is really a wonder you didn't blow up while napping in the kiln room! And, don't even get me started on the 3,000 tiny glass bottles in the art closest? What are those for? Drugs? Syringes? Where did they come from? I can't bear to throw them away, but can't come up for a use for them either. And what about the 8 boxes of broken glass? I'd really love to do some stained glass, but we really don't have the resources for it (or safety protocols). I really hope you didn't do any stained glass with the kids. . . There was just so much junk in the art room! Some of it was really awesome salvageable garbage (old leather strips -cool!) and some of it was just garbage (huge urn full of dirty rocks -wtf?). Even after cleaning pretty extensively and continuing to sift through more junk these three past years I found and entire (!) box of speedball lino cutting tools this Spring. Crazy!

Finally, you must be a really sweet guy, or just someone who epitomize the "whatever, chill" mentality. I say this because it took a long time for the faculty here to understand that I'm not stopping my class to hand out art materials or wasting my art budget on handing out art materials for people who didn't bother to pre-plan. As in their lack of pre-planning doesn't constitute my emergency. It took awhile, but they get it. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the occasional email/classroom request -usually a few days in advance- for some isolated item or non-consummable item etc. But, my first year it was nearly hourly interruptions! I even had a volunteer wander into my art closet without asking while I was teaching!! You must have been some kind of laid-back dude.

I really admire that, but I have no idea as to how you were able to teach with all those interruptions!

So, well, bottom line: thanks for being you and making it so easy to be me!


Ms. J.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Shutterfly Portfolio Book

Recently, I made a Shutterfly portfolio book. I'm really proud of the work it showcases. . .And, while I created it, it really made me realize how many student artworks I've archived in the past five years! Whew!

I can't install it via blogger as a widget (frowny), but you can check it out by clicking here!

Edit 6/15: I figured out how to embed the widget! It is its own post now.

2009-2010 End of the School Year

The end of the school year always makes me sad. It is the nature of all schools that, as teachers, we fall in love with, and then lose, important people every year. We lose them to the next grade level, the next school, the family move, the school transfer etc. etc. There is nothing like the last few days of school to remind you that the lives of children move quick -much too quickly- and before you realize it they are gone.

One of my smallest students gave me a huuugggge hug the last day of school and it nearly made me tear up. I'm gonna miss that little guy for these next few weeks! What am I gonna do without all those minds to mold, open, and learn from? As excited as I am to rest and sleep-in (oh, and trust me I am thrilled to do just that!), I'm already planning for next year.

I'm always thinking: What can I do/What could I have done to make it BETTER? BIGGER? MORE AWESOME(er)?!

Sometimes I reflect this is a strange state in which to be. I fought becoming a teacher. I hated kids -I always told myself. As the oldest of four I spent a fair amount of time as a babysitter either to my siblings or someone else's. . .And, I hated and still hate babysitting. So, I fought becoming a teacher in college. Which is funny when you consider how child-like my approach to art is, how narrative my creations are, and how well my stylistic choices as an artist meld with children and teaching. But, there ya go. Sometimes we focus so hard on the problem (what AM I going to be when I grow up) that we can't find the solution (I am REALLY good at this teaching thing!).

As I backed into teaching it became the gig I was just gonna do before I made it big doing the THING that was going to MAKE me. The ART thing I was going to be when I grew up. Whatever that was, I didn't know, but I felt sure I would recognize it when it thumped me upside the head. It did thump, and pretty hard, but as is my nature, I ignored it. And now, after my fifth year of teaching has finished (which, I would like to point out is two years past the typical first-time teacher burn-out phase wherein nearly 50% of all teachers quit) I'm on fire to teach more. I love it. I can't get enough of it. Well, I should clarify that. I LOVE teaching ART. I'm not sure how I would feel about teaching anything else. But, art, oh man, teaching art rocks my world. Or, as a friend in art school would say: "It rocks my pants off!"

And of course, I come to this conclusion in the middle of unprecedented teacher layoffs in my state. Especially for the fine arts courses.

I survived the layoffs this year (this is my second year as a layoff survivor) and it was so, so , so hard to watch superb teachers lose their jobs due to nothing more than economy. I hope I continue to survive. I know the arts in my classroom will survive and thrive. Art knows how to flourish in the midst of chaos; it is one of the many things that Art does quite well.