Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I was asked a few days ago if I had a weakness in the art classroom. My answer: "Sure."

My weakness is assemblage. I could assemble paper-based projects forever. I really have to plan out how I'm going to attempt my projects otherwise I would let the kids work on assemblage for WEEKS.

Here are some of my favorite assemblage projects!

Winter Mural In Progress

I mentioned before how much I adored the project from Mr. E's art room! Here are some pics of my kids working on it.


It has never been a for secret for anyone I've ever worked with: I LOVE DISPLAYING STUDENT WORK.

I do. I love it.

This is due, in part, to my memory of how excited I got whenever my artwork decorated the hallways of my elementary/middle and even high schools. Man, my little chest would puff up every time I walked by my artwork! And, well, why the heck wouldn't I want to share that sort of joy with my students?!

I also display student artwork because it really makes the school look great, and it demonstrates that I am doing my job. I know the second part of that sentence sounds a little wonky. I mean, it seems a little counterintuitive to teaching to do something just so it looks like you are doing your job. . .But, well, are you doing your job as an art teacher if you don't display artwork? I know if I was an administrator and I didn't see artwork in the hall AND if I didn't see that artwork change somewhat regularly I'd wonder if that art teacher was doing his/her job.

I had the opportunity to visit a school yesterday that had -literally- a mural on every hallway. . .And, many had more than one! Guys. It was incredible. The principal told me that the school has different artists in the community help paint murals, teachers paint murals, students paint murals and even the head custodian who is also an artist painted a mural. How awesome!

At my school I'm always hanging up cool student displays (or at least attempting to do so!) And, one year, I painted a family tree for the school. All of the leaves have the last name of one of the families that attend our school. I love seeing it hang in the foyer of the school. Better yet, I love seeing the kiddos look for their family name.

So, last week, when I saw the display that Mr. E's students were working on I was sooo inspired! My kids are doing something very similar -completely inspired by Mr. E. And, in this spirit, I've included some pictures of my favorite displays below!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Art Exemplar Portfolio

Whew. My final presentation for graduate school is due December 9th. . . And, let me tell you, those days are flying by! I have a TON of items to turn in, not the least of which is a final presentation about the importance of play. I can't wait to share what I have learned about the psychology of play and it relates to learning with all of you. It is REALLY amazing.

In the mean time, I thought I'd share a modified version of my portfolio. I posted a copy of this awhile ago, but this one is more professional, more visual, and more updated. I decided to break my portfolio down into 2 books. One book is the one I've embedded below -printed from shutterfly.com. This book is all about what my student artwork looks like, what my artwork looks like, what my classroom looks like, and what my displays look like. It is purely visual.

The second book is a binder I've designed and printed from zazzle.com. Inside this book is my resume, teaching philosophy, teaching certification, teaching insurance proof, press written about me, classroom management, and examples of my lesson plans. It is almost purely text-based. I figured this text-based information is more subject to change than the visual information. . . At least in my world. So, since the text information is complied into a binder, I can change it at-will to suit the needs of to whomever I'm presenting.

You might ask, how much did you spend on all of this?! Well, honestly, it isn't cheap, but it isn't too expensive either. When you consider how much you would spend on color printer cartridges and paper, it is about the same. But, here is what I have noticed when I present these books to prospective employers, fellow art educators, and professors: no one really READS anything in these books. They glance. They ask you to paraphrase for sure, but no one reads. It is important to have written it out just so you can articulate yourself well on your philosophies. What I have noticed is that everyone LOOKS and visually reads what it is exactly that you present to them. The cleaner the presentation, the more interesting, the more visually engaging, the more positive the response.

Ultimately, as art educators, we are the aesthetic taste-makers of our schools (often whether we like it or not!). It pays to show how you can make a boring presentation of your skills exciting and engaging.

I'm all over the online printing. If you have any questions about it, feel free to ask. I've enclosed some links below that I LOVE to use when I online print.

Vistaprint - does FREE printing on a lot of items -including business cards- as long as you are willing to have the Vistaprint logo on the back.


Overnight Prints - my favorite online printing source. The cards I used for the GAEA conference were printed from this source. I always use the economy printing, and it never looks economy.


Zazzle - they print stickers and other promotional stuff like that. It isn't cheap; but it is awesome.


Shutterfly - they advertise as a source for printing professional-looking photo albums and scrapbooks but they are great for printing portfolios etc. etc. Average cost is about $30 for a hard-bound book.


Lulu - another online book printing source. They have a cheaper option if you plan to print out duplicates of anything.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Turkey Day & 100 Best Blogs by Teachers for Teachers

Hey Guys!

Today was my school's annual "Turkey Day." I taught my normal classes until ten a.m., and then spent the rest of the day serving up a Thanksgiving meal to the kiddos and their visiting parents. It was A LOT of fun because I got to remind the kids to show off their artwork to their parents. I had several run back to me and tell me how much their parents loved their work!

YEAH! It is all about the constant promotion of your department. The parents get to see the artwork when it comes home, but since some parents -especially Dads- don't get to visit as often, they don't get to oooh and aaah over their kiddo's work while it is still on the wall (and thereby see how awesome the art department is). So, that alone made today worth it.

Annnd, I just found out that my blog has been listed as one of the top 100 Blogs by Teachers for Teachers. I'm not sure who exactly compiled the list, but wowweee, thank-you! I'm the 4th listing under "Art Education." Go and check out this amazing list when you get a chance; there are some great folks on it! http://www.guidetoonlineschools.com/tips-and-tools/best-teacher-blogs

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Animation Fun!

I'm working on my portfolio, final presentation etc. etc. for graduate school. I also wanted to revamp my business card to reflect my playful educational philosophy. Where you see the black dots, I will punch holes and loop rubber bands. When handed out, the receiver can flip the business card like a thaumatrope to see the following animation! How much fun is that?! Click to see if full-size (I know it is a little cropped in the view below!)


Monday, November 15, 2010

Being Sick is Lame. . .

But, this pretty much puts it in perspective. Reposted from here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Hey guys; sorry for the lack of posts this past week. I've been diagnosed with pneumonia, and have been on the couch (still am) with a fever. More awesome art stuff as soon as I get to feeling better!

I hope your week has had better health -and epic amounts of way more art- than mine.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Omigosh you guys! I've been waiting to make sure everything was "finalized"' before I posted. . .And, now it is!

On December 27th, I fly from Georgia to Amsterdam and then to Nairobi, Kenya for eleven days. I am helping my Dad to research some local and boarding-style high schools for some of the older students at the House of Hope Orphanage in Lodwar, Kenya. Lodwar is one of the most remote places in the world; I'm excited, nervous, and excited again about my upcoming visit.

Remember the beads I was talking about selling? We decided not to sell online to keep the overheard low. We wanted 100% of the purchase price to go towards the purchase of the playground, so any cost of listing of the beads online would have to be absorbed by my mom or me. Well, my mom sold the tar out of those beads. She single-handedly raised $3,000.00! The kids received their playground equipment about a week and a half ago. They got a full swing set, two slides, and a merry-go-round. Annnddd, one of the missionaries talked a local pilot -who helped deliver the playgrounds- into taking the kids up for a ride in his plane! Now, everyone wants to be a pilot when they grow up!

I'll be spending the most time with the kiddos in Lodwar. And, just like I mentioned before, many of the kids are so scarred by how difficult their early life has been that they have a hard time engaging in play. My parents say that while they are eager for positive adult attention, they don't know how to just "be" or "be silly." One of the reasons they are helping me to go, is that they hope I might come up with some fun, engaging activities for the kids to participate in.

They go to school everyday, but it is very academic and most of the kids are behind grade-level. As such, they don't do much art/craft activities in school. Most of the missionaries who have visited do Vacation Bible School-style crafts with the kids. My mom says they sort of enjoy these activities, but that they are very rinky-dink and do better with the five years olds than they do the twelve year olds.

The culture there is very much about equity. For holiday gifts, the managers of the orphanage encourage my parents to purchase the same gift for everyone. This means that a five year old boy should receive the same gift as a thirteen year old girl. My parents are the chief operators of the orphanage, but you have to work with the local culture as well. And, while my mom would love to purchase a different gift for every kid -specific to his/her taste- she doesn't want to cause a ruckus. I know this might seem really strange to you and me; but trust me, I've heard a lot of stories about this whole "equity" thing and what they are doing is best. It is a tenuous situation at times.

So, here is my question for you. What sorts of craft ideas do you have for this sort of diverse group? There are about thirty-five kids overall, and I will probably be expected to include to kids of the workers of the orphanage as well. So, that number may be closer to forty or even fifty. There are some restrictions on what I can do. Allow me to list them here.

1. My luggage must be less than 50lbs to keep my costs low. This has to be all of my clothes, toiletries, meds (Cipro, malaria medication, and my normal daily meds) for eleven days. I also must bring a lot of my own food as their will be many situations in which it would be a burden for my hosts to feed me. This means I'll be packing some protein bars and some packaged tuna items. Additionally, I must pack my own toilet paper and lots of hand sanitizer.

2. There is water, but it is gathered in a rain drum. So, while I have been told I can use some water for crafts, I obviously want to keep it minimal (as in I can paint but not tie-dye)

3. The kids already have crayons and have done basic crayon projects.

4. I may have to take a prop plane into Lodwar, and if this is the case, then I can only take ten lbs of gear with me (again clothing, food etc.). Although my dad says I could wear the same clothes the entire time and would still be cleaner than the locals when I leave.

So, what types of projects would you guys do in my shoes?! I'm totally overwhelmed!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Art Education Association Conference Practices

I blogged recently about how amazing my first attendance to my state's Art Education Association conference was. Honestly, I can't think of anything that could have been better!

Annndd, that got me thinking. I wonder just how amazing the conferences must be that you go to as well. And, well, what more could we all do to make our conferences just THAT much more amazing.

So, what are your favorite practices at the conferences you attend?

1. What do you like best?
2. What do you like least?
3. What is most important to you about the food and the lodging?
4. What do you most want to see from the vendors/what types of vendors do you most hope to see?
5. Do you sell your own arts/crafts at your conference and/or do you want to? and/or do you think you should?
6. What are your favorite types of workshops to attend?
7. What types of workshops do you wish would be offered more often?
8. What are your thoughts on number of people who should be in different types of workshops?

Let me know what you think!!

Bahama Mama/Thicka Than a Snicka

This blog isn't so much about art, but it is about teaching. . .So, uh, bear with me.

I'm a large lady. Seriously. I'm six feet tall and wear a clothing size (depending on the brand) anywhere from an 18 to a 22. And, honey, I own it. I think I'm fabulous, and I think it is a shame if you don't. Well, not really, but that is the kind of confidence I try to project.

I've been a curvacious person since I was 13. I was a little skinny stick-pin girl until puberty and then it was CURVES! It took a long time to be okay with that. When other girls wore cute, tight little t-shirts they looked charming and sweet. When I wore the same clothing I looked like I needed find a corner, cause honey, it was straight-up inappropriate! While I get that now, my mom had a hard time explaining it to me -without causing a teenage girl hysteria- when I was younger.

My mom is a medium-height thin woman. My dad is tall and athletic. My three siblings all fall into one of their categories. My grandmother looks like Dolly Parton and my Grandpa looked like Ernest Hemingway. Guess whose genes I inherited?

Basically, my parents had NO idea how to help me find clothing that 1, I liked, and 2, was appropriate when I was a teenager. My mom finally broke down one day and went from store to store until she found a woman who looked like me. I was totally mortified, but actually what my mom did was awesome. This super sweet saleslady was not only beautiful, but she had a whole lifetime of shopping for curvy clothing experience. She steered me towards some great brands and gave me great advice on how to shop for my body.

It was hard being a teenager who looks as I do. Young men often don't understand/don't appreciate my appearance because it isn't what society projects they should like. However, males 30+ years old (old enough to have formed their own opinion) seem to like me juuussstt fine. :) And women/girls of all ages seem to get it. But, it was hard to develop positive body identity when I was a kid. I'm active, I work hard, and this is my body. I accept it now, but LAWSY, it took FOREVAH.

There is an unfortunate thing in fashion/clothing that should a person be larger than a size 12, fashion seems to think they must want to wear frumpy stuff that -as my mom says- "we didn't even bury your grandma in." Chunky ladies gotta look for the goods. I'm good at it.

Here is where the education part comes in:
I have several -no doubt you do too- plus size female students. They have the same issues I did when shopping for clothing. And, wow, I feel for them. Because these are beautiful girls, awesome, amazing girls. . .But, they don't get to have fun shopping with their differently-shaped girlfriends because they can't shop in a store like forever21.

Today, one of them came into my classroom during my planning to ask me a question. She said: "My mom said I should ask you where you shop 'cause you always look good and you can find good clothing." I was THRILLED. This student's mom looks like my mom, so she has no idea where to find clothes for her daughter, but she wants her to feel pretty (cause, HELLO, she is!). Y'all. I got SO excited to share with this student where I shop for clothing and how I find good clothes. How great to get to do for someone else what was done for me.

My point in all of this, is should you know a girl struggling to find a place to shop point her towards one of us awesome curvy ladies. We want to share this information, but it is delicate, so we aren't going to just accost some poor teenage girl and offer it up unasked.

And, I know this seems silly, vapid, and unimportant, but honestly, it isn't. I can't tell you how upsetting it is to go shopping (ie how teenage girls socialize) with your friends and feel like the ugly beast person who can't shop at "normal" person stores. It really does effect your self-identity.

These are some of my favorite blogs to look at for fashion. I follow all of these in my rss/google reader. They have great links to where they purchase their clothing, and they also show how everyone is beautiful. I double-checked and these are all appropriate insofar as I know, but if it is of concern for you, you can have your mom pre-check the links for you. :)

These are some of the stores I shop at:
http://www.torrid.com (you have to search, but they do have things appropriate for normal people)
http://www.asos.com (they have a plus line called "asos curve")
http://www.forever21.com (they have a plus line called "faith21" you can google it as well)
http://www.avenue.com (I shop them in-store, they are located in a strip near Northpoint Mall. Sorta old-lady but they have great undergarments and leggings. Oh! I got a great fake fur coat from them too!)
http://www.bloomingdales.com (believe it or not, bloomies has GREAT plus lines. If you shop in-store their salespeople are AMAZING. They really know the product lines, and can usually direct to stuff that is going to look fantastic on you. My favorite brands are Alfani and Ralph Lauren)
http://www.shoptranslated.com (my favorite is the ines line)

What Do You Do With A Problem Like Maria?

Last week, I got really, Really, REALLY angry. I'm the sort of person who is high-energy, type-A and as such, operate with strong (read loud) convictions and opinions about all sorts of things. Having said that, it typically takes quite a bit to actually get me angry, and when I do, I don't go "hot," I go to a coldly furious place. I don't simmer; I freeze. Instead of buzzing about, I coldly calculate my options, I weigh my outcomes, and I play one heck of a hand.

Because, when I'm angry, I play to win.

A student I teach -an 8th grade student- made a severely racist drawing and then proceeded to share said drawing with the student body; many of whom were offended and/or are of the race depicted in the drawing. The creation is so foul, I feel uncomfortable even describing or repeating it here; just suffice to say that large national freedom groups and protests have been held over far less. I will say it didn't happen on my time, or in my class, but that I am the teacher that students felt comfortable coming to in order to "tell."

Look, kids are going to do stuff like that; they are testing boundaries and learning all about what society will and will not tolerate. As such, I'm not so much upset that the creation was made, as I am about how it was handled. Basically, it wasn't. Nothing. NOTHING. has been done about the situation at all. And, the student who created the drawing is now bragging about how s/he hasn't gotten in trouble.

The thing is, it isn't about getting in trouble, it is about LEARNING why such a thing might be offensive in the first place.

Unsure of what to do, I called in the big guns: I asked my professors. They have 30+ years of experience, and I wanted to know what they would do in my shoes, and what they thought my ethical responsibility might be. My professors are wonderful, and they not only pointed out some of the flaws in my personal reasonings, but also gave me some insights into what actions I might want to take.

So, here is what I have begun, and what I plan to do.

1. We started a unit on Romare Bearden with the 8th graders and discussed what it might feel like to be oppressed, and why the Harlem Renaissance occurred. We talked about how Western art has only begun to accept that women and non-white persons can make art within the past 100 years.

2. Students were instructed to find a topic for which they have strong convictions, and to create a collage about the topic.

3. Today, I ran experiment similar to the blue eye/brown eye one done by a teacher on Oprah years ago. I told students that research was published this past week saying that people with a longer ring finger than index finger have higher I.Q.'s, stronger physical skills, are more emotionally intelligent, and live longer and are overall "better" than those with shorter ring fingers. I allowed students to measure their fingers and proceed to behave as they would. I monitored for "bully" behavior. ALL of the students believed what I said; none argued against. Some said they didn't agree, but all of those were students whom -according to my bogus statement- were less intelligent. One student even told one of these students that they wanted to believe the research was bad because they were less intelligent. After 15 minutes I stopped the argument and told them it was all fake. They were very relieved, and then really embarrassed. We spent time discussing our actions and why it is soo important to critically think about what we hear.

4. Next, students are to tell me their chosen collage topics, I will post these to the class wiki, and next class the student will be have to stand up and defend his/her topic against the rest of the class who (no matter their personal feelings) will be against the student. I want my students to learn to base their convictions on what they read and learn, not what they gossip and/or overhear.

Here is what I have learned so far:

1. My students feel comfortable making racist comments and/or drawing racially charged images because they don't think racism exists anymore. They don't see their own actions as racist.

2. They don't know what the word "conviction" means. I know, I asked. We are learning more about that now.

3. They are eager to believe anything they hear.

I'll keep you posted on what else I learn, and I'll post their artworks. I'm excited; I feel like we are really learning!!

I won't be doing more posts on this issue; I'll be updating this specific post. So, if you want to know what happens bookmark this specific post.

Class One Update
WOW. Here are the topics my students chose to make their collages about. These are their "conviction" themes.

1. Teachers aren't always right.
2. Racially equality is important.
3. Caging animals in zoos is wrong.
4. Video games dehumanize people.
5. Nature should be left alone.
6. Dog fighting is bad.
7. Women should have equality in 3rd world countries.
8. Video games cause people to lose out on their personal and emotional lives.
9. Environmental conservation is necessary for planet survival.

Class Two Update
Guys. It just keeps getting better. The kids were really thinking about their "conviction" themes and we had some great in-class discussion. I modeled how the "debate" for next class would go and let them be "anti drug legalization" while I was "pro drug legalization." It made for a very inspiring debate.

Here are the 2nd class's chosen topics:

1. Animals have rights too.
2. No one should drink and drive (actually really proud of this kid because he almost always is defiant by not doing anything).
3. The new basketball rules are bad.
4. Mass censorship in China is wrong.
5. Freedom of speech is very important.
6. Concerts need to be more PG so everyone can participate.
7. Ideals of beauty need to be reinterpreted to include everyone.
8. The Obama is killing the performance car industry because of the new emission standards.
9. People are cheating more often in sports and it is wrong.
10. Obama's healthcare plan is bad because it will cause the price of doctor's visits to go up.
11. Music can be religious, inspiring, and still good to listen to.
12. Animal cruelty is wrong.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Another Inspirational Art Poster

I promise this blog isn't all about awesome art posters! But, seriously, how could I not repost this kind of awesomeness!? By artist Selin Jessa and from here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Awesome Art Poster

I came across this today. It is too good to not repost. It is promoting this: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/save-the-arts.html

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Artwork Inspired by Retail

I adore shopping. Not because I like to spend money (I don't, and, uh, I don't make any anyways), but because I ADORE looking. It is so inspiring to me to see how others interpret the display of goods, of art, and of jewelry. I love going to stores that support local artists like One Thousand Villages to see what artists all of the world are currently creating for sale.

And sometimes, I get inspired for student artworks from this exploration. Such is the case today. I saw these frames at Anthropologie awhile ago and I thought: "Oh wow! What a great basic design!! I bet my kiddos could use this design too."

And, you know what? They can and did.

Here were our steps.

1. We talked about Persian tile art
2. We cut squares of clay
3. We cut smaller squares out of the middle
4. We pressed a design into the clay
5. We added jewelry class and pressed it into our design
6. We flipped our frame over and wrote our names
7. We added 2 pieces of cut wire (from a coat hanger)

Here is what is to come:
1. One kiln firing
2. add glaze to non-jewelry-glassed areas
3. Kiln fire again
4. print out a picture of ourselves
5. hot glue it into the back of our frame