30 August 2008


i realized that maybe the reason i was having trouble getting into the nuts and bolts of planning for the fall term is that i hadn't worked on my classroom yet. nesting is usually my way of getting down to business at home and in the studio. so, like my dog who circles three times before laying down to feel more at home, i started cleaning, organizing, and moving furniture around.

i have to pack up my whole room at the end of every year so i started going through all the supplies. the supplies live on these blue shelves during the year.

i keep everything organized in color-coded bins. i learned to color-code everything while teaching elementary school. and you may think they only help little kids but it has really made a difference for my high schoolers. it at least ups the chances that maybe things will get back where they belong.

this is our "living room" and yes i realize how luxurious it is to have a designated discussion space in my classroom. it makes such a difference. if i could give one thing to art classrooms across the country. the students are so much better able to focus on what they are saying to each other when they are in a physically different space than where they made their work. it worked for us when we were in graduate school so why wouldn't it work for high schoolers?

i continue to add works of art made in class to this wall. this is something my high school teachers did year after year. in fact i think one of my paintings may still be hanging there. it meant a lot to me to be part of the continuum and i think it makes a difference to my students as well.

all of this "nesting" is about creating classroom culture...something i first remember being important when i was in elementary school myself and began studying its importance when i was in the hands of the masters, my own high school teachers. i finally experienced its effects first hand while i was teaching in brooklyn. the room continues to evolve over the course of the year and year to year...more to come.

getting going.

this will be my 8th year of teaching. and it will also be the first year that i'm not teaching, read inventing, new curriculum. all the classes i'm slated to teach i've taught before. you would think that means i can relax now but what it means to me is that now the real work starts. the reflecting and tweaking to make sure i'm actually teaching what i set out to teach. now i can streamline, organize, prepare in ways i haven't been able to before.

so why am i having so much trouble getting going?

29 August 2008

scenes from my office.

rules or norms?

i keep hearing people referring to rules as norms lately. have you heard this? what's the difference between rules and norms? and should i feel bad because i have copies of these rules posted around my room?

could a blog replace the sketchbook?

i figure i spend a good 20% of my time either searching for papers my students have given me because they lost track of their sketchbook, harassing kids about work they owe me, or lugging big black sketchbooks from room to room. so i'm considering having my oil painting students each keep a blog this term.

in some courses this just wouldn't do. when i teach mixed media, for instance, they need to be able to feel the materials, make a mess, and build layers of stuff. i love that broken binding, smelly, stuff-falling-out-of-it kind of sketchbook.

but in oil painting they fill their books, or work on separate sheets of paper, to make thumbnail sketches, take notes, and write either reflections on their own progress or responses to famous paintings. if they did this in a blog it would remain forever...present and accessible (as opposed to wrinkled or lost), chronological, and organized. and the students could comment on each others' postings as a way of having a conversation about their work. we could even dump the whole blog into book form using blurb at the end of the course.

what do you think?

27 August 2008

here's what voicethread looks like.

testing out voicethread

so with all the buzz about technology i decided to give some it a try last night and I'M VERY EXCITED about voicethread.

this is a website where you can upload a picture and post your comments either by typing into a speech bubble next to your picture or by recording your voice using the computer's microphone. you can even draw on the picture while you're commenting to help explain your point. i've left my TEST VOICETHREAD (make sure you have the volume up on your computer) open to the public so you can sign in and test it out. AND PLEASE DO! i've embedded what it looks like in the post above.

the website has easy to understand tutorials with sound and video. i was able to figure all this out in about half an hour. it shouldn't take that long for you to figure out how to comment on my picture.

i'm imagining using this for critiques and homework assignments. the students can respond to each other's works or famous works of art and i can verbally record directions and explanations. maybe i'll organize them into small comment groups. more to come.

learning to embrace technology.

on monday i was shown this video in a meeting. please watch it.

it seems that my school is making the technology push this year.

it can feel pretty uncomfortable to drag yourself to school on the first day and face an administration that has been getting energized for the past 10 weeks about something they learned at some conference over the summer. you’ve barely got the sand out from between your toes and there’s something new (and often big) to absorb and work into your curriculum in less than a week (my melodramatic interpretation…not something actually demanded of me at my particular place of work).

at the time of the discussion that followed the watching of this video all i heard was cell phones allowed…encouraged even, what students want, what students need…i also heard…you’re not engaging them…use more gadgets to be more entertaining. Of course that was NOT what was being said. i must have had some seaweed lodged in my ears.

i was mad. i was frustrated. i decided this was not for me. i teach ART. i believe in making things by hand. i was wearing a skirt i had made myself for pete’s sake. And so i went home mad. and i complained to anyone who would listen. sorry about that.

but then a funny thing happened.

i was over at A’s house watching a travel show about tokyo and i had an aha moment. the host of the show went from being surrounded by commuters talking and texting on cell phones to a minimalist garden where he was learning ikebana, the art of japanese flower arranging. i thought to myself…ooooohhh, japan. the japanese are able to move ahead technologically, to embrace gadgets AND honor the past, appreciate nature, and make things by hand.

maybe i can do that too. maybe i already am doing that. maybe i’ve always been doing that. maybe...i will like this.

26 August 2008

scenes from my office.

this is a page from the new york city teaching fellows calendar from quite a few years ago. i was not a teaching fellow but i love their ad campaign. this hangs on the wall i face while i'm working.

new back-to-school bag.

this is my new back-to-school bag from llbean. a teacher who works here at my school has had the same one for years and i totally copied her. here's why it's the best teacher bag. i take it to all my meetings and it sits next to me like a file drawer so i can get whatever i need without having to make a lot of noise or take a lot of time. i tend to "multi-task" during meetings so this is important for me. the down-side is i'm not sure it will fit my school stuff, my lunch, and my knitting, so i will have to carry a second bag. but around the building it's perfect. and the best part is it's super cheap.

getting back in the swing.

as both an artist and a teacher i am always filled with mixed emotions at this time of year.

when i was little i couldn't wait for the start of school. i loved buying back-to-school clothes and picking out school supplies...breaking the bindings of books for the first time. but it's different now that i'm a "grown-up". summer is my time to be an artist...to work in the studio for hours on end with few other obligations. and it's hard to give that up at the end of august.

what i know for sure is that both making art and teaching art are my life's work and i feel lucky to have two careers i feel so passionate about. the trick is balancing them in a way that keeps me feeling sane and like i'm giving them both my all.

and so here i sit in my big beautiful classroom trying to figure out where to start. i've organized my notebook already....

...and color-coded my schedule.

starting in this way gives me something to hang onto as i dive into the messy job of organizing my curriculum, the supplies, and the room, while attending professional development meetings all day long.
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