I finished my first two weeks of teaching at my new job! Last spring, at the height of the pandemic, I switched positions from one state university to another one. I teach almost the exact same Art Education pre-service classes, but now after 12 years in higher education, I am on the tenure track. My new art department is much larger, with more professors but also more art majors and a graduate program.
I got a choice on how I would like to teach my classes Face-to-Face, completely Online, Hybrid, or a new model called HyFlex. I selected the HyFlex model. Let’s discuss.
My class delivery is a new model called HyFlex. HyFlex means that I teach live in person in the classroom at the same time I teach live on Zoom for students outside the classroom. What I like about this technology nightmare is that the students get to select each class if they want to come to school and be exposed or if they need to join class remotely. I take attendance in my class and wouldn’t want a student to come to school who is sick just so their grade doesn’t drop. The decision is on the student, and they can switch every class depending on their situation. The academic year is only two weeks long at this point, but I have had very good attendance, not perfect.
There are many things I need to do better with technology. I need to not get too wrapped up at the beginning of class with announcements that I forget to check the Zoom waiting room to let students into the class. A couple of students sat in there for about 5 minutes because I had walked away from the front podium to talk at the chalkboard. Speaking of the podium, I am a walk around the room teacher, and it is hard not to circulate while going through the Powerpoint. I was so excited that I could be on Zoom live, share my screen, AND my remote clicker worked to advance my PowerPoint slides while I walked around! If you know my technology levels, that was a huge accomplishment.
Next week I’m going to remind the students joining remotely that they can unmute and chime into the discussion. Last class, they put answers in the chat, but that was not visible.
I love seeing my students some in the classroom and online. We are all being safe, wearing masks and social distancing because we (students or faculty) do not want to go completely online. If it happens we will deal with it, but so far we are taking measures to be safe, and I feel comfortable in my setting.
I have tried so many different masks. I have bought some, I have made some, and I have painted on some. I have also experimented with two different types of face shields. This is not an exhausted list of options, but here are some of my recommendations.
Handmade cloth face mask.
A little warm, but I feel completely protected. If you wear a mask all day, I suggest a change of mask at lunch. The mask gets moist with your breath and talking all morning that a change after lunch will reenergize you for the afternoon classes. I have a pile of masks that get hand-washed every weekend, so they are ready for the coming week.
The face shield. I tried two face shields, the headband one (not pictured) gave me a headache. I normally need to watch that because being prone to headaches, some headbands and glasses also do it. The face shield with the nose piece was better, but with my glasses, it makes my glasses slide down my nose, making me readjust them several times through class. The plus side of the face shield is that you can see a whole face!
Let’s be honest, being new and meeting so many people and students, I will not recognize them if they switch masks or if I see them without a mask. The first time I wore the face shield to class, my students said, “You look so different!” The face shield I got does not fog up, and the major plus is that you can wear lipstick.
Clear face masks. I have a handmade cloth face mask with just an inset of plastic acetate, and it fogs after a couple of minutes. I tried an old trick of putting soap (Dawn liquid dish soap) on the inside and then wiped it off with a paper towel. That works a little bit better; you might get 45 minutes to an hour out of it. I wore it to the hairdresser, and it was no match for the hairdryer and high humidity.
The solid clear mask I have on in the photo below is by a company called Clear Mask. I learned about this product on the Today Show. According to their website, this product is FDA approved, and I have worn it for a class, and it did not fog up. It also has foam on the top and bottom, so it sits differently on your face. My glasses didn't fog up with it, so that is an improvement. I got some of these masks for my students because I want to see their faces.
I think the transparent masks are useful if you have deaf students or work with students and faculty that are hard of hearing. I didn’t realize how I relied on lips until they were gone. I’m now asking my pre-service student teachers to “Use your teacher voice and project in the class.”
Lastly, we are still teaching in a pandemic. There are so many apps and new technologies floating around there. You cannot be a master of every single thing. Start small and try to add one new technology.
I see teachers making amazing videos, using editing software for closed captioning, and linking everything to their Bitmoji classroom. That is wonderful! Do not beat yourself up if you are going a little slower than usual and trying the technology at a different pace than fellow teachers. You are doing great, even without a Bitmoji classroom. Be kind to yourself. You will be amazingly marketable after this is all over with what you have already learned and will be a better, more compassionate teacher.
I have a friend that just recently got her first job in school administration. This year she became a high school vice-principal. We laughed about how this is not the ideal year to begin an administration journey because it’s…well this year. I do not envy the tasks that school leaders have with a global pandemic looming overhead in the fall of 2020. I feel there will be voices of discontent on both sides.
School leaders will be faulted if they open schools on time, faulted if they wait a couple of weeks to open schools, faulted if they let students back in the building, faulted if they start the school year with online distance learning, faulted, faulted, faulted.
What is the right decision?
I work in higher education, and my school has three models; face-to-face classes, online classes, or a combination referred to as hybrid. I prefer the hybrid model because I can see my student a few times during the semester. Whatever your preference, and we all have an opinion on schools opening up, and if it’s safe, we as teachers and parents must present it to the students as “It’s going to be a great school year!”
I have been involved in the planning meetings to reopen the school, and I know more meetings did not include the faculty. I have been asked my opinion on some matters, but other times regulations were handed down to me, and I just had to implement them. Even if I do not like the decision, I know that my fellow teachers and leaders do have the students’ best interests at heart.
Whatever side you fought for behind closed doors, when the decision is made, trust the decision. As teachers and parents, we need to leave our feelings to the side and put on a smile for our students. We have built amazing communities for our students, and we will do it again, in whatever form it may take this year. We do not need to project our heartbreak and dismay to our students.
Our students can pick up on our anxiety and unhappiness. We do not need to burden the students with recapping conversations and our opinion on the outcome. We need to present a united front. That united front is that we are excited to have them in our class now or in a month, in the classroom or in an online classroom, with a mask on or without a mask. We are happy that you are here, and It’s going to be a great school year!
Happy Earth Day!
Today, April 22, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. According to earthday.org the origins of Earth Day began on April 22, 1970 and was the brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson. “Earth Day 1970 would come to provide a voice to this emerging environmental consciousness and putting environmental concerns on the front page.”
To celebrate Earth Day this year I am going to take all of the advice from the previous blog (Mandalas: It’s all about the Math) and hit the outdoors to create a Nature Mandala.
Nature Mandala are inspired from two sources and artist and a book.
Artist, Andy Goldsworthy
Andy Goldsworthy is a British artist who now lives in Scotland. He is a contemporary artist who sculpts the land and the environment to create a site- specific sculpture in the tradition of land art. Below are some examples of Andy's artwork. Images taken from his website.
Book, Morning Altars
The second inspiration is the book and Instagram account for Morning Altars by Day Schildkret. This is a beautiful book with the lovely photography from the author, and in the forward by Anne Bogart they state that they are debris arrangers. Arranging natural debris is the definition of a nature mandala at its most basic form. Images below are from the book, which can be purchased on Amazon.
How to Create a Nature Mandala
According to Morning Altars there are seven movements for morning practice. These seven movements are just a guide but presented here as your guide to creating one on this Earth Day.
1.Wander and Wonder. This is a treasure hunt and go for a long winding walk and begin to pick up multiple things of different sizes and shapes that interest you. Look for contrasts. Big- small, light- dark, smooth- bumpy, bright- dull
2.Place. Connect with where you are and witness the place come alive.
3.Clear. Use a brush or your hand to clear the space to reveal a blank canvas. You are looking for a flat area to work.
4.Create. Play! Play around arranging the items. Try them in several different locations and arrangements. You are an artist arranging shapes and colors and textures.
5.Gift. Practice generosity as you offer your altar in a celebration of nature, your family’s well-being, your ancestors, or a way to mark a special occasion.
6.Share. Photograph and share your beauty with your friends, the community, and with people you have never met.
7.Let Go. Practice walking away. This art is beautiful in its impermanence. The wind will take it away or someone might walk through it, and that is okay. Its job is already done.
On this, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, I encourage you to try to connect to the environment and see the beauty in its small wonders. I encourage you to get out of your house and play with nature. I encourage you to create a nature mandala.
Please share your creations with me. You can post your photos in the comment section of this blog or on Instagram using the hashtag, #professorcharity or @charitymika.
Last month the art teachers of Southeast Kansas region got together for a professional development workshop. The workshop on Mandalas was held at Pittsburg High School in Pittsburg, KS and lead by art teacher, Rebecca Lomshek. Rebecca and the other art teachers that attended the workshop were so generous with their knowledge and resources.
History of Mandalas
The word “mandala” is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean “circle.” A mandala is more than a simple shape. Mandalas represent wholeness and can be found in many aspects of life such as the celestial circles to conceptual circles of our friends and family.
Mandalas patterns are used in many religious traditions. Hildegard von Bingen, a Christian nun in the 12th century created many beautiful mandalas to express her visions and beliefs.
In the Americans, the circular Aztec calendar was both a timekeeping device and a religious expression in a mandala format.
In Asia the Taoist “Yin-Yang” symbol represents opposition as well as interdependence.
Tibetan mandalas are often highly intricate illustrations of religious significance that are used for meditation. In ancient Tibet, as part of a spiritual practice, monks created intricate mandalas with colored sand made of crushed semiprecious stones. The tradition continues to this day as the monks travel to different cultures around the world to create sand mandalas and educate people about the culture of Tibet.
A world away, the American Navajo people also create impermanent sand paintings which are used in spiritual rituals–in much the same way as they are used by Tibetans. A Navajo sand painting ritual may last from five to nine days and range in size from three to fifteen feet or more. The Native American mandala is created in honor of a people that truly understand the deeper undercurrents of thought, nature, and life.
Using the antique art of crochet Doilies were originally crocheted with thread and used to protect table and dresser tops, and gained popularity in the Victorian Era, when women hand worked them in their spare time to add a little elegance to their households. At one time, these items were considered so important that a young lady was expected to have at least 10 to be ready for marriage, and these were carefully stored in a hope chest to be used when she set up her household.
How to draw a Mandala
Step by Step Guide
1. Mark the center of your paper with a small dot, and then using a compass draw a circle.
2. Draw several other circles with the same center point, this in math is called, Concentric Circles.
3. Take the ruler and draw a horizontal line across the center.
4. Take the protractor and place it along the horizontal line. Draw a mark every 30 degrees: at 30, 60, 90, 120, and 150. This will give us 12 sections.
5. Take the ruler again and draw a line between the center and every degree mark, across the whole paper.
6. OK, you will now have 12 sections or pieces of a pie. You need to fill each section with some kind of repetitive pattern. What can be easy to repeat?
7. Replicate the element until you fill the whole circle. Be slow and thoughtful—there's no hurry!
Focus on what you're drawing at the moment.
8. Draw light until you know it's right!
9. Once you have your mandala filled in, darken it or "ink" it by going over the lines with a marker.
10. fill in the open spaces with watercolor, colored pencils, or markers to add bright colors.
11. Set back and look at your masterpiece. Beautiful!
Like most of the United States and the world, for that matter, I am in quarantine. We are to be staying at home, not going out unless it is necessary for medicine of groceries, and even then, you have to stay 6 feet from people, which is called social distancing. As an art teacher I wanted to give my students a challenge of painting to help release stress and it would be a great distraction from their other online schoolwork. What happens if they don’t have any paint at home? I don’t want them to go out to the store for a set of watercolors or have to buy something on the internet that might not be shipped for a week. I found many things around my house that could be used as paint.
The first thing I did was to sample all the pantry items by mixing them and doing swatches to see how they painted. I mixed all of the power spices with hot water and let them sit for an hour, hoping they would grow in intensity.
The first row is Beet juice-from a can, Tea, and Paprika.
The second row is Coffee, Mustard Seed, and Kool-Aid.
The last row is Baking Cocoa, Turmeric, and Sanding Sugar, or it is also called Sprinkles.
I worked with the coffee to create a coffee value scale in the little mountain landscapes. I painted the entire square first, then I painted the mountain range and down on each to build up the coffee color.
I mixed up the pantry items to create a background color block, dried it with my hairdryer, and then drew on top of that design. The attached video is sideways but shows a spread up version of the project.
I’m surprised; you never know what you might have in your house to create art.
Weaving is a fun activity, and each time I do the project with my classes, I am always surprised at the students who take to the weaving process. There is always some football player in the back of the class that is barely engaged in class that is an amazing weaver and goes above and beyond on their project. Some students just naturally enjoy the rhythmic nature of weaving and that it does not take a lot of decisions and talent. As soon as they are taught the basic step and vocabulary, it is just about setting them loose for an extended guided practice section.
There are many weaving tutorials, I generally begin with paper weaving, or I have seen many students do bookmarks and wall hangings with homemade looms. This process is to make a bag, which can be big or small but is a continuous thread and two-sided.
First, some vocabulary:
Warp- these are the strings that go north and south (vertical) and are stable on the loom.
Weft- the strings that you the weaver add that go in and out through the warp, which go east and west (horizontal) in the weaving.
Loom- any apparatus used to make fabric by weaving thread or yarn.
Select a piece of cardboard, mat board, or foam core and cut it to the size that you want your bag. I wanted something that would hold my 15” laptop, so I worked with a piece of matboard that was 10” X 16”.
The first step is to mark every ¼ inch marks across the bottom and top of your loom and cut small slits for your warp threads to hold securely. Make sure you have the same number of notches at the top and the bottom.
Warping the loom
Warping the loom is your second step in which you are adding the vertical string to your loom. Begin at the bottom corner by going around the loom and tying the string to itself.
You will now begin wrapping the warp string around the loom going down and up the same notch and then moving the thread over to the next side. You will have a string on both sides of your loom. Make sure all the “moving over loops” are at the top, so when you finish your weaving, you can slip these off the loom and remove your woven bag. Make certain not to miss or skip any notches, if you have missed any go back and fix this now before you start weaving.
The process of weaving is going over and under the warp strings in an A/B pattern. The string that you are weaving is called the weft, and it can be anything from yarn, strips of fabric, notions, or lace.
You can mix and match the materials for a great look. When I begin, I tie my weft string to the bottom warp and start my pattern of in and out through the warps. When I get to the end, I flip over the loom and continue the pattern on the back side. I generally weave about five or six rows before I push the rows tight with a large hair comb or fork. You want to pack down your weaving, so you do not see the warp thread, this will make your bag nice and tight, but also strong to hold your goodies you plan to put in there.
Just keep weaving….Just keep weaving!
It takes some time to get your weaving to the tippy top. I spent 20-25 hours on my laptop bag. Don’t forget you are doing both sides. I also wanted to play around with triangles and other patterns; you can do this as well, just make sure you are connecting to the previous string.
Adding a different color
You can add more weft string and change colors as often as you desire. I do a double knot to add the new color to my existing string and then keep weaving. Don’t worry about the knots because when we get done weaving this bag and take it off the loom, we will turn it inside out so all our knots will be on the inside of the bag.
Finishing the bag
It is very hard to get the string up at the top of the loom because the warp thread is so tight, but I switched to a smaller needle to finish. I tied the end weft to the warp and began bending the cardboard loom to release the warp loops and then slide the bag off the loom. The bag is fine how it is, but to finish off the top, I just took the thread and reinforced the top and bottom, knowing that my bag was going to pad my laptop. You can also braid a handle for a bag as I have done here.
If you have questions, please share those in the comment section and…
Happy Weaving Everyone!
We are going online. This is the sentence that was uttered around so many schools this week. I teach at a college, so online classes are actually a thing, but rarely in the fine art department. I do not want the spread of the Covid-19, so I’m glad the University is taking precautions, yet I feel sad for the students to have to leave their campus community. For students in K-12 schools, online education is very rare and presents some challenges, especially for hands-on classes, studio classes, service learning, internships, student teaching at schools, and anything that is a project or a group project.
I have been gathering some resources for myself and colleagues and encourage you to dig into the blog posts on this page as well as the video lessons on my You-Tube Channel.
I am hopeful that this experience will offer opportunities to emphasize different ideas in our classes and make us better teachers if we learn from this experience.
I teach future teachers at a University. In my Art Education classes, we are starting to put together lesson plans learning about Student learning outcomes, writing rubrics, and the National Visual Art Standards.
These PowerPoints can be available online, but what about the simple art supplies for the students to do those projects?
I do not want my students to have to go out and get supplies at a store with a college student’s tight budget when we have supplies in the classroom. I gathered my grocery sacks and packed a little gift bag for each student filled with watercolors, colored paper, drawing paper, pencils, erasers, paintbrush, airdry clay, and glue sticks. I figure we could use these supplies when we meet virtually online, or they will have these supplies to help fill the time during their social distancing.
I felt that was a good thing, and I encourage teachers to send art supplies home with your students, or parents to think about picking up art supplies while you are going to the store to stock up on pantry items.
Studio classes where students are painting in the studio presents a different challenge. The students would be painting at home and uploading images of their artwork to be critiqued by the instructor. The good thing here is all the one-on-one instruction.
You can meet each student’s needs. Think about a group chat or discussion board, so you are not the only one doing the critiquing. I learned so much from the other students in my art classes that I would hate for the students not to interact with each other, if only for inspiration.
I know many teachers that transition to clay at the end of the year or Ceramics teachers that are beginning to work on glazing and finishing details. Ceramics Material Workshop is offering free online content for all educators who are moving to online platforms. Glaze for Our Lives, is a 23 episode series of recorded lectures explaining how and why to glaze pottery.
Contact them at: ceramicmaterialsworkshop.com with an .edu email address, and they will get you set up.
Also, visit https://www.ceramicmaterialsworkshop.com/glaze-of-our-lives.html for more information.
Besides digging into my blog and YouTube channel to see ideas and lesson plans, I recommend two other resources that are full of good quality lessons prepared by art teachers with downloads and art production images. Although I understand that lots of people will be hitting Pinterest to find ideas, these resources are available in one place and are art teacher tried and true.
Art Teacher, Podcaster, and Author of two books I love, Clay Lab for Kids, and Stitch + String Lab for kids, has a whole of information on her website.
I also recommend Mrs. Brown.
Amy Brown is a K-5 art teacher and has a Google drive open and available with lesson plans and downloads for you.
There are many more resources available; I saw on social media that educational websites were doing free trials for the next 30 days, so please take advantage of those. Comment below with your resources, and I will update this blog as need be.
Remember, friends; this is not an ideal situation. We are trying the best we can to make it better for our students, but we are in triage. This is not "best practices" for distance-learning. Do not feel like a failure because you had to plan and move a class online in less than a week. It's ok, we are all trying to survive. Give plenty of grace to everyone you encounter and also to yourself!
Dr. Charity-Mika Woodard
Studio Potter is offering free memberships for all educational institutions, including K-12 schools, affected by Covid-19. You can get a free three month membership to their archives of over 8,000 pages of ceramics content.
Music is a great way to set a tone in your classroom, reward your students, or to add an additional learning element to the overall classroom experience.
I first started thinking about music in a classroom when I taught in an elementary school. My third-grade class said, “Don’t forget to tell our homeroom teacher that we were good in our special area because if we get enough stars, we get to listen to Christmas music.” That next day I popped into this classroom and was so shocked to see all the students on task at their desks while a CD player on a low volume was playing a Mannheim Steamroller CD. I think the teacher had purposely turned it on a lower level, so the students got quiet to hear it. I have since tried this in my classes, and it is correct, if you turn on music to reward your students, they will get quieter to hear the music. This is an excellent classroom management strategy. I love to have this dangling carrot to reward students but also something simple like background music to take away when voices get out of hand.
I know that students are exposed to enough music from Disney CDs and the radio, so I do not play any Disney or top 40 hits in my classroom. Instead, I take the opportunity to use the music in the classroom to expose and teach the students about some great artists. I have a jar of names in the classroom, and once a week, a student selects an artist’s name from the jar, and they become our Musician of the Week. The artists in the jar include Fleetwood Mac, Beatles, Mozart, and Michael Jackson, just to name a few. I then go to my favorite streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, or Amazon Music and type in that artist. I love it when after the Beatles week, a parent came to me and said that her child had correctly identified a Beatles song that was playing in the grocery store.
The last great way to use music in your classroom is to enhance your lesson plans. If you are doing drawings on animals in the safari, why not try to find some African beats from the world music section? It would be a great tone-setter in the classroom and auditorily transport your students to that time and place. Global music is a terrific way to add a layer of multiculturalism to your classroom with very little effort. It can easily become an anticipatory set to help hook the students as they are walking into class, or as background music while they are working.
Below is a link to a general Spotify album that I use in my classroom. As of this moment it has 52 of my favorite songs from Motown.
Here is also a link to another Motown’s Greatest Hits on YouTube. It is 2 hours and 24 minutes of some of my favorite songs.
How do you use music in your classroom and what are your favorite albums? Comment below to share your resources with others.
Don’t you love the coziness of a crackling fire? You can pull your rocking chair right up to it and do a little weaving or read a good book. I think background ambiance can set a mood, so I have been using screensavers at school to do just that. If you have a projector, a screen, and the internet here are a list of the best screen savers on YouTube for your classroom.
Here is a picture of my classroom ready for Friendsgiving with the fireplace on the screen in the background.
It all started with an episode of Bob Ross's Joy of Painting (Netflix). I showed it during some open studio time in the classroom just as background noise. Bob, as you know, is wonderful and so soothing so he was a perfect choice while my students created. It was open studio time, so the students were busy working and I was walking around slowly giving advice and directions for their projects. I noticed a few students actually watching the Bob Ross video instead of working, and I redirected them to continue working on their own artwork. After this I went in search for a video that could set a mood but also be background. I didn't want students to be caught up in watching the screen like they watched the Bob Ross video. YouTube is filled with screensavers, many are 5 to 10 hours so I don't have to worry about what is on the overhead screen. I can literally, like the commercial says, set it and forget it. These are in no particular order, I encourage you to try them all.
1. Crackling Fireplace
I use this one on a cold snowy day, and it seems to warm up the room. It is also good for story time, time when students are laying on the big pillows weaving, and for Holiday parties. FYI- This one is 10 hours!
2. Aquarium (Water Zoos)
Even my college students love an aquarium. I have the Monterey Bay Aquarium Jelly Fish webcam as a permeant tab open on my laptop so I can click right to it and see the jellies. They also have webcams on otters if that is more your style. This is great for any “under the sea” unit or just to get your students to draw from life in a quick manner. Click the image of the jellyfish to be taken to the Monterey Bay Live Cams. The Jellyfish cam has music playing behind the swimming jellies, but the other webcams such as the otters or sharks do not. I go back and forth on the music so the following YouTube link is an aquarium screensavers without the music.
Here is a second Aquarium with natural sounds instead of music in the background.
Being from a land-locked state I love the ocean, but do not get to visit as much as I would like. This ocean waves helps and is very soothing to hear and see the waves come in and go out with the tides.
4. Winter Snow
Just as the ocean waves is a hit in the middle of winter because it gets us dreaming of warmer weather, when school starts in September and it is still Hot, Hot, Hot, try this YouTube video of a snowstorm. It might also be a great screen saver on the day you are painting that polar bear in a snowstorm.
5. Birds in the trees
It feels like a hike in the middle of your day. This screen saver is a gem to play in the background on any day but especially on a day when you might be working on drawing birds or insects.
6. Cave sounds
My pre-service teachers showed me this video that they used with their cave art lesson. It was a great addition to the overall class period and really set a tone that we were in a cave.
I know there are others, comment below on the ones you use in your classroom on a daily basis or for special assignments.
My students in Art Education: secondary spent part of our class time marbling paper today. We are allowing the paper to dry and then we will create 3-Dimentional pumpkins out of paper and pipe cleaners.
Marbling Paper is so quick and easy to do.
Shallow pan, I used aluminum roasting pans
Shaving cream- the cheap traditional kind, not the gel
Tooth pick or dowel rod to blend the colors
Scraper, we used paint scrapers but old student ids or credit cards will work.
Thank you for taking a look at how easy and fun it is to marble paper. You can use the paper to scrap book, make a sketchbook, or any paper crafts.
Leave a comment on how you use your marbled paper.
This is my first year to do a food plate in Art Education class and I am loving the results. Be Prepared for all the photos because so many of them turned out great. I began talking to my class about PopArt and showing the class pictures of food in artwork such as Andy Warhol’s 100 Soup Cans or Claes Olderburg’s Spoonbridge Cherry sculpture. We had previously discussed 2D elements that are flat and 3D elements that are sculptures, so a project where they had to combine both 2D and 3D was appealing.
The second objective in this lesson was the student had to use multiple media to create their projects. They have a tendency to stay in their comfort zone, and this objective got them moving around the room to use paint, clay, yarn, beads, cotton balls, etc.
Having my Art Ed students begin to think about how art can be incorporated into the Core subjects, such as, a social studies unit with foods from other countries or a science lesson on nutrition and making good food choices based on the food pyramid, is a good place for them to be when we return from fall break and begin constructing a lesson plan.
The students did draw out of a basket the category (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack, Dessert) and then brainstormed three ideas on paper before they were given the supplies. Most students took home Model Magic air-dry clay to make their 3D element and let it dry overnight before bringing it back to class to paint.
I just can't stop posting photos! This project turned out so great, and the students loved it!
I put a new Bulletin Board is up outside of my classroom. I think it is the perfect spot for the class when they are leaving my classroom, and can just grab one of the post-it notes that they might need.
The post-it notes say anything from, “a hug” to “courage” to “coffee.” Whatever a person might be needing on a particular day.
Along with this bulletin board effort I have placed Blessing Boxes around the Art department in different locations the last two years. The first year it was outside my classroom and I don’t think it was well used. Last year I placed one by the main entry doors and filled it with portable ready to eat or easily microwaved food. I like this for two reasons, one the students know it is there, many of our art students are working in the building long hours, and they know this box is an option for them. The second reason I like this is there is a way, a place for them to give back as well. I have found in my experience, when you give students an opportunity to “pay it forward” they will.
I am providing these Bulletin Boards and Blessing Boxes and I am happy to fill them up and contribute because it adds to the whole experience and can be a help for students in college, but I love that other students are contributing to them as well. This meme stated that, “You can’t teach Blooms until you take care of the Maslow stuff.” In reference to Bloom’s Taxonomy with moving our students to higher order thinking and learning skills, and Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that you can’t learn if you are hungry in class and your basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, etc. are not met.
Something for us as educators to think about…
Recently I went on an artist’s retreat to the Ozark mountains in northwest Arkansas. It was a great time with other artists all doing our art side by side. At this retreat, there was a printmaker, a metal jewelry designer, a fiber artist, a painter, and a draftsman. I learned many things, just working alongside these other artists, and being part of this community.
The fiber artist, Caroline Day, was doing some ice dyeing, and I had the opportunity to watch and learn. I had purchased some raw cotton material to dye in this new method, and I ended up making the fabric into eight napkins for my table.
The method of ice dying was easy and fun, and I can’t wait to show my students in the fall. I love the look, it turned out vibrant and beautiful and like a watercolor painting, completely different from my experience tie-dyeing.
Here I am with some amazing artists on a mountain in Arkansas!
I am not an expert on ice dying, but I loved the process and will be doing this method again.
Mix soda ash, 2 cups per gallon of hot water, and let the pre-washed fabric soak for 10 to 15 minutes. After that time, pull out the fabric and squeeze out the excess water. You may want to wear rubber gloves for that step.
Set up the dying center. Caroline had trays to catch the dripping and a grate to hold the fabric up while it was dying. You can see that set up in this photo.
Scrunch the fabric to lay it on the grate and begin piling it with ice. Caroline told me it was best when the ice is a little melty, so it sticks to the fabric. After the ice is covering all of the fabric, you sprinkle up to two tablespoons of dry powdered dyes. As the ice melts, it slowly transfers to the fabric.
I love this method because you cannot control the dye. You never know what you are going to get.
We let the ice melt and the fabric sit overnight and then hung it up on a makeshift clothesline to see the vibrant colors.
The last step is to rinse your fabric. You should rinse your fabric in cold water until it runs clean, then warm water until the water runs clean, and finally hot water until the water runs clean. After that rinsing process, I put my pieces in the washing machine by themselves before cutting them up to make napkins.
Here are my finished napkins ready for my next dinner party!
Oh….. relaxing summer! I know people joke about teachers having their summers “off” but when you look at all the doctor’s appointments I have failed to schedule during the year, the workshops, conferences, continuing education classes to take to remain certified, summer school to teach for that little bit of extra money, and vacation bible school to help with at church teachers, teachers rarely have the summer off. This summer is my first one in I don’t know how long (five years?) that I don’t have a long list of things to do.
I’m in recovery!
Since finishing my doctorate in April, I have heard many people ask what I intend to do this summer, trying to help fill my time with activities. It has been hard to have firm boundaries and to pick and choose their seemingly good-intentioned advances. I had to say no to so many things while I was in grad school and especially last year as I worked on my dissertation, that I want to be normal again and go and do everything. I called last year the season of sacrifice, so if that is true, this season of fun activities will be the season of plenty.
Plenty of rest, plenty of food, plenty of sun, and plenty of books. I still love books, (I thought grad school would have killed that love of reading with all those journal articles) and now I get to read for pleasure. I have unlocked the joys of storytelling in fictional books.
With all that said, here are a couple of books I recommend…
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
The Chaperone is a story of a woman who accompanies a young dancer to New York from their hometown of Wichita, KS. The girl’s journey is fantastic, but the story is really about what happens to the Chaperone while in New York and how that changes her life.
When I was looking for an image of this book cover, I discovered that PBS Studios made it into a movie that came out March of 2019. The movie stars Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey) and Haley Lu Richardson.
Here is the trailer for the movie:
The next book is the very popular:
Educated, a Memoir by Tara Westover
Educated seems to be on everyone’s list for a summer read, so it was hard to get my hands on. I was waiting for the audiobook from my local library for over a month when my friend sent the actual book as a graduation present. I went back and forth, listening to the book in my car and reading the book on my nightstand. The story is a memoir, so it follows the remembrances of the author, Tara in her life journey of not going to school being raised by their survivalist Mormon parents in Idaho to going to BYU and eventually getting her Ph.D. from Trinity College at Cambridge. According to her website, she was a visiting fellow at Harvard University in 2010.
Here is Tara Westover on Ellen talking about her memoir.
Enjoy your summer reading!
Years ago, my sister and I took our turn playing with the babies in the church nursery during the second service. I quickly realized that the last 10 to 15 minutes before pickup time was the hardest. Those babies were done with me and wanted their mammas. That was the time my sister would break out the bubbles. Babies love bubbles! To be honest, I love bubbles and this last semester I learned that my college students love bubbles. Bubbles are universal and a great cheap trick for the last 15 minutes of any class!
I separated my Art Education class into two different centers for the day and one half painted with bubbles, and the other half drew bubbles to show how a theme can go from elementary to secondary students.
Painting with Bubbles
What you will need is heavy 80-pound drawing paper or watercolor paper, tempera liquid paint, dish soap, small cups, and a straw for each person. In each small cup put two parts water to one part soap, and just a small amount (1 Tablespoon or so) paint. Have the students stir up the liquid with their straw and then they simply blow into the cup to create bubbles. When the bubbles are on the top of their cup, set a piece of paper on the cup to transfer the bubble to the paper. The bubbles eventually pop on the paper and leave their round impression like a print. I made a dozen different colors of bubble cups, and when the students wanted to change colors, they moved their straw to another cup. (That is the secret to not making everyone sick, each student has their straw instead of a straw per color!)
The students layered color bubbles on their paper until class was over and then stacked them on the drying rack. The next day they wrote a quote on the dry paper like a beautiful watercolor background.
To draw iridescent bubbles, my students began with black construction paper and colored pencils or oil pastels. The media was their choice. They practiced drawing circles with the compass until they had three to five concentric circles. They should draw lightly because the circles are only used as a guide to know where to place the reflection areas. As a class, we discussed the reflections in our eyes and how the squares match the squares of the windows where the light is coming into the classroom. Most students followed this same reflection pattern with the shapes inside the bubbles. Any color will work, but I found pastel colors of turquoise, green, and purple make a nice cool toned bubble.
I saved the bright white and yellow for the dots and bursts of light. My students also enjoyed following this YouTube tutorial:
Hope you enjoyed this blog post and share some photos of your own bubble artwork!
Accommodations benefit all learners and it is your job as a teacher to make all learners that enter your classroom, no matter their level or ability, to feel comfortable, confident, and engaged.
Art is important for all learners because it provides another avenue for communication. The openness of art and how there are many solutions to problems naturally allows the freedom of expression or voices of multiple learners. Art provides opportunities to problem solve, to observe the world around you, and to strengthen aesthetic awareness with critical thinking skills.
Make sure the student can access the art materials comfortably, think about counter/desk height, stools with adjustable seats, and overhead lighting that can cause a glare.
Don’t be afraid to change project requirements
Small changes can make all learners successful, such as, 2 prints instead of 6 for a child struggling with stamina, or larger paper for students struggling with fine motor skills.
Don’t be afraid to change the media
Foam blocks are easier to carve than linoleum during a printmaking unit, and Model Magic is a great air dry clay alternative to traditional clay that still keeps the spirit of the project but make it user friendly.
Make it applicable and relevant
All artist look for meaning with their work. For some having art class is purely processed-based: spraying watercolor, smearing paint, dragging a tool a certain way.
Accommodations that are common in the art room:
The local elementary school has been hosting a STEM (Science* Technology* Engineering* Math) night for many years. It was a cross between a science fair and a robotics team demonstration. Since the college art department has gotten involved, it is now called STEAM because we added the “A” for ART. Pair the STEAM night with an added book fair from the library, and a local pizza restaurant donated dinner, and you have a fun and educational time for the community.
The student organization of future art teachers was asked to set up a booth during the STEAM night. Last year we were a novice to the STEAM night adventure, and we had make-it-and-take-it paper masks. We had long lines at our table and major glue issues. This year we followed suit with the other booths and had an experience booth whereby the students and families could interact and enjoy but not make something that needed to dry and be picked up later.
Our idea was a pegboard and colored golf tees poked into the holes to create a pixilated picture. This project reminded me of the old LiteBrite from the 70s and 80s. Since my LiteBrite ‘s lightbulb was always burnt out this pegboard was very similar to my childhood experience.
We used a pegboard we bought at the hardware store ($10) and painted it black with spray paint and 1000 golf tees we got on Amazon ($20) we spray painted various colors. Spray painting the golf tees were the most difficult part of putting this project together. We used empty boxes and sprayed the golf tees in the boxes a little at a time and then shook the box to make sure they were evenly coated. You have to continue to shake the box for an hour so the golf tees will not dry stuck together in a large ball. We tried to line the golf tees up on a piece of styrofoam but the spray paint dissolved the styrofoam. If you have an idea of how to easier paint the golf tees, I would love to hear about your ideas.
The pegboard stood up on the card table and the tees were separated by color in front of the table ready to be arranged into art by the elementary kids.
We had a lot of fun, and I hope you will as well.
The Dot by Peter Reynolds encourages us to make a mark and see where it takes us. International Dot Day is a day inspired by Peter Reynold’s book and is celebrated each year on September 15th-ish. This year the 15th fell on a weekend, so we celebrated in Art Education class the following week.
The day started with students and teachers wearing anything, and everything, with dots. There were polka-dotted rain boots, scarfs, shirts, pajama pants, dresses, and socks! The abundance of dots gave the room a festive feel. I passed out snacks to the students, Dots Candy, and Trix Cereal that not only fit the dot theme but added to the colorful atmosphere. The students watched The Dot video and read the book.
Each student table group had discussion questions that they answered together to reflect on the broader themes in the book. Discussion questions can be downloaded here.
After the small group table discussions, students learned the Dot Song, singing and doing the actions along with the following youtube video. Each student finished the day creating their mark and displaying them on the bulletin board.
It was a great day of creativity, courage, and community!
When I started college way back in the 1990s, I was an Art Therapy major. That never worked out for me because it was too much Psychology and not enough Art. In one of my Art Therapy classes, my professor went over the medical format of SOAP notes. Used primarily in doing patient intakes SOAP notes are an acronym, so each letter stands for a word and in this case SOAP Notes stand for Subjective-Objective-Assessment-Plan.
This year I began using the SOAP note format as writing prompts in my art class. I think it is essential for students to be self-reflective before a class critique and the SOAP notes help them gather the information they would like to share with the class about their inspiration and studio processes. As some of you know, leading a class critique can be challenging to get students to go beyond, “I like it” to explain why they like a piece of art, or what prompted them to go in a particular direction or make a decision regarding their artwork. The students writing their answers to the SOAP notes beforehand also focus their attention during the critique on studio practices or patterns they have not thought about previously.
Subjective: Here you document your inner experiences of your creativity in class. Here is where you can record your stream of consciousness. You can also document your observations about the research you did, and our previous class discussions. (Example: How is gesture important in my work? What did I learn from the thumbnail sketches I did? Why do my drawings need to look dark and moody for this topic? Etc.)
Objective: Here you write feedback that you receive from me (the teacher) during the class, or you can also document peer comments from previous critiques or working sessions. What did you take from this feedback?
Assessment: Write what you believe contributed to your most successful moment for this assignment or artwork. Also, write what contributed to your least successful moment in class. In other words, in this portion, you document your diagnosis of yourself in class including research, participation, and studio time.
Plan: In this section, you need to state what you feel is the most important plan for you to adopt for next class. What can you do to make your participation in class a better experience? Write a one sentence plan of action for the next class.
I hope that SOAP notes are something you will consider implementing in your class critiques, and please share your tips for successful critiques.
Sticks of Fate is a creative spin on the classic technique of a teacher calling on students to ask them questions. The teacher has a cup with popsicle sticks each with a student’s name on them. The sticks are stirred around, and the teacher randomly calls on a student to answer a question or contribute in the classroom. There are endless ways the sticks can be used in the classroom, but some important ways would be during discussion, brainstorming, presenting individual or group ideas, or even paring students for projects.
When the can is picked up by the teacher and swirled around it gets everyone’s attention because it uses randomness to the teacher’s advantage; therefore, students feel more accountable to not only listening in class but listening to their peers in class to summarize and demonstrate active listening techniques.
Sticks of Fate: May the odds be ever in your favor!
Lemov, D. Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College (2010). San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Publishing
I am so thrilled with the feedback I received from my Getting to Know You Sculpture Project I rolled all that encouragement into a line project for my students. See what a little positive reinforcement can do to a teacher!
Part Two is an assignment that came after a lecture on the Elements of Art (Line, Color, Shape, Space, Texture, and Value) and was a quick way to incorporate line and color into a drawing project.
I had the student look at the handout to answer questions about their summer vacation. If they did these things last summer they would make the appropriate lines on their paper drawing paper with pencils. The students colored in each smaller shape that was made when they overlapped the lines with the media of their choice. I prefer oil pastels because they are basically juicy crayons, cover quickly, and are vibrant. Other media choices for fast application and limited drying times would be markers, crayons, chalk pastels, or tempera cakes.
After the shapes were colored in completely the students traced the original lines with a bingo dotter filled with India ink. Bingo dotters makes a consistent dark black line very easily, especially for little hands. I bought a gross of them on Amazon, half of which I filled with glue and the other half ink to draw.
I love the finished look! I would love to hear if you try this lesson in your class. The handout is available as a download and you should feel free to tweak it for your needs.
Blessings on a great start to the school year!
Today is the first day of school, and I always like to jump right in with an art activity. Who said that the first day is just the syllabus day? Not in Art Education!
The Getting to Know You Sculpture is inspired and gleaned from a fellow art teacher, Cassie Stephens. Cassie teaches at an elementary school so her prompts were things like “I can tie my shoes” and “I am missing teeth.” That is great for elementary kiddos, but I needed to adapt my questions to meet college student’s needs. I also did some larger categories such as play sports. While I am walking around the room if I see them make a black arch, I can ask what sport they play. I also have different shades of paper so they can pick their favorite, or add different colors for each item, such as, pets. I have seen up to six green arches for different pets.
The wildcard paper is the paper I painted last night. I cut it into strips, and it can be anything they want to share with the class. They can use as many or few papers as they would like.
Pictured is the painted paper before it was cut into strips, and all of the strips of paper on the table ready for ensemble.
I run this beginning activity as a quick Think-Pair-Share activity. Each student spends 30 minutes creating their sculpture quietly at their desk; this becomes the Thinking part of the three steps. I walk around and try to ask some leading questions. After the initial 30 minutes, I have them meet a colleague at their table to Pair up and ask about each other’s sculpture. I allow 5 minutes for this Pair time. The final step is when we all come back together as a class, and I ask for volunteers to Share out with the whole class something they learned about their new colleague. I have found it is sometimes easier for people to talk about someone else than themselves.
This sculpture is an excellent addition to my first day of class activities because it is quick and easy to build, doesn’t require many materials, and everyone can find it successful. I mean everyone! I hear many times a semester, “This is my first ever art class” and “I don’t have any creative bones in my body.” Everyone can be successful.
I hope this inspires your first day of school activities. I would love to hear from you if you try this Getting to Know You Sculpture in your classroom. You can download the handout here and then tweak it to fit your needs.
And just because it is in my head, here is the song Getting to Know You from the King and I!
With my tear ducts thoroughly lubricated I write today about the new documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? This documentary has a release date of June 29, 2018, and is a very timely story for all grown-up viewers.
Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood ran for 32 seasons from February 19, 1968, until August 31, 2001. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood also had 17 prime time specials that ranged in topics from a Christmas special to an address after 9/11 when Fred Rogers stated his now famous line of, “Look for the helpers. To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”
I sat in the darkened theatre seats with my sister who also grew up watching Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and my college-aged nibblings, and we were all so moved by this movie. We left the theatre saying how loved we felt! The niece and nephew did poke fun at their mother and me for the number of tissues we consumed during the hour and a half movie. I explained it away as not just a big cry at the end; it was that one tear rolling down my cheek the entire time. It was a careful blend of a nostalgic feeling of a simple time eating cereal before school and Mr. Roger was always in the background setting the tone for the day. This documentary also highlights Fred Roger’s humanity in his beginnings as a pastor and how he used the new media of television in his mission of children. You can see his love in his eyes, and see his heart right there on his cardigan sweater, that his mother knitted for him. As my niece said it was interesting to see Mr. Rogers younger having grown up with him in the 90s, for me it was interesting to see clips from the first episode in 1968 at the peak of the Vietnam War and how King Friday XIII wanted to build a wall to keep other people out of his land. Wow, how timely that lesson! I wonder if the animated spin-off, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is addressing immigration and the southern border wall? And I wonder what new media we as educators should be using to reach our students?
Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood tackled issues head-on, and part of Fred Roger’s mission was not to sugar-coat issues but to talk to children like they are people that live in our world and hear new vocabulary. In the documentary, they show clips of Lady Aberlin, played by Betty Aberlin talking to Daniel Tiger (puppet, voiced by Fred Rogers) about what the word, assassination means. It was a relevant and heartfelt moment on the show. As was the scene when Mr. Rogers cooled his feet in a wading pool and asked Officer Clemmons, played by Francois Clemmons, a black man, to join him. At the time, racial segregation in public pools was a hot-button issue of debate in the country, and Mr. Roger’s did a small gesture that let you know where he stood on the issue. “Love is at the root of everything- all learning, all parenting, all relationships. Love or the lack of it.” Fred Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, 2018.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? the documentary is filled with guest stars and personal interviews of the people that knew Fred Rogers the best. Fred’s wife Joanne Rogers and Yo-Yo Ma speak of the friendship they had with Fred, and Johnny Costa and Nick Tallo who are former co-workers are some of the funniest interviews that show Fred Rogers’s humor. A section of the film that I have been thinking about is when members of the PBS family are in Washington defending their funding to starch Congressmen. Fred Rogers testifies before Congress, stating that he is not going to read his prepared document of facts and figures regarding the impact on educational programming for children because the Congressman has already received the document and he trusts that he and they will read it, thoughtfully. I have been thinking of this wondering if I, as a public educator, would trust that my members of Congress are reading documents thoughtfully? This is a terrific scene in the movie as are the poignant interview moments from Junlei Li, the Director of the Fred Rogers Center outside of Pittsburgh, and between Francois Clemmons, but I don’t want to give you too many spoilers. You need to see the film yourself.
When looking up the movie on Rotten Tomatoes, it has received a 99% rating. I scanned through eight pages of reviews to find the one reviewer that did not like this movie. Apparently, Brandon Weatherbee of Brightest Young Things gave the movie a 6.6/10 and thought the movie was overly sentimental, “emotional manipulation approved by the Rogers family.” Yeah, that was the point! You can see the love in Fred Roger’s eyes and isn’t that what we all need right now? Someone to look at us lovingly for an hour and a half and tell us that we are loved? Fred Rogers said it best, “The greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they are loved and capable of loving.”
Glen Gaylord from the Super Reviewer started her review with a twist on the popular song, “It’s a beautiful day in the Cinema, a beautiful day in the Cinema, won’t you go see…” I felt this same way. I love the man, I love the film.
If you have seen the film, please comment below on your feelings of how Fred Rogers was intentional in every aspect of his life. Thank you for reading!
This last year I moved from my small liberal arts private college to a much larger public-funded state university. During this move, I have learned a great deal about government-run institutions and have begun a dialogue regarding how to be a Christian in public school.
When I type out the words “Christian” and “public school” I begin to get a little nervous. Thinking that perhaps a mob of strangers will be at my door screaming about the separation of church and state! Spirituality at work is an area that many teachers, caregivers, and professors deal with on a daily basis, but rarely discuss. In Dallas Willard’s article, The Call to Think for God (1988) he states that “…the Christian who expresses concern about this balance is rarely if ever, concerned about being too spiritual” (page, 2). This statement can mean two different things. I have heard talk that the court of public opinion thinks that college professors are communist and Christian students need to be mindful when they go to college to not take in all the liberal ideals. The second way to interpret this statement is from the vantage point that Christian teachers are trying not to say overly spiritual things in their classroom, as to not offend anyone. The separation between spiritual and the secular is evident in the fact that I do not call myself a “Christian scholar” or a “Christian professor” or even a “Christian artist.” I am a Christian whether I mention it in my classes or not. Therefore, being a Christian is how I do all things. Being a Christian is the lens through which I view the world. Hughes, (2005) asks, “do we have an identity that stands at the core of our being, an identity that informs every other aspect of our lives and around which every other aspect of our lives can be integrated” (Page, xvii)?
C. S. Lewis was a great example of how an academic scholar can balance or even work harmoniously merging their worlds of being a Christian and being an academic. Bruce Edwards (1998) explores C. S. Lewis’s Christianity and scholarly writings to determine that he was “a man who refused to compartmentalize his faith or his vocation” (page, 2). C. S. Lewis who taught at both Oxford University and Cambridge University is best known for his works of fiction, The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy. He also wrote the non-fiction book Mere Christianity. When visiting London in 2010, I learned that C. S. Lewis was criticized for writing to a popular audience instead of more scholarly writings when he was a Professor at Oxford University. We toasted him at his old pubs of the Lamb and Flag and also at the Eagle and Child feeling like we needed to raise two glasses to this professor for reminding us to get out of our ivory towers and appeal to the masses.
C. S. Lewis’s faith was not set aside while he did his job or even went about normal daily activities. There was a seamless connection between the two worlds or a philosophy that the worlds were not separated. Pointed out in Willard’s article is the connection in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke the connection to loving God, “with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” (strength omitted in Matthew), Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27. Reframing this thought as our intellect or mind as a spiritual gift leans itself to the connection between our academic world and spiritual world. Romans 12:6-8, lists the spiritual gifts of “prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, and mercy.” What is our role in education if not serving, teaching, and leadership?
In public school we as teachers have been taught to not disturb the norm and accommodate to the current wishes, but does that mean we should not unapologetically love our students? C. S. Lewis “rejected the split between the sacred and the secular” (Edwards, page 5) and in doing so found the balance for his life. I am still striving for this balance in my world but reframing the conversation in terms of my spiritual gifts is a start.
Edwards, B. (1998). C. S. Lewis: Public Christian and Scholar. Retrieved from: http://personal.bgsu.edu
Willard, D. (1988). The Call to Think for God, commencement address. Retrieved from: http://dwillard.org
Hughes, R. (2005). The Vocation of a Christian Scholar: How Christian faith can sustain the life of the mind. William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Cambridge, UK.
Today I wanted to take a slightly different approach to this blog post and share with you some interview tips I have tried over the last 16 years, and hopefully, they will help you land the art teaching job of your dreams. I have successfully landed jobs in elementary, middle school, and high school, but now that I teach future teachers in college the one thing my students always ask me is, “How do I get a job?”
First thing, it is a numbers game. Apply for everything that interests you. When I was in grad school in New York City, I knew that I could not afford to continue to live in that expensive city if I wanted to teach. I applied to every school that was hiring from Juno, Alaska to Dodge City Community College. I had an accordion file folder that I kept all of my application materials and correspondence from each school so if they called for an interview; I would be ready. There were over 50 schools that I applied to from my little apartment in the city. I got several phone interviews and a couple of on-campus interviews before landing my first teaching job 20 miles away from my family in Kansas City, Missouri.
1. Edit your social media
Back when I was first applying for jobs, social media was not a thing. Fast forward till today when before you start the application process you need to take a good look at all of your social media accounts. I have looked up applicants I was interviewing, so trust me when I say, administrators will look you up on social media before your interview. Edit everything that could be questionable. Edit every picture or post of you with a drink in your hand, wearing a bathing suit, or anything that shares your political opinions. You are going to say that you are of the legal age of 21, it was your wedding toast or a vacation in the Bahamas and you look good in that red two-piece bikini. All of these counterpoints are true, but while you are landing your dream job, be ultraconservative online.
2. Do your research
I did not do my research on all 50 schools I applied to that year, but now that I narrow down my search for future jobs I research the job extensively. I like to know it the school is rural or inner-city. I plan how long it will take to drive there for my interview and then because I do not want to be late, I add 30 minutes for traffic. If the interview is close by, I will do a drive by the day before, so I know exactly how to get to the school and what the school looks like.
You can find out a lot on the internet, so check out the school. What are the names of the administrators? These are most likely the people that will be interviewing you so look at their photos so you will be able to identify them. Will you be the only Art teacher in the building, or in the district? If there are several art teachers in the building see what you can find out about the other teacher(s). Many times, teachers have webpages linked to the school’s website that would give you an idea of past projects.
Knowing about the school and district shows your level of interest in the job and is always impressive to people interviewing you.
3. Gather your resources
When I went to my first interview for a teaching job I had a huge three-ring notebook that chronicled all of my lesson plans, bulletin board displays, and my teaching philosophy. Now future teachers in Art Education programs at my university and others across the country create websites to house all of this information, and more, electronically. These are great resources and so easy to attach to online applications or link on your resume. The only problem with these or even bringing an iPad to show your website during the interview is that only one person can look at it at a time. You can provide your website beforehand, but the day of the interview I like to show up with packets for my interviewers. I am visual, and after all, I am applying for a visual teaching position, so I want people to be able to see what I do. Sample lesson plans, or bulletin board displays can be color copied and you can make three packets to put something in the hands of the team interviewing you. I would save pictures of your own artwork for later, focus on community projects, classroom management plans, letters from parents or professors, and possibly your transcripts to compile this packet of your resources.
4. What to wear
I have taken students all over the world on study abroad trips and while in Italy most of the artwork we want to see is in churches or cathedrals. The churches in Italy have dress codes so even though it was hot on the streets of Florence we would all have an extra scarf in our bag to cover up with when we went inside. Those are my general rules for what to wear to an interview. The old signs that say, “No shirt, No shoes, No service” My rule is: “No shoulders, No toes, No thighs.” You should dress one level above the position you are applying, so if you are interviewing for a teacher position, ask yourself what a vice principal or principal would wear. Be conservative, but a little artsy. I love a colorful scarf or an interesting pin but remember that the people interviewing you are not fellow art teachers that appreciate your “wild and wacky” style, so tone it down. You want your interviewers to focus on the words coming out of your mouth, not your funky-felted brooch.
*Side note- If dressing in a Rembrandt costume or a full color wheel skirt ties into how you approach teaching, include photos of these in your packet.
*Side note- Most of my students ask me about my tattoos, do I cover them up when I go for an interview? My tattoos are quite extensive and hard to cover. I do not reveal them all, just as I wouldn’t reveal them all to my elementary students the first day of class. Following my own conservative dressing rules, one or two of them will peek out. My thoughts are if a school does not want to hire me because of this tattoo on my arm, I most likely would not like to work for that school.
5. Arrive early
I do not like to arrive frazzled and stressed out. I like to get to the school at least 30 minutes early to avoid any traffic delays, and I either drive around the surrounding area or wait in my car. I check my teeth for lipstick and walk in 15 minutes early to show I’m punctual, and I care about this interview.
6. Leave your cell phone in the car
It is tempting to bring in your phone when you know you have to wait for the interview. Leave your phone in the car! Bring a book that makes you look like the intellectual teacher of their dreams! I suggest the book, Teaching with Love and Logic by Fay and Funk.
7. Know the questions
Review some possible questions that they will ask you and practice your answers. You will not know everything, there will most likely be a curveball thrown in there but at least you will not be going in blind. Administrators know if you are a first-year teacher or if you have taught for 20 years before they interview you. Even if you are a first-year teacher, you can still have a packet of things from classes or your student teaching experience, and you can show that you are capable of doing the job. Never say, “Well I don’t know because I’ve never taught before.” The questions will most likely be related to classroom management, encounters with a problematic or unmotivated student and how you handled that situation, and why you want to be a teacher. Practice your answers. Practice your answers in front of a mirror to make sure that your face matches your enthusiasm for what you are saying.
Reach out to fellow art teacher friends for some advice on answers to prepare. Most will tell you that during their interview administrators asked about their willingness to collaborate with other teachers. If asked, say Yes! You can do a great lesson on tessellation shapes that ties in with a math unit. Also, state that you have National Standards and a curriculum that is important. You are hired as the Art Education teacher not the supplemental craft helper for the classroom teachers.
8. Don’t make promises you can’t keep
If you are asked during your interview about a community-wide mural project that needs to be completed on the weekends and over spring break, or to decorate every bulletin board in the school, or to decorate the cafeteria every month, be honest with them. It is okay to say, “I don’t think that would benefit my students.” Most administrators like an annual art show, and that is something that you should expect to do. It is okay to say no to other opportunities that do not involve displaying your student’s artwork but instead you being the decorating committee for an alumni luncheon. Be polite, but be honest. If this is a deal breaker, you might not want that job. Don’t say things just to get the job because they will remember and be holding you accountable for those extra duties.
9. Ask questions
At the end of your interview, they will be asked if you have questions. Come with questions in mind, in fact, a whole list in case they already answered several. Possible questions are:
10. Send a thank you note
Within 24 hours of your interview ending, you need to send a thank you note. I always preferred a handwritten thank you note, but an email seems to be the current and fastest way of communication. If multiple people interviewed you, send a thank you note to each person. Explain that it was nice to meet them and how much you enjoyed the school.
I wish you well in landing the gig of your dreams! Please post any questions you have in the comments, as I am happy to help.
I teach future art teachers at Emporia State University. Here is what is going on in my classes.