Wednesday, July 28, 2010

update, the good and the really sad

(felt, play fruit I made for my nieces and nephews )

I haven't posted for a while because I was on vacation in California. On top of that, the last few days have had some good news and some really bad news. In a surprising turn of events I will be re-hired FULL time at the start of the school year as our music teacher has decided to teach math instead and our principal has decided to cut music.

However, I will not be the one in my classroom the first few months of school, or maybe at all this school year. On Friday we learned, very very out of the blue, that my father has stage four terminal cancer of the esophagus. A very hard cancer to treat. He was given weeks or months to live and my mom, dad and I are in shock. I am an only child and live out of state so I knew immediately that I needed to go back home and stay there for an indefinite amount of time. Thank god my husband is an awesome person and is helping me deal with the fact that I will need to leave our home and assure me that we, as a couple will make it through this crisis.

I am happy to say my father has handled his first chemo treatment amazingly well and is feeling better than he has in weeks, we don't know how long that will last though.

So much to my principals chagrin I have decided to take the three months of family and medical leave. I just can not imagine, or justify, trying to work full time at my intense school and getting home as much as possible, when needed. I am nervous about leaving my art program in the hands of a stranger but relived that I can focus on my family right now. I was terrified of bringing home a illness from the school and giving it to my father.

Soon will come the issue of finding a long term sub. While the pay is quite good, I still struggle to find people that are a good match for my school and my student's issues, let alone someone who can deal with the K-8 thing. Our hope is, that with the district wide (126 position) layoffs occurring next week, that I will be able to snag a art teacher from another school to go into my classroom. I wonder how that will impact that persons ability to get unemployment though.

I also am struggling with how much guidance I want to leave my long term sub. Should I just fully hand over my classroom and let him/her establish their own rules, routines and lessons? What will that be like, if/when I return later in the year. Or should I push to have my established rules and routines continued and give the basic framework for the lessons I want covered so that I know my students are on track when I get back to work.

This year WAS going to look like this:
k-1st : Art though books (as always, same as year before)
2nd-5th: Why art? (why do people make art? what function does art serve to individuals, small groups of people, and large groups of people)
6-8th the ism's of art (major art movements and 3-ish artists from each movement post Renaissance) We did ancient civ and traditional cultural arts last year and art as personal expression the year before.

I wanted my 2nd-5th to think of how art records people, places, things, events and stories. Self portraits, portraits of others, symbolism in portraits (especially animals) our yearly harvest still life, recording changing seasons through the landscape, important physical structures such as buildings or Portland bridges, art to record historical events, art to record pre-written history (lower grades turn at some Egyptian art work) and art to record personal stories such as story quilts, personal collage and designing of personal symbols.

I also wanted the 4th and 5th graders to think about how art is used as social activism or to challenge ideas including looking at murals, social artists like Kieth Herring and what causes he donated his time and effort towards and have students create a series of posters using print making that reflect a issue they feel strongly about....from saving the polar bears to getting swings on the playground.

So how much of my program am I willing to let go of? Will a sub be offended if I set down a curriculum map that I want followed or is that how things are usually done? How will I feel/deal with the possibility of the kids NOT wanting me back and wishing the sub would stay on? I don't know, it's all very overwhelming and right now its hard to plan more than a day or two ahead.


  1. Where as I am so glad to hear you have a job next year, my heart hurts for you and you family with the news of your Dad. I can only wish you the richest of life in the upcoming months! Live life with all your heart and tell you Daddy you love him with you words, and actions!

  2. So sorry for you - it is hard when our parents get sick - I miss mine all the time, especially my special daddy. Wonderful for you that you have a job to come back to, and that you have the support of a husband to be able to do what is right for you and your family.
    As for the job - my best advice (and I've been teaching art over 30 years, so that should count for something) is to let it go while you are gone, and don't knock yourself out worrying about what the sub will or will not do. Offer to give her your curriculum map if she WANTS it, or if she prefers to do her own thing, let her - we all have such different strengths and weaknesses -someone else might not be able to do what you were going to do. The one thing your should be clear about is your classroom rules and expectations. Those should not change in your absence. If you have certain special lessons or projects or themes that you particularly want to teach when you return, that you should be clear about, as there is plenty an art sub can do without ruining your absolute favorite lessons. I'd be upset if someone else did my papier-mache projects for example. And don't fret or worry that the kids won't want you back - the kids will be thrilled when you return, even if they love the sub. And you want them to like the sub - you don't want them to have a crappy 3 months! I had a student teacher this past year for 12 weeks, and the kids were enamored with her, but it only took a day or two to get right back where we were when she left. They are resilient and will cope. Your focus should be on family, not on worrying about the art room. It will all still be there when you return!
    Oops this is probably way too long - I hope I've made my point and helped a little?

  3. So sorry to hear about your Dad. I do understand what you are going through my Dad got sick almost exactly a year ago and passed away last October. It is a very stressful and sad time but I promise you will get through it - day by day. Tell him how much you LOVE him everyday!!! You and your Mom will support each other!!! As far as your sub goes, I completely agree with Phyl, you just cannot worry about it - the sub will do the best he or she can do and that is fine. Give him/her the classroom rules and procedures and ask them to kindly respect them. The kids know them anyway, right? As far as the lessons I would let the sub worry about that. And on a side note, if things end up not going so well with the sub - don't let your friends (other teachers at school) tell you. Explain to them that you are focusing on your family and cannot worry about that. It sounds like you will not be too close to school anyway, once you get away it will be easier to let it all go. I did not have to be out for as long as you might be, because I am in the same town as my M & D. I was worried just like you but in the end my sub did a super job, the room was fine and so were the kiddos! It was good to go back and they were so excited to see me! Of course it was wonderful to see their smiling faces as well! You can do this! Don't worry about school!

  4. So sorry to hear about your Dad. Take care of your family first. I think what you have outlined here should be what you share with your sub - if you do get an art teacher they may want to do their own thing. I think a sub comes in looking for at least an ouline from you especially if they are not an art teacher. I am sure once you find the person to sub - it will take a lot of these questions from your mind and give you the chance to focus on your Dad. Good luck!

  5. I'm so sorry this is happening to your family. I hope your dad's remaining time is filled with love and not pain. Take care of family. The art class will take care of itself.

  6. That is terrible news to have to deal with. Thank goodness you have the support of a loving husband.
    A few years ago I took long service leave fortunately I had been in the art room for several years and my routines were well established but in regard to the curriculum. If I were you I would leave the outline of what you want to achieve along with suggested activities- that way they have something to fall back on if they don't have any ideas- the woman who took over from me did 11 weeks of origami the kids were bored and learnt very little and being a dificult school she had many behaviour problems as a result. If you leave the activities as a suggestion then if someone comes in with special skills say ceramics or printmaking they can come up with activities that follow your curriculum requirements while taking advantage of their strengths and at the same time you wont offend them by telling them what to do.

  7. P.S- I just read back over some of the other comments and I think they are quite right the school will look after itself and it is not the most important thing at this time. Many kids go through school with out art teachers! But at least if you leave something you will have one less thing to worry about, you will have done the best that you can in the situation.

  8. My heart goes out to you and your family. I pray that you find peace in the decisions you are faced with now, and I know each minute with your dad will be so precious. You will always be thankful you were there with will always be there. God's strength surround you, Vicki

  9. Sorry to hear about your father. My mother died when I was only 27 and my father more recently. (Iam 50+) You have made the right decision. I hate having sub in my class but have to get over that- You have more important issues to deal with. My twin sisters hubby is very ill at present and I will also drop what I am doing to assist her.
    Cheryl H
    Perth Australia