Tuesday, August 31, 2010

To mural or not to mural, that is the question...

It was our first staff meeting of the year today. Our principal got smart and took us to meet in a room outside of the school so we could not sneak off to work in our classrooms. We had a nice lady come facilitate a "vision planing" session where we decided on our core values as a school, our vision for the school in three years and some projects we can work on during this school year.

Four times during the day people wrote down they wanted murals on or around the school. The brainstorming was done in groups so I never saw who wrote down they wanted a mural. At the very end of the day on the paper that listed things we really, really wanted to get done this year "mural" was listed.

I've done small and large scale murals before, in fact my undergrad honors thesis was on the use of murals in different social groups/social institutions. So I'm pretty knowledgeable about what goes into making a mural and the time and $$$ investment. A real, nice looking, long term mural is a serious project.

At the end of the training I raised my hand and told the 60+ people present that I would be happy to work on a mural project this year but it was not something I could do alone, I would need help from other adults. I asked who would help me with the mural or was really excited about it.

NO ONE raised their hand.

The facilitator scanned the room and ask me if I was the one who repeatedly listed painting a mural. I told her it was not me. She looked at the room again and said, "well who wrote it down, is anyone willing to help with the project?" Then three teachers bust out giggling and all at the same time sing song-ed "We'll help you Suzanne!" and dissolved into snickers. My response was a stupefied "um ok...we can talk more later."

I am totally baffled by their response. Was the mural idea a joke? Do they want one? Were they making fun of me? I don't really get it. All I know is I'm not going to take on a large mural project without the backing of the other teachers and staff. The whole exchange left me confused and a bit paranoid I guess.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Whole Brain Teaching-Bring on the cheese?

I am making cheese! Will the Whole Brain Teaching method be too cheesy for me?

My first school was into Love and Logic, my second two schools were/are into PBS (CHAMPS)
While there are great aspects to each of these programs they require EVERYONE in the school to be on board and follow through.

After two years on the PBS "team" and I use that term loosely, I know that my school has a long way to go before it PBS works for us. PBS doesn't work unless the expectations are consistently enforced, taught and re-taught. We only have about half the school on board right now and a small rouge group of teachers who outright reject the program. I'm not loving a program where so much of my success using it depends on other people's choice to use it or not.

So I'm going to jump on the bandwagon with the Whole Brain Teaching method. If it is a flop...oh well. If it works, sweet. I can see it working really well for 3rd and below, maybe even 4th...not sure how the 5-8th graders will feel about it.

I can see how parts of the whole brain program will fit in with and support parts of PBS. I won't have to give up the things I like from one program to go to another method. The WBT system also has more defined ways of doing some things that I have tried in the past... point charts, repeat after me and lots of hand movements.

I first read about the program and watched videos last year and was worried that it would be too campy and fake for my personality....but after watching videos of how high school and middle school teachers use the program I see that is doesn't have to be soooo cheesed out, so I'm going to give it a try.

The method uses a lot of repeat after me, hand movements, transition cues, pair/share/check and repetition, repetition, repetition. After spending a day on the Internet reading and watching videos I have come up with my Lucky 7 class rules and the movements to go with them. All the rules directly support our school PBS expectations.

1. Listen when the teacher is talking (wag finger)
2. Raise your hand to speak (raise hand and make talking motion with hand)
3. Follow directions quickly (running/swinging arms motion)
4. Make smart choices (tap side of head)
5. Respect other, yourself and the school (point outward, point to self, draw a heart with two fingers)
6. Clean up after yourself (make circular motion with flat palm in front of body)
7. Be willing to try! (not sure of the motion yet)

Maybe that is too many rules...I can't figure out which ones I would get rid of though, I could have the super 6 rules or fantastic 5 rules...but what rules to let go of?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

First week Matisse project

We still have a few weeks of summer vacation left but I have decided on the first project we will all do...except for kinder that is. This idea is straight from another awesome blogger, but I now follow so many art blogs that I cant figure out who's blog it came from!

We are going to create a giant Matisse cut paper collage mural that will hopefully cover a good portion of the main hallway.

Each table will get a 2 foot by 4 foot piece of white paper. Each student will get a sheet of painted paper (Red, Yellow, Blue and Green to each table). Each student will be responsible for drawing and cutting a LARGE organic shape from that paper.

I will then give each table a Purple shape made by me and an orange shape created by their teacher. (During planing day I will have each classroom teacher draw a large organic shape on a old folder that I will use as a template to make the classes signature shape)

My shape will unify all the parts of the mural, the teachers shape will unify the classes parts of the mural and then each student will have their unique shape in the mural. Students will put their signature on their shape.

After the students have cut out and received all their shapes they will work as a group to create a composition on their white paper and glue the shapes down. There must be some overlapping of the shapes and all parts of the shapes must be on the white paper.

6-8th grade adaptation:
I will have more time with my middle school students. For my 6-8th group each student will get 2 pieces of paper to make two shapes. I will give each group one of my purple shapes. There will be no teacher unified shape since they are mixed grade level classes.

We will talk a bit about how, just like my father has cancer and will eventually need my help at home, Matisse had cancer of the abdomen and after several surgeries was confined to a wheelchair. It was during this time that he started making his cut paper collages. As Matisse could not stand to arrange and glue down his collage pieces he had an assistant who helped him.

I will explain that I will need my students support and assistance to help the classroom run smoothly at times when I am gone or feeling sad. And just like I will ask them for support they need to be able to turn to each other for support at various times during the semester.

To imagine how Matisse worked during the years he was in a wheelchair each student will trade their shapes with other students at their table. Then as a group they will take turns being Matisse (giving directions where they want the shape to go) and the assistant (moving the shape around and gluing it down).

The next week the 6-8th grade students will help me arrange all 16 classes 6 collage pieces into one large mural. A 4 ft tall by 192 ft long mural!

Friday, August 13, 2010

shoot for the moon

"Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you'll land among the stars." - Less Brown (in the photo)

Have you seen this quote before? I take it to mean if you aim high, even if you don't achieve that ultimate goal you will still have achieved success in trying.

Less Brown, in his writings, often references this Goethe quote that I like a lot and I think is important for teachers and those who work with "challenging" students. "Look at a man the way that he is, he only becomes worse. But look at him as if he were what he could be, then he becomes what he should be. ”
I am going to put that quote above my desk to remind me how to treat my students each day.

Our SIP, for the second year, is to improve our students writing skills. After intense arguing last year it was decided that asking the elective teachers to teach writing lessons in addition to their elective subject all in 30 min was unfair. Instead it was decided that elective teachers would teach the concept of persistence. We were not given any guidance on how to do this, or any way to measure it so I'm not to sure how successful we were. Regardless that is my part of the SIP once again this year, teach persistence.

When I remember the Less Brown quote I thought, hey that is a great way to encourage students. I also am putting posters around my room that say, Give it a try! If at first you don't succeed then try again! You can do it! Set a goal for yourself! Its a good thing my fav food is cheese because I'm cheesing it up this year.

The best part of the quote, (which I have made into a 16 ft long banner, decorated with gold and silver paint and hung in the front of my room) is that it comes with a decorating theme. Outer space and stars. Thank you $1 tree for having big room decoration stickers that are stars and planets.

I still don't know how to measure persistence though...or at least get quantifiable data to prove that I am teaching 560 students how to be persistent in one class per week. I might have more luck collecting data from my 6-8th classes that I see every day, yet I still don't know how to turn a character trait into a data number. Any ideas?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

classroom expectation re-hash

1. We are like a family. We may not always get along with or agree but like a family, we will try hard to work through our problems and move forward. I may not always love the choices you make, but I will always care for YOU. Because I care about you, and your future, I will be here to guide you to make responsible and smart choices.

2. My job is:
* To keep US safe (mentally, physically, emotionally)
* To help you become a successful student and responsible learner
* To share the world of art with you
* To enjoy art class and know things will not always be perfect

Your job is:
* To help keep US safe
(mentally, physically, emotionally)
* To participate and be responsible for the choices you make
* To try new things and challenge yourself in artistic ways
To enjoy art class and know things will not always be perfect

3. (Same as last year: school guidelines and how they look in the art room)
In the art room we are
* Safe
(use the room and materials in a safe way, use our bodies and words in a safe way)
* Respectful
(respect the art studio, respect yours and others art, use respectful language)
* Responsible
(try!, care for the studio, participate, make smart choices)
* Kind
(kind words, kind actions, kind intentions)

A few of my broken record sayings:
"Ask 3 before you ask me"
"If your mouth is moving, then your hand is moving"
"Less talk, more art!"
"I don't ask you to be perfect I just ask you to try"

something new....physical changes to the art room

Wow I can't believe I have had this blog for a year. I can look back on how I started the year last year and then use or not use stuff that worked. I know I will be making some major changes this year, partially to make my life easier and partly for when I need to take leave. These are the logistics changes that will occur. The behavior expectation changes will be a separate post. And by next Monday I will start posting my back to school lessons again.

The changes:
1. We are going on a seating chart. I know what you are thinking...your not on a seating chart, what the heck is wrong with you! Last year I tested the idea of mixing up the kids each week so that they learn to work with different people. After 3 years I know those kids inside out and can pluck them from the line and arrange them as I please in rapid fire time. Frankly I liked the idea and still stand by it. However, I know this method would be evil for a long term sub who is new to the school. I do see these pros's of the seating chart.
a. kids know where to go right away
b. easier to pass back materials
c. can fairly assign jobs based on seat position
d. can make "Sit with who you want" a reward for 4 gold star behavior
e. might make it easier to figure out who stole from/vandalized my classroom

2. We will have jobs based on our seat position jobs will rotate every month or so
Position 1: will pick up any group supplies/ hand out group artwork
Position 2: will collect supplies/work at end of class and make sure table is ready for next group
Position 3: will count the supplies in the central bucket before leaving
Position 4 : will make sure all chairs are pushed in

3. Each table will have a basic supply bucket run, don't walk, to your Target dollar section and snatch up a class set of the lazy Susan supply buckets. I am tired of pulling out and putting away sets of supplies 7-8 times a day. Each bucket will have these basic supplies. 6 pencils, 2 large erasers, 1 pencil sharpener, 2 white glue, 2 glue stick, 4 scissors and a handful of crayons.
The buckets will all start on a desk in the middle of the room, after I give directions the student in position 1 will pick up the bucket, at the end of class the student in position 3 will count the supplies and then the student in position 2 will return the bucket to the center desk.

4. We are switching to semi moist tempera cakes I don't care if I have to buy them myself, I am sick of either having to throw away a ton of liquid tempera at the end of each class or wash 100 paint trays at the end of the day. I feel this is an economical, environmental and time saving choice. Well see how I feel in a few weeks. I will keep the liquid tempera in smaller quantities for color mixing lessons, the middle grade students and plenty of black for outlining.

5. No more fabric paint smocks. I had a bunch of old tee shirts and such to use as paint smocks. They are gone. Our school has a lot of lice and scabies out breaks. I was having to wash all those shirts almost every week. NO MORE. I will be getting a bunch of table cloth plastic from the craft store and making very very simple plastic smocks. When I make them I'll put up photos of how they are created. My goal is to have them be no sew for people out there who don't have a sewing machine but can get a hot glue gun

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

An update

(art by one of my favorite Colorado artist: Phil Lewis, I think this painting of the Colorado sand dunes would make a great inspiration for student art. He really uses line, movement and color in fun and successful ways!)

I've just returned to Oregon from spending time with my mom and dad. I was pretty surprised when I got home to find my dad (who I mentioned has stage 4 esophageal cancer) in much better shape then I expected. While he has lot a lot of weight and is on oxygen 24/7 (Denver mile high altitude and all) he is at home, getting around on his own and not feeling too bad. Best of all he has already responded to his chemo and the tumor in his esophagus has shrunk enough that he is able to eat small meals of solid foods again.

After talking to the oncologist, the two chemo nurses and my parents we have decided my dad is more in the months to live category then the weeks to live category. People who have esophageal cancer often have been heavy/life long, drinkers or smokers, neither which describes my dad. So his other organs are much healthier than your average stage 4 esophageal patient. I was also really happy to know that the chemo is shrinking his tumour and killing cancer cells in all parts of his body so quickly.

My dad is holding court and has never had so many visitors and callers in his life. I often had to wait my turn to hang out with him because of the constant stream of neighbors and friends coming to see him or calling on the phone. My mom and I also were feeding my dad any food he requested (aka breakfast one day was a scoop of ice cream, a chocolate pudding and part of a doughnut ) so I think in a small way he is digging parts of this process when he focuses on the hear and now.

The day before I headed home my dad weighed himself and had gained about 8 pounds back and my mom and I agreed that while he can still have the junk food for the calories he also needs to start having some veggies and healthier stuff also now that he can have solids again. I was pretty surprised when he had me go buy him a chili reano and rice and beans from our fav Mexican food joint and then even more surprised to watch him eat all of it over two days time, including chips and salsa and some of my guacamole tostada and soppas!)

The chemo nurse and oncologist told me it was ok to go back to work at the start of the school year and that I should probably hold onto my leave for a few months down the road. My parents and I also have agreed that I will save my leave for when my father's health really starts to decline.

Everyone was quick to remind me that while things feel optimistic now, that this particular type of cancer mutates very quickly and then will re-spread throughout the body. That is why almost no one lives more than two years with it. For now I am happy my dad is doing so well and is able to eat again (one of his, and my! favorite things to do). I am also grateful that I will (hopefully) be the one in my classroom the first day of school and will have at least a few weeks to get the students settled into the school year before I have to take leave.

Thanks for all your kind words of support. I really appreciate them!