Saturday, September 17, 2016

a swift shift

A month ago, the school year was about to begin.  I was setting up my 6th grade classroom and in the swing of in-service days before the students arrived.

Then, the Saturday before school began, I had an interesting email which led to a phone call.  The call left me with a decision, stay in sixth grade or shift to high school and teach art.  Not all art, but mostly art.  Knowing the rarity of the situation of course I chose art.

The empty high school classroom before everything was moved over to the elementary.

The following Monday I packed up what I had unpacked into my sixth grade classroom and rolled it across the school to an empty high school classroom.  All the desks were already claimed so I hunted down tables.  And then chairs.  And then whatever I could find in the way of art supplies.

The next day I had students.

The first few days we painted.

As schedules progressed my classes have begun to find their routine.  I begin the day with two middle school classes and two high school classes.  The high school classes are elective Art. Most of my students have never had an Art class.  There is no curriculum, but a few state standards.  We are beginning with the elements of art, then we will shift into the principles.

Two weeks ago we began color.  We spend one day mixing the color wheel before we moved on to a little color theory and taking a look at Kandinsky's Concentric Circles.

Each element has a project to explore that thought.  We used Kandinsky's work as our master study for this project.  The high school classes divided their paper into twelve parts.  Each square had a different color theme focus: primary, secondary, tertiary, analogous, complementary, and monochromatic.

A goal that I had for this project was to have work to display for our Welcome Back to School Potluck and then in the main entrance.  To display the work I knew they needed to be protected by lamination.  One major teacher lesson I learned is that laminators will melt oil pastel.  That was a painful lesson to learn.

The seventh and eighth grade classes are spending a few days a week working in expository reading.  Their project was modified to fit this time constraint.  They had only six boxes to work.

Seeing the results all up together is so interesting.  Forty-four students were given the same parameters, the same instructions, and the same materials but each and every single one is different.  There are some similarities but no two are alike.

I'm really excited to see what the year will bring.  We have already had some very interesting conversation and dialogue about art.  The "what is art?" question has already come up.

I think the statement in KQED's Art School video was a pretty incredible answer.  I made my students write it in their sketchbooks.  "Art is about communication.  About trying to either understand the world or understand yourself." -Nigel Poor

Sunday, August 21, 2016

the Marshall classroom

In preparing my classroom for the coming school year, it starts Tuesday, reflecting on last year's classroom has helped bring focus.  My classroom in Marshall began blank.  It developed and built as the school year progressed.  I really wanted it to be a reflection of student learning.  That was what I kept in mind as it shifted from state to state.

 The south side of the classroom.

This side was really devoted to our reading routine.  Each morning I wrote our agenda for the session underneath the date.  The green writing is the word wall that developed around Thanksgiving.  I made a habit of moving the week's Essential Question to the top part of the wall.  Above the agenda were two important reminders: "Be Nice" and "We are here to learn."  My desk was situated so that I could see the whole room from the rare moments I sat at it.  It was also there so that I could run my smart board from my laptop as well as use my document camera.

 The north side of the room.

The three posters at the top were my CHAMPS.  Champs state the expectations for specific activities.  The tan strips are my Accelerated Reader point clubs.  Each student's picture moved as they read more and earned more points.  This bulletin board was for science and social studies.  The practice developed later in the year.  I would write the essential questions for each lesson and hang the vocabulary cards as we discussed the words.  I would also post copies of our science notebook notes for any student who may have been absent.  The middle chart is the line order and jobs chart, rotating weekly.  It's next to the line up procedures.  There are also little pieces of painters tape on the floor tiles so each number would know where they were supposed to stand in line.  At the right is my US map.  As we learned about each state we colored it in.  Beginning the morning with a state was one of my favorite activities of the year.  Students could name every state by the end of the year.

 At the back of the room was the learning center.

Not having any book shelves in the room this became our bookshelf.  Making the investment in class books was really important.  Having material that was at each student's level and of interest to them was huge.  Illustrated novels helped my students to find reading success and be proud that they could finish a whole chapter book.

 Sketchbooks were also high my list of school year accomplishments.

My brother Sam was able to help supply my class with hardcover sketchbooks and individual sets of colored pencils.  We had a class set of pencils but ownership of their own was way more significant.  I build a specialness to the sketchbooks.  They had a special spot at my desk.  I would make them return them at the end of each session. 

 We used a gold marker to put their names on them.  Obviously all of my students are name Stephen Curry.

 Sketching was especially transformative for one student.  I saw his overall behavior improve and engagement levels go up.  Maybe it was that he got to know me better, maybe my teaching practices improved, but I like to think that he found something to focus on.

 Pokemon.  They all liked to copy Pokemon into their sketchbooks.

I tried to give art significance in my classroom.  We learned all the elements of art.  We painted, sketched, glued, and pasted.  We learned about a few well-known artists.  More than once I found them googling Keith Herring after our study of line.  Mark Rothko also had a fair share of hits.  The hall bulletin board always featured their creative work.  It was collaborative.

 All year long they begged to paint masks, so we finally did.




 As the new school year approaches I keep thinking back to my first class.  I hope the best for them and am grateful for our time learning together and my year as Miss T.



Saturday, July 30, 2016

the small day

Our relationship began quietly. We made a habit of bumping into one another walking our dogs.  That led to a few scheduled walks.  There was really no way around it.  A magnetism grew.  Being teachers in a small, remote village every move we made was always noticed.  Even as we began regularly seeing one another we kept it as quiet and close as possible. Observant students made comments that were quickly fielded.  We managed to make it three months into our relationship before it became common knowledge.

Traveling together after the school year ended put aside some of the nagging questions. What if this only works in the village?  Can we actually handle relating to one another in the context of the culture in which we were raised?  Quickly we realized life was so much better together no matter where we were.  The decision to marry was made of mutual thought and discussion.  That discussion also involved my request: to have our ceremony be quiet and small.

Having been a part of eight of my dear friends' weddings I have witnessed so many beautiful unions.  There were elaborate decorations, gorgeous details, months of planning and they were beautiful.  But I also saw the intense preparation, elevated stress levels and same outcome. Two people making the choice to join their lives.  My request to Isaac was that we have a very small intimate wedding, just a notch more involved than elopement. The nature of our jobs were very stressful.  We constantly make decisions all day long.  I had no desire to begin our marriage with anything complicated.  Fortunately, neither did Isaac.

Our date was chosen because it was when our parents and siblings were free.  My wonderful friend, Maggy, and her amazing family agreed to play host. The location was out of the way for everyone, which seemed oddly fitting in that Isaac and I live our lives traveling to and from our out-of-the-way home.  Dinner was a reservation at the local restaurant. Dessert was pie from the local orchard. Drinks were from local brewers. Isaac ordered a suit and I stitched a dress. Our simple gold band rings were ordered from the small town jeweler my mom uses. Flowers were whatever was growing on the farm.  Save the dates were verbal and invitations scratched on a Central Lake postcard.  Everything was taken care of with a few phone calls, texts and emails.

The weekend was perfect. Friday the family arrived. It was the first time our families had met. Andrew, Maggy's husband, grilled dinner then we walked across the road to rehearse. Chatting around the fire finished out the day.


Saturday morning, after a classy breakfast, a cohort was convened at Maggy's to snip flowers and arrange them into our day's needs.  To spend the morning together and create together was so nice.

 It was wonderful to have the help of such sweet people. 

Please note, many wonderful nearly empty coffee drinks.  Thank you Smiths!

 Fern helping to fill her flower basket.

 Back in May, when she found out we were getting married, my mom put a whole bunch of my favorite peonies in the refrigerator to "sleep" them until the end of July.  It worked and there were peonies everywhere.

 All the other flowers were gathered from the farm.

 The flower girls had the most beautiful baskets of blooms.

 Once the list was all crossed off it was time for a break.

 After the flowers were finished we went for a dip in Torch Lake.

 Back at the Inn there was a wonderful surprise waiting for me. Whitney had made the last minute trip to come and "crash". Her company was very welcome. She and Rachel helped me get ready.



 Back at Maggy's Rachel made me a flower crown and we got into our dresses. 


 From there all my sweet friends and family took over. Signs were hung, the drinks and pie table set out, the ceremony site prepped, flowers dispersed. 


 While this was happening Rachel sent Isaac to meet me up the road a ways. We got to say hello and see each other alone. It was one of both of our favorite parts of the day.

 Together we walked over to the farm and greeted our group, including a few close friends who had made the lengthy journey. 





 After a few family photos it was time to begin.

Liam played his acoustic guitar as Isaac walked in with his parents. Jason seated my mom. Eurydice and Fern threw their petals, followed by Rachel and Ross.






Dad walked me down the isle and then took his place as officiant. 


 Dad was a wonderful officiant, thank you again.


Following his remarks, he read a favorite poem we had chosen. Monica, Isaac's sister, added a beautiful reading from the book of Ruth.  We both made our promises.  Then we walked in the path through the woods to dinner.


Dinner was more like a large family meal.  Old friends chatted and everyone found something good to eat.

From dinner we returned to the farm for pie. There was cherry, blueberry and apple. I made a special one for Isaac and I to cut.



Isaac and I shared our first dance which was finished off with a bang of fireworks. When we were first discussing our wedding Isaac had said he wanted fireworks. I didn't know if that would be possible on the wooded farm in July. But Andrew agreed to take on the task and made a fantastic show, which was really cool.


Dad and I danced.
Isaac and Mary, his mom, danced.
Then we put on the playlist and enjoyed the evening. Mostly all the old friends just took the opportunity to catch up.  With so much adulthood happening these days it was just nice to have a moment to relax.




Next came toasts. Rachel, Ross and Isaac's father, Don, gave wonderful speeches with great emphasis on our mutual appreciation for adventure.  We are so lucky to have such wonderful people in our lives.

 We took care of the legal stuff.

Somehow it happened that Isaac and I were the last two attendees left at the end of the night.  And Andrew, putting one last magical touch on the day drove us back to the Inn using a motorcycle and sidecar. It was perfect.

So many wonderful faces made our small day possible.  Thank you many times over.  

I am grateful to have such a sweet memory to officially mark the beginning of marriage to Isaac.