October 2, 2014

The Best "DATA" You Will Ever Get

Does the word "data" make you throw up a little in your mouth. This gag reflex is common among artists and becoming an epidemic. Data and accountability has become the new "answer" to the perceived problem of kids not achieving. This "problem" was created by the very thing that is trying to solve it, the impersonal nature of our lives. Life, even in my cozy art room, has become about the bottom line. How many kids can fit in a classroom, how many classes can fit in a day, how many minutes of instructional time can fit in a schedule. Most of the data we are asked to collect carries little meaning in the reality of our job, to teach children. This bit of "data" that I'm about to share with you is the most useful tool I've ever received to help me better understand my students, their families, and the values they are raised in.

I gave my students a little worksheet "Parent Homework" in the beginning of the year. It asked one simple question, "Tell me one thing you think I should know about your child."  I wasn't sure if I'd get any of this "homework" back working in the inner-city school where parent involvement is a struggle. I totally didn't expect the stacks and stacks of papers that flooded my mailbox. I received about 300 back (although I will count them more accurately soon to fuel the data train:) This is a huge credit to their teachers as well who helped students follow through with my request. I filed all of the returned "homework" by classroom teacher in a binder.

I read each one, laughed and cried at some of the things I read. Most were happy tears. Parents cheering their kid on "I know you can do this! It's going to be a great year," one mom wrote to her son who obviously struggles with school and ended her note with a smiley face. It was like opening a million lunch boxes and finding those little notes about how much these children are loved. There were others that were a little more negative, some that wrote back in different languages which I still am working on translating, some that did their best to write in English recognizing that I am too dumb to speak their language (after 8 years of working here I still only understand minimal Spanish), and some the very few who didn't return one at all. . . well that definitely said a lot.

So why do I call this data? Is it truly data. Well I had to look up the word myself to make sure.

Data: things known or assumed as facts, making the basis of reasoning or calculation.

Using that definition I think this just might be data. I have already used these "parent homework" sheets a lot while trying to "reason" with some question or concern I've had. Whenever I'm having an issue or a question about a student, I look at this sheet, the few sentences sometimes tell me something that I didn't know about a student that helps me connect with them, or it tells me who takes care of them at home, what that person expects/thinks of them, what language is spoken at home and so much more. I ALWAYS check this sheet before I make a phone call home. This lets tells me who I will be talking to, what their perceptions might be and how they might be able to help. If I shared the actual parent responses from this "homework" it would become really clear to you how these responses can tell me all this. 

I keep all the letters in a binder by class for easy reference.

These are BEAUTIFUL EXAMPLES of how parents help me get to know their children. 

I will share one with you that is not too personal so you can see what the "parent homework" looks like. I encourage you to do the same and save them. They will tell you more in one week about the students you work with then anyone could hope to learn in months. Data in my arty opinion should be used to change the way we perceive a problem, approach a problem/situation, but never to solve it. There are no problems that all this data collection can solve. I think the sooner the government realizes that data doesn't solve problems, people do, we will finally be on the road to education reform that we desperately need.

October 1, 2014

Classroom Crashing Continued

Kinder through second grade always start class in circle.
My little stool is just low enough to let me be part of the group.
Part Deux: My Cozy Classroom

If you like it then you should've put a frame on it. oh oh oh oh oh oh

More Frames.
These frames are made of styrofoam and are super light.
Want some?
I have NO IDEA where to buy them.
My mom bid on them at an auction (the person who owned the house was an interior designer and used them for staging)
She paid $20.00 for a huge bag of them! She knew I'd love them. 

This is the work horse of my room.
It is a hand-me-down from my good friend's classroom, you can still see the names. I use it to
store art; each class has their own shelf.
It is perfect, except it is four cubbies to small and every year that number grows!

View from my desk.

Hope you liked the tour of my art room! Hauling my camera to school and finding a minute to snap these pics was an epic feat for me. But, I really wanted to share with you this cozy space that I get to work in. I love seeing your rooms too. 

September 26, 2014


I am going to post a picture a day of my COZY and I'll add creative art room!

Today I'm sharing with you the corner of the room that my students dream of. . . Art Centers. There has been a lot of talk about student choice in the art room, but I find student choice impossible to manage full time for 500 students.  So this is my solution, 10 to 15 minutes every other week we fit in some free-choice in the form of art centers. I'm still working on getting students to follow all of my art center procedures. First we get a tray and choose a spot, then we choose a center, all materials stay on the tray (to make sure no one is tripping over projects on the carpet.) We are not there yet but each time we take out centers they get better and better and since we only do it every other week it will take some time and modeling. In this corner of the room you also see our objectives board (I CAN board), rules, maps, demonstration easel, teacher "perch", smock storage, and a few little things I do to make my room homey, lamps, air purifier and music. Show me your art room in the comments! Link me up:)

Check out this cozy
corner of my room! More classroom crashing to come.