January 19, 2015

It's WAR!

I've been waging war this school year on germs and burnout. With a crazy schedule a whole school of germs coming in and out of my room I am treating this like war.

Every time we have a day off I try to get as many vitamins as I can, as all teachers know there is little time for eating during the week. Then I get as many outfits together as I can. After teaching with a half hour break somedays, I can barely take care of myself at the end of the day, let alone my three year old.



It's been working okay so far. I've been doing this along with a protein shake and some other health food vitamins to supplement my regular diet of caffeine throughout the week (just kidding, sort of.)

Am I the only teacher who has to prepare like a squirrel for just one week of work?

January 4, 2015

The One Thing That Changed How I Teach

It's no surprise to any one of my friends how much BEING A MOM has changed me. Teaching is no exception. I knew having a kid would change my focus, I had no idea how wonderful and painful all at the same time that could be.

Things I had to do less of

1. Hang out with friends.
Pretty much I don't even get called anymore because my answer is depressingly the same. I can't. I never want to leave my kid at daycare a minute longer then necessary, call it mommy guilt, but somethings have to give.

2. Extra Activities. I had to give up a few extra things I was doing. I stopped writing for an art magazine, doing an after school gardening club, and just slumping and watching TV after work. Why? Because I need to focus on things that replenish me at the end of the day to avoid burnout.

3.  Sleeping. Before kid (I only have one) I religiously needed 8 hours of sleep to feel normal. It's an effort to stay in bed after 6 or 7.

4. Shopping. What three year old likes to shop? From grocery shopping to clothes shopping it's important to keep our trips short and sweet.

Things I did more of

1. Student Accountability. I simply could no longer stay at work until 7 or 8 pm anymore. I decided that I can't do everything for everybody. Now the kids are in charge of clean-up (really not just pretend clean-up and a pat on the back.) The older classes who have a little more "edge" have a student teacher, a student in the class who gives directions, picks people to pass supplies, takes attendance. This takes the pressure off of me to address every behavior. Truth be told if you met me you might think I'm "too nice" to teach effectively in an inner-city school.  I am nice, but that doesn't have anything to do with controlling a classroom. Being "nice" means fear as a form of control does not work for me. Placing the students in charge of monitoring each other in my tougher classes especially, really helps free me up to teach and makes my tough classes accountable to their peers.

2. Prioritize. Prioritizing DOES NOT mean ranking everything you are already doing in order of importance. I had to ask the question, does this activity/task/person make me feel better, does this feed my soul. Obviously if it was work, I had to do it anyways, but anything that didn't truly contribute to my well being outside of work had to go. That being said all the friends I had to hang out with less, I try to keep up with in different ways (a fb message or a little help here or there to show I really care and will be back at the end of this whirlwind of having a baby.)

3. Follow my Passion. So when you have a kid you eliminate a lot, but sometimes you add. My focus changed. You probably notice I don't post a lot of projects anymore, they just aren't what inspires me! I am more inspired by the little stories from the day, the impact that I see being made, projects are the backbone of the program but not what fuels me (so I simply don't post about them in my down time.) I also picked up a camera for the first time in 4 years after my child was born. After going to school for photography and pursuing filmmaking, I decided to give it all up to be a better teacher. I was exhausted and overwhelmed with teaching. When I starting to photograph my child, it helped me bond with her, and remember my first love for photography. I was inspired to take better pictures and be a better mom.

Do you have to have a child to increase student accountability, prioritize and follow your passion? ABSOLUTELY NOT! For me, I did. It was part of my journey. I was obsessed with my identity as a teacher. Finding a new identity as a mom helped open my mind to the possibility of loving something/someone  more than teaching. Whether you have a kid or not, I hope you do something in your life that throws you for a loop, scares you, takes courage, and makes you look at the world in a different way. I know you will because that to me is the definition of an artist.

December 24, 2014

SANTA in the Classroom

Tonight is Christmas Eve. So a very Merry Christmas to all of you art teachers out there that are celebrating with your families right now.

Although this is a joyful time of year, I have a very SERIOUS thing to discuss with you. The topic of Santa in the classroom. Each year, one kid (usually a first grader who has been nominated by his/her friends) comes to me with squinty eyes and I know what he/she is about to ask.


They came to me because they know I am going to tell them the truth. I am the art teacher and I know about these things. Art is about trying things that seemed impossible, magical in it's own sort of way (think color mixing, clay, murals etc)  cheesy but true, we are a reliable source when it comes to questions like this. 

So I squint right back at him/her, look at the group of eager friends and I say. . . "YES" and nod my head once. Usually the kid will yell before I can even nod again, "I KNEW IT!" and run back to the group to proclaim their victory. One cynical friend will look at me still glaring. That's all. No more discussion is needed because it is a simple yes or no question. Unlike a mom or a dad, a teacher tells you the truth even when you don't want to hear it. That's why they ask us, and that's why it's important to give a straight answer.

Believing in the "seemingly" impossible is what art teachers do everyday. Whether it is teaching 600 kids a week and knowing what sports teams they're on, who their mother is, who their favorite character is (and then learning to draw said character), where they need to sit in our class to learn, when to back off, who their friends are, who their friends should be, when to laugh, when to be serious, when to sing, when to push for a better answer . . . teacher, you do the impossible everyday. This is what we do best, believe in what others would think is impossible. The obvious answer to that question is YES every time. 

I am sure some child will be bold enough to ask you one day IS SANTA REAL? I hope you answer with a nod of reassurance and a YES. There is plenty of time for eye squinting and analytical thinking later or in other classrooms. For now, I hope you decide to tell kids the truth that YES, it's okay to believe in what your friends think is impossible. . . and Santa is real. 

My daughter brought Santa a bell tonight.
He was so surprised to GET a gift. 

Merry Christmas to the coolest teachers South of the North Pole.