Twenty one days and eleven hours, give or take the amount of time it takes to capture this post - and children will once again fill the hallways of Evergreen Elementary School. I can't wait. There are a million things to do to get ready for students, and many are in progress.
A partial "to do" list:
- Set up drawing and collage centers (I'll use those two as demos for reinforcement on classroom standards and cleanup routines.)
- Put together sketchbooks for each child (I ordered plastic binder spines and card stock and have a couple of volunteers chomping at the bit to help.)
- Create this year's revision of my classroom brochure.
- Review and revise my renderings of WA art standards
- Complete the idea binders for each studio. The photos I've selected are tucked away on my desktop in folders labeled for each media, but they need to be collected in printable sheets with appropriate text and assembled in plastic sheet protectors.
- Put together the schedule for the first month of school - it's traditional for our team leader to do this task and it's my turn to lead this year.
- Rescue all the clay creations that were fired at the end of last year and re-label them for this year's class assignments. It's time to glaze and admire!
- Cut out new kid aprons from the heavy-duty plastic I picked up at JoAnn's - maybe I can reinforce the necks with book tape? Bias tape stitched on? Hmmmm...
- Create new class lists for my studio choice charts.
- Stash and organize all the odds and ends collected over the summer from the thrift stores - wooden beads from ancient holiday garlands, two new warming trays for melted crayons, fabric remnants, wooden spools, toys and oddities for the realia collection - how deep are the layers in the trunk of my car?
- Finish cutting out and sewing the tops to match the new teacher skirts.
- Of utmost importance: Sit in the middle of the room and allow for some unencumbered thinking time. In order for the muses to visit, one must clear a space.
What Joyce is *actually* doing:
Making spiffy new aprons! Woo hoo! (OK - you and I both know that there's a lot of planning and prep that happens in the background during sewing and other artistic endeavors, but I really need to get into my classroom and get some of these things done. I can't wait!!!
The aprons I wear serve several purposes. The first set I did a couple of years ago were sewn from a design borrowed from my favorite Cost Plus apron. It's held up for 15 years of "regular" classroom use and is a simple, drop over the head, tie behind the waist model. I found medium weight canvas and decorated one with six or seven dragonflies rendered with fabric markers. The other was a little sillier and featured primary colored acrylic, "splatted" over the entire front of the apron. They have big pockets (of course!) that hold my box cutter, the remote for the classroom stereo, a small bell, and a small handful of "caught you being good" coins and some stickers. Kids love the aprons. We talk about what their favorite insects are, how I chose the colors for the designs, where to find pictures to work from, and how to make colors permanent. I didn't heat set them well enough so it's been a good chance to talk about how teachers learn things, too. With the paint splat apron we talk about humor, pop art, and the times and places where splatting is appropriate (I NEVER share my biggest childhood mess story with them.) We also talk about how my apron is an example of an art teacher's uniform when we talk about the world of work.
The two most recent creations are a different design that I crafted from memories of my daughters' sun dresses. During those years, the "cross over the back and snap below the shoulder" pattern was easy and fun to whip up with denim and bright, kid-friendly prints. The advantage of the design is that the weight of the essential tools I carry in my pockets don't result in RedNeckedArtTeacherSkinBurn like the other model does. Reversible aprons are a smart choice, as messy as our studios get, and reduce the laundry time by half.
By the way - I stopped using sponges with kids two years ago, in favor of a tall stack of cheap (*much* easier to sanitize)washcloths. We use six or eight during a day, I dry them overnight over the dish and paint drainers, and then pop them into a hanging hamper on the front of the stove. (Did I mention I'm spoiled by a cool kitchenette in the corner of the room?) I toss the accumulation into the washer in the custodial room once or twice a week with the other cotton rags that are used for general cleaning. The sweet elves who nest there help by moving the load across into the dryer. Sometimes I beat them to folding the dry rags and sometimes they beat me - it's a good partnership and when I fall behind, there's always chocolate.
Onward and upward!
The care and feeding of a website is a big, lovey, terrifying, time gluttonizing thing. My friendly neighborhood geek in residence added the capability to add to the "articles" link above today. To celebrate, I'm posting a couple of planning aids I use. Lesson planning has come up frequently in conversation lately on the TAB Yahoo Groups list. They consist of a list of Washington State arts standards linked to individual studios in my classroom and a list of possible/probable/potential mini-lessons for a studio like mine. Feel free to ask questions if you have them!
I have just spent a glorious day sifting through photographs from the past two years of TAB instruction in my classroom. In addition to being part of the natural cycle of reflection, sorting and filing photos of artists at work helps me to focus on improvements that need to be made in our art studio. In a traditional art program one would find benchmarks and references to projects in textbooks or teacher-made folders of projects. Lesson plans could be collected and consulted and standards and benchmarks would inform the art-making over the space of a year. By contrast, the studios at Evergreen Elementary reflect the kinds of artistic expression that begin with children. Artwork is generated by students who answer their artistic questions by exploring a variety of media and technique. Each clearly designated studio offers up menus of techniques that have been covered in tightly constructed demo lessons at the beginning of class periods. Menus might include lists of necessary materials for a watercolorist, short examples of line and texture for drawing, illustrations that detail how to warp and weave on a small loom, or details about how to attach materials to each other in a 3D construction center. The idea is to offer collective wisdom on the walls in such a way that inspiration is easily accessible. Menus, in tandem with the powerful influence of previous artwork from fellow students on display, offer concrete support for artists as they grow and create. They also help classroom volunteers and visitors negotiate the complexity of a TAB studio. Since this is a dual language school, I make sure that text is available in both English and Spanish.
One of the ideas that was shared this summer on the TAB list (thanks, Anne!) was to include a binder in each studio with ideas specific to that particular media. As a dedicated constructivist, I work hard to avoid providing examples of adult work for children. Rather, I prefer to share information about techniques and let children define their own process and product so that they don't spend their art time trying to make their artwork look like mine. Watching children who enthusiastically share special techniques they've discovered is a joy and it doesn't take long before the value of sharing is seen as a great tool by creative artists. Student artists are much like their adult counterparts - they'll find something interesting, replicate it carefully a couple of times and then change or add to the technique to make it their own. In a school that practices cooperative learning, innovation is celebrated. One of my primary teaching goals is to nurture the sharing and the support only found in a healthy cooperative group.
A binder of examples from other children is a grand idea and should lead to a wide variety of approaches to media. I've gone through my files to find examples of technique and am thrilled with the diversity the photographs show. I'll use my Open Office word processor (this is a Linux/open source household) to share the photos and some text with children and then drop the pages into plastic sleeve protectors. We'll add to the collection, of course, and I'll spend some time with my short artist friends linking our binders to a sort of pictorial brainstorming tool for them to use.
My new hip is just about ready for prime time and I'm itching to get into my classroom to begin getting things organized. I can't wait for school to start again!