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!
Better than the anticipation, happier than we were when school let out for the summer, cooler by far than we remembered, the first set of artists hit the studios. Finally. Kids are a little strange the first week or two, because the shoes are all so new (and clean!), the school clothes all match, and there's enough happily nervous energy to start our own wind farm. Since it's been a while since I "looped" to the next grade with a group of kids, I'd forgotten how lovely it is to begin on day one with familiarity. One of my first graders, trooping in with his class on their first day stated loudly, "Hey! I KNOW you!" I laughed but understood. He was in a different classroom, the kids in his room had been shuffled and there was a new teacher guiding him down the hallway. Here, though, in the art room, something was the same. He doesn't know that I'm even more pleased about that than he could possibly be.
Two questions were repeated, class after class throughout the week. "Where's all our stuff?" Hmmm. I might need to rethink the earlier plan to slowly, patiently re-introduce our centers. I was amazed at the number of kids who hit the doorway with plans for what their first projects were going to be. The silly art teacher had the idea that the centers needed full intros just like last year's first year of using choice. I'll see what I can do about adding more centers when I go in on Sunday. I'm eager to get more things going, too, so I'll work on some streamlined instructions and depend on my students to remember the details and share with our new kids.
The second question (surprise, surprise....) was, "What did you do with the snake?" They were equally startled with the news that I'd taken Jezebel home over the summer as they were the fact that I don't actually live in my art room all the time. It's a little like the shock of a small face when we bump intoeach other in the aisle at the grocery store. Mz. J! You buy food!?! I promised the return of the boa next week, of course. Several kids said they couldn't wait to see if she'd grown for their already planned drawings.
I'm tickled to hear how many of them drew all summer long. They're bringing in sketches they're proud of and making valiant attempts to introduce me to characters from their video games. Children don't really believe me when I tell them there are no video games in my home and that I don't know their favorite cartoon characters on a first name basis. It's a great excuse for me to encourage lots of drawings and stories so that I can be cooler in my old age. The topic of censorship has already come up, too. In giving direction for decorating their portfolios for the year, I asked for artwork that, "wouldn't embarrass your grandmother, wouldn't frighten the principal, and wouldn't hurt someone else's feelings." With the exception of some grandmas who shall remain nameless that list covers most things. Sure enough, a couple of characters from mythology appeared on folders to the accompaniment of the classic, "Ahummmmm- he's making a ____, Ms. J!" We applied the standards, checked to see if the pictures were within bounds, and decided that they could stay. Kid wisdom - you can't beat it.
Quandaries for upcoming weeks include:
- How do I convince first grade D that her pictures are wonderful so she'll stop shopping around for another child to decorate her portfolio?
- How will we get by without the back-ordered heavier construction paper that we need for painting?
- What is the best system for assessment that balances the need for work to display in the hallway with the urge to take everything home to adorn the fridge?
We'll just have to see what magic this week brings!