All I ever needed to know I learned from teaching art.

I started this blog post November 2018. As I sit here it is April 2019. So much time has passed. So many things have happened, but still - this truth remains. I learned so much from teaching art, engaging in the process of planning, working with students to make creative decisions, to help them to think critically about their own process and ideas. I plan to expand on this in the future through this blog, and hopefully in a full length book. The book is inside me just bubbling and waiting to come out.

What is below was started in November, with some April edits….

Now that I am away from the role of a classroom teacher, I miss it. When I was doing it, of course I could always find things wrong with it - because the grass somehow is always greener. I often wonder, if I didn’t have that problem, if I didn’t always think “the grass is always greener”, would I still be teaching today...most likely. Teaching art was second nature to me. When I decided to go back to school to get my certification, my life fell into place like the plot of a predictable movie. My grades were great, and I became the model student...I got an award, for crying out loud!

When it came easily to me I questioned that. A lot. I thought there was something WRONG with that because school never came easily to me. When I was praised for a job well done, I figured my professors didn’t care or something? When I continually had good classroom observations I thought, “I want some negative feedback!!” …What??  I have learned since then that is just not true. They actually let me be myself, let me take risks and it paid off … I thrived. The gifts I was naturally given made me a successful teacher.  The experiences I had as a student make me an empathic administrator, and for that I am so grateful. Cathy Heller, one of my favorite podcasters, said something the other day that really resonated with me. (She says a lot of things that resonate with me, this is one of them) she talked about how her uncertain upbringing, although difficult, nurtured a deep empathy for others in her, the need to be sure everyone around her was/is ok - which is a blessing and a curse. This deep empathy has been my gift as a teacher and also as an assistant principal. The whole “don’t smile” thing…that always seemed like a load of nothing to me. So I just didn’t do that. Young people need empathy. Plain and simple. When I am feeling like smiling, I smile. Don’t hold back. Be your authentic self and do not apologize for it.

So below are a few of the things art teachers, and art in general teaches us about life, education, and everything else. More to come after this…I promise I won’t wait 6 months until I hit publish this time.

Lesson #1: embrace your gifts, don’t fight them. 

If you’re good at something, heck yeah, do it all day every day. 

When I was teaching I could plan a lesson like no body’s business. I always started from the project...what are they going to make, and how are they going to get there?  What are they going to learn along the way? What questions does this raise? How can we make connections to real life? The student’s life, the lives of those around them and the greater good?

Lesson #2: plan backwards  

It’s true, UbD may have put backwards design on the map, but art teachers have been doing it FOREVER. Growth mindset - yup, we did that too... You might think it’s all about mastering a paint technique or a photoshop tool - it’s not always about that. More often, it has always been about how much does a student grow in your class? When they entered the room, where were they, and where are they on day 10, 20, 30….are they asking new questions, taking new risks? Are they thinking critically about what they are making? This is the good stuff. There is no test, we create our own benchmarks and determine ways to assess growth through observation, conversation, and relationship to the media, subject, and most importantly, the student. It is a great place to be and there is a lot to learn from the arts. More to come on this….

As promised. I will be back with #3, #4.....Thank you for reading, sharing, commenting - (I’d love to hear your thoughts!),  and being amazing everyday. <3 to you all.

Make something everyday

Henry and I went to a pirate party last Saturday, on Sunday he wanted a pirate shirt. Ok, I said!! Let's make one!! Henry chose the design he wanted and I showed him how to change the color using Photoshop (you're never too young to learn Photoshop!) and we printed the design on transfer player. 


He got to watch me iron, he ways he will do it when he get bigger... 


He wore it all day, night, I washed it, then he wore it again!  

I love fabric

If there is one thing I like (there are a lot of things I like) but a main one on the list is fabric. I have started to make my own designs. Today I started to experiment with Ink O Dye. In the spirit of yesterday's post and the projects my students are working on....Although I use this material in my classroom, I have not used it in my own studio yet. I'm happy with these early results. It was a cloudy day, so I took a chance and prepared these prints anyway. Ink O Dye is activated by UV light, sunny days are the best, but these came out surprisingly good. 


My set up - I used circular beads, shade pulls, small embroidered flowers, and a transparency.  


The final results:  


  • This is prior to washing. I can already tell this print will not stay well because it needs more exposure time and it was done on a stretch cotton fabric...



I am really happy with the photogram quality of this. In fact I already cut it up (before it was even dry!) to make a celebration flag! 



This is my favorite one. I love the stripes and how the flowers worked out.  


Eclectic Mom - Home - Inkodye 

I absolutely share the love of ink-o-dye and experimental art with kids with this mom! I love that she used Ink-O-Dye with her children - experimenting and creating something from the kid's work! I will definitely use this with Henry! I  started experimenting and using Ink-O-Dye last year with my students -- this year, with all of the cloudy days and short class periods it's been a little more difficult - but the students started printing today. It is definitely one of my favorite materials!

Last year's project was an Ink O Dye Peaceflag inspired by the Prayer flags of Tibet. 

This year students are designing clothing or an item of their choice.

Snow day, snow day...

Today was a full on snow day for all of us; all schools closed. The day brought some discoveries based on a few pieces I was grading this morning. Henry became very interested in photograms a student made using cassette tapes. He wanted to see a tape for himself. Of course we have some! With a mini screwdriver, he got right to work taking the tape apart. 


That gave me the idea to guide Henry through the deconstruction of another item...luckily we have some broken keyboards laying around our basement. He asked questions and saw how the keyboard works! 



After the snow stopped we bundled up and played in the snow. Well, Henry played...I complained about being (c)old! We must have worn him out because he fell asleep on the couch at 6:30...zzzzzzzz......Which never happens!


the most memorable season of the day

I just discovered a CD within a large binder filled with CDs that contains a lot of my writing that I forgot about. I am so excited to find it. I sometimes get so wrapped up in things that I forget what I love to do. Writing has always been a love of mine -- I will share some of my writing (fictional and non) as time goes on. 

This is a small piece I did either for a class (I took a great workshop back when I had time for such things) or on my own....not sure which now, but it describes the early morning hours based on a Henry David Thoreau quote

The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour.
Then there is least somnolence in us; and for an hour, at least, some part of us awakes
which slumbers all the rest of the day and night.
Tiny cat scratches alarm clock, 4:30, 5:30. I give in. sometimes to my dismay often I am
happy to be loved and needed this much. Buzz saw snoring breaks my slumber and I stay
awake. Load the coffee pot, the sun is below the horizon still and the school busses have
just begun to leave. Cats swirl around my legs like fantail fish as I shuffle about the
kitchen, morning is about domesticity- I unload and reload the dishwasher, gather some
laundry all to the growl of the bear that still sleeps soundly in our bed. But I don’t mind, I
break this silence with NPR. Hello BBC America. They fill my newly awakened mind
with facts and news; ideas stir for the new day.


Wow, it's been proving more difficult than I expected trying to put together a new website! The hardest part really is trying to decide what to include and how to categorize it. I never realized how all-over-the-map my work has been! Perhaps I need some focus! 😜 or maybe that's just how I work! Either way, I'm loving the look of this new website and I hope if you're looking at it, you do too!