Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Purple Dreams and Sumatra Coffee

Too much caffeine

If anyone says people don’t dream in color, I surmise that they don't drink coffee.  After a nice little cuppa the other night, I  dreamt that some well-meaning soul had given our art room a makeover in purple.    Even the ceiling tiles had been repainted a grayish -violet.  Our demonstration island as well as all desk and counter tops now glowed with  purple laminate.   I reached out to touch the  transformed  surface in disbelief and realized that our back counter and cabinetry had been entirely replaced with pale lavender  hallway  lockers.  Quickly checking my watch,   I calculated that I had exactly one minute to figure out where all my supplies had been  moved before students spilled through the doorway.  I could feel my heart pounding and a swell of panic rising as the hands on the clock approached 9:38.  I woke up with a start as the bell rung.  From here on out, I'll stick to decaf coffee after 7:00 p.m.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Greatest Gift

"The Nativity" by Elizabeth Brott, circa 2002

This is a cherished treasure made by my daughter, Elizabeth, in her younger years.  She fashioned the pieces from Sculpy Clay.  I love their simplicity and personality.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snow Day!

 Snow Day - an unexpected gift
Ingrained in their DNA, northeast Ohio students are capable of scanning a weather map to identify the next big front likely to sweep into the area and shut everything down.  Of course, anecdotally, a surfeit of ice cubes find their way into the sewer system and pajamas get worn backwards to ensure a clipper veers our way.  Although I've never put much stock in that kind of thing, when I want the real skinny on the probability of a snow day, I catch the talk in the elementary wing.  Working on a mural a couple of winters ago in their hallway, I came away with a healthy respect for their meteorological abilities.  Today being Monday though, I didn't know what to expect since I couldn't canvas my reliable calamity day experts.  When I got the call at 6:10 a.m. today, I took it as an unexpected gift of time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Finger Dancing

My daughter, Kate, demonstrates 9 x 2

The other day one of my students rattled off a mnemonic device which enabled him to remember the number of days in specific months.  That segued into a trick I’ve long used to remember my multiplication facts. Demonstrating using my two hands, I illustrated how to read the nine’s tables by depressing various fingers.  Surprised by its simplicity, several senior high school boys unabashedly placed both hands in front of them, fingers going up and down testing the system.  It was a rather sweet cross curricular moment – visual art meets finger dancing math. I can just picture our stellar math teacher  groaning at the sight of seniors using their appendages to count.   I suppose it’s only fair if he decides to fire off some thanksgiving hand turkeys to make us even.  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

You paint the windows?????

 Snowmen  by Kaitlin1173
Yep – once a year we spread some Christmas cheer and paint the windows around school.  This Saturday,  15 art club students and one alumni wielded their paint -laden brushes to the likes of Family Force Five and Trans Siberian Orchestra reverberating down the hallways. As a veteran window painter, here is a short list of things I’ve learned:

1.       If you don’t have a spare razor blade, avoid applying more than 3 coats of tempera paint to any given area. (Right Kathleen?)
2.       Did you know that those handy little green scrubbies actually scratch the windows?  Yeah, found that out the hard way.  When it’s time to remove your paintings, either have an excellent relationship with the person who regularly cleans the windows; or,  get yourself a large bottle of  glass cleaner, a box of clean rags, and 15 kids.  
3.      Unless you want a conversation with administration about menacing looking snowmen, all snowmen need to be on their best behavior and stick to doing what they do best.
4.       Although kids won’t choose the Amy Grant or James Taylor Christmas albums from the playlist, they will remain permanently embedded on my iPod as classics.  Fact.

It's beginning to look at lot like Christmas...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Miniterm - An Exploration in Glass

Student applies solder to stained glass panel constructed in miniterm

You might wonder what "Miniterm" means.  Once a year, we step outside the traditional classroom and experience one subject in-depth with our students.  This year, I'm leading a glass miniterm which consists of making a stained glass panel, an individual and a group mosaic.  Then, we take a road trip to Corning, New York for a tour of their amazing glass museum.  While there, we'll get to sandblast, fuse and blow glass in a couple of mini workshops.  So, now the planning is done.  I have to wait until after Christmas to see if there are enough people signed up to make the week financially possibile.  I just need 12 students.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving and the Art of Cultural Exchange

My Japanese daughter, Chieko, demonstrates how to make origami
It's rather remarkable that a flat piece of paper, when folded in a particular way, transforms itself into a three-dimensional shape.  Emerging from the folded paper, cranes, boxes and balls take shape. Origami is the art of endless possibilities, and a traditional Japanese craft.  This thanksgiving, those around my table included my former Japanese foreign exchange student and her family.  So, while her six year old son and baby daughter tasted the traditional American thansgiving menu for the first time, Chieko shared  her Japanese tradition of paper folding after the meal.  Picture grown men and women hunched over the kitchen table carefully manipulating bits of paper into folded shapes.  Priceless.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ohio State and the Symbolic Use of Color

To cap off our three-day week, we got word that Wednesday we're celebrating Ohio State Day with OSU spirit wear and blue jeans.  I have to confess that I've never watched an entire football game, despite serving in my high school's band and watching my daughter march in hers.  From my perspective, football games center around halftime and valiantly attempting to keep warm.  Yet, I'll blithely celebrate Ohio State Spirit Day tomorrow along with everyone else because we get to wear blue jeans! Beside a little pin,  there's not a shred of Ohio State regalia in my closet.    Happily, as an art teacher, I relate well to the symbolic use of color; so, scarlet and grey are on my wardrobe radar tomorrow.   I hope OSU has an amazing half-time show when they play Michigan this Saturday.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Unsung Heros and Charcoal Dust

If you're looking for job security in the cleaning business, punch your ticket for handling a well-loved art room.  Let your imagination run wild with the sheer depth of germs stirred together with daunting layers of ground -in charcoal, paint smears and dried glue.  Frankly, my students' efforts can't even come close to matching the determination of Mrs. McBride.  Loaded with a spray bottle and a Magic Eraser, the woman takes no prisoners.  My desks mutely surrender to her single-minded attentions once a week.  At the battle's conclusion, for 15 whole minutes, my room stands as a silent testimony to Scottish industry.  At minute 16, the bell rings, my students pour in, and the cycle begins again.  Thanks to Mrs. McBride, we get a clean slate once a week on which to create anew.  What a great spiritual metaphor for Psalm 51:7:  "Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." (NLT 2007)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The IPDP - A White Canvas

The deadline looms for my IPDP.  The daunting task of completing a five year professional development plan reminds me of staring at a blank canvas.  The surface is ready  to support either a brilliant idea, ...or not.  One college professor of mine encouraged us to "mark" our canvas with a swipe of paint to get past  the paralysis of actually starting the journey.  How do I mark this form with goals that are broad enough to cover unknown opportunities as they present themselves over the next five years?  I'll take a figurative swipe inspired by the clutter in my studio.

Goal one:  I'm probably not the only  art teacher with dozens of half finished works used as samples for techniques and demonstrations.  So, first on my list is to drink deeper of just a few areas of interest and take my refreshed results back to class.

 Goal two should probably focus on me figuring out how to use technology in the enchance learning.   I already know how to use our fancy projector, cool document camera, and upload  students' work to a web museum.  As a presenter at a recent convention advocated, maybe I can figure out how to use this blog, and twitter to enhance student learning.

I feel like I'm on a roll inspired by a little internet research...

I dedicate goal three to more purposefully incorporating other disciplines as well as art history into my lessons.   I borrowed this idea from a college website describing one of their goals for their Masters program in art education. 

Goal four focuses on me reading more professional art education journals and reflecting on what others in the field are thinking - trends, assessments, etc. 

Goal five involves my school's requirement involving a plan for spiritual growth.  Even if I weren't a part of a Christian school community I'd want this anyway.

Ok, that's five goals, in five years.  I now sit back and wait for my LPDC to approve or request revisions.    

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Trial by Fire - Advanced Art Meets the Paragon Kiln

Artsonia ID: Audrey1446 - Grecian Myth Mask

November 16, 2010

Today, I opened the kiln at school praying that the the first round of Grecian Myth Masks would be in one piece.  Twenty-five class periods representing half of our grading cycle were lovingly poured into a project I had never done before.  Talk about pressure - nine students, nine masks in total, and our mutual trial by fire had to commence at some point.  We'd done everything humanly possible to ensure a proper firing; from consistent thickness of clay , to making sure work was completely dry.  But, a kiln sometimes brutilizes  pieces with even small errors of technique.  One of my students snapped pictures of everyone's work for the record.

To my utter relief, the first firing went off without a hitch.  Second firing tomorrow.