Monday, April 30, 2012

I hadn't considered a cuppycake...

One of my favorite parts of being a teacher is the little reminders. Fan art from students showing their love, a hand-delivered cupcake on their birthday, the things they give you stuffed in a pocket, forgotten, and found later. Here's the lost cupcake ring that a student found and turned in to me... which best fit my ring finger. I put it on, forgot about it, and wore it for the entirety of the day, 'til I was home and could suggest it as a wedding band to my fiance. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to be on board in the same way that I am... :)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Paper Quilt Squares.

Just wanted to share the Paper Quilt Squares that I did with my first graders... back in February! Oy, I am behind. The basics:

  • Used 8.5 x 8.5" white copy paper as the base
  • Gave students two 4.25 x 8.5" rectangles for a watercolor resist: one with warm colors, one with cool
  • They were asked to draw geometric shapes and patterns with crayon (we went into detail about "geometric" as a vocabulary word) before painting
  • We folded the rectangles and traced over our folds to create the triangles before cutting them out
  • Glued down the triangles in an alternating warm-cool pattern

This unit opened up a ton of art topics: history of textiles and quilting, pattern, resists, shapes and all things "geometric". For next year I am going to create a visual that clearly outlines how to glue the triangles down... I found that either students "got it" and it was easy and obvious for them, while for some it was utterly confusing. I also would consider providing a photocopied grid for students to work within.

Happy (paper) quilting!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

In sickness and in health...

...means taking sick days when you need to, and trying to not feel guilty about it. Especially when no one picks up the job, two days in a row. Assuming they just cancelled art and robbed teachers of their planning time. Guilty guilty guilty. Called in sick both today and yesterday, with the worst kind of illness: stomach virus. Mysterious stomach virus, too, because no one I know has had similar symptoms. The fiance is sick as well, but with a head cold and overall lethargy. We make quite a pair right now!

The issue with being sick yesterday was that the White Flint Arts Fair show had to go up. And I was... throwing up.

Where's the nearest bathroom?!

So. The White Flint Arts Fair is a countywide art show for all elementary and middle schools. It's held at a local shopping mall. Each school gets two panels (each 70 x 38"), to fill with 15-30 pieces of art. I had driven to work on Wednesday feeling pretty crappy, but all the White Flint stuff was at school and I thought, at the very least, I should come in to pick it up. Thought if I felt okay by the time I got to school I would just stay. Got there, still felt like crap. Picked up the work, put it in my car and drove to my parents' house, which is much closer than my hour-long commute. Crashed there until my dad came home from work to me, crying at the kitchen table about the White Flint show.

Isn't it humbling how, even as adults, your parents are still there to catch you when you fall? My dad drove nauseous, exhausted, dehydrated me to the mall and helped me hang the show. Really not sure how it looks, didn't take any pictures, but it's up. That's the important thing: it's up. He even helped me cut little extra pieces of velcro when needed (the work is hung on cubicle-like panels, we put velcro on the back of the work), gave advice about hanging (is it crooked?), and provided overall muscle and moral support. Could not have done it without him! 

I'm volunteering at the host table on Saturday, from 10am-12pm, so I'll have an opportunity to check out all the panels then... and I'll be able to make some adjustments to my own, if it turns out that yesterday's installation was not quite stellar. All I can say is that advanced preparation is what saved me! I had spent long hours after school last week selecting work, putting together information packets and certificates for students, matting, and photographing a predetermined layout for the work.

As for now, I have moved on from yesterday's diet of one small single serving of applesauce plus two pieces of wheat toast, to today's banana, one slice cinnamon raisin toast, and one milkshake from McD's. Making progress, eh?

And the next hurdle...? My school's first ever Art Show goes up next Friday. And there has been very little "advanced preparation", ie: some stuff is matted, but that's about it. Whoops. May my Art Teacher Fairy Godmother heed my prayers and descend at the eleventh hour...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Full circle.

Draining my printer ink by printing certificates for my students whose work will be displayed at the White Flint Arts Fair, a show that my work was shown in as a child.

More to come as this show goes up!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Third grade student: "Ms. Dudley, you're Spanish, right?"
Me: "Hmm?" [I heard him, but I was sure I misheard.]
Third grade student: "You're Spanish. Because of your accent."
Me: "Nope, I'm not Spanish. I have an accent?"
Third grade student: "Yes, a Spanish accent."

This post inspired me to watch far too many flamenco videos on YouTube.
I have to work to keep my jealousy at bay in terms of the strong, proud cultural ties that many of my students have. I cope with this, in part, through the culturally-tethered units I teach. No, I'm not Spanish or much of anything else besides American. And while being American has shaped my life in many ways I am grateful for, I can't say that I'm always proud to claim that specific heritage. I think the big flower in my hair might have given me my mysterious "accent" today. I should wear it more often :)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Dreaming of desks.

Cleaned my desk. "Cleaned", rather. A little sad to me that this is the clean version these days. Still more cluttered than I would prefer, but at least it's been dusted! I should have taken a "before" picture because it really is better than it was. I have big plans for this summer, when I will organize, purge, and scrub everything. It will be the first summer that I haven't moved in a long time, and I feel like we never really completely moved into our place last summer. If you look around the apartment carefully, you can definitely still see evidence of boxes. So I'm looking forward to taking some time to truly settle. Before we move again, haha.

Meanwhile, I will continue to dream of my fantasy desk, care of Pottery Barn. I've been lusting for it since I was a teenager. My current desk was purchased for me when I was eleven years old and I've claimed that it won't move with me one more time. We'll see... perhaps the Desk Fairy will pay me a visit?

Oh Desk Fairy, I would not hate this desk.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

To Break or Not To Break: The Art of Listmaking

As of today, I am sitting squarely in the middle of my first official Spring Break as a real art teacher. And as per usual, despite all my plans for it, I am unable to truly relax. I had big plans for relaxation. Those plans evaporated along with my inability to sleep last night-- yes, I have cleaned the apartment, I went to a wedding-planning event, I stayed up all night talking to a dear friend who unexpectedly came in from out of town, I have washed and hand-washed nearly every dirty garment in the place-- but I hadn't done anything school-related yet. And unfortunately, there's a lot I was (am still) hoping to get done this break. But it's always a lose-lose for me... if I work through a break and get a ton accomplished, I look back on the break with regret and and proceed with exhaustion. If I fill a break with fun: travel, attempts at relaxation, doing what I want to do... I come back to work not as Ms. Kristen-Crayon, but as A Ball of Stress, with the regret piece still intact because I got so little accomplished.

So, the question is...

Question: How to strike a balance? 
Answer: Write a list!*

*Disclaimer: Writing a list does not guarantee said "balance", but might serve to soothe some anxiety. In my case, when in doubt, write a list. I've been doing this since forever.

Ms. Kristen Crayon's Personal History of Listmaking
I'm pretty sure I've been writing lists since they entered my awareness. Or at least since February 27, 1996, when I was ten years old. How do I know this, you ask? Let me show you.

Impeccable taste in art from a young age.

Love, peace, and books.
(ie: All doubts about my popularity as a fifth grader have now been confirmed.)

My obsession with the Fear Street series is chronicled in cursive.

No cursive these days, but better literature (maybe?).
Needless to say, I love lists. There's the organization component, it's so satisfying to cross things off, and if you save them, they read like a personal history. An average day for me is packed with lists. These are things I record on a regular basis:

  • To-do (the quintessential list)
  • Grocery lists
  • What I wear / outfit ideas
  • What I eat
  • When I go to the gym
  • Daily purchases
  • Lesson ideas
As mentioned above, in an attempt to weed out clothes I don't wear and make the most out of existing pieces, I started recording what I wear when I teach. That looks something like this:

Apparently when I'm not listmaking, I'm musing on the following: "Who looks good in a turban? Could I look good in a turban?" I ask the tough, hard hitting questions, folks.

I think a better version of this idea resides in something I found on Pinterest: DIY Vintage Postcard Calendar Journal. Maybe I'll put that together this summer? Oh wait, lemme start a summer to-do list...

On one hand, I see these lists as sentimental. On the other, I see them as a way I exert control over my daily life. As if keeping a record holds things in place, or slows change, or... something.

The obsession with lists even poured over into my teaching. Last summer, when I taught at MICA's YPS I included a lesson titled "From 'To-Dos' to 'Top Tens': What Lists and Collections Reveal About You" when I taught "It's All About Me: The Art of Visual Journals" to 6-8 graders. Lesson description: From the mundane to the monumental, we will use lists to compare and contrast our likes and dislikes, everyday experiences and special occasions, and other opposing life themes. Because lists are written collections, we will also unpack the way collections can be a reflection of who we are.

Here's my Spring Break list, or my hopeful "collection", in all its glory:

If you zoom in, you'll see that my wishful thinking hopes that I'll post three times to my (this) neglected blog. There's a fair amount of blue hilighter cross-offs, but not enough for my taste. There is still much to be done. And if I can't relax, because I won't let myself, might as well get some things done.

Lisa Frank 4 lyfe.
I couldn't keep my fabulous clipboard to myself. Fabulous since third grade!

If you're obsessed with lists and haven't done so already, check out McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Lists. You'll be better for it. Because I can think of no better way to close this post than with Lisa Frank + McSweeney's, I bid you adieu.

Bye! --Fifth grade Ms. Kristen-Crayon