Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Growing up, my mom made holidays so special for my family. We didn't grow up with extended family nearby, we were a small little family, and we didn't have much money, but every year I had awesome, creative costumes (yes, sometimes several costumes for any given Halloween-- a girl needs options for school Halloween parades, impromptu / informal Halloween ballet performances, and of course, nighttime trick-or-treating), often either handmade by my mom, myself, or a joint effort. And my mom wonders where I get my creativity from?! I learned from the best! To this day, I am so anti-store bought Halloween costumes, for several reasons: 1) they're overpriced, 2) your options are limited, 3) someone else is going to be going as the exact. Same. Thing. And 4) as already stated, I grew up knowing that purchasing a Halloween costume in a bag was absolutely unnecessary.*

*I may eat my words one day... flash-forward to action-packed motherhood... when a costume in a bag might be the only answer to my child actually having a Halloween costume, due to stress and only twenty-four hours in a day.

All this being said, despite my love of Halloween and holidays, I am not a fan of making seasonal art with my students, unless there is a deeper, cultural connection or personal meaning I can have my students make (for example, I teach Dia de los Muertos lessons, Chinese New Year lessons, Holi lessons, etc. as a vehicle for students to learn about and embrace other cultures and different types of celebrations). But just because I'm not a fan, doesn't mean I won't ever do it.

In grad school I learned that when immigrants were pouring into the public school system at the turn of the century, educating students about the seasons and popular holidays was a way to "Americanize" them. For obvious reasons, those historical roots don't sit too well. This is not to say that there is zero value in teaching students about the seasons... in fact, I think that today's students are often fairly out of touch with anything relating to the natural world. I just don't necessarily believe in teaching them about Halloween. It's already heavily marketed, and they can learn everything they need to know from their families and peers. Another big issue with Halloween-related anything is that several students do not celebrate it, and are not permitted to participate in Halloween-related activities at school.

Soo... when I found my Tuesday kindergarteners way ahead of the kinders I have the rest of the week (it seems that we never miss school on Tuesdays... so all my Tuesday classes wind up far ahead of everyone else if I don't interject with some extra single-lesson units), I did something I hadn't ever done before or thought I'd ever do... I taught a seasonal, Halloween-inspired lesson. Call me a hypocrite :( A big one.

But... aren't these pumpkins cute?

For kinders, I don't have them use glue bottles until the end of the year. Trays of glue and "cotton-tipped applicators" work well for developing those fine motor skills and learning just how much glue one needs.

For the record, while Halloween was mentioned, I did not refer to these as "Jack-o'-lanterns", and we discussed how pumpkins grow at this time of year. Yes, I practically framed this lesson as "let's make a squash with a face".

Happy Halloween!

Lesson inspiration from Deep Space Sparkle. Thanks, Patty!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Inspired by Painting With Brains' recent post on doppelgangers, I thought I would join in on the commentary and reflect on a few personal look-alikes. I was especially inspired because this topic comes up a fair amount in my classroom.

Recently, a fifth grader found this picture in some magazine. He thought it looked so much like me that he cut it out and put it on the board, without permission mind you, but I thought it was funny, so I let him get away with it. And now every student ever has asked if it's me. Even though I tell them no, some really aren't so sure.

To add to their confusion, I keep this crazy cut-out of my face on hand:

During student teaching, when I taught my first lesson on self-portraits, I printed out that picture to illustrate how your eyes are actually right in the middle of your face. It was one of the best photos I had of myself to illustrate correct proportions, and that crazy smile was amusing. If they remembered nothing else, they'd remember Ms. Dudley's special smile... then sometime last year, when I was teaching a similar unit, I had my face on hand again. A student found it and displayed it on the board, and it lingered there long enough for students in all grades to start asking questions. Most commonly, "is that really you?" is asked, and students never quite believe my response no matter what I say. I usually tease them for a bit, telling them that it's my "evil twin" before telling them that yes, it's me, several years ago (2004) with short hair. But the quizzical looks and uncertainty usually continues. I now use the face to relay funny messages in speech bubbles, like "do your work!" or "I'm watching you!"

I AM watching you.

Also recently, another fifth grader said I looked like this Anthropologie model (can you tell we're doing a lot of collaging in fifth grade? and not always staying focused on careful looking? because we're looking at other, off-topic things?):

...but that guy doesn't look so much like Nate. 
For every positive comment / inadvertent compliment, there are the inadvertent insults, which I find tend to come up a lot during self-portrait demos. During student teaching I was told that my hair was grey, not to forget the dark circles under my eyes, etc. etc. Gotta love that honesty! I actually really love that innocence, though. I think they thought I looked like the above model because of my trademark red lipstick. Sometimes I get the "you're so beautiful!" and then I'll get, "Ms. Dudley, why are you wearing SO much lipstick?!?"


The thing I love about being compared to celebrities is... that it's not that likely that the comparison will be unfavorable. One thing that PWB noted was that celebrity comparisons come up more often when the doppelganger is having a surge of popularity. In high school, during Legally Blonde's heyday, I often got Reese Witherspoon. That comparison didn't resurface until I had a part-time gig as a ballroom dance studio receptionist during grad school. My boss looked an awful lot like Reese, and then people often thought we were sisters, so then once again I was Reese's look-alike.

In college, when Kill Bill was popular, I often got Uma comparisons. I actually think this (facial) comparison is more accurate than a Reese comparison.

And then during the past couple years, I've been told that I look like January (Kristen is her middle name... who knew?!) Jones, who played Betty Draper in Mad Men.

I'm super-flattered anytime someone compares me to these beautiful ladies.

The familial doppelganger is my maternal great-grandmother, Elsie Lily Bergman McGregor:

I just love her 1920s style here!

But growing up, my brother would never miss an opportunity to point out that I look(ed) like the chubby girl scout on the Trefoils box:

Note the girl standing behind the brownie, to the leftish. Yeah, childhood doppelganger.

And I was totally a girl scout.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Second grade quote of (last) week.

One second grader to another, on mortality:

"My dad says that when you die, you can't go back alive again."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Be brave.

Be Brave, by Kelli Murray.

And that is what I need to keep telling myself as I prepare for an upcoming presentation in two weeks: Be brave.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sisters (and brothers).

I love getting to know siblings. In fact, I love it so much that I think I annoy some siblings by constantly mentioning their... siblings. I also often call same-gender siblings the wrong names, even if they are years apart and look nothing alike. I usually default to the older sibling's name, to the chagrin of second-borns.

So it was refreshing to have one of my quietest younger sisters (first grade) tip-toe up to me and whisper:

"Where does my sister sit?"
"She sits right here, at the yellow table."

Big smile spreads over her face as she retreats to her seat with this new information about her fifth grade sister. She had never voluntarily told me anything. Ever. She is one of those extremely attentive and engaged, but silent, students. It seems like she might be peeking out from under her shell, and I love that. And of course I love the sisterly love.

And earlier in the day, one of my most challenging students (in terms of behavior) stopped by of his own accord (I never thought I'd see the day!) to chat (!!!) about his little sister who just started pre-K, who will have her first art class with me on Friday. He (a fifth grader) is really excited for me to meet her (?!?!?). I've spent hours restructuring, rethinking, meditating on my behavior management poise and practices to accommodate this student. And now he's stopping by for a chat. When he wouldn't even look me in the eye as he derailed my classes (among other things) last year.

AMAZING DAY. And I gotta think, I must be doing something right.