Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Creating Success

Today's topic is going to cover several areas from doodling and retention rate, to one more that creates successful opportunities for our students and ourselves.

First, I want to share something with you that I recently read, "I have students who like to draw...unfortunately it's while I'm teaching..."

When I attend a meeting, sit through a class or what ever it might be I need something to do while you or anyone is talking. Why? Cause, if I don't you'll lose me and usually pretty quick. So, for me doodling or doing something else might be considered a fidget for me. It helps keep me focused and although it might NOT seem apparent I am listening to you. I remember having elaborate drawings on pages of my notes while in school. These drawings would run all four sides of my papers, in the margins and even through the words. Most of the time they were battles including, airplane battles, anti-tank guns, houses, buildings, landscapes, people, etc... you name it I drew it in my notes. I didn't realize it at the time but I was developing strategies that were going to help me survive school as a child. Now they help me survive a meeting when my head would normally hit the desk and snoring will ensue. I guess what I'm getting at is please look for ways to embrace a child or even an adults differences and different way of achieving what you are after. The retention of the material you are delivering. With that said why does study habits have to be the same old way, I talk, you listen-take notes and read them later at your convenience. Most recently I came across something that I know is not new but, with technology headed in the direction it is, why not embrace it and give our students even yourself an advantage. Forward thinking. The website's are Quizlet and Flash Card Exchange the best part is they sync with the app Mental Case beautifully (which can be found in iTunes or the App store) I bought the $4.99 version and have found it to work excellent. Imagine creating studying guides, flash cards, visual memory games, tests, etc... that your students can download right to their iPads, iPhones, iTouch's, smartphones in general. Imagine students being able to send it to each other via Bluetooth and or thru wireless networks. Imagine a student being able to go on vacation and all of their study notes are inside their iPod's or other devise. No bulky notebooks and binders just a hand-held devise. They are already going to have iBuds in their ears listening to something. Why not create a situation were they feel confident when they come back into your classroom. I know I'm always looking for ways for my students even myself that promote a successful opportunity. Well, enough for now. So, look for new ways you never thought existed that help our students. Encourage "Out of the Building Thinking" with your colleagues and allow the creative spirit to run freely through your body and mind!

Just a couple resources to help fuel your response to the non-believers

Saturday, November 19, 2011


I read a very interesting article while working out yesterday, yes, I can use an elliptical machine or ride my bike and read at the same time. What kind of resources or you utilizing in your classroom or home to teach our students and the ramifications of today's technology? Have you ever wonder does a 1st thru 12th grade student know more than you about technology? If so, why is that? If not, congratulations for staying up on what is going on in today's technology world. The magazine I was reading was the November 2011 issue, Art Education, titled, Beyond, by the NAEA. On page 8 at the top of the third column there was a statement I really agreed with, "Rheingold's point is not just that kids are tech-savy; rather it's because of this fact, teachers now have a new role to play: teaching ethical behavior and cultural citizenship." Students today are really Globally connected and its this notation what we need to find a way to embraced and incorporate technology into our classrooms. Either as a mainstream tool or an assistive technology tool. Imagine being in a school where cell phones are band, iPod's are only to be used as a relaxation tool during their free time. What happen to educators be forward thinkers and thinking beyond today and how they will use this technology if you like it or not. As an educator we get frustrated when someone does not turn in their homework or do their assignments. Well, the very items they love we keep them away from them all day long. So, what do they do when they go home and well into the night? Use the very items we tell them not to use during school, in turn ignoring assignments and homework. Stop! What if there homework was to be done on the very items we band them from using in class? What if their cognitive development increased because we thought "Outside the Building" and show them ways that will help improve their studies. Me personally I am very closed to going paper free with my work to-and-from school. How so? I use Google Docs and search Google Templates for ways to improve my output. I use Google as my cloud for personal paperwork. Why not teach our student the same thing? This is providing them the life skills that will transfer into the work place once they graduate. Put a keyboard in a first graders hand, and iPad in every ones hand, this includes teachers. I guess it is my opinion that we need to stop sitting on our hands and be forward thinkers and stop thinking we will stay on the cutting edge of education. Be the cutting edge! With this said, please allow the creative spirit to fun freely through your body! And, yes there is more to come on this issue.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

2011 Michigan Art Ed Conference

This past weekend has been many things for me: amazing, a moment to get away, reconnecting, eyeopening, inspiring and finding a new (old) craft for me. While I was at my annual Art Ed. Conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan I was in awe of all the amazing things my colleagues are doing in the classroom. From advocating for the arts to finding new ways to further their own craft and just how we love sharing ideas. Yeah, I treat this as a moment to get away and get some rest at a nice hotel but, the reconnection that happens is something I live for. Back in school on many occasions feel like I am by myself and I know they feel the same way. We usually are the only one in the school doing what we do and its at this moment that being with each other we appreciate. Discussing art techniques and showing each other new ways of doing an old technique. I presented in two different seminars what I thought was a new way to approach an old craft: Paper Pulp–Paper Mache'. I had approximately 25 art educators on the Thursday night and 30+ the following day Friday morning (workshop images). To engage them I even tried a new way of starting my presentation, I created a video with website xtranormal which is very easy to do and one I recommend we show our students how to use. From there I discussed several different ways to use the pulp mixture and then turned them lose in a hands on workshop. They took off in ways I never dreamed of creating amazing products that they will wear and take back to school to show their students. I love creative people, problem solvers and "Out of the Building" thinkers they are. I once worked for a Creative Director and he told me something that has resonated with me until this day, "Creative people are the greatest problem solvers in the world, cause that is what we do all day long," The following days people who were in my workshops came up to me stating, "I can't believe how quick and easy that project is to do," "I love the results," I will be using this instead of ceramics to teach figurative sculpture this year," And, the list goes on. Yes, I am very happy about the results of what I took to the conference, inspiring educators in a new way. But, I came upon a vendors booth that was selling their felting supplies. They had a demo table where people were creating small samples. I watched. I inquired. I asked questions. I began to create. And, then one of the ladies working the booth (Back To Back Fiber Products) says, "Why not felt your bag?" Me, " I can?" Well, need say no more to me I was off and running with my felting needle and Alpaca wool in hand. My burlap messenger began to take on a new look and one I know will continue to evolve. I couldn't stop. Every where I was sat, I was felting. Even while working the booth for the College for Creative Studies, I was felting. People were walking up to me, "your the one that felted the burlap bag." Yes, that was my small moment of celebrity status. I even thought about it, is this something I want to take into the classroom? Or, just use for me? It is so relaxing and therapeutic that I found myself settling right down and concentrating on what I was doing, felting. Not to say I won't take it into my classroom but at the moment it is for me! I was even talking with a colleague about getting together with friends, bring some wine and your felting materials and create with great conversation. I'm in for sure. Well, of know that is about it, I have more to right about the conference but I need to gather my notes, organize them and write. So, continue to allow the creative spirit to run freely through your every part of your body. :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Lately I have a been having a lot of conversations about "Engaging" and how we do it, both in the classroom and outside of it. Outside: conferences we attend, seminars, webinars or is just getting together with friends and colleagues. Inside: what is we do with our students and the connections we make together. Because, there are many days I learn just as much with them I teach them and this even takes place with my colleagues. Like yesterday I attended the first day as a presenter at this years Michigan Art Education Conference in Kalamazoo, MI. This past spring I came up with an idea of how to change an old practice that is done in the art room, the making of Paper Mache' and Paper Pulp. I married the two into one substance. Well, I presented it and I was just amazed what happen, they took my idea and ran with with it, making comments how this we be so easy to incorporate into their classrooms. I was so happy and can't wait to see what will happen today when I present. But, I did one more thing when I was there, I released a document I've been working on called, Artist Career Guide. I've receiving all this information from various institutions on how the potential careers available for artists. I kept thinking to myself there is a bigger idea here. So, I began researching, scanning, typing and this is what I can up with. It is a living document that I am asking each and everyone to make a contribution to, borrow it, share it, steal it, put your name on it. Just do me one favor and please give me credit creating it. I feel the engagement I am talking about does not stop in the classroom and even out of the classroom, it continues forever and what I/we do as educators and professionals will make a difference in peoples lives forever. It doesn't have a be a student that we inspire, it can be anyone. Stop trying to think outside the box and start thinking outside the building. Think about it when we are outside the building and the wide open space you are in. Outside the box, "ok." Outside the building, "Amazing." Have a wonderful day and allow the creative spirit to run freely through your mind, body, and soul.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Making Connections

Lately one of the things I've been working on is how to connect State and National standards to the Neurodevelopmental Constructs within my lessons. I feel it is important to teach the the Elements of Art and the Principles of Design but, how many art teachers give credence to how they affect our students? Some be asking what are the constructs? They deal with different areas of the mind and how it works: Attention, TSO (Temporal Sequential Ordering), Spatial Ordering, Memory, Language. Neuromotor Functions, Social Cognition, Higher Order Cognition and Sensory. Each one of these has several sub categories to them which you can research by Googling the Constructs. But, for me the fun doesn't stop there. As I kept diving deeper into the subject, I thought how do the Standards and Constructs mesh with the 7-steps of Design Thinking, which is a huge part of my teaching philisophy. You may be thinking, "Oh my God. this is to much." But is it really? And, is there a Bigger Idea here?!?! The 7-Steps of Design Thinking are: Define, Research, Ideation, Prototype, Objective, Implement and Learn (depending on which site you look at the wording may different but, they still work in the same matter). So how do these three areas come together to create a curriculum that helps not only us but our students on many levels. Start with the Design steps. When you start you have to define your problem the lesson, how you deliver it and how the students receive it. At this point what part of the "Brain" are you asking your students to engage. This is important because everyone one of us engage's in a different way. What if one of your student's has low Memory retention, or, another has severe ADD or ADHD which will affect their Attention. We have to adjust the lesson immediately to keep everyone at the same place. Think of it like this: if you were to create a three column chart with the 7-Steps of Design Thinking on the left the Neurodevelopmental Constructs in the middle and the Standards on the Right (which is the goal we are after) these three areas "will" intersect on several occasions or many times crossing back and forth. I have found the greater my understanding for the Neurodevelopmental Constructs the more successful the outside two columns of the chart have become. Why is this important? I feel it creates a learning atmosphere where no one falls through the cracks, it helps students to recognize their strengths and areas that need further work. I'm not saying everyone is going to become a artist but, they will develop skills that foster a better learning environment for them. I don't care what we do in life but, when the fun is removed and it becomes work we tend to mentally disengage. Think about your students and what they are going through. What if one of them has trouble with their Social Cognition and the teacher just perceives them a quiet student who just sits there? I hope this has peaked your interest to learn more about yourself and how this thinking affects you, cause in my opinion (yes, I occasionally have one) this is where it starts. As I dive deeper into this subject I post charts and research to let you know about it. So, may the creative spirit run through your blood freely causing mass chaos with your thoughts!! Have a great day!

Monday, September 5, 2011


Tomorrow starts my second year at the school I'm currently working at and I have to say, though it has been a very relaxing day the excitement is building in me. I've been researching all summer, watching other artist perfect their craft and was even given the chance to teach gifted children this summer. What's the difference between all of that and the students I work with everyday? Nothing! Learning new techniques and methods from my colleagues has only sparked the fire within me. I got to work with several professionals this summer and we all agreed: we believe the level of our students works is because of what we except from ourselves. You may say, that is kind of arrogant to make that statement. The friends I am speaking of all became artist first and teachers' second. I think that makes a difference on how we approach a lesson. I think it is important to take our students through the process or art. Not just come sit down in class and mass produced product to justify mine, theirs and your existence. The arts are so important to everyone and to think some actually have forgotten that, sad. For me its the other side of the spectrum. My idea machine is up and running, and I'm ready to take my students in directions they may not have thought of. Of the many things I love about being an artist and art teacher all falls under two catagories the first being: Higher Order Thinking. Within it: concept formation, critical thinking, creativity/brainstorming, problem solving, rule use, reasoning/logical thinking and mental representation. The second being: The Seven Steps of Design Thinking. Within it: define, research, ideation, prototype, objectives, implement and learn. Depending on the source that you research it may be more than seven but, usually it is seven and possibly even worded different. But, the all follow the same path in there thoughts. Anyway, check out this website to get a brief idea of it, Well I( have some much needed work to get done and relax for the evening. Cause tomorrow is "another" year that holds great promises and many stories to be told. Let the creativity flow freely through your body and mind, Cheers Mates!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Setting Goals

Even though I am enjoying this summer I am using this time to set personal and educational goals for myself. Since we expect our students to achieve and reach for goals, why can't I! In the area of personal goals it started with cleaning up my space/apartment. It is amazing when you start the purging of items that no longer work or have no use to me. Why did I ever keep them. And, if you ever leave the laptop world you'll be amazed by how much "stuff" you have related to it. Bye, bye! Just within my my immediate area I don't feel cluttered anymore and for someone with ADD that can become overwhelming. Yes, I love my creative side but, I need to be organized.
      But, over the last several years I have set and accomplished many goals for myself for example: changing jobs, running two marathons (oh, my left knee hates me), changing of friends (not cause I wanted to, because that is were life has taken me). These are only a few and, yes I could go on about this but you get it. So, one of the personal goals I have been working for myself this summer is my 30-Day Challenge. Why 30 you may ask or not, on an average it takes 3 to 4 weeks of a consistent behavior or change in your lifestyle for it to become a "habit", hence the 30-Day Challenge. And, this is what I've come up with. The 30-Day Mind-Body-Health Challenge, sound cliche? Of course it does. But, these areas matter to me and I would hope they do to you also. I or you in this case must chose are thing that you would like to change or improve on in that area, for example: Mind-15 minutes of mediation everyday for 30 days. This means no distractions, no electronics expect for music if I/you chose and quiet time. I think you get the point about how to pick the other two areas. Make a chart, pencil, spreadsheet or wall calendar. Whatever the method just track it and put it out where you can see it, the easier I/you make this the more successful it will be. So, are you in? I am making my trackable right here and will upload my spreadsheet or find a way to make it live on here (doesn't take much to add another tab up top for this). I have one friend doing the 100 days of summer photography challenge for herself, Kudos Mara! Think its easy try committing yourself for 100 days. Even when I trained for my two marathons that was 26 weeks of training. I think the bigger reason for this is I need some personal focus like I had in my marathon training, going back to college, etc... Well, off to get my workout in, yes it is the Body part of my challenge. Take care, do something inspiring today and most of all say "hi" to a stranger and make their day! 
Educational goal post to come. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What have I learned?

I've been doing a lot of self-reflecting since the end of school. So, much has gone through my mind. Like I see me in the LD kids I teach. I remember being just like them and can only imagine what I put my teachers through. Well, now its me teaching them and showing them ways to overcome their LD. But, this summer is about me and getting my life organized and that is what I've learned more than anything, get organized and begin planning out my year: grade levels, projects and how they meet standards. The funny part is it I only work on this stuff for a couple hours a day and I've made amazing progress. My studio space has been cleaned and is getting organized so I create a better atmosphere for doing my work during the school year. I think that is one of the hardest things I dealt with this year. Creating my art. I decided to take steps that would help prevent that. Purging and rethinking my space is leading to more creativity. Remember my apt is my home and studio, yes jealous of those that have a dedicated studio space. Some day. Even designing my own planners which I will share soon, hope you find it useful and steal the idea. I'm good with it, we are here to help each other out every way we can. Well, more to come on a 30-day challenge I'm taking on very soon, just working out the details. My left knee won't let me do another marathon and I need something challenging. I almost have it figured out and post it. I hope other decide to take on the challenge for themselves. Until then let the creative spirit run freely through your mind and body. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Who's the one being taught?

This past week is my last full week with my students and this has to be one of the hardest times of the year for me, how so? I've gotten to know my students their affinities and weakness within my room and outside of it, regardless if I see a high schooler everyday or a middle schooler only once a week I can tell where they are at mentally depending on how they apply themselves to their work. I've had several say, "how can you tell?" I tell them its easy, "your body language is telling me." Then there are their faces and those personal "ah-ah moments" they have as they problem-solve their project producing a piece of art they are very proud of. I enjoyed watching several of my students look through their portfolio folders and the artwork within it. This is my first year at this Eton Academy and I am very happy with the successes I've had and the tremendous amount of personal learning I've done about myself. My lessons, how I deliver them, what my students get out of them, what skills did they learn, and the list goes on. If you know me you know how much passion I have for my craft, not just making it but sharing it. Yes, teaching for me isn't just teaching but, sharing my love for the arts. A major part of my art journaling this summer will be the discovery process that I personally go through both in the classroom and my life. So, as I sit beside the pool this summer, I can not wait to plan for next year and all of the projects I get to take my students through.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

One Portfolio at a time

The end of the year is coming so fast and it feels like I won't get everything done I need to. But, isn't amazing how we work when our backs are against the wall. Well, I know me and it will be all finished soon. Yesterday was a PD day after a morning of paperwork I spent the afternoon prepping artwork to go home next week. I figure since we have Parent/Teacher Conferences what a good time to get all of my students home work and most of all safe! All of their fat artwork is in their portfolios and ceramic work for the younger students is in lunch bags stapled shut with their names on the bag. I will begin delivering all of the artwork to their homerooms on Wednesday and all the teacher has to do is hand it out Wed-Fri. Throughout the late afternoon I kept seeing teachers walk out of the building and I'm thinking "how are they getting all of their work done?" The best part was looking at an accumulation of a years work and how each student has developed. I have to admit at times it brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart to see their successes. Even with their disabilities I ask a lot of my students i.e. focus, attention, follow through and most of all completion of the assignment. At their age moving on to something else is so easy but I won't let them. They are amazing and I love working with them. 

Follow your dreams and do what you love in life and what you have to do and in the end I know you'll make a difference in someones life! And, always allow the creative spirit to run freely through blood!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Baby Steps

Working with my kids in the class room has been exhausting this year but yet fulfilling. I have learned many things about them and myself during my first year at Eton Academy. What an amazing experience working with kids who are just like me. I can only imagine what I was like at there age. Lack of focus, wondering and random thoughts, off the wall questions right during the teachers demonstration and the list goes on. But, I wouldn't change anything for the experiences I've had this year. I think the hardest part of this year has been "the unknown." New environment, new colleagues, new ways of conducting business, in general my ability to adapt quickly to situations and environments has been a great asset to me. One thing I hope to learn how to do better is saying "no" once in a while. Saying "yes" to things has backed me into a corner more than once this year and at times raising my anxiety/stress to places that they don't need to be. Bu, I dealt with everything just fine, worked through it and got the job done. The best thing about this summer is I know what I need to do to prepare to be more successful in many areas of the classroom. Though one of my biggest challenges will be "balance," that balance between work and home life. Something that must take a precedence in my life.

For now though, I'm going through artwork for the year end art show, cleaning up the classroom (organizing, grading, filing, etc...) trying to set myself up for a successful last few weeks. The one thing I have to remember more than anything is "Baby Steps," even though my A.D.D. attitude wants things done right now-its all about the Baby Steps that will help me build a successful program that will enrich my students for many years to come.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


During this past month I have been so busy getting ready for our schools upcoming Gala Auction. It is the largest fundraiser of the year for a school that does not except State or Federal money. As the schools Visual Arts Teacher it is role to interpret the work done by one of Leo Burnett's designers. Through the provided 2D graphic design images provided to me and the tag line "Discovery of Learning," I had all levels of my students gain the understanding of the collaborative process to produce some awesome pieces of art. In years past prior to me getting there the art teachers would have the students make art with their classroom time and then "donate" it for the auction. This year I made sure things were different, first: my students will always keep their own work and take it home. I don't think it is fair to take a child's piece of work and ask them to "donate" it to help out the school. This year all the artwork was made in addition to their regular curriculum. Through the help of many people this year the students watch rusted items come to life. The vision of the tagline and how it can be transformed into functional art items that for the first time in 25 years several of the pieces will be part of the live auction. What I've loved to watch were the frustrations and positives as they went through the entire process, at different moments students felt fell short or they stood proud. But, together as a group we worked out every detailed and yes their input was just as important as mine. Its my job as a Visual Arts Teacher and Artist to show them the craft of art and allow them to go through the exploration stages. And boy, I love watching them go through it. Helping them to create dialogue about art was just as important as the physical product. I feel a group of my Middle School students recently got a better appreciation for that concept. Both the designer and a videographer from Leo Burnett came to the school to document all of the art and at the same time I gave a demo to the students how I see when I build a sculpture. As a group we looked at the artwork created for the Gala, their art most recently created and how to transform a 2D visual reference image into 3D sculpture. Many questions from them lead to awesome moments that were recorded by Leo Burnett. I can't wait to see the video. I am very excited about the tomorrow. I finish the glazing process on 18 Effigy Pots and should have them in the kiln late tomorrow. So, either this Saturday or Sunday I will photograph everything for my portfolio. Of course I will post them. But, until then allow the creative spirit to run freely through every part of your body and mind!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Keeping it Fresh

I love working with my students but I have found "Keeping it Fresh" is very important to not only myself but them to. The difference in disabilities that my students have varies and is wide spread. For example like the image to left. How about a twist on upcoming Valentines Day and instead of hearts how about Love Monsters. This is my version of Dr. Love inspired by the One of my goals as a teacher is to continuously get my students to ask "what if." Like my students I had to learn how to work thorough my disabilities and become the person I am today. When I was a kid I was told I was just hyper-active now go outside and play. Today they are ADD/ADHD and who knows what the next one will be called. But, for me its how we teach them to work through it and embrace life for everything it has to offer. So, I continue to look for ways to throw a twist on a holiday, idea, theme, etc... Please if you have an idea on how to twist this and make it even more fun for my students let me know and I'll try it with them. Continue to let the creative spirit run freely through every part of your life.