Tag Archives: students

Parent-Teacher Conference Time

Already November?

My school held our annual Parent/Teacher Conferences just over a week ago. I always look forward to these two days because I gain so much insight into my students through their parents’ stories about them. It is fun to hear what the kids think of me as their teacher, including my rules, my grading and my projects. We have fun in my classroom and I know I am well liked, so unless there is a problem about a grade issue, the conversations are typically light hearted and encouraging, for both sides. Parents are often amazed at what beautiful creations their kids make. They tell me that the only class their kids ever want to talk about is mine! This makes me happy. No offense, but how do math teachers do it?

It wasn’t many years ago, at P/T conferences, that I would continually hear, “ . . .the homework is too hard,” or, “art should be fun and not so much work.” Several years ago the tide seemed to turn quite dramatically, however, and parents seemed more interested in learning about college and career choices their children might have if they were to continue the study of art. This became so noticeable that I developed a “Careers in Art” presentation that I delivered to a small group of parents last year. It is my hope to eventually turn this into an ebook so more people can have access to this information. I’ve found that it is not unusual for a talented child to be the product of parents who never learned the importance of art and/or who never took art classes themselves. Parents tell me that they wished they could take my classes. They realize that our entertainment directed, iPad society is a creative one and they are desperate for advice on how to counsel their child if he/she should continue an art study program.

Over the years, my school has adopted a statement that pinpoints who we strive to be as educators:

We should be gracious hosts, wise and winsome storytellers

and creative chefs.

I love this metaphor. As a gracious host, I welcome my students and their parents into my life, and into my classroom, which involves a passion for the arts and creative expression. I joyfully prepare the main course of my projects with my guests, my students, in mind. I work constantly at developing the menu of my curriculum that will be both educational and conceptually thought provoking, hoping to increase their appetite of problem solving skills.

More often than not, it is stories of my own life experiences that engage my students. Through my passion of travel or my interest in environmental concerns; or my interest in endangered animal species or my fascination with history, other cultures or architecture; whatever is of interest to me I share with my students and build a story around it. The evidence of my being a successful, wise and winsome storyteller, is to produce, in my students, a love of learning, in general, but specifically a love of what I love. I teach them to see through my eyes.

I do this in the laboratory of my classroom as I take on the role of creative chef. I’m not sure that all my ideas and projects are fully successful but as I stir the pot with enthusiasm, love and encouragement and experiment with new spices, materials and techniques, I challenge my students to be unique and find themselves in the unknowing.

This embedded video is so funny!!! Although it is certainly exaggerated, I’m guessing that all teachers have had experiences at Parent-Teacher conferences that are similar in some respects. If you can, watch it. You will laugh. Have a great week!

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School’s out for the summer

The crescendo has been building for a couple of weeks.

I typically give my very best ideas away to my students, and usually this makes me happy. They gratefully consume my ideas all year long, digest them, rework them, and pour out the results (which are fabulous!) but now it’s summer and I’m ready to blow up my raft and go float in the pool. I’ve just completed my eleventh year as a full-time middle and high school art teacher at a college preparatory school in the Dallas metroplex. Over the last few weeks, I’ve immersed myself into throngs of contemporary art fairs for the reason of finding inspiring ideas, not only to try for myself, but to tweak into becoming classroom projects. This is primarily how I develop my art curriculum. I go out and experience art in the world around me.

One of the most wonderful, healing things about teaching is that, at the beginning of each year, you get to start a clean slate. It’s brand new. Each new school year is about creating and giving away your best ideas for a specific amount of time. At the end of a year, it’s over and you put the slate away. If there are projects that didn’t turn out so well, you never have to do them again. Years ago, I remember singing at the top of my lungs, Alice Cooper’sSchool’s Out, at the end of May:

No more pencils,

No more books,

No more teacher’s dirty looks.

Admittedly, I’ve probably given my share of dirty looks this year (I assure you I’ve also given truckloads of smiles and hugs too) but now, it’s time to rest. I get to start over with a clean slate full of new possibilities next August. It is a wonderfully refreshing concept. Each day we wake up we should be grateful because, like teaching, we get to start over. We get the opportunity to turn over a new leaf. To listen more. To love more. To forgive more. We can take a walk down a new path and try new approaches to life. Each day we wake up we are given the possibility to be more courageous and more mindful of the earth and others.

I’ve always hoped to make a difference in someone’s life; this adds purpose to my life. I want to have an impact on others to show them their potential and express how much they matter. Teaching allows me to do that. If I can see evidence that I’ve influenced even one child to dream and reach for the stars, I feel that the year has been successful. This year there are many students I feel that way about and I feel grateful and blessed. Still, I am ready to float on my raft.

This summer, when I get off the raft, I will be working on several ebooks for publication. One will be about art careers and one will be about integrating global history and culture into art curriculum. I want to inspire students, artists, art educators, parents, homeschool teachers, administrators and even school districts. Sadly, from my experience I’ve learned that much of the public, including students and parents, do not know about the importance of an art education in the 21st century. In general people don’t understand how lucrative and satisfying a career in the arts can be.

Two years ago, I was invited to become a member of the Nasher Sculpture Center’s Teacher Advisory Board. I gratefully accepted the position and have been honored to share this board membership with a few other teachers who strive to inspire. We have assisted the Nasher Education Department in many ways including the expansion of new activities and workshops for the public, as well as curriculum development and printed material. Through the continued dialogue at our monthly meetings I have expressed the need specifically for art career education. Together we have researched this and I have presented the collected material to administrators, faculty and parents. After learning more through my presentation, everyone is excited and hopeful about college and career prospects for students of all ages. I want to make this research available to more people who can use it and create possibilities for their own lives or the lives of others.

As this school year comes to a close, I want to share an excellent video produced by the Exxon Mobile Corporation. As you watch it, I hope teachers you learned from will come to mind. I want to encourage you to write them an email. Search for them on facebook. Actually go buy a stamp and send them a card. Tell them how important they have been to you. I promise; it will make their day.

(Thank you Mrs. Majors, Mrs. Cuniff, Gloria Ball, Mrs. Simpson, Judith d’Agostino, Dr. Dianne Strickland, Jackie Snyders, Cynthia Bylander, Jeff Johnston, Dr. David Quick, Tanya Synar and all my fellow colleagues. You all poured into me and I really appreciate it and love you for it.)

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Teaching on the planet

Olive Picker Girl
by Melissa Enderle

People always ask me, “How did you think of that?”

I never know how to answer that question. It is usually asked of me in regards to the student projects I dream up. The culmination of my experiences and the emotional attachment I have, on any given day, to the things I see in my path: the turning of a page of a particular magazine, the sight of a particular word in a poem, the fragrances I smell on my walk, can set off a creative burst of energy like a boulder rolling down a mountain. My colleagues can attest to the fact that when I’m in “my zone”, I don’t hear people talking to me that are sitting right in my office. I can totally tune out when I’m tuned in to what I’m doing.

Although I studied art education for a while in college, I eventually changed my mind and became a studio artist. I received my BFA and also got certified to teach art, Kindergarten through 12th grade. I remember saying that I didn’t actually want to teach. But time changes things and now that I have taught school-age art students, I would conclude that this experience has been one of the most valuable gifts I’ve ever received.

I recognize the responsibility that I have in the influencing of young minds. This is bewildering, exciting and frightening. I know they watch me and see my faults, but they seem to love me anyway, and I’m humbled. I work at stretching their minds open to new views, both about their art and about life in general. I never liked fitting into the crowd and I try to encourage them to not only find the courage to express their artistic visions but to also embrace being unique, as a person. I want them to PUSH their blacks in charcoal and PUSH their imagination. My critiques are hard, but my love for them runs deep and they know it.

I used to have a button in college that I wore on my backpack. It said, “I Want It All”. I wanted every experience I could fit into a lifetime. I used to say I want to be a parent, but I don’t only want to be a parent. I wanted to try my hand at different jobs; be with different kinds of people. I’ve been known to get bored easily and look for the next new thing. I’ve loved teaching and it would be easy to stay where I am. I’m so comfortable and my blanket of security is warm. But, life is moving at a fast pace and I want to PUSH these remaining seasons of my life.

In April 2007, I was looking through a professional art educator magazine called, School Arts. There was an article that captivated me and was written by a woman named Melissa Enderle. In Teaching Art Abroad, Melissa wrote of her experiences of teaching art overseas in international schools. I ran to the photocopier to copy her words and have thought of little else since that day. Melissa is an artist and an art educator. Her artwork can be seen at her website. She also keeps a blog where she chronicles her daily experiences. Since that time, I have contacted Melissa about the possibility of my teaching art overseas like she does. She is a great encourager and has openly provided honest answers to my many questions. I’ve also done hours of research about working with a variety of educational recruitment firms. Now that my daughter is about to graduate from college and begin her adult life, I decided it’s about time I began mine too.

Melissa and I both agree that teaching abroad is a way to experience the world’s people in a personal manner that will change lives. Not only would I hope to influence my students and allow them to see a glimpse of what I know, I know that they, too, would teach me. Together, we would learn and the planet wouldn’t seem quite so large.

Is there someone who has influenced you in your career direction? I can’t wait to hear! Please comment.

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