A Day In the Life

8 Things I Plan To Do While on Summer Vacation

While I’m vacationing in a land far, far away, I thought I would leave you this little nugget. I meant to post it back in June, but as it turns out, “far, far away” equals shoddy/no internet service, and I just couldn’t be bothered.


Actual picture from my summer vacation.


Actual picture from my summer vacation.

8 Things I Plan To Do While on Summer Vacation

Sleep in. And by “sleep in,” I of course mean “sleep until 6:00am” or maybe even 7:00am, because I have a preschooler and my preschooler is notorious for rising with the sun. You just never know though, it’s summer vacation, baby! I’m gonna live it up!

Eat more slowly. Have you ever heard that you can tell when someone’s been in prison just by the way they eat? I wonder if the same can be said about teachers? One night at the dinner table, my daughter asked why I eat so quickly. I had never thought about it, but it’s true. I’m capable of devouring an entire meal in under ten minutes. I don’t think it has anything to do with gluttony, but the fact that I’m used to having only about ten minutes to eat at work. It has become so ingrained in me to eat quickly because I have other sh*t to do, that I’ve carried it over into life at home.

Use the bathroom on my own schedule. Could you imagine applying for a job and reading in the job description that your bathroom breaks will be scheduled for you? And yet, for teachers, that’s a reality. This summer, I’m using the bathroom on my own schedule, or better yet, no schedule at all. I’m going to use the bathroom when I need to use the bathroom. Amazing.

Drink less. Because of the less stress.

Going outside in the middle of the day. On a Tuesday. I don’t know about other art teachers, but I rarely make it outside during the work day. And often times I’m assigned a windowless room, so I can go an entire day not knowing the weather. My body’s probably going to go into shock or something when it realizes that it’s outside at 11:00am.

Cut back on my coffee consumption. Maybe only one or two cups a day, which, in theory, should be doable since I’ll be sleeping in more and suffering from fewer hangovers. In theory.

Nap. Because of the reduction in coffee consumption I’ll probably need an afternoon nap. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to pay.

Participate in professional development. Summer wouldn’t be complete without a little PD, right? This summer I’ll be attending the AOE Summer 2015 Conference, although I’ll probably have to take advantage of the “watch later at your own pace using the conference ‘AOE After Pass’” feature because of this gosh-darn, laid back, relaxing vacation I’m on. And the shoddy internet. The conference is July 16th, and I won’t be back to civilization until at least the 21st of July, so… There’s still time to register if you haven’t already. The deadline is July 14th.

New this year, I’ll be attending the STEAM & Arts Integration Online Conference. STEAM is big in our schools right now, so I thought this might look impressive on the ole’ resume. Maybe earn me some brownie points with my Principals. This conference is July 23rd, registration ends July 20th.

So, what are your summer plans?
A Day In the Life

Lessons I Learned From Art on a Cart

During SOL testing, I spent three weeks as “art on a cart.” I was aware going into it to it that it would be challenging, but also temporary, and I knew that I could make it work*.  During my brief time on a cart, I learned some useful lessons.

Keep the mediums to a minimum. I knew that the only way I could survive having limited access to my room and my supplies, meaning no restocking the cart during the day, was to limit the different mediums I used. Thankfully, I planned ahead and timed stitching and weaving to occur during SOL testing. My first three classes worked on stitching and weaving, and my lasartcartt two classes of the day worked on various different paper strip projects. With careful planning and a well organized cart, I was able to have all of the supplies I needed for the entire day on one cart. This definitely wouldn’t have been possible had I been using multiple mediums throughout the day.

Do not assume students will have basic supplies in their classrooms. I made a point of checking with classroom teachers to see what kind of basic supplies students had in their desks (pencils, crayons, scissors). Thankfully it worked out that students already had these supplies, so I didn’t have to worry about hauling them to the classroom myself, but I’m sure it’s not always the case in every classroom, especially at this time of year. Unfortunately, I neglected to think of myself, and was left scrambling for basic supplies while demonstrating the project to students. Evidently, not all teachers keep a small bin of Sharpies, pencils, a pair of scissors, a ruler, crayons and a glue stick on hand for demonstrations. Who knew?

My house, my rules. I have done a lot of subbing in my time. When a sub is present, many students have the knee-jerk reaction of who are you to tell me what to do? Feathers can get ruffled, chaos can ensue. It’s expected when you’re a sub. You’re on their turf, there’s going to be a bit of a power struggle. I did not expect this to happen while on a cart, but it did. I naively thought I could seamlessly carry my art room rules into the students’ classroom. I was wrong. Like art teachers, classroom teachers work hard to build routines. They have their own rules (or lack thereof). Students learn, in this room, we do things this way. In one particular classroom, I found that the classroom teachers’ rules were a little more loosey goosey than mine. All of a sudden I have students getting up to get drinks or use the bathroom without permission, “but, Mrs. Carter** let’s us…” I found it difficult to establish authority in another teacher’s room, although I already had it in my classroom. It was especially difficult if the teacher remained in the room during art. It was an unexpected challenge.

A change of scenery can do you good. The above scenario wasn’t the norm for my experience on a cart. I was fortunate to have access to the SACC room during testing. The unfamiliar location worked to my advantage. You know how at the start of the school year, the students are a little timid, unsure, and on their best behavior for the first few weeks? The same happened while we were in the SACC room. It was fabulous. The change of scenery was exactly what we needed to reset some of the bad behaviors/habits that had developed (theirs and mine) throughout the year in my art room.

If you pile it high enough, it will fall. A stack of 12 x 18″ paper on top of a bin of Play-doh on top of three bins of paper strips and scissors on top of 30 paper weavings on top of two boxes of stitcherys on top of a dish rack of cardboard loom weavings*** on top of a rolling art cart equals disaster. Lesson learned.

Art on a cart = sympathy. I’ve never received more sympathetic looks from other teachers than when I was wheeling my towering art cart through the halls. Okay, maybe when I was seven months pregnant in the sweltering 90 degree temperatures of June, waddling all the way across the school with a cart of clay animals to put in the kiln, but still, being temporarily demoted to art on a cart will garner looks of sympathy from others.

Kids are flexible. I was afraid that I would be disadvantaged by my lack of supplies while on a cart. Especially when I thought of those two dreaded words every art teacher hates to hear, “I’m finished.” In my art room, students have a variety of supplies and activities available to them when they finish early. In my art room, they were used to having multiple options for adding color to their work, crayons, markers, colored pencils, oil pastels… While on a cart, early finishers had one choice, free draw with crayons. That’s it. I was fully prepared for a mutiny, but the uprising never happened. Turns out, when you tell students that this is what you can work on, and they see that there are no other options available, they’re totally okay with that. Really makes me wish I didn’t have open shelving in my art room as my only storage option.

Art on a cart isn’t the end of the world. I survived art on a cart for three weeks. Would I want to do it for an entire year? Probably not, but it wouldn’t be the worst teaching scenario I’ve been in over the years (that honor goes to the two years I was in a windowless, ventless, octagonal room with less usable square footage than the living room in my townhouse). I could certainly make art on a cart work. Don’t tell my principal I said that.

* I use this phrase multiple times during the school day. My students don’t really get it. Proof that I watch too much Project Runway?

** Name has been changed.

*** Just before my art on a cart experience, I discovered a few dish racks in our supply closet. I was pleased to discover that the cardboard looms I use slide (almost) perfectly into the drying racks. It makes storing the weavings much easier and neater. I place a small label on the lefthand corner of the looms where the students write their names. Then we “file” them on the racks, and they can easily pick their work out. You can see the racks in the picture above.

A Day In the Life

Nightmare in the Kiln

There’s a reason we all experience a little bit of fear every time we open a kiln of freshly fired bisqueware.

And this is that reason:

IMG_5394 (1)

Yeah, that’s a kiln full of 2nd grade animal bobble-heads.

I wasn’t present when the kiln was opened, but this picture was sent to me.

Devastating, to say the least.

Although I felt I had given them adequate time to dry out, it’s clear that I did not.

Amazingly enough, 10 out of 26 of the bobble-heads survived. My favorite is that little beaver up front, completely intact, innocently gnawing on his stick, oblivious to the carnage that lies behind him.

Even more amazing, every single head survived. Every. Single. One.

Like I tell my students, every time we work with clay, you never know. You just never know.

A Day In the Life

Dem First Graders. Geesh.

“Okay, so today we’re…”

“Did you straighten your hair?”

“Wait, what?”

“Yeah, I think she did.”

“It looks straighter.”


“No, it looks wavy. Did you make it wavier?”

“It is wavy. She didn’t straighten it.”

“Guys, I…”

“No, she straightened it.”

“Uh, I…”

“It’s definitely different. In a good way.”

“Did you do something to your hair?”

“Yeah, it looks different.”

“Uh… no… well… I parted it differently…”

Damn first graders, they notice everything. Although, I kid you not, I had the exact same conversation with a class of third graders the following week. I didn’t straighten my hair, or make it wavier, I really only parted it about an inch further to the left. Guess that made all the difference.

A Day In the Life, Gripes

Dear 4th Grade Teacher

Dear 4th grade teacher,

Remember when I came to you, back in December, and asked you about the wall in your pods’ hallway with the empty cork strips? Remember when I asked you if the 4th grade team had any plans for them? And do you remember telling me that no, there were no plans because that space is usually left open for artwork? And remember how you excitedly invited me to hang up artwork? I was thrilled to have some display space, do you remember? My four sections of 4th grade students were working very hard on these beautiful drawings that I couldn’t wait to put on display. I knew space was limited, so I made sure to select pieces of work from each 4th grade class, this way, each group was represented fairly (truth be told, it was first-to-finish, first-to-be-displayed). I stayed late one night so I could get the work hung up before winter break. Everyone loved it. The principal came by my room and raved about the work. She even called it frameable. It really brightened up the hallway, a hallway that had previously been bare for three whole months.

Now, imagine my shock when I arrived at school this morning and discovered every single one of the drawings gone. And in their place, I found a few illustrated writing pieces. As a side note, let me say, kudos to you for making an effort to display your students’ work. I think it’s great to show off the hard work and effort that went into the pieces. But, the thing is, don’t you think you could have checked with me before you took down the drawings? I would have been more than happy to have cleared the space for you (although, I’m not sure why it was necessary to remove all 30 pieces of work I had on display for the three overflow writing pieces that didn’t fit on the other wall where the rest of the essays were displayed. Seems to me you could have just taped those three up next to the rest, but what do I know, you know?). More importantly though, don’t you think you should have checked with me before you made the decision to send them all home?

I suppose I shouldn’t blame you. I mean, how did you know they hadn’t been graded yet? And how would you have known that I wanted to keep some of the pieces for the art show? I mean, it’s not like we discussed it or anything, right? And yeah, I suppose I should have graded them before I displayed them, but the thing is, I’m only at your school two days a week, and with all the snow days and two-hour delays we’ve been having, those two days quickly turn in to a half day. As in, lately, I’ve been at your school for five hours a week. Shame on me for not getting them graded sooner. I should have known better.

On second thought, the drawings were on display for an entire month, so I guess it was time to change it up, although with the two week winter break, you could argue that they weren’t even seen during that time, so it doesn’t really count… but, I don’t know if you noticed the pumpkin patch paintings and fall trees the other art teacher has on display downstairs? No one’s taken those down yet. Not to mention the self-portraits that have been on display since September. But, yeah, clearly my 4th graders’ drawings needed to come down. And like your colleague mentioned when I approached you about the missing work, I’m sure the students still have them at home.

So, you know what? No biggie. In fact, than you for saving me the time it would have taken to remove the work myself. Not to mention the time it would have taken me to grade them. I really owe you one.



Wild-Card-2ndIn case you’ve been living under a rock, the results of The Art of Education’s annual Art Ed Blog of the Year contest were announced last weekend. Thank you to everyone who voted. Art Teachers Hate Glitter came in second place in the Wild Card category! Without your support, I may have given up this endeavor long ago. Thank you.