Dear 5th Grade Teacher

Dear 5th Grade Teacher,
      Hi. How ya’ doin’? It’s me, your friendly “neighborhood” art teacher. I feel it is important to keep classroom teachers informed, not only of good and bad behavior in the art room, but also of what their classes are doing in art, especially when it ties in with what is being taught in the regular classroom. I wanted to take a moment to commend you on how professional and polite you were during my summary of class this afternoon.
     When you arrived to pick your students up, and I began to fill you in on what your students were completing, your response really made me feel like the work that goes on in my art room is highly valued. I could really tell that you were listening and cared about what I was saying even though you managed to not once make eye contact with me while I was speaking. Some people might think that your responses of “uh-huh” and “yeah” meant you were distracted and not really paying attention, but not me. I know that your responses were given with the utmost consideration and that I did in fact have your undivided attention. 
    I believe that connecting with and building a strong bond with students is vital in the school environment. I know that you truly believe the same, as was evident by your interaction with the 6th graders as they were walking past in the hallway. I noticed that while I was explaining to you how well your 5th grade students did in class today, you made every effort to interact with your former students. The way you sought out greetings and hugs from the 6th graders really shows that you care. So what if you missed my praise of your class’ participation and discussion in art today? You obviously feel it is important to maintain a bond with your former students. And the way that you grabbed that one student around the shoulders and dragged him into the art room so that you could show him off to your current group of 5th graders and explain to them that this is the student whose work you are always displaying as stellar? Bravo. I know it must have made your current students happy to finally place a face with the name. And you know what? It didn’t bother me one bit that you interrupted me to put on such a display.
     Most teachers always seem to be in a hurry these days. Not you though. I really admired the way you had your class wait a few minutes in the art room while you stood in the hallway so as to not, I assume, exclude any former students, thus saving them hurt feelings. How very thoughtful of you, and I know that your current class really enjoyed those extra few minutes they spent standing in a quiet line in the art room.
     In conclusion, I’m so grateful for the importance that you place on the work that your students do in my room, and the time and attention you expend attentively listening to my reports on such. 
A Day In the Life, Gripes

10 More Things An Elementary Art Teacher Will Never Tell You

Hello, regular classroom teachers! Guess what?

  1. We lie to you about our supplies. I know I told you I gave away my last bag of pipe cleaners to one of your cohorts, but what I meant was, I gave away the last bag of pipe cleaners that I had in my room. We have loads more in the storage closet. I didn’t tell you that though because then you would have wanted me to go get you some. I wasn’t about to walk to the other end of the school to get you one lousy bag of pipe cleaners. Plus, I don’t want you to think I’m your go-to person for craft supplies. Next you’ll be coming to me looking for feathers and glitter. [shudder]
  2. We slept through art history in college. Twice. And that’s not because I failed it the first time, thankyouverymuch, but because art history is such a huge, expansive topic that it took two semesters to “learn” all the “important” works of art. (If you’ve ever taken an art history course, then you understand why I placed quotation marks around those two words.)
  3. We work hard to keep art class legit. That being said…
  4. We find crafts to be appealing. Sometimes. Especially around the holidays and vacations. And at the end of the school year. Basically whenever the kids are getting squirrely and we’ve just cleaned our 800th bucket of dirty brushes and loaded the kiln for the twelfth time this year. I swear, if you tell anyone I told you that, I’ll show you exactly why glue guns should never be used as chapstick applicators. Just because we can see the appeal of the simple crafts, doesn’t mean we give in to it. At least not every time.
  5. Our duty is better than your duty. My once a week, twice a day bus duty is better than your daily recess duty. Five years ago, my once a week morning bus duty was better than your daily lunch duty.
  6. We still don’t know your name.
  7. We don’t know how to grade art. It’s not like there’s an answer key or anything. I hate grading art. It’s so dang hard. It’s not like I can just whip out that fancy, double ended, red/blue pen you regular classroom teachers love to use and start marking up my students’ work. Wouldn’t that be lovely? “Ms. ATHG, how come there’s all these red circles on my painting?” “Well, Jimmy, those are all the places you neglected to show proper illusion of depth. And those big red arrows are all the places you failed to show good craftsmanship. And the big red check marks? Well, those I just added for the sake of variety and visual balance, something you obviously don’t understand, as I indicated through my use of the big red underlines.”
  8. The apologetic smiles and head tilts you give us when you drop off your unruly students don’t ease the pain of the torturous class we’re about to endure for the next hour. You know what would help? LEARNING SOME CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT SKILLS! That way, I wouldn’t have to retrain your students on how to behave in a classroom every single week. It really puts a damper on our art class.
  9. Dropping your students off 5 minutes late does not mean you get to pick them up 5 minutes late. And as that clock continues to tick, and I see you slowly strolling down the hall, slurping your iced latte, and casually conversing with a colleague, you’re dang tootin’ right I’m sending your line of students out to meet you.
  10. Teaching art is fun, and we don’t envy you for your job. I can’t even begin to imagine how much of a burden it is to be responsible for a child’s ability to read, let alone 30, every year. No thank you. I’ll take my job, for better or worse, for thick or thin, over your job any day of the week. Thankyouverymuch.
A Day In the Life, Gripes

Ahhh… Spring.

Ahhh… Spring…

When the flowers bloom, the trees bud, and the rain washes the winter blues away.
When the birds chirp, the squirrels scurry, and the bunnies frolic on the dew kissed, early morning lawns.

Ahhh… Spring…

When the kids awake from their winter doldrums, excited for the warm, sunny days ahead.
When the excitement of a new season evokes a smile and a giggle from even the most forlorn pre-teen.

Ahhh… Spring…

When the joys and satisfaction of a good, thorough spring cleaning are felt far and wide.
When, prompted by the inspirational renewal of nature, supply bins are restocked and fresh paper is laid out.

Ahhh… Spring…

When heads are brimming with the prospect of new beginnings and fresh ideas.
When expectations couldn’t be any higher, pride couldn’t be felt any stronger, and trust couldn’t run any deeper.

Ahhh… Spring…

When the pollen flies freely, like little bomber planes vying for the first attack on your unsuspecting mucus membranes.
When the rambunctious music of the local wildlife drills into your eardrums like a marching band in the wee hours of the morning.

Ahhh… Spring…

When the kids won’t sit still and are bouncing off of the mother loving walls because OHMYGOD it’s raining again and they can’t go outside for recess. Again.
When the newly awakened hormones of even the loneliest tweens have them chattering and twittering ALL CLASS LONG and OHMYGODWHYWON’TTHEYSTOPTALKING?

Ahhh… Spring…

When tables start traveling across the classroom floor all by themselves and OHMYGOD who tracked red paint across the room? I JUST CLEANED IT.
When pencils and erasers go walking, never to return, and what do you mean the new glue sticks are all dried out, I JUST PUT THEM OUT LAST WEEK.

Ahhh… Spring…

When the lesson plans are tossed out the sunshine filled window, Mother’s Day cards are made, the free draw paper supply becomes unlimited, and OHMYGOD didn’t you just go on a field trip?
When half finished projects are acceptable, “I can’ts” and “I don’t wannas” are oft spoken, and OHMYGOD, I can’t believe I made it through that day and THANKGOD no one got hurt.

Ahhh.. Spring…

When everyone starts counting down to summer vacation.


Some Thoughts On Pinterest

I recently jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon. “Recently” being within the last few months or so. Some of you probably follow me, and if you do, you’ve probably noticed not much pinning happening. I have a personal Pinterest account where I do most of my Pinning. It’s quite possible I have forgotten my ATHG Pinterest login and can’t be bothered to reset it.

Since joining Pinterest, I’ve developed a very conflicting view of it. For one, I really like having a visual reference for things I’d like to do or try. I tend to pin the things that I once would have bookmarked. It’s much easier for me to find what I’m looking for later on when there’s a picture to go along with it. I find Pinterest is a great resource for connecting me to recipes and inspiring visuals. On the other hand, it bugs me to no end the way some people use Pinterest. I personally don’t believe in repinning something that doesn’t link back to the original source. I think it’s wrong to use someone’s idea or share their image without revealing the source. In fact, I have on quite a few occasions spent some time hunting down the original source to pin, rather than repin uncredited, “borrowed” ideas. Recently there’s been a lot of hoopla surrounding Pinterest and copyright concerns. They even changed their terms in April in response. Am I making a big deal out of something that many view as harmless fun? Maybe, but I know I’m not alone. To me, it’s like the old Spongebob debate I have with my students (or whatever the popular character of the moment is). You weren’t the first one to create him, you can’t put him in your work and pass him off as your own. But I’m getting sidetracked here, because what I really wanted to do was share something I found the other day.

Just prior to joining Pinterest, I realized that this blog had been pinned quite a few times. I thought that was pretty cool and totally unexpected. It always amazes me when I think about the various nooks and crannies of the interwebs ATHG has reached. Every now and again, I confess, I like to search for new pins of ATHG to see what others are saying about it. Call it curiosity, call it narcissism, whatever you call it, sometimes I just can’t help myself.

During one of these searches, I stumbled upon something unexpected and mildly upsetting/offensive. Maybe it’s the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on lately. Maybe if I had discovered this five months ago or three months from now, I would have just let it roll off my back and moved on. But I didn’t. I discovered it on the day my baby came home from daycare with a bruise on her cheek about one and a half inches long (as an art teacher, I have a freakishly accurate knack for visually measuring things. I’m also an unbelievably adept packer). Take a look (click to enlarge):

The Red Arrow: Andrea is mistaken. I don’t hate my life. I, in fact, love my life, including my job. But Andrea’s comment isn’t the one that really gets to me, it’s Liz’s. Where do I began with this? To imply that I don’t have any fun with art because I’m not a fan of glitter is ridiculous. Is glitter the only thing that makes art fun? Does art class need to be dolled up and turned into a sparkly, gluey mess in order to appeal to kids? No, it certainly does not. I have a confession to make. I’ve used glitter in my art room before (not recently, but certainly in the past). I have to say, in my experience, glitter isn’t what makes art “colorful, shinny [sic], unique, imaginative and creative.” I mean, if you have to rely on glitter to do those things for your art curriculum, than you have bigger problems.
Now, here’s where I get confused. Andrea goes on to say, “I’m completely offended and disturbed by this photo and the Anti “HATE” comments surrounding it.” The photo that she is referring to, which didn’t make it into the screen shot, happens to be my header image. Hmmm… I wonder what part offends and disturbs her? Is it the bright, happy colors? The whimsical birds and flowers? I also wonder about these “Anti “HATE” comments” she refers to. If she in fact hates hate, as she states in her next comment, then shouldn’t she be pro-Anti hate? And really, what “comments” are she referring to?
In my opinion, the word hate has gotten a bad rap. I think in certain contexts, using the word hate is perfectly acceptable. Would I ever tell someone I hate them? No. Do I hate doing the dishes? Yes, and that’s okay. I get absolutely no enjoyment out of doing the dishes. I hate it. I also hate lima beans. Lima beans have no feelings. It’s okay to hate them. Do I hate glitter? No, not really. What I hate is the mess involved with using glitter, the way in which some students use glitter and the implication that art is all about glitter and Popsicle sticks.
Kudos to Courtney, who obviously has a sense of humor. I think it’s safe to assume that Liz and Andrea have never even visited the ATHG blog, and therefore their remarks are based on the image alone. This is another thing that bugs me about Pinterest (and really, just about every other social media site); people who blindly react to and comment about things without educating themselves on the issue they’re commenting on. Le sigh.
Am I going to let these sorts of comments get me down? No, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect me on some level. It continues to amaze me how often people feel the anonymity of the internet gives them the right to “hate” on other people. I don’t know Liz. I don’t know Courtney. They each have a right to their own opinions, regardless if how uninformed and misguided they may be, and as an adult, I have the ability to forget this ever happen and move on.
Let’s move on.
The Green Arrow: I’m currently reading Sacre Bleu by one of my favorite authors, Christopher Moore. I’m not that far into it yet. I’m excited about this book because 1. it’s written by Christopher Moore, 2. it’s about my favorite color, and 3. it centers around the death of Vincent van Gogh and includes Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Has anyone else read this book? How is it? I’ve heard mixed things.
The Yellow Arrow: I recently Googled this because my 8 month old baby has yet to roll over from her back to her front. Should I be concerned about this? She shows next to no interest in becoming mobile. Instead of attempting to get to the objects farther away, she entertains herself with the objects close by, or lacking that, screeches and “yells” until she is “rescued” from her ordeal. Double le sigh.
A Day In the Life, Gripes

So what you’re saying, is that I’m less important than a sink?

A quick back story for you… Over the summer I lost my classroom because our school population grew. The principal very well could have tossed me a cart and said, “Have at it,” but instead she had a classroom built for me in the “pod”. If you don’t know what a pod is, take a look at this illustration of a “typical pod”. The pods in our school are quite similar, minus the outdoor classroom, and with sinks and counters in the center and tables for students to work at. My octagonal art room was constructed by closing in the common area and building walls between and above the counters. As a result, communal sinks and storage have now become art room sinks and storage. Inconvenient? Yes. The worst thing that could have happened? No. It appears to me that the eight classrooms surrounding me, including the second, sink-less art room, have adjusted. And then this happened a couple of weeks ago…

A Teacher’s Aide (TA) wandered into my classroom to fill her water bottle up at one of the sinks.

TA: You’re not here every day, are you?
ATHG: No, I’m only here Tuesday-Thursday.
TA:  That really is inconvenient. We don’t have access to the sinks or paper towels when you’re not here. Don’t you think you could leave the door unlocked.
ATHG: Well, no, I do have a lot of stuff in here…
TA (looking around): Oh yeah, I guess you do…
ATHG: You could ask for a roll of paper towels for your room…
TA: I really think this was the dumbest idea when they built this room here. They could have asked us first. What do they expect us to do?
ATHG: I can see how it’s inconvenient, but I’m glad they built me a classroom. It’s better than the alternative. I could have been on a cart.
TA: Hmph

(End Scene)

I almost felt bad for this woman. I mean, to think that she has to walk a couple classrooms down to the water fountain or bathrooms when I’m not here. *Gasp* The poor thing. Honestly, I don’t even use the sinks in my room to fill up my water bottle. You wouldn’t either if you smelled the water that came from those faucets. I really liked though how she made no effort to hide the fact that my needs as a teacher were far less important than her need for water and dry hands. Two weeks later and I’m still chuckling over it.