My Instagram feed has been filled with fun, celebratory, #lastdayofschool posts today. doughnutThey’re only outnumbered by the insane number of colorful, candy-colored, National Doughnut Day posts. Meanwhile, I’m over here crunching numbers for my SMARTR goal and definitely not eating doughnuts, f* you very much. Some of us still have a few weeks of school left, and some of us have egg allergies. Whatever. I hope you choke on your doughnut on your way to the beach.

Ok, not really, but I am feeling a little bitter. Did you read that part about the SMARTR goal? I’m basically in art teacher hell right now, trying to calculate the achievement of my students using math. [shudder]

Fun fact: I suck at completing things on time, returning emails, completing paperwork, and pretty much anything that involves the phone, a calendar or planning ahead. Which is why I find myself pulling my hair out trying to complete my SMARTR goal data and paperwork a week after it was due. I expect a scolding email from my assistant principal any day now.

I hate SMARTR goals. When they were first introduced in our schools, I cried. I’m not kidding. I had no idea what I was being asked to do, and I had even less of an idea of how to make it work for art. Thinking about it made my head buzz. Fast forward a few years to today, and I have a better idea of how to translate it to art, but not necessarily a better idea of how to make it work. But I understand that I have to set a goal to meet by the end of the year, and I understand that this goal has to be measured in percentages, and I understand that if I don’t meet this goal, I will need to come up with some sort of plan to do something that I don’t understand because I didn’t bother paying attention to this part because I always expected to meet my goal. It’s art, for crying out loud. How can I not meet my goal?

I didn’t meet my goal this year.

What’s worse, I missed meeting my goal by 3%. 3%! That’s like, one student. One student! So now I’m over here trying to decide if I’m going to go back through my data and fudge my numbers or create an imaginary student who achieved an exceptional amount this year. Hey, if presidential candidates can win elections this way, I should be able to achieve my SMARTR goal this way. In case my conscious wins out, and I end up submitting my real data, I’ve already gotten a head start on my plan for achieving my goal next year.

My Plan For Achieving My 2015-2016 SMARTR Goal

  • Set the bar low. I mean, amazingly low.

Maybe I’m trying to measure too much. Maybe I’m expecting too much from my students. Next year, I’m setting the bar really low. Next year, I’ll measure student achievement by how many students are able to put their name on their work at the end of the year. 85% by the end of the year? That shouldn’t be too hard… um… on second thought… maybe not. I just remembered the insane frustration I felt last week when I discovered that not a single student in one of my second grade classes managed to put their name on their painting. Not a single student. Come to think of it, more students are capable of putting their name on their work at the beginning of the year than the end. I wonder what happens when your SMARTR goal percentages decrease throughout the year?

  • Insist that students show up for class on snow days.

I’ll also expect them to skip all assemblies, concerts, field days, field trips, and yes, even SOLs so they can come to art class. You want to know why I didn’t meet my SMARTR goal this year, Principal? Maybe because the class that I chose for my SMARTR goal missed 20% of their art classes this year. 20%! Now there’s a percentage for you.

  • Assign art homework.

Classroom teachers have SMARTR goals. Classroom teachers get to assign homework to ensure that student achievement is occurring. 2015-2016 will be the year of art homework! No, I don’t care about your dance class, Chinese lesson or the math homework you have. You need to analyze these five pieces of artwork and label the illusion of depth techniques used in each one. How else can I be sure you’re actually learning and achieving anything in my art class, huh?

  • Ask my principal to write an achievable SMARTR goal for me.

Watch as panic and confusion overtakes him.

Seriously though, one of the most frustrating things about being an art teacher, or a “specialist,” if you will, is the discrepancy between being told we’re all equals, and the reality of not being treated as an equal. We’re expected to meet all of the same requirements as classroom teachers, attend all the same workshops and meetings, meet all the same standards for student achievement, and yet, we aren’t given the same time or resources as classroom teachers.

It was a requirement in my school this year that all teachers’ SMARTR goals be math related. Um, except for you specialists, because, um, you’re different. All teachers are expected to attend staff meetings and CLT meetings, even you specialists, because all teachers are equal. All teachers are required to learn the information being presented during this workshop, even you specialists, because, again, we’re all equal, therefore we’ll have subs available to cover classrooms during the workshops so all teachers can attend one of the sessions, except for you specialists, the subs aren’t available for you, so you’ll have to get the information on your own time.

So in conclusion, equal means different, but also the same, and if you don’t have your SMARTR goal in by the close of business on the Friday following a span of two months in which you only saw your SMARTR goal class twice and have yet to have time to deliver the post-assessment within the given time frame, that’s going to be a problem.

Now excuse me while I go and finish inputting the data for the new student who just joined the fourth grade class into the spreadsheet. Do you think John Smith is too obvious a name?

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.

A Day In the Life

It’s an art room. Get over it.

“It smells weird in here. It smells like paint in here. Why does it smell in here? There’s paint on the floor. There’s paint on the table. There’s paint on my paper. There’s paint on my chair. My shirt has paint on it. My hands have paint on them. My hands are dirty. There’s clay on my hands. There’s clay on the table. There’s clay on the floor. There’s clay in my fingernails. There’s glue on my fingers. There’s glue on the table. My table’s wet. There’s water on my paper. There’s water on the floor. I found a crayon on the floor. I found a marker in the colored pencil bin. The pencil sharpener is noisy. It’s too loud in here. It’s cold in here. It’s hot in here.”

Every. Single. Day.

If you haven’t heard, Art Teachers Hate Glitter has been nominated as Wild Card Blog of the Year over at The Art of Education. If you get a moment, it sure would mean a lot to my ego if you could hop on over there and vote for ATHG. Voting continues until Friday, January 23rd. Thank you.
A Day In the Life, Gripes

Confessions of An Elementary Art Teacher

I haven’t made art for myself since college.

For one, I just don’t have the time. For two, I’m not blessed with a beautiful, spacious studio space. Or any studio space for that matter. Remember the studios in college? *Sigh* Now the only time I make art is when I’m making samples for my lessons. Pretty sure that paper lizard I made the other day isn’t going to end up in a gallery any time soon.

I spend a lot of my own money. A lot.

I don’t think a weekend goes by when I’m not at a store picking something up for my classroom. I don’t think a week goes by when I’m not scrounging through my personal supplies, or recycling bin, for materials to use in my classroom. Regular classroom teachers spend a good amount of their own money on their students and their classrooms. I guarantee art teachers spend a lot more. I spend so much of my own money that I have a separate category for it when I track my expenses every month. I don’t get reimbursed for it. That $250 educator’s tax credit I get to claim? Maybe that will cover a quarter of what I spend every year.

I don’t like teaching every medium.

Especially painting. And printmaking. And don’t even get me started on chalk pastels. It has nothing to do with the mess. Okay, maybe it has a little to do with the mess, but I could teach ceramics all day long. Or sculpture. I’ve never had much interest in painting, not that I can’t do it, it just doesn’t do anything for me. I actually enjoy printmaking, but not the stuff we do in elementary school. Give me acid baths and etching any day. If I could equip my students with glue guns, packaging tape and box cutters, we’d be building cardboard structures every day. But Styrofoam prints and dry brush techniques? Ugh, no thanks. Yeah, I still teach it, but I’d prefer not to.

Teaching art isn’t fun.

There. I said it, now can you please stop asking me that? It’s not fun. Most of the time it is not fun. Sometimes it is fun. Mostly it is not fun. What with all the grading and the push for assessments and the CLT meetings and the professional development and the classes with 30+ students and the IEPs and the 504s and the parent emails and the SOLs and the PLCs and the lack of planning time and the extra duties and the SMARTR goals and the shrinking budgets and the teacher evaluations and the staff meetings and the need to be visible and the preparation for art shows and art displays and the behavior plans and the PBIS rewards and the pressure to make art fun. What? You didn’t think art teachers had to deal with this shit too? We do.

Sometimes I daydream about teaching high school art.

Once upon a time, about ten years ago, I taught high school art for about 1.25 years. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that. I don’t know if high school art teachers have to worry about SMARTR goals, or CLT meetings, or giving up their planning time to help out in the real classrooms during math, but I do know that at least I wouldn’t have to teach someone how to use scissors, or glue sticks or crayons anymore. I wouldn’t have to tie shoes or wipe noses or remind students to wash their hands after using the bathroom. I wouldn’t have to answer the question, “how much longer is art?” seventeen times in an hour. I’m not naive enough to think that all of my students in high school would actually want to be in art class, but at least there would be some who did right? At least there would be some who thought for themselves and didn’t actually copy my sample line for line, right? I don’t know. Are you a high school art teacher? Do you get to collaborate with students and actually have intelligent discussions with them? Do you get to watch students’ creativity develop and grow into unique points of view? Is it as glorious as we elementary art teachers imagine it to be? On second thought, don’t answer that.

I show up for the students.

The relationships I build with my students gets me out of bed every morning when that alarm goes off at 5:00 AM. I’m not in it for the fun of it. I’m not in it for the fame and fortune (because we all know that’s never going to happen). I don’t show up every day because I enjoy being micromanaged by the administration. I show up for the students who hug me on the way out of class. I show up for the students who tell me they love art class. I show up for the students who express excitement and pride when they’ve “drawn the best picture they’ve ever drawn!” And yeah, I show up for the students who can’t sit still in their seats, can’t refrain from blurting out, and who would rather be anywhere else but art class. I show up because sometimes teaching art is fun. I show up for the students. And that is the only reason I need.

A Day In the Life, Gripes

It’s All Fun and Games, Until Someone Pulls the Love Card

Twice a year, I bust out a popular boxed drawing game to play with my students. The last week of school happens to be one of the times I bring this game out. The students love it, I get a kick out of it, and good fun is had by all. Until this week. If you follow Art Teachers Hate Glitter on Facebook, then you’ve already heard part of the story. Here’s what I posted earlier this evening:

For Your Consideration: It’s the last day of art and you’re playing a Pictionary-esque game with your AP 3rd grade class. You pull a subject card that reads, “Gym teachers in love.” Do you,

a) think it’s silly and let your students draw it because it’s all in good fun and they’ll get a kick out of it, or

b) think it’s inappropriate and controversial and banish it to the back of the box?

The responses were essentially divided into two camps, what’s-the-big-deal, and why-poke-the-bear, which is exactly what I expected. As you can probably expect, there’s more to the story than the small little blurb I posted to Facebook.

I play a modified version of the Pictionary-style game, (affiliate) Luck of the Draw, with my 3rd-6th graders. The students are given a subject, which I read from a card I’ve pulled out of the “subject” box (pre-selected for comprehension and maximum humor). They then have a minute to draw the subject. After the minute, the drawings are shared with their table anonymously (or as anonymously as elementary students can be). The students then vote for the drawing that they feel best fits a selected category card. It’s silly, it’s fun, and students of all artistic abilities have a chance of getting their drawings selected as a “winner”. For the last round of the game, I like to select a really fun subject that will get the students roaring with laughter. Sometimes it’s “hamsters juggling,” sometimes it’s “a moose in the house,” and sometimes, it’s “gym teachers in love.”

Until this week, it never occurred to me that “gym teachers in love” was an inappropriate or controversial subject to give students to draw. The response to this subject has always been giggles, mixed with some “ews” and drawings that show two adults with hearts over their heads. Well, for the first time ever, a student took this somewhere it shouldn’t have gone. Somewhere I never expected a third grader to take it, and in surprisingly shocking detail. It was a big deal. Administration and counselors got involved. It was ugly.

I later approached the AP who handled this situation to find out how things had ended. The whole thing had been very emotional, I was actually very upset by the ordeal, and I wanted to make sure that the student was okay. Little did I know, but I was about to be thrown under the bus.

It was suggested that I was to blame for why the drawing was made, which, okay, had I not chosen that subject, the picture never would have happened. Fair enough, but in my mind, there was a bigger issue at hand.

Why is a third grader drawing such detailed images that are not developmentally appropriate for his age?

It quickly became evident that I was the only one who felt that this was the most pressing concern. It was suggested that the subject I asked the students to draw was inappropriate because of everything kids see on TV nowadays. Apparently “love,” something that we teach our children about since the day they are born, something that is interwoven into many human relationships, is a rated R topic. You know, because that’s what kids see on TV, that ever present instigator and fall-guy for every bad thing anyone anywhere has ever done*.

It was implied that the subject was controversial because gym teachers are often accused of doing bad things. Hold the phone. So, if the subject had been “science teachers in love,” or “music teachers in love,” that would have been okay? So, because the subject was specifically about gym teachers, in love, that automatically pushes it into unsafe territory? Why, because gym teachers are evil and dangerous? What, are gym teachers not allowed to be in love? What if it had just been “gym teachers”? Or “in love”? What if I had asked students to draw “love”? Would that be wrong too?

Since when has “love” become an inappropriate and controversial thing to talk about and ask our students to consider in their art work? I ask students to draw family portraits. Is this inappropriate because bad things often happen in families? I ask students to draw pictures of themselves with a friend. We discuss relationships and body language and how you can tell that two people are friends just by looking at them. Kids draw themselves with their arms around their friends. They draw themselves holding hands. Is this inappropriate?

I’m still confused by the backlash that occurred because of this one drawing that this one student drew. I’m shocked that anyone would suggest that I’m asking my students to do inappropriate things. I’m amazed that the focus has been turned around on me and taken away from the student who could really use some attention and help.

I think I just got my first real taste of the anti-teacher vibe that exists now. If this is truly the state of education, that teachers are blamed for the actions of their students, then I don’t know if I want to be a part of that anymore.

What are your thoughts?

*It’s interesting to note that while I wrote this, the TV was on and a commercial came on about Love. The commercial showed many different demonstrations of people showing love for each other, and it was all rated G. Or maybe hugging and kissing children and grandparents is PG? R? I just don’t know anymore.