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

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

Can I See Your ID?

There is no doubt in my mind that my becoming a teacher directly correlates with the onset of my purchasing-alcohol-in-public anxiety. For reals. I have a severe (irrational?) fear of buying beer at the grocery store. I avoid it at all cost.

In college, professors give you all sorts of life advice. The advice that has had the longest lasting impression on lakeme was given by one of my education professors. “Buy your beer in the next town over,” he said. You know, lest you run into your students’ parents and they think of you as a good-for-nothing degenerate, a bad role model and someone who is incapable of educating their child. Let’s ignore the case of Mich Ultra in their cart though, because that’s different. They’re not teachers. And so I did. I took extreme measures to ensure that I never purchased a six-pack of the refreshingly thirst-quenching beverage that I was legally permitted to buy in any store that I felt my students’ parents would frequent. Evidently, all of my students must have teachers for parents because we are all shopping in the next town over.

I’m currently on vacation twelve hours and four states away from where I teach. And yet, despite this fact, as I was going on a beer run this morning going to buy coffee and razors this morning, I couldn’t help but sweat a little. I scanned the aisles for familiar faces, and when the checkout clerk asked, “can I see your ID?” I had a brief moment of panic in which I wanted to shout out, “I’m a teacher, dammit! How dare you think this beer is mine!” Alas, I held it together, purchased my six packs, and now I’m enjoying my Lake Placid Frostbite Ale* lakeside.

Stay tuned next week when I tell you about that time I did shots with some former students of mine. There’s nothing more frightening than hearing someone shout out your teacher name while you’re half in the bag and rocking out to some hippie jam band on a Saturday night in your bar**. Well, except when hearing your teacher name is quickly followed by, “shots!”


p.s. I hate to have anyone call me out for being “on vacation” after my last post in which I explained that teachers aren’t really taking a break during summer “vacation”. Don’t forget, I’m taking a couple of online courses this summer, so in between my microbrews, I’m also leaving useless, incomprehensible responses to my classmates’ discussion board posts. I’m good like that.

*I know they changed the name years ago, but it will always be a Frostbite to me.

**And then I found a new bar.

A Day In the Life

Breaking News

Compadres. I don’t want to alarm you, but I have become privy to some mind blowing information that might just change your entire life.

I was talking to an engineer this weekend (yeah, I know, *yawn*) when it was brought to my attention that the year does not end in June. The calendar year as we know it, and have always known it, is a fraud. I am told, although I am still hesitant to believe it, the real calendar year ends in December. What!?

“But how can this be true when the year begins in September? We all know that a year is 10 months long, not four,” I haughtily argued.

Turns out, folks, the beginning of the year is not, in fact, September, but January. JANUARY! I mean, c’mon! What kind of conspiracy is this? Next they’re going to try and convince us that Summer isn’t even a real thing and that July and August are months just like any other month. Heresy, I say! Heresy!

school yearAs evidence, I submit to you, a poorly designed jpeg.

(Seriously though, this may explain why I don’t get all that worked up over New Year’s Eve and Day. Celebrate the transition from December to January? But… why? Celebrate the end of June? Hell yeah! Let’s party like it’s 1999!)