Archive for the ‘teaching’ Category

In Defense of History

A good friend from Vermont, who winters here every year and has experienced the insanity that is Arizona, asked a couple of days ago…Can you explain so I can understand what it is about this state? Keep in mind this friend’s senator is Bernie Sanders, one of the last voices of reason in this country. Well, those of us who live in Arizona (and remember Bernie fondly) don’t understand it ourselves. The latest bit of insanity is changing the recall process, since the state head republican lost a recall challenge, so let’s change the recall process so only republicans can participate, not ALL the people this person is supposed to represent.

We do not learn anything from what we’ve done in the past. And a new bill in Arizona is aiming to make sure students learn even less. Teachers could be fired for presenting partisan information. Now, to my mind, if you have a teacher who is outright encouraging students to vote for a particular person or party, then that should be an internal issue within the school. A true professional will keep his or her opinion out of the discussion, but require students to look at all candidates, all issues, and help them make informed decisions. This is a very fine line to walk. I can remember several students who had different views and weren’t willing to look at evidence. I had to bite my tongue. My job was to get them to think critically, whether they wanted to or not.

So much of this attitude is not limited any longer to Arizona. You are seeing more and more the results of a lack of history education in this country, along with an extreme lack of critical thinking to determine what is true and what isn’t, within the media. Part is monetary (there’s a shock…) – certain news (like what’s really happening around the world) doesn’t sell. Nothing sensational about it, and nothing that really focuses you to think.

Over the years I’ve chosen other news sources. Recent reports of the differences in Time magazine covers around the world points this out. Americans get sanitized news. When I checked my Google Reader this morning, these were just a few of the headlines from Al-Jazeera (OMG…..Arab papers….can you hear the history police now?):

How much of these will you see or hear about on your local – and national news? As much as I love Whitney Houston’s music, there are other important things happening in the world that we should have an idea about. Depressing? Yes, on so many levels. It is hard to watch the news when you can see historically that we are headed down so many paths that are destructive. But then you also have a responsibility to be informed and to speak up.

I have a feeling if I used Al Jazeera as a source of news to investigate and vet for truth in an Arizona classroom, I would be on my way to jail if this new bill passes. Never thought in my lifetime I would  see restrictions on my freedom of speech.

On the Road Again….

Well, it has been at least 10 years since we did any kind of demonstration of marbling on fabric.  Full-time teaching and the need for two of us really limited our ability to get out and work with guilds. Thanks to a faithful reader (hi, Kay!!), we were booked to do a presentation to the Sunflower quilters guild on the northwest of Tucson. I was especially excited because….it’s a school day and I was doing this DURING THE DAY….love it!

We’ve been planning for this for a couple of weeks. At one point we figured it was going to be at least two trips to the car, but with careful packing, it was only one for the trip across town.

The only thing not on this stack is the crate of quilts and a green grocery bag with fabric. We pack really well.

Kay had samples of fat quarters to build interest for our demo, and the ladies were wonderful. Hubby and I work really well off each other, and his humor comes out. We spent two hours, showing the marbling process, letting people marble fabrics, and showing a progression of quilts. I’ve found, since we started marbling, that too often people say, “what will you use it for?” or “what will you do with it?” To answer those questions, I always pack lots of quilts (both art quilts and more traditional ones) so that folks can see so many uses for the fabrics. Plus, it’s always fun for us to see where we’ve come as artists….and we love hearing all the “oooo’s”!

The crate of quilts, many of which are not available on the website or in the blog, because they are process quilts.

We had a great set-up in the recreation room.

What I discovered with this layout is that as Dean demonstrated some of the patterns , I held up the fat quarter with the particular pattern on it, and that way people got a much better look at a larger example.

Having eye candy is always a great idea….

Works in progress.

Some really high-tech supplies – left-over hospital pans for the rinse process.

What next? Well, we are going to start contacting local guilds in Arizona for demos, as we have all the handouts and  such prepared. At lunch we decided on a plan for a sampler so we can begin offering marbling classes at quilt shops. And…I’m going to start contacting friends around the country to see if we can “book” a couple of demos during the summer travel months. I’ll get information up on the blog and website as I get it finalized. You can always email us for more information.

A great day was had by all!

10 Things I WILL Miss About Teaching

While retiring is going to be a joy, there are definitely some things I am going to miss about teaching. So here goes:

1. The Kids. Even the class from H*** this year had its good moments. The kids keep me young, they keep me laughing, and they’ll believe just about anything you tell them. Case in point: Nicole a year ago asking me where zombies go when they die. Despite my trying to get across to her that zombies don’t exist, she kept asking, saying “Hypothetically.” So I finally answered “They go to algebra heaven.” And she was fine with that answer.

2. The challenge of teaching so many different subjects and learning so many new things. Over the years it’s been high school American History, AP US History, psychology, literature and writing, grammar, earth science, basic math, middle school social studies, elementary gifted programs, middle school math, and finally high school math. I’m a walking Jeopardy board.

3. Mathematics, particularly algebra and geometry. After some dismal experiences in high school, I have relished understanding the ins and outs of algebra and geometry, and I will miss the opportunity to continue to improve my explanations of how algebra really works.

4. The Kids. I am in touch through Facebook with so many former students, and I just love watching them grow and have families.

5. Student theater. I did this for 15 years, thanks to one of my first mentors, Sue Ann Loudon. From Carousel to Oliver to Music Man to Peter Pan and numerous small plays in between, I loved every moment, and I have the pictures and tapes to prove it. But that’s a job for someone much younger.

6. Conferences, especially when paid for by the school districts. I loved my time with the art partnership with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. A great time at the ASCD conference both in Baltimore and Anaheim – and if the principal had approved our plan for taking kids to the Getty, so many more would have benefited. To think it all started with the National Association of Gifted and Talented in Portland, and included being in DC the night of – and day after – the 2000 election for the International Dyslexia Conference.

7. The creativity of planning a successful lesson. When it goes right, there’s nothing better.

8. Being “on stage” and having a good time with the kids during lessons. There’s all the voices and chants and little dance moves, the quadratic formula to the tune of Jingle Bells, and all the videos.

9. The “Big Projects.” All the plays, World Peace Day in April 1972, Model UN in 1973, the Shakespeare Festivals with 150 kids, the Learning Lab, and many more.

10. The Kids and making a difference in their lives. It took me a long time to realize that this is what I was meant to do.

10 Things I WILL NOT Miss About Teaching….

I will no doubt spend some time in reflection over these last 40 years in some form of public education. I found an interesting editorial I had written about 8 years ago that I will probably recreate here. Mostly this week it’s been about things I am not going to miss.

1. Short lunch periods. Some of the schools I’ve been in had 20-minute lunch periods, which makes it tough to have any kind of a leisurely lunch, especially when you factor in having to use the bathroom and set up for the next class after lunch. I still eat fast at lunch; it’ll be a hard habit to break!

2. Lack of accountability on all parts. Teachers – there are so many in the profession who shouldn’t be there. I find myself at times taking shortcuts just to survive the daily grind, and I lose sleep over it. Students who do not take responsibility for their work and behavior. Parents who let kids get away with anything they want. Makes me scared for the future….

3. Spending most of Sunday doing lesson plans and marking papers for the coming week. I don’t see myself getting depressed anymore on Sundays, trying to get ready for the week and resenting upwards of 8 hours spent on paperwork and lesson plans.

4. The next “new thing” – everything old is new again….Professional development, for the most part. If I had stayed, I would be taking Essential Elements of Instruction for the third time in my career – doesn’t matter that I can prove I have taken it already, and that I use the information when I plan classes. I am also spared Restorative Practices and Circles……

5. “Teenage drama.” Especially from the girls. Oy, teenage girls and cat fights and gossip. Perhaps not as bad as middle school level, but I have to keep telling myself the frontal lobe is not completely developed…..

6. Sagging pants on the boys. Do you realize just how stupid we think you look? And grabbing your crotch to hold your pants up makes you look even more like an idiot….

7. NCLB – good ole No Child Left Behind, that has managed to remove any joy from learning completely. I can prepare kids to pass tests with the best of them, but that isn’t an education.

8. Bathroom on a bell schedule. I gotta tell ya, bathroom breaks with 90 minute classes? No wonder teachers don’t get all the water they need in a day. If we save it till we get home in the late afternoon, then we’re up several times at night.

9. Unresponsive school districts and wacko state legislatures (yes, Arizona, I’m talking about you…). This is the worst time in my career for teacher-bashing. I’m tired of no support, large class sizes, out-of-date technology, especially when we are evaluated on how we use the technology.

10. Whining students. No more “do we have to?”, “that’s too much work,” “I didn’t do it” and ad nauseum.

Ah, retirement!

The Events in Tucson, Part 4

We made it through the week, but not without a lot of extra angst. We planned on Thursday what we would do to keep the kids save if the WBC protested outside out school. It is not easy trying to convince teenagers that doing nothing is the best course of action.

I got to school on Friday at 6:45 AM to find several police cars already in front of the school. That was a comforting sight. Those of us volunteering met in front of the school, only to hear that the WBC members hadn’t gotten on the plane to leave Kansas, so good news for us. The police wanted us to stay through the next half hour to help students enter in case others decided to show and protest.

When we went back out, the Angels were across the street. This is a group of people who show to protect groups from the WBC protests. They do this around the country, and specifically in Tucson to keep the families of shooting victims from having to see the hate.

I got tears in my eyes. It was a beautiful site, these people who don’t know us who came to protect our students from these hate-filled people. The kids thought they were the “bad guys,” and so we were explaining to them this whole situation. A lot of students were convinced they were the KKK, so yet again we had interesting discussions in class, rather than doing a lot of math.

Everyone was tired, and it was certainly difficult maintaining the usual classroom decorum, but as I’ve said, sometimes systems of equations take a backseat to life. I’m still feeling very raw about everything, but I’ve been getting good feedback for the Art from the Heart project. I spent a few hours today working on my piece, and I should be able to finish it up tomorrow. It is raw, like my emotions, but I think it conveys a powerful message. I’ll have more on that tomorrow.

Revisiting China – Part 1

One of my projects as a result of our recent move is to sort and organize slides and pictures: one because of the need for the extra space, two to eliminate anything that still has smoke from our fire 20-plus years ago, and three to find a way to enjoy all these memories. Now that I have a home for “recycling” slide mounts and boxes, I am ready for this project. Slides are sorted into a slide box we had been given years ago and never used; there’s one drawer of China slides and a second drawer of personal slides. I’m starting on the China slides.

How to organize? One of the most impressive memories from this trip in 1978 (before normalization of relations with the US) was the visits to the schools, so that’s where I am starting. Some background: I was teaching middle school science at the time in Phoenix, Arizona, when I became involved with the US-China People’s Friendship Association, a group working to bring about normalization (the recognition of “Red China”) as a legitimate country. This has been a passion of mine for years, since early high school, and especially influenced by a book by William Lederer (senior moment – lost the name) about the “truth” about Chiang Kai-Shek. I won a number of debates in high school based on the strenghts of my pro arguments, which didn’t make me any more popular. Oh well, I WAS right.

In 1978 I was selected as one of 20 people from the western part of the United States to travel for 3 weeks in China. I had never been anywhere, and China was at the top of my travel list. I was in heaven! I was gone for nearly a month, have a full notebook of interviews and impressions, and probably well over a thousand slides (all of which are being weeded down to the best. Each place we visited (fron Guangchou – the “old” Canton” to Beijing) we were able to meet and ask questions. I was in charge of all the school stops, since I was the only teacher in the group. It was the most amazing adventure.Our first visit was an elementary school, and the playground looked suspiciously like the typical US school ground. Teachers were wandering around, organizing activities, like tug of war. Notice the blues and grays for colors, especially on the adults. We were there at the end of the Cultural Revolution; the Gang of Four had just been imprisoned. Bright colors were a “western” problem, and we had been asked in doing our packing to look at basic browns, blues, and grays for colors, pants, no dresses, to respect the Chinese. We only saw bright colors on the children, until we hit Tokyo on our way back – our senses were literally assaulted with color.

If you notice make-up on the children, it’s because many of them were going to be performing for us during our visit. We were treated to amazing displays of arts and athletics, and at the time China was not a player in sports on the world stage. We all know that has changed.

I was particularly taken by the blackboard at the end of the playground, with all the announcements. It was pristine; no damage, vandalism, or the like. One of the questions I asked at our first meeting with the teachers and administrators of the school was how they dealt with vandalism. I ws asked to rephrase the question, and then asked to define vandalism. The teachers looked at each other, not understanding the word…or the concept. The reply was “why would anyone want to destroy what they need?” Why indeed….

We saw all types of entertainment, from the little singers, singing songs of leading the good life according to Chairman Mao….

…to guymnastic displays of all ages. Look carefully at their equipment. Floors covered with skinny rugs, bare walls – nothing like we would expect for building athletes.

Some performances were more formal. This was a group of young ladies performing basic magic tricks for us, and they were very good. Stage presence was something I remarked upon at the time, and I still think it’s pretty amazing how poised they all were. I know how difficult it is to develop that in young children during theater.

This dance/song number talked about importance of water and work to develop a good cotton crop.

This is the classroom that sticks with me so many years later. Sixty students in the classroom, no textbooks in sight. If you look closely, you will see double-digit multiplication problems on the board. No paper visible among these second graders. Students would raise their hand with a solution they had worked out in their heads, be called upon, come to the front of the room, and respond. We don’t even begin teaching basic multiplication facts until third grade….

We had certificates made up of our trip before we left the United States. We brought along a Polaroid camera to take pictures of our hosts and the group, which would then be affixed to the certificate. This is still one of my prized possessions. (I’m second row on the left….)

The children crowded around us to watch the picture develop – absolute magic!

Shanghai, as well as most other cities, had what were called Children’s Palaces, a place for students to go after school for more activities. A good many of them were focused on the arts, but many others were practical. Here’s one of our group members playing – of all things – Chinese jump rope.

Lots of musical instruction, as well as impromptu concerts for us.

The needlearts are very strong in China at that time, especially needlepoint.

Lots of martial arts demonstrations….

…and every where we went we were sent off to applause. For so many people we were the first Westerners they had ever seen.

Ballet had been banned during the Cultural Revolution, so it was encouraging to see this, and then one evening a classical ballet performance.

This is going to be wonderful, retracing this amazing trip. I will be culling the best of the slides to put together in a photo book so that I can look at these images more often. I’ll post more as I proceed with this project…and a glimpse of a China just beginning to modernize and embrace capitalism.

On Rethinking Retirement……

Today was the first day of two for professional development on Understanding by Design, or UbD. The staff at the school all has to have this training as part of our three-year plan, and I was resisting this because I’ve read through elements of this on my own, as well as tried to apply some of the “big ideas” to a museum project several years ago. I am here to say today is causing me to seriously rethink retirement – the day was amazing, and I do not say that lightly about professional development.

Understanding by Design is a three-stage program to develop more meaningful curriculum that is effective, engages students, and promotes enduring understanding, as Howard Gardner would say. We spent the day on Stage 1, unwrapping the curriculum in order to plan for the end result. Duh. In 20 years of doing student theater, I always did what I call “backplanning,” but NOT ONCE did I think to apply that skill to my classroom teaching.

As we continued through the day, I kept seeing lights at the end of the tunnel, answering for me ways to fix what I am unhappy with in my algebra classes. I do too much direct instruction, I don’t have the kids do enough inquiry, and they aren’t engaged enough or see algebra as a meaningful course of study. I actually wanted to read through standards and try to cluster some of the performance objectives so the planning  makes more sense. The warm-up we did would make more sense than the (to be honest) drill and kill I usually do for practice (and, really honest, management…). In fact, I have some ideas for small group bell work for next week to extend some of the understanding.

All through the day I was (and still am) very conflicted. I am planning to retire in two and a half more years. I have been dealing with some health issues that may make me retire early. Plus, I realized if I go the full years more I will actually end up hurting my retirement benefits, as there hasn’t been a raise, and nothing is in sight. Two and a half years would cut off one of my higher salary years. So I am looking at numbers.

But then I sit in a workshop and get truly excited about trying some new strategies and ideas for teaching algebra, and I don’t want to leave. Retirement is an ending, as well as a beginning. I started teaching 40 years ago this September, and while it is probably time – age-wise – to go, it feels like “the end.” I don’t think I’m ready for closure, even though I want to seriously expand my art work and licensing. I’m not sure I can “let go” of 33 years of teaching, when I still feel like I have a lot more to offer. I still love this stuff – workshops, class management, curriculum, and all. I miss the teaching teachers that I used to do. I have all these skills and experiences (and endorsements) from all these years, and I’m not sure I can give it up…..

So just when I think I am coming to decisions, something happens to change it all. Darn you, Dr. Larry….now what do I do?

Thursday Thoughts – Major Rant and Sergeant Pity Party

Those of you who are readers of my blog (and thank you for those who emailed me to see where I was!) know that I struggle with being a teacher and trying to develop an art business. Well, let me warn you now, this is both a rant and a pity party, so pass on if you’re not interested. It’s just that I have found my blog a great way to process what’s going on in this overactive head of mine.

Saturday saw me admitted to the hospital with chest pains and shortness of breath. 72 hours later and one fairly incompetent doctor I am released with absolutely no answers beyond “it’s probably stress.” Between family history and my own history of lung clots, these symptoms were something I couldn’t ignore. I had been feeling poorly the week before: lots of bloating (and knowing I wasn’t putting weight on), tiredness, anger, and frustration. While I am in the last three years of teaching, I really want to be retired, and that isn’t going to happen any time soon.

Friday last week was homecoming at our high school, and as I watched the band and pom line and cheerleaders parade through the halls, I felt a little teary about what I would be missing when I do retire. I can remember back – way more years than I want to – to marching band (in fact, the first kiss happened in the uniform closet of the band room…). I do love teaching, and I am positive that this was my correct life’s work. But I am tired, especially with all the changes to the field in the last 15 years. This is certainly a job for young people – or at least younger that their 6th decade.

Couple that with being in Arizona, the second poorest state in the country, with a state legislature that wants to disband public education, no budgets and large class sizes. As much as I despise NCLB, I recognize for me that the emphasis on curriculum development and standards has helped me teach. But I also know that the end-all of test scores has been a death knell to thinking and creativity. Kids need to know what they “will get” for learning something. The complete joy of learning is totally gone. No more reading a book because it sounds like a great story. No more pursuing an idea to see where it will take us.

Now I have always had a problem with the less-than-competent in my field, and I take criticism of teachers very personally. I had my share of bad ones, but there were more good ones than bad. I am so fortunate right now to be in a great school with very supportive administrators and a lot of really fine teachers. But I’m tired….tired of constant papers, lesson plans, students who can’t be motivated, pressure to improve test scores, and probably the biggest – a living wage.

This is year 33 for me, and I still make less money than I did in Vermont some 16 years ago. That to me is criminal. Part of the stress is trying to live on the income, especially when the school district decided to put everyone on the same pay dates, and we have to go for three weeks at the end of the summer without a check….that has totally screwed up finances for the start of this school year. We had to borrow to pay a life insurance bill before the end of the grace period. After all these years as a public employee, things should have gotten a little easier.

And yes, I am well aware that I still have a job in this economy. Which is killing any attempt I am making to build an art business. I have been very productive art-wise this year, and readers for years know I tend to be very fallow during the school year. Not so since January of this school year. I have completed a couple of large pieces, and I spent a lot of time this summer working on marketing. Now I did a lot of reading (as I always do…) about building an online business, and I must say I did everything suggested that I could afford to do.

Ebay is down, Etsy isn’t happening, my blog numbers aren’t up, nobody’s buying off the newsletter or the website, and I was rejected for a major art show. And there are all theses classes and techniques and supplies I want to try, with no extra money. We have to scrimp to buy fabric.

Don’t get me wrong, I have NEVER expected a free ride. I work very hard at everything I do. But I think it’s about time for things to ease up a bit. This summer I had a taste of what retirement will be – time to visit friends, work on art, write, all those activities that make my heart and mind sing. But it’s not happening right now. I look at people working full time on their art and I am so jealous. I want to do this NOW.

And that’s what’s stressing me out. Why can’t I build a business without having to wait for retirement? This is what I’m going to have to struggle with; what can I do in the time I have? While I love teaching, it makes huge demands on you emotionally and physically, and lots of weekends – and evenings – there is no energy for anything else, even a doodle. I haven’t written in the blog in 3 weeks, something I love to do. My brain is tired, my body is tired, and now I’m recovering from paying the penalty of stress.

Sure it could have been worse. I’m very thankful it wasn’t. But I need some breaks NOW….

In the meantime, I am attempting to prepare for Tucson Arts and Crafts Association holiday show on November 20. Every member says they do really well selling during the show…….hmmmmm, what about fiber? We’ll just have to see……

Work-In-Progress Wednesday – The Education System

I attended an interesting meeting after school today, a discussion about what makes an honors program at the high school. We brought up loads of ideas and good points to pursue further, but a number of things stuck in my mind – maybe it’s because I have been at teaching for over 30 years.

Point 1 – and I think the MOST important when it comes to learning – is that the JOY of learning is gone for students. Everything is assessment-based, to the detriment of actually learning. Students no longer know what to do with an idea that might be interesting, or a book to read that’s recommended just because it’s good. A number of years ago – and this was before the mess that is NCLB – I asked my fifth graders to choose a piece of science fiction and read it. I then spent 15 minutes trying to convince them that there was no assignment or test – they might just find the book interesting. It truly was a foreign concept. Nowadays it seems that students try to figure out just what they need to do to pass a test and get the grade. The actualy learning is way down the scale.

Point 2 – “regular” classes are now considered the “stupid” classes. This was a shock to me. I am three years into teaching at this school, and I know there’s a strong Honors/AP set of classes. For two years I’ve been working with the kids who had difficulty all through middle school with math. A good many of them didn’t belong in the support classes, and they would admit they didn’t want to do the work. Now I am teaching “regular” algebra classes, and trying to improve on the rigor in the classes. It never occurred to me that is was considered “poor form” to be in a regular class as opposed to an honors class. The big question is how to we provide an education that is rigorous and appropriate for every student? Given the class sizes this year, it’s even harder than in the past.

Point 3 – should there be requirements for being in an honors class? When I taught AP US History, I let anyone in who waned the challenge. My biggest class was 33 and most of them worked really hard in the class. When we looked at stats last year for our students who are exceeding on the #^$%@$# state assessment test, we found we had fewer and fewer kids who were excelling. Students were getting by. So requirements or open invitation? How do we get kids to take the challenge and want to do some appropriate and different work?

From the meeting I went to the chiropractor. This year is taking a huge toll on me physically: cement floors for very sore legs, white board writing which is throwing out my shoulder, long class periods that are messing with my bladder – this is definitely a job for young people. And then I listen to discussions, and I think that nothing ever changes, it only gets worse. I guess I really do recognize that it’s getting to be time to retire…I can’t generate the enthusiasm that I used to, even two years ago.

Education will always continue to be a work in progress, which is as it should be…..but we need to see some progress somewhere along the way….

Our Own Art Educations

Like so many of you, I am a regular reader of Robert Genn’s Twice Weekly Letter. This latest one looked at the traditional master-apprentice role in the arts, and I was particularly taken with some of the thoughts, especially since marbling has always followed this road. Apprentices worked with masters for years, learning and absorbing every trick and skills through watching – and later on by doing.

This made me think of how we get our own art educations, a topic near and dear for so many of us. I’m self-taught in virtually everything I have done artistically. I would hazard a guess that this is true for most of us baby boomer women. We were encouraged to go into paths that would support us or provide for families, with little thought as to what would make our hearts sing. As we’ve gotten older we have become more expressive.

Self taught. It seems to be fine in so many fields to say you are self-taught – tutored in life. But not in art. At least for me, I still feel intimidated when I see in a CV of someone in an art show all their schooling and formal coursework in the arts. My own art education early on consisted of a few art projects in elementary school and then a “class” as an elective in high school where we churned out particular projects. But nothing in creativity. Which ties in to a recent article in Newsweek on the dearth of creativity in modern classrooms and education.

I’m rambling, I know. But I’ve had to learn how to be creative, to break through the “OMG, what will it look like?” phase of making art. Would working with a master have helped this? I don’t know, but it probably wouldn’t have hurt any.

Who are our masters in the arts today? From whom do we study and learn? Enter the Internet, the cheap equalizer to getting an art education. The joke in our family always was that if my dad wanted to learn how to do something new, he would read a book. Well, I got that gene. I read everything I can get my hands on if it’s something I am really interested in. But that can get to be expensive, although still cheaper than a formal education or coursework.

The internet has opened up huge resources for us. I started on TV with Sewing with Nancy and Eleanor Burns and Kaye Woods. I picked up all kinds of hints – and reasons why something I was already doing (through guesswork) wasn’t working. Like many of us, I have taken workshops when I can afford it. Jennie Rayment and her muslin creations still stick in my mind – such possibilities for texture!

Just one of Jennie Rayment's books

The first professional workshop on marbling was with Galen Berry (over a year ago) and it was wonderful – lots of questions answered, problems solved, and energy renewed. We started to zoom ahead in our skills.

Galen Berry

Then I went to the School of Threadology with Superior Threads. Yes, I know I rave about their threads, but the professional education I received over the three days with Bob and Heather Purcell was priceless. My work has taken a dramatic turn for the better – and I don’t break thread anymore….

School Of Threadology

Now I’ve discovered Interweave and their dvds on quilting and other artistic endeavors. Better than a book because I can see things actually being done.

Interweave

I watched a leaf tutorial by Heidi Lund and already picked up a bunch of hints to try something totally new for my bamboo piece. Carol Taylor’s video on her Arc-i-Texture techniques had me making a new quilt last night to try out the ideas…and I must say I’m loving it! And Susan Brubaker Knapp’s video on machine quilting corrected a whole bunch of errors I have puzzled over.

Carol Taylor

Susan Brubaker Knapp

Heidi Lund

And of course we can’t forget YouTube. I have been devouring and studying very closely the wealth of marbling videos on line.

So my question to you is: What’s the best professional development you’ve ever attended – the one that has changed how you do your art? I want to know!

PS – all of these recommendations are unsolicited – they’re just stuff I have learned from and appreciate – nothing comes to me as a result of you checking these out! (OK, FCC – happy?)

Thoughts for a Thursday – Reflections on a Year


This is a perfect day for my first Thursday Thoughts – the last day of the school year. I had a fabulous year, compared to the past 12 teaching in Tucson. I took on a challenging group of students and loved them – they have grown so much in their math skills, and hopefully in their work ethics. I held up the graduation robe that we started the year with and said, Three more years and you will be wearing this. Lots of hugs as the kids left.

This morning was the faculty breakfast, and I was pleasantly surprised. Administration cooked, student council served – and then the entertainment started – videos put together by a bunch of the tech guys – most of whom I don’t know. Hey, after all it’s a staff of 200! The films were just hysterical – spoofs of professional learning communities, our pigeon problem (neutered feral cats….), the “most interesting man on campus”, and a take-off on Apocalypse Now – looking at the state of education and our budget problems in Arizona.

The doings reminded me of the send-offs at Baldwin High School on Maui, where I first started teaching. At Chittenden East in the 70s we did some serious partying – Kathy and I gave the best parties each year. Cartwright – Bingo and some good get-togethers at the local watering holes. When I went back to Vermont, we were all older, and most had kids, so we didn’t get together much except for sedate dinner parties.

In the other two schools I have been at since moving to Tucson, any levity was wrung out of us over the years by stress. Last year I just wanted out of that school.

But this year has been so different – good, professional people, great teammates, needy kids, and a chance to really teach algebra concepts. This will be a great place to finish out teaching……by the way, only 20 more sets of report cards before I retire……

And now…..I’M ON VACATION!!! And…I took a nap on a rainy afternoon – doesn’t get much better!

Welcome to Marbled Musings!


Welcome to the world of marbled fabrics, creativity and Photoshop, and the occasional comments on life. Most of the posts revolve around these topics. I’ve broken them down into categories, along with some of the keys posts in each. Feel free to browse, and come back, for I have been really increasing my design productivity.

Photoshop:
Orange Blossoms
Photoshop Transforming
Creativity:
The Digital Generation
Artists, Creativity, and Depression
Organization Queen
The Importance of Art Education
When Art Class Works
Marbling:
Adventures in Marbling
History of Marbling
History of Marbling – Part 2
Top Ten Lists:
Boo on You, Martha Stewart!
Top Ten Inspirational Books

In Memoriam – Al Myers


I met Al Myers in the early spring of 1990. We were doing auditions for “Peter Pan” at the middle school, and Al stopped after rehearsal to ask if we needed any help. His daughter Briana would be in the play, and he wanted to help. I had no idea he knew so much about theater; I just knew he taught in one of the towns over from us.

My earlier experiences with parents “helping” had not been good ones, so I figured Al could help control kids and work on props. Little did I know I had just met someone who dreamed as big as I did. “Peter Pan” at the middle school? Well, maybe the stage isn’t big enough, and you know, we could build a stage extension and platforms to increase the overall staging for the show. And we could probably modify the existing lights, bring in some new ones, and I’ll show you every step of the way.

I was pulled in to doing everything. Al sketched things out, I took him through some of my blocking, and suddenly I was in the midst of helping kids build four large platforms to extend out over the stairs to the small stage in the gym. I wrote down nearly everything Al had to say, size of lumber, how many two-by-fours, size of bolts and nuts and washers. Everything could be collapsible to store for each year in our limited wing space. And sturdy? 30 kids dancing – not a problem.

Then there was the lighting – Al brought in a friend and lots of extra lights and showed me how you really light a show. Up and down the cherry picker to angle lights – boy, it was like taking a private class in stage lighting. Al knew so much!

The show was a massive hit, and afterwards I told Al I couldn’t have imagined the show without all his help. He did the same thing the following year (minus the stage extension – we just put it all back together), and we had even better lighting for “Music Man.” After that show my job changed, and I wasn’t around to continue with the two middle school theater programs, but I carried that knowledge on – through what I learned from Al I was able to bring better experiences to another middle school theater program, and thus increase his influence.

I have been fortunate being able to say thank you to the professionals who have helped me grow along the way. After “Peter Pan” and “The Music Man” I said a great big thank-you to Al – who replied that he was just glad he could help.

When I heard the news yesterday, it was like the proverbial punch to the stomach – how could someone so young, so wonderful, just not be there any more? How could a master teacher be gone? I think every teacher hopes he or she can influence eternity. Al Myers – you will always live on in the countless people you taught, from kid to adult. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Williston, Vermont, the arts – we have lost a master teacher.

A few pics of Peter Pan – kids out on the state extension and in front of the curtain.


Fubar….


I tried, I really tried…….I kept calming myself, one thing after another, starting at 7:30 when I walked in the door. It just kept getting worse. Then I had my difficult class during fourth period, and they were wonderful – and we got loads done. I was very proud of them. But the rest of the day – sheesh.

No wonder my blood pressure was up at the doctor’s. I’m trying….I’m really trying……

A Busy First Day


A very busy morning – did lots of shredding of old IRS stuff, old business stuff – several bags for recycling. Did some cleaning (still have a very long way to go….) And I got a walk in – the weather is nice and breezy. We burned sage in several of the spots around the house – get the good energy flowing.

As I reflect back on 2007, it was a good art year. Not so much in terms of actual fiber created, but we were able to finally solve our marbling problems, I started on Photoshop, and I finally got into doing digital work from the marbled fabrics. We sold an art piece (Night Eyes, from some of our first framed attempts), had some good ebay custom orders, and felt like we had momentum with Marble T. Now it’s time to look at the coming year and what we would like to accomplish. Which I think will be our goals for this week – we definitely want to reactivate our Preferred list, so we get more hits on the website, as well as add more fiber work. I want to get a fiber portfolio completed, and I would like to enter a minimum of five different shows this year.

Lots to think about, and trying to balance the momentum with school with be interesting – as usual. I completed most of my art plans today – looked through standards, sketched out the semester projects, and developed the rules for art class – which I think are pretty good. One of the things that amazed me as I was working with the art standards is how much my kids were actually in the intermediate set of standards, between the various discussions and projects. I feel really good about that.

Math – that’s another thing to think about over the next few days. I’m avoiding it because teaching to the test really is morally and ethically against everything I believe that makes a good education for a child. Heard from Kathy in Vermont that the new principal is even thinking about doing away with their exploratory classes in favor of more academics. Who was it who said a society is judged by its art? The Bush years have not been good ones for civilization…..

I’m working on another piece off a freeform pattern – here it is in original, black and white lines, and then as the genesis of a Rainforest piece.


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