Christmas 47 years ago…..

It started as a yearly check-up to the eye doctor, and the next thing I know I am in Wills’ Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, spending Christmas with detached retina surgery. I remember a few things very clearly- Mrs. Finklestein snoring, the lady in the bed next to me thinking I didn’t like black people because I never said anything to her (too shy, and besides, my eyes were bandaged – how was I to know?), Dad having to buy me Kotex because I didn’t think to ask the nurse. Dad taping the Flintstones so I could hear it (no video-recorders at the time), and Dad coming across town in Philadelphia by bus carrying a huge Saint Bernard stuffed dog for me. Can you tell I miss my dad?

Another very clear memory – hearing my parents’ footsteps (yes, I could tell it was them – hearing had improved) and hearing them say there was nothing for me for a future. No doubt that fueled my drive to succeed academically to prove them wrong….thank heavens I am finally past that – but it took many years. And Mr. Higgins – who came three afternoons a week to make sure I kept up on my school work – out of school for four months, couldn’t brush my teeth for 6 months – interesting memories.

Now I am facing yet more eye surgery- will probably need to have the cataract removed from my bad eye because it is keeping the retina doctor from seeing the back of the eye and checking the retina. At least the infection seems better, but I still need to do the drops – and it looks like no more driving at night. I suppose in the cosmic scheme of things I have done remarkably well all this time on really only one eye – yet it’s interesting to wonder how people actually see with both eyes working together.

Just some thoughts as they randomly crop up. I am amazed at the fact that I have kept the blog up all year, and now seem to be hooked on writing. It’s also interesting to look back at the very first piece of Photoshop art from January….

In Memory….

Eleven years ago today Carl Sagan died. I have owned three copies of Demon Haunted World, all of which have disappeared to interested students. Who will be the beacon of science in our crazy world of intelligent design and – gasp! – creation science? I have a video to show my enrichment students as we work to develop our museum for global warming – Pale Blue Dot. Now I need to go get the book…and I have to read Cosmos – probably need to get the series on Netflix.

The images remind me of December of 1968 – a year my generation wondered if we would ever survive – from the capture of the Pueblo, to Martin Luther King being shot, to Bobby Kennedy, to Czechoslovakia, to riots, to Tet and Vietnam – the year ending with the world as seen from space by Apollo 8. We are so insignificant, and the children I see every day have to survive in this larger world and maybe make the decisions that will save the planet. Quite a challenge.

It’s Official…..

…that as of Friday at 3:40 PM, I now have 26 remaining sets of reports card to do and I CAN RETIRE!!! I tried looking at some type of countdown that would seem reasonable and now feel like an eternity. 1440 school days (at that time) wasn’t workin’ for me. Seven years wasn’t workin’, and neither was number of weeks. What did seem to catch on was the number of report periods for which I would need to do grades (how’s that from the Grammar Queen?). That was eminently do-able. So – 26 more sets of report cards.

The big question is whether I can last physically and mentally – my principal actually admitted that we have too much to do, and he needs to ease things for us. Ya think? And another question is whether or not I will go back there next year. I really need to explore some new options.

That said, I am now on vacation! For two weeks I can sleep late, not do school work, and just work on art. So I started by uploading my Contribute which arrived in the mail. Five hours later I was finally able to upload pics for Suzan to see. I had to call Adobe because evidently I was “missing” something for the download, which I got, and then had to figure out how to install. I had to all Suzan because I couldn’t seem to remember coding and passwords I had used for three years….but now we should be able to get back to Photoshop Tag and create more work. As long as the weather cooperates, we’re headed to Phoenix to meet half-way next Thursday. Yay!

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

If I had written this last night because I couldn’t shut my mind down from educational incompetence, this would have been titled “#(*^!@&^%!@$*&%@$.” Moving into teaching math was not an easy decision for me. I was not a good math student once material moved into the abstract – a combination of bad teachers, “new math,” and not being in formal operations, as Piaget would have it. And it limited my options. I chose a college major based on the least amount of math I would need to take – history. Granted, it led me into teaching (nothing else out there), but there could have been a lot more options for me as a career.

Which is what I want for my students. Options. Loads of them. And research has shown that mathematics is the gatekeeper to all else economically. Now, I don’t expect my kids to love math – I want them to know they can do it – way more important. Especially where I am now – I have never worked in a school with such a strong poverty level, where kids have to worry about school lunch being their only meal of the day. So math becomes even more important – their ticket out to something better for them economically.

But it all depends on them building a foundation that is strong – not just the little pig’s house of twigs that collapses from lack of understanding. A strong house – they may not like the decor, but the house provides all the shelter they need – and their friends, and stands the test of time. That’s called mathematical understanding, and it doesn’t come from practicing test taking so you can do well on stupid local and state tests.

Alright, I’ve said it, that’s where I’m really going with this. Learning to do something for a test will not build understanding, and it makes me NUTS when I am being forced into that role. Not what I signed up for this year in making the move to a new school. And I am being told if I don’t like the way things are going, to look for a new school. This for one of their most talented teachers (and I am being incredibly humble) who has learned oodles of new stuff to do with management and student engagement this year. So – I guess that’s the decision I will need to make – for my sanity.

On Buying Art

I had said to the kids in art class that they could put their work up for sale, which they thought was kinda cool. But today three of the girls sold pieces, and now it has become a craze among the students to – not so much sell a piece – as for students to buy art. Yay! We are creating a culture where students are interested in buying another piece of art – so they value it, and the art program is growing by leaps and bounds. We have already extended the show a week – and now I have to figure out a way to manage sales. I think I have a plan – but there are grades to do, and a room to clean, and plans to do for the new semester…plus a reward party for the kids tomorrow. Nothing like a busy last day!

Hitting Roadblocks

Now I’ve been working with Photoshop for the last two hours, playing around with the camouflage piece, trying to see what I come up with. I have hit a roadblock with two of the pieces, and I’ve started on the third. What I am discovering is the need to add another whole dimension to the work, like a shape of another image – and not quite sure how to do it. But what I started doing is each time I have something I like, I save that and then continue. So I have about 7 off the same image, some of which are very cool – just don’t know what else they need. I could easily see printing them out all the same size and calling it “Cosmic Soup.” So Suzan, I need help!

Playing Around on a Sunday

School work is done for today – including getting reports on how my kids all did on the benchmark tests last week. Don’t get me started on those – nothing like having to teach to the test….rather than for genuine understanding, as Howard Gardner would call it.

But I digress. It’s time to play. I think I have another potential. Remember the camouflage from the last entry? Here it is with some blurring.

Then I looked at playing around with some lighting and a gradient – I have come to really love gradients.

The piece, at this point, looks very much like a primeval forest, so I wanted to add a shape, and decided on bear paws, my spirit animal (I collect fetishes of bears). Then I played around with the embossing, trying to maintain the original camouflage idea. I like the final result.

A New Direction in Marbling

We marbled again on Saturday, and lately we have been trying something new…using leftover fabric and marbling on the bottom of the tray. We first tried this about eight years ago, when the bottom of the tray, as we were cleaning it, looked to have a really interesting pattern. We laid a piece of cotton to see what would print, and we got a great “geologic” design. Three weeks ago we tried the same thing on some left-over 16 mm silk and got two great pieces. In fact, one of the pieces became the basis of our first try at serious digital art.

This is the piece we tried a couple of weeks ago:

The colors are soft and muted, with just hints of some of the complex patterns and colors – the color comes from scraping the bottom of the tray as we start to bail the liquid and scrub the tray. Lately we have been trying silk, which gives a great feel to the finished product. I still want to try and quilt the finished design, but haven’t had any inspiration yet.

And this is it after some serious manipulation with Photoshop (flower by Dean)……

This is not what we submitted for the digital show, but it gives a good idea of what we are after. This is another piece from yesterday’s session, left-over camouflage colors, after working on a gift for our great-nephew.

Now on to lesson plans for the week before I can play again…..

The Art Show is Up!

Two days of some hard physical labor and the art show is up! All the activity really makes me wonder how I used to do all the musicals – ‘course that was 16 years ago. Sheesh, I’m getting old. Yesterday my eighth graders helped with all the nuts and bolts (literally) of putting the panels together. Today with my seventh grade I did a quick design lesson about measuring, making sure things are straight, looking for balance, a good color mix – and then they took the artwork, chose a panel, and started to mount the work.

Two of my girls helped me during seventh period (thanks Arreana and Zayra!) and they rearranged a few panels so the work was more balanced. Turns out they discovered they have a very good eye for this sort of thing! So here they are – five out of the 10 panels – notice what I mean about the great stone wall?

You can see some of the digital work the kids did, plus some of the stained glass letters.

The circle piece is really fun – Brianna did a bunch of overlapping circles and didn’t know where to go from there. I suggested she vary the colors from light to dark and she ended up with incredible depth to the piece.

Some of the geometrics, once color was added, really improved their impact. The bottom piece started out as a perspective lesson, and when Jullian framed it off-center, it led to him adding the flames around the NYC skyline in memory of September 11.

Making Wreaths

The kids are progressing on their holiday wreaths. My advisory class should have most of theirs completed by the end of tomorrow – I will be taking them to Comin’ Home next Wednesday. One of the eighth grade boys in my art class finished his yesterday and came back after school to get it and take it home. He saw me in the hallway this morning and told me his mom just loved being able to put the wreath on the door. A good feeling…..

Here’s a couple of pictures of the process – minus any identifying characteristics of the kids – FERPA……..

And the art show panels went together today…hard work but my eighth graders were wonderful!

Photoshop, Creativity, and Kids

One of the things I have noticed with my students and their digital doodles is how much they are willing to stay focused and try different things. Because it is so easy to delete or correct mistakes, I think the kids feel much freer to try out ideas with Photoshop. One of my Somali girls has spent close to an hour trying to get hearts and flowers just the right colors – she has never shown that amount of patience with any of her other projects.

One of my eighth grade boys made a really cool optical illusion today – such care – and showing him the transform tool was genius on my part – he was able to proceed at a more rapid rate, and his comment about bringing out what was exactly in his head was worth the time.

More of the kids want to try a digital doodle, and to me I need to make more of this available next semester in art. We are checking on the cost of a site license to add Photoshop to a few more laptops, so kids can work in pairs and have more opportunities to create. Makes me wonder just how many different ways I can use this program to teach basic art skills.

More on Masking

Since I started the Photoshop lessons, I have been having issues with understanding the idea of a mask. Now I think it is finally becoming clearer (no pun intended). Here’s the original I started with.

And here’s the new version, cropped, and half the background masked, with a filter, and the other half left, with a filter. I kind of like the effect. And I did enjoy using a couple of keyboard shortcuts to the painting. I was curious to see how the half background would work – it’s interesting to have the flowers “hanging” in space like that, although I do like the colored pencil effect on the flowers.

Art Shows and Galleries

One of the girls asked yesterday about going to an art gallery. None of these kids have ever been, and sometimes I am amazed that they haven’t had this experience. Then I remind myself of two things – they’re 12, and I never went gallery hopping or to museums until I was an adult. And I started by going to craft shows.

So I need to conspire with a few people at school to see if I can pull off a trip downtown to a few galleries and perhaps the Philabaum glass studio. We can probably get there by public bus, but the details will be massive. We have an art museum, a children’s museum, and a good number of kids have been to the Arizona Desert Sonora Museum – which is very different from an art museum and gallery. If we plan this very carefully, we can do some really good things for the kids.

PS – I have finally figured out how to put links in the blog!!

Photoshop C

I really do want to finish the Launchpad C of Photoshop from so I can continue with the tutorials from NAPP (and my big membership package came today!). So I pulled an old picture from the files from Maryland (many moons ago) when I was Director of the Reading Game in Columbia. This was the group of us in Chicago at the annual conference, having a drink afterwards, with our boss. I’ve already cropped out the table and our drinks, and most of the boss.

First I got rid of red-eye – we all had it. Then I eliminated the owl picture from the background, and finally got rid of the boss we all hated. Some nice tools….

In the Presence of Greatness…..

(Tongue in cheek….)
One of the things I do really well, and have as long as I have been teaching, is organize events, large and small. We were talking at dinner, and I was saying that most of the teachers are going to be surprised at the art show and its organization. Yet this is the kind of thing I do – and love doing – plan all the nitty gritty details for an activity. So the panels are ordered, invitations are out for the kids, need to do invitations in mailboxes next week, invite central office people and Utterback staff, get artwork organized, and so on.

April 28 of next year will be the 35th anniversary of World Peace Day, an activity my Pacific and Asian Affairs Club organized in 1972. We had a state-wide day devoted to recognizing and working for peace. Brings back lots of memories – the 9 mile Walk for Peace, where I could barely move the next day, being following, trying to get a parade permit from the mayor – a great nine months of planning. I love doing this stuff!

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