A new quarter, a new beginning.

professional development

At my school, art is a quarterly subject and my reach is the entire school.  This means that every quarter is like the first day of school again. New students and new beginnings.  New opportunities to try out new projects and new opportunities to use new classroom management techniques.

I recently went through a professional development with a nationally renowned educational professional, Patrick Flynn of the ReVision institute.  If I’m being completely honest with myself, I found it both great and a little daunting. Great because every teacher, no matter how long you have been in the profession can ALWAYS get better at classroom management.  You can always learn something that is going to help your classroom run smoother which is going to help you implement lessons and knowledge and in turn help your students learn better.  Notice I said help your students learn better and not become a better teacher.  Our students learning should be our goal.

Anyway, back to the professional development, Patrick Flynn was engaging and motivating.  He broke down our professional development into small chunks and gave us movement breaks, had us work with partners that we don’t really have the opportunity to get to talk to during our normal day and brought humor to our time with him.  All of these are techniques that I have found helpful and use when I have students in my classroom and so was able to relax into the routine which helped me learn about student engagement.

One thing that I have always been concerned about whenever a new initiative comes down the pipe- and in education there is always something new coming to try- is buy-in.  When teachers are stressed and skeptical of something, chances are if those skeptical teachers aren’t talked around to the idea they will not buy-in to whatever is being presented.  I have experienced this and am not proud to admit, I have been one of those teachers in the past.  This time is different.  Why is it different? Because our students seem to have no internal drive to learn, and I have no idea why.  So I’m all in.  I want to try any resource or any idea that might help.  I will even try standing on my head while teaching if I can hook my students into our lessons.

More to come on this professional development and hopefully, on some new engagement techniques too!




I took a break…

When I envisioned this blog, I thought of it as a fun place to get my feelings- the good and the bad- about teaching off my chest.  It was giving me an outlet to be creative in a different way and I really enjoyed it.  I wrote a post about how specials teachers sometimes can be disrespected among their peers and didn’t think much of it.  Then my then principal called me into his office.  One of these same peers went to my principal and told him about my blog and how they didn’t agree with what I had written and I got into trouble.

To say that I was upset was an understatement.  I was mad, sad and so so frustrated.  My principal didn’t say that I needed to shut down the blog but he did caution that I be very careful about what I post.  I tried to write a couple of blogs after that initial post and realized that it was no longer fun and I stepped away.

Fast forward a couple of years and I thought that it was time to come back and try this out again.  I’m fairly certain that the person I suspect brought my little blog to my boss’ attention still works at my school and while it really wasn’t cool of them to bring it to the attention of my principal before talking to me about it first, I want to get back on track to what I initially set out to do with this blog which is to connect with other teachers, share ideas and tell funny stories about teaching.

Much more to come, I hope.



Listening Skills (or reading skills for that matter).


Every teacher (or parent for that matter) has experienced the lack of listening skills that kids have.  You painstakingly review the instructions with the students and then write the steps out on the board/smartboard and even have the kids repeat back to you what they need to do but inevitably you have students come up to you and ask what they need to do next…. and you hold your breath, give them what you hope isn’t as murderous of a look as you think it might be in your head and point to the board.  This happens so frequently in my classroom that it has become a norm of sorts. These are kids here so I forgive and move on quickly and hope that they don’t do it again.

Even more maddening is when adults do this.  I recently got the go ahead to start work on our next mosaic project with my now 7th graders.  As you might remember, I don’t have my students for the whole year but rather a quarter so in order to work with every student before my deadline I need to seek out the 7th grade core teachers and find a time that works best for them.  This year I’m starting very early so that I can pull them from their “E-Block” time.  The “E-Block” is a study-hall of sorts where some kids might work on homework, make up tests, seek out a teacher for extra help, or read a silent reading book.  So at the beginning of the week I sent all of the teachers the following email:

Hi Everyone!

I was just given the go-ahead to start the ball rolling for another mosaic for our 7th graders which means I need to start figuring out when you guys would be the least inconvenienced to work with your students.  This year I was thinking that I could work with students during their day 4 E block (which is my prep time) if that is ok with all of you? Because this doesn’t period doesn’t meet as often as AST did last year I would like to start this as soon as benchmarks are finished on the first 4 day (September 20th).  I will leave it up to you if you would like to bring your kids

Is this ok with everyone and would anyone like to go first?

Now I thought that this was pretty straight forward here, Am I wrong? Apparently I must be wrong because I had not one but two teachers email me back asking when do I want their students.  I know it is difficult and we all have a lot on our plates- BELIEVE ME THIS I UNDERSTAND- but if we expect our students to read all of the directions, shouldn’t we hold ourselves and our colleagues to the same standards?

How would you handle this?


Starting the year off with a bang! The first few days of school.


This year I pulled a fast one on my students.  I have always started my first day of school going over my classroom syllabus and talking about the rules of the art room.  This means I talk for four classes straight and usually means I’m completely bored out of my mind but it was what I was taught to do in college and it is what all of my colleges do.  As you might recall, I teach 6th, 7th and 8th grade students.  This means the 7th graders and 8th graders have had me before for at least a year.  They know me.  They know my style.  They know what is going to get them in trouble. And they know what they can get away with too.

So a few weeks before school started I started to toy with an idea.  What if with my 7th and 8th graders I don’t do what I always do.  What if I start them on projects on the first day? Then I’m not bored and I actually gain a whole teaching day back.  Taking this a step further- because lets be honest, I can’t do anything simply- I wanted to really blow my 8th graders minds and do something so unexpected that they would practically fall off their seats….so I started with CLAY.

My first class on the first day was 8th grade.  The students came in and I put them in their assigned seats (I swear by assigned seats- it totally sets the mentality that you the teacher are in charge).  Then I passed out my usual Art Expectations rubric but assigned a due date to have them bring it in signed for a quiz grade and then had them put it away.  Honestly, they looked so confused already.

Next I said I wanted to start a project with them, but not any project- Clay! One of the students actually shook his head in surprise and said REALLY?! I can say with complete certainty that I was their favorite teacher that day.

Now I’m in the second week of school and the kiln is sweetly humming the the background as I write this post and that means the students will already have one whole project done and we have only been in school for eight days!

This is going to be my new normal. I highly recommend it to all of my art teacher friends out there.


Back from summer- an update.

So I think I unintentionally left you on a cliff hanger with my last post about our budget cuts.  So here is what happened:

My job is safe and I am ever so thankful to have stayed in this district and with these students but not everyone was so lucky.  We did lose a few young teachers last year (much less than the 16 teachers that were predicted) and because of this we had a bumping situation happen too.

One of my good friends who has been teaching in the district a little longer than me was bumped to another school and to another subject that he is certified in too.  Good news is that he has a job and his young family doesn’t need to panic but I’m sure it is a huge adjustment for him.  The position he took was of someone who lost their job and worse yet, didn’t find another one.  My heart achs for that person, I know how hard it is to sit on the sidelines after finding something you love to do.

That is the update for now…. another post to come in the next few days.


Impending doom…School budget cuts.


I have been thinking about how and when to write this blog post for awhile…. I was hoping that this year it wouldn’t be relevant and that I could save this for another time but unfortunately it is relevant now.

I feel like the biggest disservice that colleges and educational prep programs don’t tell you about as a student interested in entering the education field is that your job will be in jeopardy every year and you will have zero control of it. 

If you know me well, you will know that every spring I start to panic.  Nightmares, sweaty palms, the works.  Why might you ask? Because every spring the Board of Education of whatever town I teach in makes a request to the town/city for the budget for the next year.  Every year the town/city must decide how much of that request they will grant to the Board of Education.  And every year (at least for the towns I have worked for) that request is drastically cut.  What does this mean for the teachers in that town/city? Potentially losing our jobs. 

At my first time, full time, teaching gig I was blissfully unaware of this.  I have no idea what a “pink-slip” was.  The first year the BOE didn’t request any additional funds  from the town/city and my first year closed without any budget drama.

I was not so lucky in my second year.  That year the teacher’s contract was up and they negotiated a step increase after 4 years of step freeze.  (For those of you who don’t know what this means, the teachers had not received a single pay raise for four years and the new contract meant that everyone would be getting a small raise- for me it would have been roughly a $900 increase).  Because of this new contract and the step increase the BOE had to request a larger budget to cover it.  When it was brought before the town/city, the increase was denied. In addition to the denial of any additional funds, the town decided to close two of the schools in the district.  With this news, over 50 teachers-myself included- would receive “pink-slips”.

When teachers are “pink-slipped” it is never by how good or bad of teacher you are.  It is solely based on how long you have been there…down to the minute you signed your contract even.  You can be an outstanding teacher, teacher of the year worthy, but you have only been teaching for three years in that district and bam, you get pink slipped.  It is sad.

What did all of this mean for me? Well I was “bumped”.  I lost my job.  I cried.  A lot.  and the worst part of it? This happened in March.  Why was this the worst of it? Because teaching is the only profession where you get a pink slip, know that you don’t have a job next year and are still expected to teach your students until the end of the school year.  Let that sink in for a second.  Keep working to the level that you have been even though you have essentially been let go from your position.  And if you even think that you will slack off a little bit? Well you still need the principal to write you an awesome recommendation so you can hopefully get another job.

I finished out the school year and applied and applied and applied.  I had a couple of bites but nothing worked out for me for the next year.  I was laid off from teaching for an entire year.  During that time I collected unemployment and I volunteered at a couple of schools to keep my head in the game and learn from other teachers while I wasn’t working.

Flash forward a few years- I have a job that I love and am a tenured teacher now.  Every year I still get the nightmares and the sweaty palms come spring time.  And it seems that this year my current town/city is about to go through a very similar situation.  We have a step increase this coming year and the town/city has not allocated enough new funds to cover the step increase for next year.  Every non-tenured teacher has received a pink-slip.  I was told by a union rep that 16 teachers will be let go and that programs will be scaled back.  While I didn’t receive a pink-slip because I am tenured, if my program is scaled back it will be me who loses a job.  It is simply unbelievable and heartbreaking to think that no matter how good of a teacher I am, it doesn’t matter.  I am the lowest man on the totem pole for my department and if they cut my department I will have no recourse.

I feel that anyone who wants to enter teaching should know this information.  Your career is not necessarily in your control when teaching.  If you are truly passionate about teaching, teach.  If you aren’t sure, please run in the other direction.

Only time will tell how the chips will fall this year.  One thing is for sure, my district is about to lose some great, young and enthusiastic teachers and the students are going to suffer because of it.


It never fails…..Interruptions.

There is that joke,”What does and interrupting cow say?” Wha-” “MOOOOOO!”

“Hi kiddos, last class we were talking about contour lines”. *ring, ring*- “Hold on a second kiddos.” “Can so and so come pick up their gym clothes at the office?”  “Sure.  So and so, go grab your gym clothes. Oh you don’t even have gym today? Ok, well go grab them anyway.”

“So guys, we were talking about contour lines and figure drawing like Keith Haring.  Tell me some of the things you remember from our Power Point last class.” I call on a student who starts to give me some great answers and….*ring, ring* “Hold that thought”.  Send so and so to the office to speak with the vice principal.

To so and so, “go down to the office.  No I don’t know if you are in trouble”. Student leaves.  “I know what he did!” “OOOOO, tell us!” “Kiddos, lets get back to our discussion.” *ring, ring* ugh…. “Please also send so and so” (the kid who is in the ‘know’ is also in trouble).  “So and so, head to the office” kid turns white.

“Ok kiddos, sorry for all the interruptions, lets get started before we get another call” (we all giggle). *Ring, Ring* Really?! This time it is the guidance office and they need three of my students.  If you are doing the math I have just lost 5 of my students in less than 5 minutes.

A few minutes later we are finally in a groove.  Projects are out.  Paint is poured and the kids are mixing their own colors.  I am going over the next step with the class- actively demonstrating on the whiteboard and……. In walk two 8th graders who immediately ask me for supplies for their science project… “Mrs. Art teacher, can we have large sheets of paper, paint and brushes?” No excuse me, no sorry for interrupting your class, no PLEASE!!!!

Sorry 8th graders, but you were the straw that broke the camels back today.  If there were some manners involved with those 8th graders, they might have walked away with everything that they asked….but lets just say they walked away empty handed today…

Unfortunately, this happens at least a few times a week.  Teachers call and interrupt. The office calls and interrupts.  Teachers walk into my room and start trying to have a conversation with me WHILE I am actively teaching.  Students walk in and often demand supplies for projects that they were supposed to get on their own.

The best and worst part of today’s interruptions? Luckily for me, my principal happened to be sitting discretely in the back of my classroom to witness all of the interruptions that happened.  He made mention of it later in the day and asked how often this happens….he wasn’t happy that it happens so frequently and has said he would speak to the offending parties! Possible win for me!

Is it just me or does this happen to you guys too?