Road to a tough decision continued…


I returned to my third year in the same school district and fourth year teaching with a missus attached to a new last name and a secret.  Life changes were coming to me in threes.

Students had a difficult time calling me by my married name and I had a difficult time keeping my emotions in check.  By the first parent teacher conference, most students in my class knew I was pregnant due to my morning sickness.  Five minutes before parent teacher conferences were over; I was closing up my classroom so that I could spend some quality sick time in the bathroom when a set up parents and their daughter strolled down the hallway.  I apologized for my leaving saying that I had a bought of morning sickness and that their daughter was doing well in my class.

I worked hard to put together lessons for my long term sub while continuing to supervise yearbook, coach dance team, and teach.  I worked right up until I had my daughter and continued to grade artwork, contact my long term sub, and pop into school while on maternity leave.  Four weeks later, I returned to work with my breast pump in tow.

The school district decided to make deep cuts for the following year by reducing me to seventy percent.  I would be to school every day two hours after school started, while still advising yearbook and coaching dance team.  I spent a great deal of time discussing the options with my principal of making the position full time.  Unfortunately, the school board would not support me traveling between schools. 

I finished out the rest of the school year and signed my contract for the following year at seventy percent with a heavy heart.    Marriage, new baby, and change in employment status placed an added stress on my personal life.

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Road to a Tough Decision Part Three…


Life’s best laid plans sometimes add to the complications of teaching.  I had established myself as one of the art teachers at my new school and was chopping up the new school year when my boyfriend and I discussed getting married.  When he decided to ask me, I was wrapping up the first semester and had started making wedding plans.  I thought that arrangements would be easy.  However, no organizing is easy.

I continued to be the adviser for dance team and yearbook.  Both jobs had me at school until after supper at night and into school before breakfast.  Top all this responsibility with panning a wedding in the summer.  I think I went a little crazy.

The year was such a blur.  My fiance and I had arranged the ceremony and the reception before we announced our engagement to our families.  We continued to live and hour and a half from each other.  I kept busy with small wedding decisions and my career.  Students talked a great deal about the upcoming wedding in July and with good reason since it was almost the only thing going on in my life outside of school.

I had been looking at houses for a few months and finally bought one in March that would settle us between the towns we worked in.  So I added fixing up this house to the list of things I was organizing.  I believe I was glutton for punishment.

I made it through the year and even through the first part of summer vacation before we finally said our vows.  I even secured my position for the following year, teaching in the same building with the same responsibilities.  And now I could return as missus instead of miss.

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Metal Tooling Lesson Plan

metal cuff

There are times when I sat and did hours of research to find the right kind of lesson for the materials I had chosen.  Often, I was looking for art that had a functional purpose for my students so that they would actually take it home versus filling up my trash with thousands of dollars worth of materials.  Hidden in one of my cabinets, there were about seven rolls of metal foil that I had inherited when I started teaching at the middle school.  Teachers before me had students create some Aztec inspired mandalas.  The examples were beautiful but I was concerned that my impoverish, rough around the edges students would be careless since they could relate to artistic history.

I came across this tutorial,, one night of researching.  I loved the idea and thought that students would take a more personal interest.  When they finished them, one girl said, “I wish it were just little longer to fit on my wrist.”  The next time I had students create the napkin ring, I precut the foil a little longer to become a cuff.  This item was often never in the trash after the project was evaluted and sent home with students.

PDF Doc  MetalCuffLP

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Road to a Tough Decision Part Two

Sometimes decisions lead a person back home.  After vowing to never teach in the school I graduated and abandoning my farm roots, I hurled myself back to my hometown to teach at my Alma mater and live with my parents on their farm.  This was a true test of the loving relationship I had with my boyfriend and my sanity while living with my parents.

After a couple of weeks getting turned around at the high school and piggy backing the curriculum of my old art teacher turned new colleague and mentor, I found myself still not settling.  My duties included teaching most of the foundation art classes, advising the yearbook staff, and coaching dance team.  Though my responsibilities pulled me in multiple directions, I was more stressed about the students in my classes.

In a class of mainly freshmen and sophomores, there was a senior who enjoyed stirring up the class.  His first day in my class was spent drawing Nazi symbols.  The vice principal removed him from my class immediately.  But other students took his place.  One female student played show and tell with a baby food jar of marijuana while my back was to her earning herself a suspension. Lesson number one: expect the unexpected.  Another female student talked me into playing her CD until reference to female genitalia was heard.  Lesson number two: make sure I am familiar with all music I played during class.

My yearbook class also caused me grief.  I shared an office with my mentor who was also the former yearbook adviser   I found staff members interrupting his class to ask for help instead of asking me.  Another girl dropped my class after she couldn’t meet the deadlines and yelled at me for not doing… excuse me… helping her with her work.  Lesson number three: students often expect the teacher to do the work for them.  And there was screaming and cursing between two senior girls about the senior pages.

I cried to my parents and boyfriend often about the ridiculous antics of my students.  Did I make the right choice?  Was this really where I was meant to be?  Should I stay here and endure the abuse from students who revel in making me look like an idiot?  

My classes settled down after the first semester.  I even recruited my own staff for yearbook which included a male student that I felt the staff needed to bring a calmness to girl power for the following year.  And when contracts came around and I was handed mine, I didn’t hesitate to sign.  Next year surely couldn’t be worse than this year.

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Road to a tough decision…

Needs have recently changed in my family causing me to reflect on my past and present to make a decision for the future.  I pause for a moment as I sing that Clash song,” Should I stay or should I go?”  This entry is the first, giving insight into a journey that many teachers can relate whether male or female, married or single, with kids or no kids.  Should we continue where we are or move on?

My first teacher job was for private Catholic schools making just over $21,000 while teaching at an elementary, multi-aged elementary, and senior high school.  At the time, this seemed substantial to me but if I truly wanted to make money, this wasn’t it.  I cared only about teaching art and having health insurance.  This was enough for an unmarried woman with simple needs and no children.

The responsibility of prepping for kindergarten though sixth grade and one high school class was too much for the regular work day.  Much of my work went home with me.  Halfway through the academic year, I chose to quit my second job so that I could focus on my teaching duties.  I wrote curriculum and lessons using hours of research and collaboration with colleagues after school hours to ensure my students the best art experience with my guidance.  Supplies were limited which forced me to scavenge trash or buy out of my pocket for successful student art work.  I constructed free standing display boards for my students art since space for putting up their art was limited to taping work on cinder block walls.  When students were finished with clay work, I had to coordinate with the high school art department to fire the projects in the kiln.  Unfortunately, some of the work didn’t survive the kiln firing resulting in me modifying the next ceramic lesson for them. And I spent time setting up multiple art shows with the district for the multiple buildings I was the art teacher.  My social life was limited for an early twenty something even though I was dating someone.

When teaching contracts were making their rounds, all teachers were prepared by administration for the worst since school buildings were being closed and staffing cuts were being made.  I was gripped with fear that I may not be offered a contract.  One of my  principals pulled me aside during my prep time and said he was happy to offer me a fifty percent position teaching kindergarten through second grade.  Despite being pleased that I was being offered a contract, I was still devastated that I wouldn’t have health and dental insurance.  This was a nightmare to me since I was not a dependent under my parents’ policy and I didn’t have a husband to rely on.

My boyfriend’s mother pushed us to get married selling the fact that my boyfriend had good insurance to cover me while I continued to work where I was.  This would have sounded like a great idea if it had not been for my pride and feminist belief that I needed to contribute.  Truth is that marriage should not be a means of stability but instead be for love.  None the less, I signed the contract to retain me at fifty percent while looking for a full time teaching position.

I labored to tailor each resume packet to the school districts I applied and then waited for the calls to interview.  Two came and went while I felt like I had hit bottom.  Then I caught the listing for an art teacher at the high school I graduated.  I quickly sent out my credentails.  My mother suggested I call the school to remind them that I had graduated from there as a way to get them to look at my cover letter.  Out of desperation, I called sayign I was an alum who had applied.  Not too long after, I recieve a request for an interveiw. 

My spirits were soaring as I sat in the main office of the new high school built almost three years after I graduated.  However, nervous sweat dampened my underarms and I worried that the interveiwers would notice until my old principal came out saying, ” She hasn’t changed a bit.”  My shoulders relaxed as I walked into the conference room where the interview was being held.  Proceeding the interview, I had a tour.  A few short hours after my interview I had a phonecall.  My old principal asked if I wanted to work there in the fall and without skipping a beat I said, “Of course.”

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What would you do?

This is my what if list.  Teaching is such an art form that it only makes sense that classroom management would be an art form as well.

1.  What if art students were given the freedom to construct a chair out of any sort of materials available and asked to use twigs?  Sense tells most of them to collect the twigs that have already fallen to the ground but one student came in with a whole bough waving a spread of leaves.

2.  What if an art student grabs red paint that is clogged and squeezed so hard that the paint blows up in her face and work area?  Not to mention that students grabbed a mop to clean up the red paint heap on the floor, therefor ruining the mop head.

3.  What if a group of art students hot glues Popsicle sticks to the wall?  A later, a art student glues Styrofoam to the wall.  This likely doesn’t happen at home.

4.  What if an art student claims another art student’s artwork?  He or she even wrote his or her name on the piece.

5.  What if an art student claims the art teacher example as his or her own by putting his or her name on it?

6.  What if an art student bolts out of the art room only to collide with a cart being pushed through a blind spot by a staff member doing his or her job?  And the student is flown a couple of yards?

7.  What if an art student gets sick in class and starts to puke in the middle of the room?  I’m guessing two garbage cans and three sinks were to far away.

8.  What if an art student in elementary school, starts running after another student telling this student that he or she is going to bleeping kill him?  Teachers are not trained to restrain students in any part of this state due in part to legalities.

9.  What if an art student invades your space, whether playing with your hair, touching your cheek, or feeling your shirt?  I’m even get creepy feelings when a student taps me on the shoulder.

10. What if an art student in the heat of the moment, grabs a wet sponge, and throws it targeting another student but instead hits the art teacher square on the side of the face?  I was very pregnant at the time and incredibly hormonal.

I’m often told that kids do dumb things, but a teacher needs to prepare for every known situation.  The art teacher just has more materials to work with and several people in one room moving in different directions.  The list is a rather entertaining look back over the past seven years and one month.

The tips are more for the sanity of the art teacher than giving control back to the teacher.

1. Keep It Simple!

2. Whenever possible, I need to think of the safety and well being of the majority of my class.

3.  Students also need to be told it’s not ok if it isn’t ok to do.

4.  Just because it happens to humiliate me, doesn’t mean that I have the right to lose my cool.

5.  Expect the unexpected, breath deep, remember the age of the students in the classroom, and know the adult is the teacher for a reason.

6.  Always reteach when things need to be fixed.

7.  Not every parent of every child is teaching social acceptable behaviors so that does fall on the shoulders of the teacher.

8.  Go slow to go fast.

9.  Think of one hour being practice for the next hour or one class being practice for the following class.

10.  Everything that happens at school should be left at school whenever possible.

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Interest Inventory Time….

Of course, I have done a version of an interest inventory with my students.  Then I got lazy and now I’m seeing how it can benefit my classroom management.  It’s difficult to put a name with the face but and interest inventory may be helpful.  It can also help me create seating charts throughout the semester and partners so know one is left out.  In middle school, someone is always left out.  This is the document I created.  Students will fill out the table and then in the gray areas they will find a person that has similar answers or a portion of the answers are similar.  I want to put students together that have some common interests.  The catch is that they will have to have a different person for each answer.

Getting to Know You for Middle School

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