Can a seasoned veteran still teach in the 21st century?

After taking nine months off for a sabbatical to recharge my batteries, I find myself in a conundrum of wondering, “What do I do?”, “Where do I begin?” and “How do I instill all my new found knowledge into my teaching?” this fall.  I’ve spent the past school year in a much needed respite from the classroom.  Instead I have been refueling my intellect with classes in Technology, Creativity, Common Core Standards, as well as STEM initiatives.

This road to discovery has been full as well as fulfilling.  I’ve embarked on a technological journey of learning that was rigorous as well as enlightening.  I am now able to communicate with students of the 21st century through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Blogging.   And I’ve delved into the recesses of right/left brain thinking, advocacy of the arts, and blogging for educators.

Today educators are required to take students through school to become innovative and creative individuals of the 21st century.  My concern has been if I would be able to lead them effectively on this new path of discovery.  Do I know enough about technology, do I understand the Common Core; am I meeting the STEM outcomes?

The lingo is new, the timing is pertinent, and the students are young and savvy. Has education really changed so much that I have forgotten how to teach the pupils of today?  Merriam Webster defines a student as an attentive and systematic learner.  They are children who are inquisitive and explorative in nature that want to play and create.  They work to achieve goals and praise that builds confidence to become tomorrow’s leaders.

Yes, the buzz words may have changed and some techniques may be different. This is a phenomenon that has happened throughout the history of education – it is ever-changing. But the process is the same.  Therefore, my mission is the same.  Whether it is through Twitter, You Tube, or the latest STEM initiative I will continue to do my job… instill the love of learning.

Do you love to teach?

I also am very passionate about teaching.  I work in a full inclusive school and my learning support students hold a very special place in my heart.   I commit a significant amount of time to planning lessons, making adaptations, and supporting these students in special programs ensuring to meet the needs sited in their IEP’s.  I’m not sure why I feel this special akin-ship to my students I just know that I do.

Let me share with you 5 ways I help my special needs students achieve success:

1.       Provide your learning support student with a friendly and safe environment.  Find out before the first day of class if they have any friends in their classroom and sit these students together. Make their friend a “buddy” to help with supplies, remind them of appropriate behaviors, or just provide moral support.

2.       Give the learning support student as much time is necessary to complete the task at hand providing extra time before or after school if necessary.

3.       List the steps of the process involved on a small white board for the student to follow along.  As they complete a task have them erase the step to visually see their progress.

4.       Communicate with the learning support teacher, classroom teacher, other colleagues, and parents.  Know the students likes and dislikes and find out how they respond in their learning environment.

5.       Be flexible.  Some students need more instruction, re-direction, or a simple accommodation.  Make whatever changes necessary for the student to feel success.

Please share your ideas I would enjoy hearing how you help your special needs students find success.

Cultivating the elements and principles of art…..

I have spent the past three days in my garden. I never thought I would say those words. I was perfectly content to spend the days reading the latest novel or sketching my current inspiration. Seven years ago my husband and I moved to a new home after 21 years of residing in the “house we would never sell”. Due to extenuating circumstances life brought us to a new place with a new purpose. My first thought was what will I do, my second was I can’t handle this, my third being o.k. let’s tackle this yard!

Our home consists of many different sloped or hillside areas. Yard maintenance was a priority and the only thing to do was garden that which you cannot cut. And so I developed one of my largest passions and the biggest perennial garden of my imagination seeing that I knew nothing about perennial as well as gardening in general.

So, today, as I ice my aching knee, I wonder how did I get to this happy place of loving to be in my garden/s? Logically the answer is art. Color, texture, repetition, balance are all a part of the scope of my garden which has become my spring and summer work of art. I love that I can use repetition of colors and plants, add different textures for interest and create a focal point with things that are growing and living. I also enjoy nurturing and pruning into shapes and the scale that seems to fit the landscape.

Nature and gardening are natural, art and the elements and principles are natural. Equating the two and finding the balance that helps me to express as well as create is what it is all about.



How do you (creatively) assess students learning?

In the age of standardized testing it is hard not to get caught up in the everyday shuffle of assessing the correct and incorrect answers.  In art there is no right or wrong so sometimes assessment needs to take on the creative flavor of the class.

Here are a few easy assessments that are creative and fun:

·         Write– have students write a mini saga or acrostic poem about their artwork

·         Movie– have groups of students create a rap song about the lesson, record in iMovie for everyone to see

·         Word association – at the end of class have everyone say one word that related to the lesson that day.  If possible don’t let students repeat any words.

·         Play a game – Bingo, Jeopardy, Pictionary, Who Wants to be a Millionaire are excellent ways to assess learning at the end of semester and/or year.

·         Make a list – students make a list about the lesson using as many new vocabulary words  that they can remember, time them and see how many they can write down in one minute

·         Create a graphic organizer – Students will create a graphic organizer about their art work. Be creative by allowing students to work with crayons/markers/paint and 12 X 18 drawing paper.

How do you creatively assess your students learning?

Working collaboratively across the curriculum….

DSC00026DSC00028DSC00027      DSC00029DSC00031DSC00030


I recently had a language arts/global studies teacher ask me if I would be interested in working together to make a book on the Rainforest.  After three brainstorming sessions we came up with the idea of making an Alphabet Book.

 Students randomly chose a letter of the alphabet. Lists of animals were compiled by both of us to given to the students to choose an appropriate animal. In Language Arts and Global Studies classes students used the computer lab as well as the library to research and print photos of their animals.  They composed one page descriptions of their animal, giving details about their physique and where they lived within the rainforest.

Since we were in the process of studying the work of Eric Carle in Art, this lesson fit perfectly into our class.  The students had just completed a lesson on color and were well versed in how primary colors are mixed to create secondary and intermediate colors.  Contour Line drawings were done in their sketchbooks along with notes on the colors and details of the animals. Students had previously viewed the Eric Carle video, Eric Carle, Picture Writer, showing the artist in his studio creating his free style of painted papers.  One art class was spent making these “pretty papers” with various brushes, sponges, and tools incorporating many of Eric Carle’s techniques.

When the students returned to art class the next day and the pretty papers were strewn across the floor.  All of the students could see the various colors and textures and chose the ones that they wanted to use.  Various papers were pieced together into a collage type rendering of their particular animal.  The students worked hard to make the animal as realistic as possible and the results were indeed successful.

What does it mean to be an artist?

art·ist [ahr-tist] noun

1. a person who produces works in any of the arts that are primarily subject to aesthetic criteria.

2. a person who practices one of the fine arts, especially a painter or sculptor.

3. a person whose trade or profession requires a knowledge of design, drawing, painting, etc.: a commercial artist.

4. a person who works in one of the performing arts, as an actor, musician, or singer; a public performer: a mime artist; an artist of the dance.

5. a person whose work exhibits exceptional skill.


I have always had a difficult time admitting to anyone, especially myself, that I may be artist?  Even though I have always enjoyed art and art making, I have never felt that my skill or craft has been perfected to be considered an artist.

As children we learn though creative play.  We use building blocks, draw with crayons and make toys from pots, pans, and boxes.  But, as we grow older we do not allow ourselves to explore play and playful opportunities worrying about what is right or wrong.   We lose touch with our creativity and therefore stifle our imagination.

I have purposefully set aside time every week to “be” creative.  I’ve given myself the opportunity to explore new avenues of art and art making.  Artistic thought processes interrupt my sleep as I grow back into my creative skin.  I am finally allowing myself to accept that I may be an artist.


                                                    my drawing 2

                                                     my drawing 1

How do you tell a colleague no?

How many times do colleagues ask you to borrow something….every day, every other day, once a week?  It is not usually the question or even the act of lending something that poses a problem.  The problem arises when they want to “borrow” consumable supplies.  Construction paper, pencils, markers, paint are all consumables.  The web defines consumable as “all tangible personal property consumed (used up, drained, absorbed, dissipated, or expended) during the normal day-to-day operation of-

Others tend to view our supply closet as the never ending abyss of art materials just waiting to be devoured.  When we realize that the contents are golden.  Working endless hours to find the best bargains we squeeze every dollar to purchase every scrap of paper, worn out marker, and chewed down pencil stub.    In the era of shrinking budgets and price increases we need to be cognizant of what is expendable in our supply closet and hold onto it with a firm hand.

So, how do you tell a colleague no when they ask to borrow supplies?   A friend of mine gave me this suggestion:

At the beginning of each school year sit down and compose a short memo to the staff sharing the time and effort that you take to make sure you have ample supplies for the school year.  Also mention that your supplies have been affected by the recent budget crisis and times are tough.  Be certain to maintain that you will not be sharing any consumable supplies this year but other non-consumables are available when they may need to borrow (old scissors, rulers, and paint brushes).   End by thanking everyone for understanding your predicament and wish them a good year.

You will be surprised by how effective this technique can be.  Do not concern yourself with those that take the news poorly.  In a few days they will begin to understand.  If by chance someone does continue to ask to borrow supplies, remind them of the memo earlier in the year.   Finally, don’t feel guilty for not sharing.