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.

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.


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Do you collect trading cards?

With the start of baseball season this an excellent time to talk to your students about trading cards…..artist trading cards.   ATC’s are miniature pieces of art.  They can be composed of a variety of materials with multiple themes.   Students love the versatility of the cards as well as the size. ATC’s measure 2.5 X 3.5 inches making them easy to handle and even easier for trading and collecting.

After brainstorming a list of different themes for their cards students were given a graphic organizer that defined the three basic parts of an ATC .  The art room became a smorgasbord of materials giving students multiple choices to create their cards.  The most popular station was for embellishment where they could decorate with buttons, sequins, and glitter!

Students were required to make 5 different cards but many of them chose to make more.  The variety of techniques as well as ideas was endless. At the end of the lesson students gathered together to share their art work as well as trade their ATC’s.

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Make ART a vital part of education…..

Our current trend in education is geared toward STEM thinking; science, technology, engineering, and math.  The United States recognizes the need for higher level thinking skills in order to stay competitive among its allies, which is a positive step in the right direction. But, do they recognize the correlation between these skills and the arts? Politicians and government agencies that support education need to understand the value of right brain thinking and make financial commitments as well as mandates for their support of the arts.  Right brain thought processes need to be honed in order for this type of thinking to have a permanent impact upon our society as a whole.   Visit these sites to find out more about STEAM education, make ART a vital part of your schools’ curriculum.

The art of cartography….

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The Art of Cartography…..

Essential Questions:  How is cartography considered art?

Sixth grade students spend the first few weeks of school learning about maps in Global Studies classes, transition words in Language Arts, and contour line in Visual Arts.  Creating a lesson that uses all of these skills is called interdisciplinary learning.

In Art class students begin by utilizing contour line to draw several different inanimate objects; i.e., vase, jar, bottle, scissors, cup, etc.   This is presented merely as a practice exercise and emphasis is put on the actual drawing process, concentrating on the outside edges of the objects.  These simple drawings later become the land masses on their map.

Utilizing the skills of Global Studies and mapmaking, students incorporate a key, compass rose, and latitude/ longitude lines onto their maps. Symbols are used representing topography as well as the route to the buried treasure.

Once maps are colored with oil pastels and aged with brown tempera, the students write a description of where to find the Pirate chest. Their story must include the use of transitions words learned in Language Arts.   QR codes are attached to the finished works before they are displayed.  Other students in the building can then use their hand-held-devices to listen to the  stories.

By letting students use their imagination and creativity you increase retention and make learning fun.  This is one of their favorite lessons.

Do you need to go to college to teach art?

A few years ago while I was speaking to a group of parents during open house a father raised his hand and asked me, “Do you need to go to college to teach art?”  To this day, I am still baffled by his question.   His daughter was a very talented young lady and really enjoyed my class.  Her father, a professional, was more interested in how she was performing in her academic areas but came to visit me at her urging.  He told me, “She likes to draw” neither realizing nor understanding the role of art or the art teacher in his daughter’s education.

Sometimes I am confronted with the realization that some people, colleagues included, do not value the art education.  Art is looked upon as an enjoyable outlet for students, coloring and drawing for fun.  This is difficult for someone like me to grasp since art and art teaching are my passion.  In my classroom students develop critical thinking skills, innovative thought processes and growth through problem solving.  Along with enjoying art and art-making they use their imaginations and develop creativity.   Isn’t that what a good education is all about?

In this particular instance the father didn’t place any educational value on art or art education. Therefore, he equated that same value to my education.

Are you creative?


I recently had a discussion with an attorney friend of mine about creativity. It started out with him saying, “I’m not creative.” My reply, “I beg to differ. “ I wonder how many adults do not feel that they are creative.

Why is it whenever you talk to adults they can tell you emphatically whether they are or are not creative. Those that feel they are creative are usually artistic and those that feel they are not creative can be difficult to convince otherwise. Children, who do not think in those terms, have great imaginations, enjoy play, and are always questioning. Their personalities make them curious learners and intuitively creative. Adults tend to look at play and imagination as something we “did” when we were kids thereby making their creativity determination based upon their current artistic ability.

Some of the attributes that make us human are the fact that we are imaginative, insightful, and intelligent. These traits in themselves are all part of being creative. It is only when we don’t allow ourselves to recognize or use our traits that we begin to consider ourselves as not being creative. Creativity is the ability to use your imagination to come up with innovative ways to problem solve. My friend is one of the best attorneys in his field. His ability to problem-solve and his gift at litigation are what have made him so successful. He cannot recognize his creativity because he does not feel that he is “artistic”. Too bad he doesn’t recognize the traits that have made him so successful in his field are the same ones that make him creative.