Tag Archives: teaching

Where writing and art collide (or is it collude?)

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I’m too tired to think. This applies to the whole last four days and possibly the rest of the week as well. When my mind is beaten and it can not create constructive thought or inspiration on cue, I am sure it hibernates like a bear in its winter burrow. My mind hibernates while I drive, while I work, while I eat, etc. Every now and then it wakes and roars out something interesting and worth following up on, but unless someone else picks up the idea and the work of making the idea reality, the passion is brief and the idea is lost. When my mind is like this I find I can’t write, I can’t do assignments and so far I haven’t been able to do art either. Maybe it is beginning to wake up because this blog post is going ok and it is the first personal writing I have done in many days.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Story and hand drawn pencil illustrations intertwine to create a unique reading experience. By Brian Selznick.

Due to my mind hibernating, I have been reading some beautiful children’s books. “Read what you want to write” the expert advice says. Except, I don’t know what I want to write and my mind can’t engage in thinking about it. So, in the absence of thinking that actually leads somewhere, I have read what I see every day and have chosen individual books that I am drawn to.  It is funny that the word drawn also refers to art and I am currently missing my ability to create art.

How ironic would it be if this book was titled Lisa Loves Art? Simple, cute illustrations encourage young readers to show their imagination in their art and persist with what they love.

How ironic would it be if this book was titled Lisa Loves Art? Simple, cute illustrations encourage young readers to show their imagination and persist with what they love. By Kelly Light.

Art and writing and literature are all mixing in my mind as the things I love. I love teaching them and looking at them and producing them. Lately I have been drawn to books that contain reference to art. There are quite a few. They will be very useful when teaching in the future. Here are three that recently came in front of my eyes and magnetically attracted my attention. These are the types of books that I love. Books with beautiful illustrations that inspire creativity and celebrate art as an endeavour. If you think this is you as well, then I encourage you to seek them out.

Gorgeous illustrations of bird parts and instructions on how to construct a bird. Creative juices flow. By Kate Samworth.

Gorgeous illustrations of bird parts and instructions on how to construct a bird. Creative juices flow. By Kate Samworth.

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Teaching is a work of heart

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Teaching is a profession that cops a lot of negativity in the media on and off. Regardless of what some people say, I believe most teachers try to make a difference in the lives of the children in their care, in just about everything they do, all day, every school day of the year.  I am guessing that’s accurate of about 99% of teachers.  I don’t think many teachers stay in the profession if they have no passion for teaching or for children. It’s really hard work, it would be almost impossible to do if you didn’t have a love for it. I see and hear about teachers who move on every year to places more suited, like to the police force or to a desk job or to retirement.

A lot of teachers and school staff go nameless and faceless even though we spend a huge amount of time with the children in our classes and at our school every week.  After the children have survived their first year of school successfully, their parents start slowly dwindling off and we rarely see many of them by the time these children reach the middle and upper primary grades. (Unless of course, in their child’s eye some injustice has been done and the parent comes to the school and threatens and points fingers at teachers and tells them to go to Weight Watchers- but that is another story). Lucky for us, the amount of parents that engage in disrespectful behaviour is probably only 1%.  I’m very lucky, I work in a pretty safe and positive environment.

Most parents would not know my name, except maybe if I have had their children in a previous year where I was their child’s classroom teacher. I’m just the art teacher now.  I was primary carer for about 125 different students throughout the day today. Even though very few parents of those students would be able to call me by name, they trusted me (and many others) today with the job of keeping their children safe, happy and learning.

The thing is, a lot of us teachers work our arses off for the good of our students, but we do not like to be singled out.  We don’t mind small quiet notes or gifts at the end of the year, but parents please thank us quietly, we do not like the limelight.  We are a team and often you will see a teacher brush off attention, saying something like “It’s just my job” or “It was a team effort”.  We don’t mind if parents don’t all know our names.  We don’t even mind parents don’t realise how effective our work is in developing the whole child, all the different parts that perhaps you can’t see changing ever so subtly, and parts you certainly can’t test. That’s ok. We work for the children to grow and learn and develop and gain new passions and confidences and become an older more educated person at the end of our year. I don’t know why we all teach so fantastically and then don’t really advertise the fact, it’s just who we are- we teach because we are passionate about education, not about accolades and applause.

Today all five of my art classes went fantastically.  Everyone engaged in the learning and the art was complete expression of self.  I know that most of those children gained some insights into themselves, their inner workings and their abilities.  I was inspired by the children’s contributions to discussion, their reflections, and the insightful art they created. Some children learnt a lot, some children learnt a little. But all students moved forward. And that is all I want for today.

Teach from the heart

Touchy feely

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Touchy feely

I am lucky to be involved in a program this year called the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program.

http://www.kitchengardenfoundation.org.au

Today I attended a training day where I learnt a multitude of new cooking skills that I can take back to my school and teach our year 3/4 students. Training days are very busy and we create a heap of fantastic tasting food during the day. I am a pretty inexperienced beginner cook and these training days really try to drag me into the realm of passionate food loving cooks, many who have been experimenting with food in their own homes for years. Unfortunately I know my passion does not rest in cooking. However, one of my passions is providing children with fantastic, rewarding, personally affecting experiences. Our kitchen garden program does this in spades and that is why I love it.

Anyway, during training today I had a moment. Actually I have lots of moments every day, but there are two related moments today that I think are worthy of sharing. These two moments relate to me, suddenly and unexpectedly, becoming one with my senses and finding peace and joy in what I sensed. I am sure most of us spin through our day, completing tasks on our “to-do” list for the day, dealing with mini dramas, damage controlling major dramas, sorting out possible issues or holes in our workplaces, our families, our personal lives. Today when I slowed down and focused I discovered the sense of touch can be amazing.

That sounds weird, but really, how often do we stop to enjoy what we touch? We might briefly caress a tactile fabric or gently stoke a baby’s hand, but generally our hands are used and often abused to the point of destruction and pain. So we switch off touch except for survival. I feel I cut myself on that piece of paper so I bandaid it. In one activity today, were required to identify different herbs through using our senses but while our eyes were closed. Well, how often does that happen? Never. Suddenly I could feel the subtle differences between leaf shapes, between thicknesses and softnesses. How gorgeously soft and thick is a leaf of lemon balm? How gorgeously thin and soft is a leaf of coriander? What a discovery I thought, my fingers are so awesome!

Lemon Balm, from the mint family

Lemon Balm, from the mint family

Then, the second time my sense of touch jumped to my attention was while I was making gnocchi. You know, with potatoes, by hand. While rolling those little lumps of mixture to the desired shape I was loving the way they felt as I went round, round, round and down on the little wooden paddle and then landed cute as a pie on the bench in front of me. They felt so soft and fragile. I could almost feel how yummy they would be when it got to eating time. Gosh, I really hope my students get to feel this close to their senses, to feel the satisfaction of making something using their senses and to measure their work through feeling. I loved making that gnocchi. Can I call that showing love on the plate? Have a look… What do you think?

Handmade Gnocchi

Handmade Gnocchi- yes I made some of these!