Pep Talk

I opened my school e-mail this morning to find this video from one of my Principals.

It was just what I needed.

It has been cold, snowy, cloudy outside along with spring break just a week away.  Our kids are nuts, our nerves are on the edge, March (which means CRAZYness in my schools), school is talking budget cuts (always stressful as an art teacher) - then on the radio I hear about an 8th grader who took his life in his school bathroom.

I certainly needed a pep talk today. 



I was sitting at dinner with two friends last night and somehow we got on the topic of careers and what would have we done if not what we do currently. Not one of us could confidently say a second path - none of us could say, "we'll this other thing I am good at/find interesting could have been my career".

All three of us have a home in the arts.

One of us had the 'ease' of knowing since he was a little boy that he was going to design cars. And even though halfway through college he branched out to industrial design instead of just transportation - he is currently designing infotainment centers for one of the big three American car companies.

One of us was lost - truly lost. Grades were low, loved sports, had no drive. His mom has told me many times that she was afraid he would end up in jail - he had no motivation to do any schoolwork. Then somehow he landed in an art class, convinced his art teacher to help him make a portfolio, went to one if the top art college, and also does design work for one of the big three.

One of us was also lost, but in a different way. I was lost in the expectations and ideas that I wasn't good at school. Sure, I made most A's and b's - but I spent most of it confused and frustrated - except for geometry, for some reason geometry and I got along really well. I found art in college - in a weaving class. I had taken drawing the semester before and more or less hated it. Weaving though, weaving opened a whole world to me. I realized in that class that my whole life I had been smart - I had been talented. Instead of math and writing - my smarts were in spacial/visual avenues. I always enjoyed and understood "crafts" and "artsy" things - but no one ever said that I could make a life off that. It wasn't till weaving class in college that my path was clear. I called my mom and told her I was going to be an Art teacher. I fought back tears from the relief and peace of knowing where I was going of my vocation.

All three of us sat eating wings and fries chuckling about how we were all saved by art. We are all active members of society through art. My hope and dream for the future is that more adults encourage and foster the arts in kids lives - that we change this idea of arts being"special"and you can't make a life off of it. There are a lot of art based jobs that are in constant demand: graphic designer, fashion design, package design, product design, car, shoe, furniture, websites, advertisements, photography, film, CGI, animation, landscaping, teaching, artist, dancing, singing, composing, stage, screenplays, set dressing, director, and much more. Society needs art, humans need art, companies need artists.


Reflecting on "Talent"

I was sitting at our school's Talent Show yesterday morning being entertained by students singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments.  As I was watching my mind was wandering - why is it that most 'Talent Show's' consist of Performing Arts?  Rarely do people show up to show off mad dribbling skills, or crazy speed reading, or even the ability to computer large numbers quickly.  Why is it that as a community we typically value extreme gifts or talents in 'academics' as non-talents?  I would assume that people who can compute large numbers not only have a knack for it, but worked at it just as a someone who is innately good at dancing - yet one is 'talented'?!

As I continued this thought I was lead to yet another question - "What is it about the performing arts and even sports that bring an audience?"  So, past this idea that some things are considered a 'talent' to show off and other not - it made me wonder if the audience had something to do with it.  Perhaps we do consider people who can speed read and compute large numbers as 'talented' - but we aren't going to sell out the super dome to watch them.  Why is this?!

The simple answer is that it isn't entertaining to a large number of people. Sure there are conferences for the mathematicians and scientists - but to the average person this is not entertaining.  Which then lead me to think, "Why are these not entertaining to the masses?  I use math everyday - it is an essential part of my day."

This took me a little longer to come up with semi-answer.  I don't find math overly exciting, but I do use it - I see its' value and I am thankful that some people love it and are talented at it - I am not that person.  However, I am not good at baseball, I don't use it everyday -- yet I will go to games and set my DVR to watch a game.  The simple answer again - I find it entertaining.

So then on to "What is there about performing arts and sports that people find entertaining?"  Why, as a culture, do we go pay money to sit in a seat and watch someone do something?  Why do we find concerts and sporting events entertaining?

I honestly think the answer is in our humanity.  The performing arts speak to something inside our soul - our hearts.  There is something about live performances of music, comedy, dancing, and acting that captures our attention - that pulls us together as humans.  I think it reminds us of each other, of connecting, of something simple and essential.  Every tribe or group of people that have ever inhabited this earth have had some kind of spiritual connection with music and movement - and even though so many of us don't practice this anymore on a traditional level, we know it belongs to us and in us.  The same goes for sporting events, though on a different scale.  You won't find hecklers at the Opera -- but you'll find real life in a sporting arena.  People talk, interact, yell, shout, and celebrate together.  There is something special about everyone cheering on their home team - about being there for the wins and the losses.  People connect with their own humanity and thus feel engaged and entertained.

So, as I sat yesterday grinning as a sibling pair play handbells to Queen's 'We are the Champions" - I realized that they may not fully understand their role in what they are doing - but they are connecting with their school, with their community in a way that reminds us all of our humanity.  They remind us to laugh, to cry, to keep on moving.  Arts have a funny way of sneaking into everyone's life and reminding them to be humble, to be connected, to enjoy the ebs and flow of life.


Somewhere between.....

Somewhere between snow days, breaks and PD days students have been working on clay and beginning weaving projects.

I have neglected to do weaving projects the last couple of years... Why exactly I don't know. I love to weave. Perhaps the overwhelming idea of all those looms, string tangled catastrophes - I wasn't sure weaving would hold their attention. So far I have been way wrong.

We just started weaving and I am having my older students make their own paper looms that we will later design our own weaving on paper then weave on our loom. I had some weaving pattern sheets printed so that when some kids were done with their loom the could practice different weaving techniques. I gave them no instruction on how to read the patterns, but rather told them to do their best and to try it out. I did it this way for two reasons: 1) I didn't have time to help kids make their looms AND teach them to weave all on one class. 2) I wanted to gauge their weaving abilities. Turns out kids "get" weaving - at least the basics.

I will post our original weavings when they are done - hopefully sometime next week. Next we will be weaving with yarn on CD's or more traditional looms.