Today ends the second full week of school. To be honest, it is finally starting to feel awesome to be back in the groove. This was the first year that I didn't feel ready to come back, I was mourning the loss of summer. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that last year was a pretty rough year. There were a lot of changes in my school that I was struggling with embracing or even simply accepting. This year is a bit better, mostly because I am making a conscience effort to have a better attitude - to accept the things I can not change, and to embrace and love the things I can. There are better days than others, but it totally helps that I have some totally rockin' colleagues that are helping me to keep me accountable.
On top of having an overall better attitude, I am rediscovering my love of teaching. I am remembering how much fun it is to teach art. Last year I felt annoyed quite a bit by my students choices and behaviors and while some of it was warranted - it was mostly me just being grouchy. So this year - a clean slate for all, including myself.
I have set my standards high for myself and my students. I remind students quietly and gently (unless there is safety involved). I am hoping that if we can start out the year with love, trust, compassion, a sense of humor, and consistent expectations/consequences that the students and I can have an even more productive and highly engaging year. So far so good, though it still is the end of the second full week!
I started off the year by asking students to show me about their summer on a piece of paper. I did this project last year and LOVED it. It takes only one day and I get to catch up with kiddos - I can start building those relationships with the kids that need a little extra love to feel comfortable to succeed. It gives me a chance to practice procedures and protocols without yacking at them for 50 minutes. I also have a chance to fill bulletin boards with work for curriculum night the first week of school.
Our first 'real' projects began the next time I saw them. I am hoping to include some more 'skills' into their work this year without doing too many "draw like this" lessons. I really love having them be creative and stretch their own ideas - but I also am seeing some holes in their skills that I need to try and boost.
For the upper grades (3-5) I am starting guided sketchbooks this year. Each day they come I hand them a half sheet with some kind of guided drawing/thinking lesson. The students then work on them for 5 minutes without talking. I am hoping these will help boost their drawing skills, their observational skills, their confidence, their patience, and even their problem solving skills - as I answer no questions during the five minutes, nor do I answer "is this right?". Before we started the sketchbooks I explained to the classes that it is about warming up the creative side of their brain. In PE, dance, or music they do warm ups to prepare their bodies/voices - in art we have to wake up the creative side of their brains.
So far I have classes that really have embraced the 5 minutes and others really struggle with not asking for help or looking for the 'right' answer. I ask them to do their best and to work for the WHOLE five minutes. It has been interesting. So far it seems that the classes that really embrace the 5 minutes seem to be more focused on their work come work time - instead of it being social hour. I will try and remember to report back at the end of the year to reflect on how it went over the course of the year.
After the students do their warm up sketchbook page for 5 minutes - they add it to their sketchbook and prepare for that days lesson. If students finish the day's lesson they go back and finish their sketchbook page(s) before they can do something off the Finished List.
I am doing my best to step up my program in a way that we all work smarter, not harder -- hopefully my new school year resolutions will hold throughout the year!