Tuesday, March 25, 2008

First day back, hard day back

It's kind of expected to come back to school with a certain amount of trepidation. Spring break is a cruel joke, kind of. It's a bad length. I would almost rather have 4 day work weeks for the rest of the school year rather than a spring break. It's a good size break if you actually go away from your area and treat yourself to a little R&R (I should have done that). It's a bad size break if you don't do so much with it and stay in the area. Make sense? Well, I guess what I mean to say is that I didn't unwind, I didn't have a sense of time off. I just ended up doing all the things I've been meaning to do. Run errands, pay bills, clean out the closet...all those things. So it wasn't really a vacation. And last night my mind was racing with all the other things I should have done before the break was over.

Ah, so I learned my lesson. PLAN TO GO AWAY FOR SPRING BREAK. And, definitely take a nice summer trip.

On the plus side, I was able to take that amazing to student to sign up for his scholarship course. That was truly the highlight of my week. He was pretty excited to get his art supplies, and now I'm sure he's really excited to get started on the class in a couple of weeks.

Made a trip up to my parent's house for a day. Good to see the parents, and get rid of some items I cleaned out of my closet earlier in the week. Too bad it was too cold to take Lhotse for a walk. Later in the week I made a trip down to Charlottesville with J for Easter. There, I got to catch up on a little bit of reading. We ate some good meals. Although, I didn't feel too well. I have a horrible constant dull pain in my shoulder that won't go away...

This week is a short work week (yessssss) and I hope to work on some art. I've been trying to make it more and more of a priority. Someday I may have a full body of work again. And a show? Who knows... People keep encouraging to make a website too, but I just don't have the time. Maybe another art blog?? Who knows...

Hopefully the week will get a little easier to handle as it goes by, and I'm just feeling a little shell shocked. I still have weeks ahead. All of April, May, and June. At some point I'd like to rethink this 11 month teaching job. I'm continually realizing just how stressful this workplace truly is.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Anxiety dreams and spring break

To my delight, I was able to leave early from work yesterday. My principal came into my room and said I could leave since I didn't have another class that day! How nice of him to do that for me. What principal does that? None, I tell you. None.

Too bad it didn't really give me a second wind, because by the time I got home I was completely ready for a nap. So that's what I did. I sat down on the couch, and didn't get up until "J" called. We had made plans to meet a couple friends down in my area of Old town and go have some middle eastern delights... J and I weren't really up to it, but we hadn't seen them in a while, so we thought we'd follow through.

It was ok, the hummus was good, the bread-- not so much. The wine was good. But everything wasn't really fresh, and obviously expensive for what it was. But we had some interesting conversation, and that led to all going for a pint to Ireland's Own (after all, it is so close to that all important green "holiday"). So we went, but J and I were fading fast. I had a pint of cider and J had some whisky (yuck, can't stand the stuff, but what you gonna do?). We chatted and listed to some Irish music and merrily walked home.

It's nice to be able to go out and not drive. I love the freedom of not being totally committed to the car. I would love to not even have a car. But it's just not possible right now. Even though I'm paying $35 a tank, it's necessary. I have to get to work. It's only about 7 miles away, but it's way too dangerous to ride a bike.....

By the way, would someone please tell me why gas stations need flat screen tv's? I don't need tv everywhere? I just don't. Some one's making (bush) a lot of money (bush) off of my consumption of oil (bush). DAMN IT!

I shall move on. It is inevitable that I have nightmare's after watching "Lost"...(don't worry I won't spoil it if you aren't watching). It's so stressful to watch that I have seriously messed up dreams. And maybe I shouldn't place all the blame on a tv show, I mean my job has been pretty stressful these past few weeks.

But anyway, my anxiety dreams usually end up being about my teeth. It isn't that they fall out, or get rotten, or something like that. It's that somehow I end up getting this "chewing gum" (I don't know what it is) stuck in my teeth. And the more I chew, the more it gets stuck. SO this time, i was able to pull some of it out. But it was like the more I pulled on it, the more it created. It was horrible. I woke up and there was a pool of slobber all over my pillow (I know nice visual).

So tell me what this means? I have been anxious, and I've seen all kinds of interpretations of teeth dreams, but none that has to do with stuff getting stuck in your teeth.

This morning I did get up late, and had a nice breakfast, even went for a lovely run. Although, my body is starting to feel it more...especially in the knees. Hopefully that just means I need new shoes. It is the beginning of spring break and I am hoping this week goes a little bit slowly, or feels a bit slower. I need to recharge. I still have to make it through all of June, only to have a month off, and back at it again.

Oh and everybody, pay attention to the news. All that crap is happening in Tibet. As you probably know, that's an area of the world that has always intrigued me, and if you hadn't guessed by now, I am boycotting the Olympics, and I'm not buying products made in China! You should do the same. Yes, I do have some products made in China, but I'm not buying anymore. Try to avoid it if possible. There are horrible things happening in China, not just to Tibetans but to all. And man, have you heard about some people not even going out for the olympics because they're worried about their health? Can you imagine tring to run through the streets of Beijing for 26.2 miles?? Not worth it.

Peace Out!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cool, my last post time was 12:34

1 2 3 4!

Good luck!

2 more hours

Spring break is just around the corner, and I'm spent. One more class period to go, clean up, get the heck out.
Things to look forward to? Well, I'm not going anywhere special, really. So I don't have that. But I do have the chance to make art, sleep, watch nonsense on TV., surf the Internet and try to find some new music to listen to, stay up as late as I want, eat yummy stuff, run.
Turns out the weather isn't going to be that great. I really don't like it when we have an early spring break..... it means it's not really spring yet, although I guess winter WILL officially turn over into spring while we're out on break.
I think I'll celebrate tonight though. A lovely beverage will be just fine.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


This week has not been the best week of teaching for me. It all started on Monday. The d-home staff have specific shifts they follow. And this week school happened to start with the relief shift. Not such a good idea, when two men who are older and bigger than you are actually scared of the students. HA. Yes, so scared that they don't enforce any rules, and if a kids breaks a rule, they write them up, and don't even tell them about it. Needless to say, that's not how it's supposed to work. The kids were trying to deal with the d-home staff, just like the rest of us to try to to make it through the day, however there had been more outbursts, breakdowns, cool outs, toss outs, lock downs, lecturing, and words shouted more in the last two days then the whole year.

It all has to do with consistency, respect...and NOT trying to be the kid's friend. They don't need friends, they need adults to give them specific instructions and stick to what is expected. NOTHING LESS! When you have adults yelling down the hall, or talking to kids in line, or telling them inappropriate things, of course our students think it is an acceptable behavior to do it too!

I could go on and on, but I won't. The week is almost over, and despite a student almost burning down my classroom (a student decided to turn on the burners of the stove in my room), we are all still alive and I'm still keepin' on....

Spring break is a couple days away and I plan on sleeping. But today I have an all district art meeting in MY art room, so I have to get ready for that. In addition to that I've bee busy all week too. I can't catch a break.

Yesterday, J and I went out with one of his students (and wife), and while that was very interesting (both are from Saudi Arabia and the husband works for the State Department), I was so tired. I couldn't fully participate in enjoying myself. Ugh.... maybe next time, they were quite a nice couple. Not a traditional Saudi family, definitely more western and liberal... the wife really wants Obama to win..... However, watching them as a couple was interesting, and since I was doing a lot of listening and observing, I watched how they treated each other. He was definitely formal and aware of his wife's needs and wants while we're eating. Very properly, traditional etiquette really... But his wife and I did get into a discussion about teaching. She wanted to come and see where I work. She honestly has to get his approval for it. I was kind of amazed, because she kind of acted like a child saying," Please, oh please, can I go....please?" I told her the door was always open, but I think the husband was more like, halas, mesh. (end, no)

Oops, gotta run...a meeting... I have 2 today!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

About yesterday..

Obviously I was bothered by the whole thing with the music teacher because I talked about it with the English and Speical Ed teacher (both of whom I really like). The English teacher decided to blog about our conversation, and I thought I'd paste it here:

Another Brick in the Wall
A conversation with a couple of colleagues, both of whom I like and respect, got me thinking yesterday about some of our most basic philosophical assumptions about education and why we do it. We're providing certain skills that we judge to be critical to getting on in the world--reading, writing, a understanding of how one's own government works, and so on. Kids need to get into college, because they need jobs that will actually allow them to support themselves and a family. In the specific context of the Detention Center, how and what we teach is revealing of what assumptions we make about these kids and where we think they're headed. Will they be teaching? Fixing cars? Checking people out at Target? Nurses? Doctors? Working in an office? Back in jail? Running an office? I don't think the role of curiosity, self-expression or problem solving in education can be overstated. This brings me back to the chat with my colleagues. One colleague and I were in agreement, it seems, that students can produce a variety of "products" to demonstrate a certain skill. In art, it might be a painting, or a sketch. It might, in English, be an essay, a journal entry, a skit, a thank you letter to a visiting speaker, or participation in a debate or discussion. These are all assignments my students have produced. Another colleague seemed to express that if a product wasn't "computational", it might be nice and fun, but was not necessarily actual learning. As I understand it, memorization as a means of building the capacity to concentrate and focus play a role in this classroom. These are necessary to learning, of course, but to my mind this beg the question of what one then does with the facts one has memorized or to what end one applies such focus. The argument went that life is full of unpleasant tasks and students need to learn to focus on them and do them anyway. The underlying assumptions here about what's worthwhile and what isn't fascinate me. Thought processes, by their nature, can't be 'seen'; when expressed they can be read or heard. Is loving a poem a "product" of a quality education? What about the kid who was in my class for a few weeks as we were reading The Diary of Anne Frank, the one who was released before we finished it? He returned to us a couple of weeks later and asked me if Anne and Peter had gotten together, and did she survive? Where's the role of inspiration in our classrooms, of excitement about a good book because it's a good book? Isn't that what being "life long learners" is about? Or do we view that as an extra, great for the kids who have passed their standardized tests but not a priority for kids with low skills who still struggle with the basics. I am, of course, arguing that creating that excitement is necessary to raising those basic skills. I believe human beings are hard-wired to want to learn. Every society has had art, music and stories to tell. Every single one, period. Do we believe still, in the 21st century, with our industrialized, standardized schools built to suit kids for jobs, in the joy of learning? This approach is counter-culture today indeed. Now, don't misunderstand. Learning is work; knowledge, like anything worthwhile, is earned. And clearly, an important job of our schools is to prepare kids for the jobs they'll have. In the midst of all the worksheets and testing, curiosity and problem-solving can be tough to quantify. Yet I believe, I insist, that an education that is not centered around powerful, resonant themes (my classroom's theme is telling your story) does not serve a democracy well. After all, what else are those critical basic skills for?--

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Rant for a moment

I really do like my job, but sometimes I'm completely flabbergasted that I have to deal with stupid things that people say. Not once, but twice today I had to deal with comments that related to the fact that I'm an art teacher.....as in "just an art teacher" "just for entertainment's sake" "just doodling".

Why is it that Visual Arts have to fight harder than other modes of art to get recognition of value? Why can't art stand on it own without being linked to another subject area or content? Why is art the redheaded-step-child of curriculum near and far, and is always the first to be cut and underfunded?

I don't know. Maybe because it's misunderstood? People have such negative feeling from being in art class as a child? I don't know. I have had some horrible art teachers. Ones that never actually "taught" any skills, ones who valued "beauty", ones who pushed you aside from the gifted or "natural" artists. Aren't we all natural artists in some way? Who's to place any value on any kind of art other than the person who made it?

Ok, I'm getting off topic. Here's the story. I'll try to be brief. The "music therapist/teacher" is finding it hard to be successful with his classes. He's asked me before if there was something going on with the students, how were they in my class, etc.. etc... etc... And today the topic came up again, except with a negative comment.

When I think of a person who is a music therapist I think of people who actively engage their clients in the making of music, mostly hands on and experimental, maybe even analyzing their works, don't you? Lyrics, sounds, being engaged, problemsolving, or in the act of music and what might be meaningful to them. And I think of a general music teacher who does some hands on and some skill building with techniques. And experimentation, and even some music history. Our music therapist doesn't really do any of that. From what I have seen and heard they do a lot of testing... As in taking written tests. They watch movies, and occasionally will do a unit of drumming (which they love). He doesn't teach them to be creative, he teaches them how to remember meaningless trivia... Yes, kids should be exposed to everything on all levels, but there are many ways you can do that. One is to actually listen to music, and pick out what you hear.

Anyway, the music teacher slighted me. OF ALL TEACHERS! Music and art teachers shouldn't ever be at odds with each other. I can't remember EXACTLY what he said, but it was to the effect that what I was doing wasn't nearly as significant as what he was doing.... Umm, and how's that working for him? Not at all. He can't relate to any of the kids. They get in trouble with him all the time (mostly because they're bored, don't care-- which I face too, by the way), and they're hardly doing anything that is active. If anything they are mostly inactive in his class.

So I tried to have a conversation with him to express that maybe he's having difficulty in his classes because the students need something more engaging, oh I don't know....like actually trying to play an instrument, or make up songs, or see what it's even like to correctly hold an instrument. Teaching the value of perseverance and practice. Not memorizing a music timeline, and learning how to divide notes when you aren't going to play them anyway.

It's frustrating, because at first I was trying to share with him the idea of the arts in general as creative outlets. Isn't that the point? Isn't that why any of us liked taking them as electives in the first place. It was a form of expression, an outpouring of emotion, an achievement to be part of a choir or band, or ensemble. I don't remember taking too many tests in my choir class.

He did apologize for the comment, but then made additional comments that he had two choices in the way he taught. He could teach them his way, or let them do whatever they want. So he totally missed the point of what I was saying... But whatever. I think he cares about kids a lot, but I think he needs to do something else, like be a researcher or something. He feels like he's teaching appropriately to reach these kids of kids, but he's not, and he's not willing to figure out any alternatives.

So I wash my hands of this. I'll just talk to him about the weather, and that will be that. I know what he said wasn't personal. It was a stupid comment on his part, but it still bothers me.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Get the word out...please...

Vantage point...not a good movie.... I know, I had to sit through it.

I must have a lot to add today

My student and his parents

Well, I'm behind in my blog. So it's time to catch up. Here are some pics from TODAY! My student recieved a scholarship award. It was great. He's really a quiet kid, and wasn't used to all this attention. And frankly, we did take way too many pictures. But for him it was a chance to see how important it all is. It's good that he has these chances to celebrate. To feel what it's like to be deserving of an award. Iwas so happy for him.

Me, My student, and some staff I work with.

"D" didn't have any work showing at this show. But next year he will. It was basically an opportunity for him to accept the scholarship. I hope he continues on with this. He's an awesome student, and he CAN draw (although he tells you he can't). He gets to work with a former cartoonist from Marvel or DC comics.... I'm so excited for him, and I know he is too! God, I love his sweatshirt!

W - A.S.H. -I.N.G.- T.O.N., Baby, D.C. - Part 2

Great view. You can see how far we walked!!! In between is the WW 2 memorial.

Jefferson Memorial, tidal basin....

Me. A student took this shot. And actually, some of the other pics were shot by this kid.

W-A.S.H.-I.N.G.-T.O.N. Baby, D.C.

Yeah, the Washington Monument... It's not that big. As demonstrated by a student, here.

My Awesome students, and a teacher.... oh yeah, and Lincoln ...way back there.

A lovely avenue.. It looks cold, but it warmed up. We loved the walk.

Washington's Monument. So high in the sky. Nothing can be built taller than this!

A view from the top. Towards the Capitol.

Even though I've lived in this area off and on, my entire life, I had never been to the top of the washington monument. You can no longer walk up the stairs. You HAVE to take the elevator.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


Do the weeks just tend to go by faster each year or what? I'm about 2 weeks away from spring break, and it's March! We even had an extra day in February yesterday, so what the heck?

Well, I'm just busy I tell you. Every time I turn around it seems like something is going on. I am busy working away and meeting community people about attempting to get some sort of community arts center. Or something. I don't know what it would be yet. But if this community is supposed to be so strong in the arts, how come we really don't have much to show for it?? Also working on a grant to put together an anthology. It's hard putting every idea you have in writing, but that is what you need to do to get the cash-money... So it's like having another job, that I don't get paid for.

And good for me, I'm back at the gym. Soon I'll be running outside again when it's a bit warmer, but this is good. I get to go use mini-gym. So it's free and usually empty. So it's like my own gym!

Nothing too new happening. One of my students is getting an award this week. He'll be getting a scholarship to take a class with the Art League. He's super excited. I'm excited for him. He gets to take a cartoon class with a former DC Comics artist! Now, that's sweet!

And..got to watch Benny and Joon. Love that movie!