Friday Two Cents: The Language Of Art


This past week I had completed my Additional Qualification course (AQ) on Visual Arts Part 2.  During this entire course I had the opportunity to learn new and exciting things to bring into the classroom for the students.  Some included techniques in areas that people would consider traditional art forms like painting, drawing, sculpting.  Other practices would be considered in new areas of art such as photography, Photoshop, digital art and word art. 

The one area I liked and was intrigued about was the language we would use to help the students express them selves in art.  In other words, it’s the language used in the art class.  Many classrooms have word walls for the students to help them understand, write and spell the words mostly used for literacy. Yet for other subjects, like math, there are other word walls that help the students understand the words or concepts within the subject.  To use math as an example …

Sum– the total amount resulting from the addition of two or more numbers.  

This helps the students use the language most used in the subject.  During this course I found some words that works with the Art curriculum.  I made a chart that can help students and other educators.  For just as Hippocrates once said …

‘The chief virtue that language can have is clearness, and nothing detracts from it so much as the use of unfamiliar words.’ Hippocrates

Art Word Chart Page 1

Hopefully these words can help others understand and create wonderful and meaningful pieces of art.  

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Friday Two Cents: Art Is Everywhere


‘The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.’ Pablo Picasso

For the past week I have been fortunate to be taking an Additional Qualification course (AQ) on Visual Arts.  I have already taken Part 1 and now I am continuing my art education with Part 2.  

In the course we are learning new techniques and art mediums to bring the world of art to the students.  I’m not talking about crafts like making Mother’s day gifts, but well thought out art that the students did.  Yes we are learning the traditional art techniques but we need to help the students think more on why they create the art.  I have had many discussions with people that we should be looking at the process of art with the students and not the final product.  This course centres on that governing principle. 

We had wonderful experiences with art this week and we have one more week to go but we were also fortunate to go on a field trip to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinberg.  They have wonderful art pieces that are all created my Canadian artists.  They also have a large collection of First Nations art on display as well.  We were able to have a wonderful tour that helped us explore works from the Group of Seven, First Nations art and other pieces including works from a Nova Scotia artist Maud Lewis.  

After had a workshop were we would be able to create our own Art pieces in the same style of Maud Lewis.  We had about 30 minutes but I think my creation was pretty close.   Her work is considered by many as folk-art and to some it may seem simplistic.  Yet exposing her pieces to the students could encourage them to think; if she can paint these works them maybe I could too.  In the end isn’t that what art is supposed to do?  Encourage conversation and inspire others.  

I have always thought so.  

Friday Two Cents: Oh The Places I’ve Seen


In Canada it is the final week of classes in the elementary school system.  This month also marks the 2nd anniversary that I started as an occasional teacher in a school board.  Yes I have been working with students for several years but those years were when I was an early childhood educator (ECE).  I have worked in many different classrooms as an ECE and I learned a great deal.  Yet nothing has been a greater learning experience than working as a certified teacher in these classrooms.  

Since the beginning I have kept track of how many different schools and classrooms I have been in.  Partly because it helps me with Additional Qualification course requirements, but also when someone asked me how many different classrooms I have been in I had to stop and think because I was not sure.  Amazingly, in the two years I have been in 80 different classrooms.  

I started in 2017 and since then, I have been at about 25 different schools and 80 different classes.  Over this time I have been in some classes that had the same teacher, but from year to year they had different students.  The students’ personality differences change the dynamics in a classroom wherever I have worked in with a similar teacher; therefore I see the class as a different classroom.  In some cases I have been in 14 – 18 different classrooms at the same school. I even have been in several French immersion classes during this time period. 

Yet reflecting back on the past two years, I can say with one thing for certain.  Kids are kids no matter where you go.  They are all very curious; they love to ask questions on topics of their interest and personal questions about your life. They all enjoyed my drawings and creative work with them and of course they loved George and my other puppets. Whenever I go back to a school or a classroom they always ask about George.  

However even though I have been in all these different classrooms it sometimes feel like a hollow victory.  I look at this number and all the experience I have accumulated and yet I am still looking for a permanent position, even an LTO (long term occasional) as a teacher of my own classroom. On top of it all there are times I feel that there are sometimes-unrealistic expectations on me from everyone around me.  Students, parents, teachers and others all want you to be Superman to fix everything and be whatever they want me to be instead of being myself.  

In the last two months I have worked in 20 different classrooms in 30 days.  Mind you I am grateful for the opportunity and I do enjoy being with the students but it does take a toll on you.   There are days when I feel like I am making progress and advancing in my career.  Then there are days when the harsh reality of my situation sets in and you are only as good as your last job.  The saying … “It’s not what you have done for me that counts but what you have done for me lately”, comes to mind.  On several occasions I have felt that no matter how good I do my job, I feel unappreciated.  That for all my helping and hard work, to make a class and a school that much more enjoyable for the students, it falls to the side like leaves falling in the autumn breeze.  I feel like no one notices … no one cares. 

However those feelings pass as I try to be positive and think of the most important aspect of my journey into the different classrooms.  My observation and learning from the different teachers and their teaching styles.  I have observed and conducted many lesson plans they have left me to do and what is great is that I have been asked to conduct my own lessons in these classrooms. Lesson plans for math; language, art, technology and science just to name a few.  I even helped out a school with their science project on the life cycle of the butterfly.  I don’t have my own classroom but it feels good to do some lesson plans to keep my teaching juices flowing.  

Below I have created a logo of a blue silhouette male teacher holding the hands of two students.  Each of these silhouettes’ represents a different classroom I have worked in.  On the top left side I placed the grade or subject I was teaching and on the right side the year I worked in that classroom. The font is unique to the school year; Helvetica was used for 2018-19.  The classes that I worked in French immersion are represented with a white fleur-de-li because the majority of the classes I work in are English.  Directly beneath the logo you can see a tally chart of all the classes I have been in.  The 25th is shaded in silver and the 50th is in gold.  

Saying I have been in 80 different classrooms is pretty impressive.  However, I have to remember to think of the positive side of my journey and remember those famous words written by Dr. Seuss. 

“Oh, the places you’ll go!
There is fun to be done!

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
 
KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
 
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So … get on your way!”  
Dr. Seuss

I’ve already moved a few mountains, what’s a few more.   

Friday Two Cents: Valentine’s Day Kindness


This past week many students had a lot of exciting things happening at school. Monday was the 100thday of the school year; Tuesday we had a rare snow day and the schools were closed; Wednesday report cards went home and Thursday was Valentine’s Day.   Yet I saw something during Valentine’s Day that I thought is worthy of mentioning.  In a school I work at, the kindergarten teachers decided to do something different and dare I say daring.  Instead of giving parents a class list for the students and parents to make Valentine’s cards, they helped the students to each make a card and have everyone in the class sign it.  

When I heard of this idea I loved it right away.  I know that it would be a lot of work for the teachers to organize but I thought this would teach the students so many things in the process. First off it is Eco (environmentally) friendly. How many of us would go out and buy or create cards for February 14thto simply throw them into the trash on the 15th. Second it is in line with the idea of inclusion in the classroom.  The idea is that everyone gets a card but we have all seen that not everyone gets one and that one child feels terrible when they do not get a card.  Or worse specific children are targeted to not get any cards because someone else tells everyone to not give them one.  Along that same idea not everyone can afford to purchase cards and if they make homemade ones they are ostracised because of it.  

Valentine’s Day Card

I was so impressed with the idea I suggested it to other teachers and parents at other schools. Yet their response was less than enthusiastic. Many flat out rejected the idea. They said that many of the parents are into doing the cards and they go all out with cards, candy and other stuff. In fact many students are not writing names or messages on the cards but the parents are.   

I found this interesting and a bit disturbing.  Yet from what I have observed in our society I should not be surprised.  There are a lot of people interested in only showing off and making themselves feel good at another’s expense.  These cards would alleviate all these problems and self-centredness for many people. In short it gives a small act of kindness to everyone in the class and I know that even a small act of kindness can make you feel amazing.    

Inspiring Words from my Colleagues

When I was in teacher’s college many of us, myself included, was stressed out and at our breaking point.  Yet during a class a colleague handed out pieces of paper each with our names on it. The sheets would go around the room and everyone would write one thing, a phrase or one word about what they like about that person or what best describes that person. After we each got the paper and I can tell you once I say all the comments the feeling was amazing.  When I heard of these valentine’s cards, it reminded me of that activity and how I felt receiving it in the end.  Yes the cards involve simply writing your name, but your classmates still took the time to sign your card.  To a child that simple act of kindness, signing their card, would go a long way to making them feel amazing.  

In the end isn’t that’s what Valentine’s Day all about.  Sharing love and kindness with others.  I am reminded of the famous quote by Aesop …

‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.’ Aesop

My deepest thanks and highest praise to my colleagues in the kindergarten program for implementing this wonderful Valentine’s Day act of kindness.  

Friday Two Cents: Playing Increases Productivity


 

    This past week I was able to work in a school as a physical education (PE) teacher. This was not the first time I supplied as a PE teacher and every time I do a quote “Leaders, lead by example.” comes to mind. I always show the students how to play the game or activity we are doing in gym, yet some how I always love participating with the students. Most of the time I referee the activity or participate if one side is winning by too much but I find that I do enjoy joining the students in the activity. And by the looks on their faces I can see that they too enjoy it when I participate with them. I sometimes get other teachers coming by and they usually smile when they see me playing with the students. Some say that I am the biggest kid in the school and I respond with a smile saying, “You have to lead by example.”

    Mind you I am a bit tired at the end of the day, who wouldn’t after teaching 7 classes in PE. Yet it’s like a good tired, like I accomplished something. Sometimes I even have extra energy to pursue my own passions such as art. I thought nothing of this until I read an article about “playing increases productivity.” The article mentioned that many companies such as Twitter and YouTube encourage their employees to take small breaks in the day to play. I have always been a big proponent that play is a great way to learn. Even the education system has endorsed this philosophy with play-based learning in the full day kindergarten program. There have been articles suggesting that play-based learning should be increased to grade 3 but we will have to wait and see about that idea.
    However, in the mean time I will continue to find every opportunity I can to play. Be it solitaire, darts, video games or just playing with my paints, pencils and simply creating what ever comes to me.
    I remember a wonderful poem written by an unknown author and it is posted at the entrance of the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans entitled “Play”.

 

Words that I truly believe and live by.

 

A verse by an unknown author at the entrance of the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans

Friday Two Cents: My First Day Of School


 

‘There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.’ George Sand

 

In many parts of Canada and around the world this week marks the return of students and teachers back to school. As a supply teacher, my services are not usually needed until at least the second week of the school year. However, a school that I supply in a lot called and asked if I can come in for a last-minute job to cover some one going on an appointment.   Of course I was happy to go in.

Hi Everyone!!! My Name is George!!!

I am familiar with the school, the staff and most of the students therefore it was a joy to go in. I arrived, signed in and talked to a few staff and then got ready for the day. The class I was in was a kindergarten class with a few students I knew from last year but more than half were new students. The day began and after I introduced George I think from that moment, I had won them over. If you do not know, George is my puppet and he comes in with me to the primary classes and is a big hit with the students. He sings songs with them, he brings in books for me to read and he is also a bit silly (just like the puppet master), so they enjoy whenever he comes out. Overall the class was great and it was an enjoyable experience.
However, the response I got from the older students in the school was something I did not expect. It was after lunch and I was walking back to the class as the students were coming in from lunch recess. They saw me and said hello and I returned the greeting, however after saying hi, I got swarmed by a sea of little people (the students). They hugged me and were saying things like, “You’re back!” and “Are you in our class?” Many others started telling me about what they did over the summer break. I was over joyed and a bit over whelmed to get such a response from them.
I have been working with children for many years; both as an early childhood educator and as a teacher and I have always found it amazing how the students greet me. They always seem to be happy when they see me. I thing that they know that I love working with them. Some people say it’s because I’m a big kid like them.   But whatever the reason, all I know is that the feeling, is mutual.

hugs-Educator

 

‘Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.’ Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Friday Two Cents: Reflections On My Old School And Being Bullied


This past week during my additional qualification (AQ) course, I was inspired to write about an experience that I have talked about but never written down. As many of you may know, I am an occasional / supply teacher and have been for some time. During a discussion topic I told them about an interesting experience I had a couple of years ago that helped me with exorcising some old bad memories and feelings. Some told me I should write and post it. So I am doing it.   Hopefully my experience may inspire others into action or help them in some way.

It all happened when I went into a school for a supply job, yet this was no ordinary school. This was the first school I went to when I was a student. In fact my supply job was in the very classroom where I attended kindergarten. To say that I had a feeling of awe once I entered the class would be an understatement. People asked me how it felt; the first thing I noticed was that everything was smaller. Ha. Ha, but it was true. I remembered the cubby area where I hung my jacket, the tables where I drew, painted or counted to 100. It all felt surreal because of the other feelings I had about this school. You see I was bullied at this school and picked on for about four years after kindergarten.
It started at the end of grade 1 and did not stop until I finally stood up to the bullies, in a matter of speaking. I was bullied not by one person but by a group of boys. It was not just Caucasian boys but a couple of African-Canadian boys too. The only thing I could think of why they did this was because I was different from them. I was European, 1st generation Maltese and these boys were very Canadian, maybe 3rd or 4th generation. I eat different food then them, I played different games and I spoke a different language besides English.
Everyday it got worse. I even got into fights. I would never start a fight but I always finished it. My parents told me to never start the fight but make sure you finished it. Yet at the time I was always being punished for the offence and my mother had to be called into the school on several occasions. I never saw the other boys or their parents and my mother told me that they called her because I threw the second and final punch and the other boys were always in worse condition than me.
Yet one day a boy pushed my head into the metal drinking fountain and I broke my front permanent tooth. I had blood in my mouth and in the fountain and the other boy just laughed. I ran to the teacher to tell her what happened and she said “So what. You probably deserved it.” I got so angry because the boy was laughing and I knew he would not get into trouble so I went up to him and punched him in the face several times until his nose was bleeding. Of course I got in trouble and went to the principal’s office to wait for my mother. I told him about what happened and still I got in trouble.
Well my mother came and heard the stories and was livid. But there was nothing she could do. The neighbour that looked after me would only take me to that school and I was only 7 and I couldn’t go to another school because it was too far away. So I had to put up with it for a couple more years.   So the bullying continued and the fights continued. I was even placed in a special class because my reading level was a full grade below.
When I reached 10 years my mom had enough and I was able to walk to the catholic school down the street by myself for grade 5. Once at the new school I made new friends and when my mom told them about the special classes they tested me and told her that there was no problem with my reading that I was about grade level and by grade 8, I would be a grade above.
However that first year at catholic school was hard, not because of the new school but because of the bullies from the old one. They lived in my neighbourhood and they continued to bully me until I finally stood up to them.

Mad Max Bike

My dad was working at a steel mill at the time and sometimes he would bring metal bits home. I used some to Mad Max my bike with spikes and even a spear. Today I would be arrested but back then I feared for my life and I wanted some protection. One day in June, after swimming lessons I was riding home when the same five boys came after me on their bikes. They pushed, punched and threatened me with violence and I feared for my life. So I pulled out the spear and stuck it in their rear tire spooks and they all went flying. I was not unhurt either; I had fallen too and had scrapes on my elbows, knees, right thigh and my forehead. I got up and rode as fast as I could home. My folks saw me and were sacred and angry beyond belief. The worst part was that the five boys came to my house after and there were ten of them now and asked, “Can Paul come out and play?” My parents said if they came near me or the house again, they would call the police and told them to get lost before they do it right now. They left but the next day I went to Malta for the summer and stayed with my grandparents. When I got back in September, those bullies never came after me again. Now you know why I truly hated that school.
I turned the page of that chapter in my life and years later I did see those boys all grown up. I found out from mutual friends that their lives were vastly different from mine. Many were in unhappy work and home situations, one didn’t finish high school and none went into higher education. I found some comfort knowing that I worked hard and went to university and I am happy with my chosen field and my life. Yet that school still was a symbol of pain and hatred. It took many years for me to come to terms about that place but it all came to an end when I supplied there. I was able to let go of the bad memories and then begin to forge new positive ones. The students in the school were very nice and the same for the staff. In fact I went back several times as jobs came available.
When I reflect back, it took some time to heal the wounds of the past but not until I let go of what happened and be grateful for what I had accomplished, did those scares begin to disappear. Those experiences will always be with me, however they do not define me. I choose to look to the positive experiences once I left that school. I went to another school with great friends and experiences that continued into high school, college, university and my professional life. I discovered music and art, which became a large part of my life to this day. I broadened my views and experiences to take on different challenges, to a point where I have been called a Jack-of-all-trades. All of these and much more came about after I stood up for myself and basically told those bullies NO MORE! And when I did I was saying good-bye to the past. For when I let go of what I was and what was done to me, I become the positive and happy person I am today.

I supplied in the Kindergarten class that I was in as a student.

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