Magic!

I’ve always used the word loosely.  No incantations…nothing showing up out of a top hat.  It’s a way of being…a choice to live in delight…even when, like today, a 2 liter jug of eggnog spills out on the kitchen floor, just minutes before having to rush out the door.  I’ve made an effort now and then to explain…but, it is too much about the un-explainable.

Yesterday, I painted with Grade Ones…tree ornaments…I thought these would be cool with a bit of an aluminum foil embellishment added.  I still paint with kids around the city, every opportunity I get, but have stopped writing so much about it.  Holding a brush is an important action…it’s something important enough to become familiar…to practice…to enjoy.  I like to paint with kids.

Every darned day that I am a guest teacher in someone’s classroom, I am absolutely blown away by the mountain of responsibility and creativity that is observable in just moments of being in that someone’s learning environment.  I am in awe of the magic of the teaching experience, interaction and output, both by teachers and by their students.

I usually go over to the window first and open the blinds.  I like to see how the light changes things.  I also have the time to reflect, something that teachers who are steeped in their careers don’t always have enough opportunity to do.  I like to reflect about the spaces where I find myself enjoying, exploring and filling with hard work.

Yesterday, Amber generously shared her students (little guys) with me.  Grade One!  Wow!  All I can remember about grade one is my coat hook and the fact that my brother ran so fast the first day of school, I felt really really panicked about catching up.  I remember a man walking about the school yard, at a point, raising a hand bell high in the air and shooing us into the building.  I still, to this day, want to call him Mr. Cannon.

I haven’t asked permission (now I have), but would like to share a couple of images I snapped while the students went up to the music room for their very first time.

Just look at these…tell me what you think.

Beautiful. Right?

The students were full of energy, but we enjoyed our time together and really engaged the process of chalk drawing and painting.  (There was no white in the supply cupboard so…I used yellow to brighten some of the colour…but, tints are just so lovely!) The students were very attentive as we went forward and I’ve captured a few little images of their work and their journal responses.  Magic.  And yes!  Could be an Easter Egg…could be a kite…could be an ornament!  In the ‘end’, it is about the means…and NOT the END!  The experience of painting is wondrous.  There!  You heard it from me!

I asked the students if they might do a journal entry about their experience and the resulting pieces were pretty amazing.  Lucas told me he didn’t want me to photograph the following drawing until he had finished the light coming from the window.

 

 

Today, I left my paint bucket out in the car.  I thought I’d meet Jen’s Grade Six students before committing to an art experience in paint, this afternoon.  I wasn’t with them for ten minutes and I knew that they would enjoy and respond well with paint.  Mayhaps it was the fact that the first wondrous thing I noticed, after looking out the window…were these!

DSC_0476GorgeousDSC_0475

Gorgeous, Jen!!  Wowsah!

I decided that I’d use the very same lesson that I did with the Grade Ones.  As I delivered my lesson about tempera paint, I could have heard a pin drop.  The students were totally engaged and I was pretty grateful.  Nice people.  So, as I publish the next photos, I was wondering if my readers are able to notice the differences, schematically.

The past two days have been blessing days.

And, this evening…

Nigel left me a note.  I’m over the moon about it.  I treasured him years ago…and treasure his contact now.

Dear Kathleen,
I will always remember you as “Mrs H”. I don’t know if you remember me, but you taught me grade 7 art some years ago. I have been searching for you for some time, but it is only appropriate that I should find you now, as I am about to embark on a new adventure; teaching art. Would you be interested in a get together and perhaps imparting some of your wisdom to me?
—N
What a beautiful exchange was had…looking forward to many inspiring conversations about art education with this new arts educator!

Big Brushes! Big Paper!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about  the Alberta Art Curriculum and where it concerns Division One students, including Kindergarten.  Division One, for those readers outside of Alberta, Canada, are Grades One, Two and Three.  Within the framework of the Expression Component of the Alberta Art Curriculum, there exists a language that, since 1986, when the curriculum was written, published and implemented by teachers,  is becoming more and more distant and misunderstood.

In the 1980s, I was blessed to be a part of the Fine Arts team under the inspiration of our Fine Arts Supervisor, one of the Supervisors in our District Program Department.  That team included a Music Consultant or two?, a Drama Consultant, and a Visual Arts Consultant/sometimes Visual Arts Specialist.  Today, I feel like writing about ‘the best of times’ in our District when Fine Arts were well-supported, vibrant, inspiring and growing!  Professional Development was offered on a very regular basis where teachers had opportunity to share ideas with other teachers in the District, learn techniques, share lesson plans and observe demonstration lessons being delivered by professionals in the field.  For many years, there had been a Fine Arts Center, a place where students were bused on a regular basis to have experiences in Art, Music and Drama.  It was an amazing time for Fine Arts in Calgary!

When the ‘NEW’ curriculum came out for Visual Arts, the schools were assured that expert teachers became familiar with how to use the document and feel comfortable with designing lessons, and further mentored non-specialist teachers to the point where they became comfortable with delivery of lessons and program.   Resources were updated, including textbooks and large visuals, in order to support the Reflection Component.  If teachers were struggling with ideas or implementation, a specialist booked one-on-one appointments and traveled to schools to explain, support, observe and assist with ordering media/resources or teaching.  This was happening in core subjects as well, but not to the detriment of Fine Arts education.

Somewhere during that process, our department developed a list of indices for administrators…these described what an administrator would see if, in fact, the curriculum outcomes were being met.  For example, walking down a hall, a person might look at the walls and be able to quickly identify what quality art works would look like at each Division.  Photo copied and cloned or teacher-made works, for example, would optimally, not be presented as student art work.

Not meaning to sound stuck up or arrogant, but truly, ‘perfect’ art is not ‘child made’ art.  Child made art is perfect because it shows the true schematic development of each individual child.  Somewhere along the line, adults, over the years that I’ve been teaching have somewhat imposed their fear of ‘not being able to draw a straight line’ onto children.  They sometimes fail to celebrate the wonky cutting and ‘out of control’ line that is imperative to developing fine motor skills.  Congratulations to those of you who treasure these discoveries.

All of these experiences and initiatives, I see as valuable and imperative to the life of the arts in schools.  It seems, however, that since then, this DISTANCE between educators and the arts, at least visual arts, has been growing larger and this concerns me.  I believed then, as I do now, that Fine Arts are essential to the healthy development and well-rounded education of children.  The parts of the brain used in each of the experiences of visual art, dance, drama and music must not be left unexplored.  Creatives are the answer to so many of the world’s challenges right now.  These have always been my beliefs.

So….what are the realities in schools today?  What are the pressures being put upon an authentic visual arts experience…for the sake of this rant,  and authentic visual arts experience for the youngest of our children?

Occupational health and safety guidelines now require that only a certain percentage of bulletin board space may be covered in paper.  Now, we see the art works, even by Division One children, shrinking.  We see their tools becoming smaller.  But, THIS IS A PROBLEM!!  We can not sacrifice who our young people are and what they need to experience based on the numbers of works that we can display at any given time.  It is possible to observe the safety requirements and still address the actual art curriculum, that also, is required.

Because of their little fingers, young children need large brushes and large paper.  If you have to rotate their works of art over a month long period, to be fair, I think that is a possibility.  Their fingers are not ready to hold tiny water colour brushes, or to manipulate lines and shapes, with paint in an 8 x 10 picture plane.

I’m ranting…let me see if I can find a little video or something that supports anything I’ve written here.  Well, HERE is a write up titled, YOUNG IN ART by Craig Roland, outlining and illustrating the natural progression of making symbols and then images.

You may want to mute the next video.  I know that I did.  Sometimes music distracts.

I think teachers of art will be less frustrated and children will be less frustrated if they can enjoy art experiences that challenge, but do not frustrate.  Somehow, it’s important for teachers to identify the stages of artistic development that exist within their classrooms.  If a student struggles with fine motor skills, media needs to be selected that will ease that struggle.

For young children, I recommend BIG brushes and BIG paper.  Drawings can easily be accomplished with a piece of white chalk.

My thoughts on Pinterest?  Did anyone ask? I’m laughing here.  Truly, this post is a rant and not anything but.  I have to say that Pinterest is both a blessing for a visual arts educator and a curse!  To generalist and specialist teachers alike, I pose these questions. Do you understand what the curricular outcomes are that are being met by each Pinterest ‘idea’?  Are the outcomes appropriate for students at your grade level?  Are you including in your art experiences, lessons in Reflection, Depiction, Composition and Expression?  Are the end products the driving force behind the lesson or is the experience the child is having while creating them, the most magical?

All things to think about…

I think that we have done a disservice to teachers cutting back on professional development where it includes topics with direct impact on teaching.  I think that these are the days where we focus most on technology, assessment and inclusion to the detriment of self-reflection, lesson and unit planning and professional sharing opportunities.  In ‘the trenches’, there is very little time to explore.

The cost of art materials is, I’m certain, escalating.  The time on the schedule is diminishing.  Visual arts education is slowly being absorbed by other subjects and being called integrated visual arts.  If students use crayon pencils and markers, there is some thought that they are practicing art.  This, in my opinion, is a fallacy.

Anyway, I feel like I need a drink after all of this.  Good for you, if you read to this point.  I hope that you know that I’m behind all my readers and I certainly use my opportunities, as a guest teacher, to explore the art curriculum with kids simply because I love it!  Sometimes the kids call me Painter Lady.  That makes me happy!  What better way to learn, create and explore ones mind, but to dip a big brush into a buttery bucket of paint and then to watch that paint flow out onto a surface?  For those of you out there, with kidlets, have fun with them.  They appreciate any opportunity you give them to roll up their sleeves and get into those gritty aspects of learning!

Valentines…a lesson, or two.

Valentines this year…Grades Three and One.

 

 

1973

1973

I graduated from highschool in Great Falls, Montana.  I had enjoyed the experience of power-house educators…among them, Kathy Rice and Dwight Winenger.

A Most Wonderful English Teacher

Rice Family Scholarship Endowment

Kathy Rice created this endowment in 2003 to provide funds for the Foundation’s Healthcare Scholarship Program. Kathy is a founding and current member of the Benefis Health System Foundation Board of Directors and gives generously of her time and monetary resources in support of the Foundation. She is a former teacher and business owner and is dedicated to helping students who are pursuing careers as healthcare providers.

Dwight Winenger Photo credit: Willie Black

Dwight Winenger is currently the Founder of The Living Music Foundation and Webmaster of the Living Music Web Site. He is a composer and theorist, a painter, sculptor, and commercial artist. Dwight plays trombone and piano and has been known to play french horn, clarinet, percussion, and recorder. He is a writer, mostly in english, and an editor, speaking some spanish and some danish. Winenger taught music, art, english, and spanish for several years. It is an awesome thing to go and dig around in my portfolio to find a calendar that Mr. Winenger had silkscreened in 1973.  It is also cool to see this piece’s relevance to his body of work, once viewing the gallery piece produced in 1972. (Hmmm…I note that this photo includes a copyright, so will have to wait for the appropriate permission)

Silkscreened Calendar by Dwight Winenger 1973

Even though I lived in the west, there was evidence of racial segregation in the school’s cafeteria.  Hard to believe!  Given that I was Canadian, I crossed those boundaries regularly, something that caused some heads to turn.  I left Great Falls with a notion that the world was a larger place than previously thought and perhaps that was due to my age, more than anything.  These were the booming years, though, for the United States and programs were well-funded, across the spectrum.  My mind was opened up to politics and religious discourse.  I was excited by the arts: drama, music and visual arts.  I was struck by the need to always carry ‘a cause’ in my heart.  Even in 1973, citizens were wearing MIA bracelets after the horrendous years of the Vietnam war.

I moved to Canada in 1973, but stayed west (Lethbridge, Alberta) when my family moved east (North Bay, Ontario).  Given my place on the edge of the Oldman River and meeting people like Larry Weaver, Charlie Crane and Pauline McGeorge, my life continued to open up to new discoveries, ideas and purpose.  I think that 1973 was a year of tremendous significance for me, by the choices I made as a young adult and for the huge influences on my life.  I continue to be grateful to the fine teachers who generated a desire in me, to make every day count.

University Residence…my space above the river. 1973

Tuesday’s Collage:Thinking about Priests

Tree of Life

I’m giving myself ten minutes on the internet.  It’s 4:55.  It’s a Saturday afternoon and I’ve just returned home from making Sun Prints at the Public Library with scads of young folk and adults alike…a partnership between the Calgary Public Library and the Art Gallery of Calgary and several other arts organizations for their Celebration of the Arts Event.  It was a challenging activity at times as the sun decided to hide behind thick cloud every so often, but generally, everyone was happy with the result.  I think it’s great when parents bring their young ones out for such celebration and was really impressed by the number of Dads who patiently participated in the project we set out for them, along side their children. 

Sun Prints

Since arriving home and stopping to check my mail box, I found this blog! I want to post the Swords of Truth link for a couple of reasons.  First, the messages contained on this blog are inspiring and faith-filled.  Second, the content is provided by our associate pastor of St. Albert the Great Parish and to this point, I have really felt encouraged in my faith through his words.  I feel such gratitude.  We are blessed to have, as our priests, Father Kevin Tumback and Father Jerome Lavigne.

One of the priests who hugely influenced me in my life was Oblate priest, Father Jim Carroll.  An Irish priest, he was humble and full of generosity.  He was instrumental in bringing me to a life of wholeness and faith. Basilian priest, Father Clair Watrin, and Father Len Hagel inspired tremendous freedom in the demonstration of my faith.  Through these people, I was given support, guidance and kindness.  The knowledge that they shared with me remains with me and influences who I am today.

Art!

This week I’m gathering up art works from six different schools, in order to showcase the work of some of the students in our Parish.  The art will be transported over the next couple of days to our Church Hall for their big event, a wine-tasting called Puttin’ on the Ritz.  I’m taking this opportunity to say how much I appreciate the teachers who guide students in CREATIVE EXPRESSION within any of the fine arts, but particularly, the visual arts!  It is so crucial that we, as a public, continually advocate for the arts.  In a climate of cut-backs, sometimes it is difficult to sustain a quality program and the public needs to always keep in mind what art, music, drama and dance do for society and especially, the individual!  Following a thirty-year career as an arts educator, this matters to the core of me!  Artists, teachers, musicians, dancers and thespians…..we love you!  Rock on!

My Business Card :0)