We just hosted Christmas dinner and Nigel and Angela were with us. I have to write this down because, given the experience of being swept up in gravy and my grandson, there wasn’t a single photograph archived of my dinner guests. You know the one…the one where everyone is gathered into a collective and asked to say CHEESE! There is always only one person left out of that photograph. Well, this year…well…no need to get redundant.
12/6/17, 4:11 PM I received this message.
Dear Kathleen, I will always remember you as “Mrs Hanrahan”. 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?
NIGEL???? Remember you???
Of course, I remember you!
Following our reconnect were stories of remembrance of the Junior High variety…students working things out in my storage cupboard…stuff like that. As I revisit those years, Robbie Fernuk isn’t far away. He was a big part of the creative energy that lived in that particular art class. So was Nigel. Oh, how the years have sped by…
Photos from our first get together, when I got to meet Angela. Oh my goodness! It was as though we had never been apart.
I treasure our friendship. Nigel is life-giving. He is kind and smart and funny. Angela has become a new friend and I hope that we have the years to build memories and share experiences. Both Angela and Nigel are animal whisperers, brilliant, well-read and artistic. I love them!
(looking for Angela’s birthday photograph, but can’t find them in my archives…sheesh)
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.
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!
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.
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?
What a beautiful exchange was had…looking forward to many inspiring conversations about art education with this new arts educator!
As a retired person, I see more and more the outrageously crazy and demanding life of educators out there. Masters of all things, teachers are responsible for the constant changing world of demands placed down before them. I have such admiration for them.
When I have opportunity to work with children, in my specialized world of visual arts, I am blown out of the water by their desire to learn how to see their visual world, learn to draw and master a variety of media. Yesterday this was no more evident. I was thinking about the fact that more and more reflection and drawing are being sacrificed in lieu of a more packaged and close ended result for the purpose of display, such as the results provided by a ‘Pinterest idea’. In fact, I post my lessons on to the Pinterest site, in the hopes that the lessons will minimize fear about the process of teaching drawing. I don’t know if I can impact any of this anymore, but I treasure the opportunities that teachers give me to further my research and practice. I am still learning.
If teachers pressure either themselves or their students to create a ‘pretty’ end result, the child is trained to ask that forever-question in the art room…”Is this good?” instead of entering the dance of creation. I think that focusing on an open-ended result and curbing adult expectations of ‘what makes good art’ is warranted, although it may be a practice that is unfamiliar.
While the step-by-step process teaches a whole other skill set, it is not necessarily the way to go about nurturing the artist soul. The very pieces of art strung up down those hallways that achieve the giggles from the viewer, are likely the pieces that represent the children who are filled with artistic magic. Embrace that with everything that is in you.
Yesterday, I watched a grade three Hibernating Animals lesson unfold…absolutely a magical experience! For now, I’m just going to post very few pieces that represent the process of evolution that takes place when art lessons are child-centered and not adult-centered. The ‘before’ depictions gauged where the students were in their imaginations, with absolutely no instruction…just a brainstorm list of animals that hibernate.
Observe…the animals have smiles on their faces. The eyes are dominant. The little legs are outstretched, in this case, two legs consistently on each animal. The body form is coloured in. The nest or den is a circle.
I then had the students pretend to be a hibernating mice on the classroom floor.
They automatically bundled up in a closed circle. I asked them to notice where their legs were…their tucked in heads…where their arms were, wrapping around their legs. I had them rest like that for a while, with the lights dimmed. They automatically stretched when I asked them to stand and return to their desks.
When the movie was finished, I went to the board and told the students that we would be focusing on hibernating FURRY animals just for today, so we wouldn’t be drawing bats or snakes or insects hibernating. I told them we wouldn’t think about scorpions today, either, because we would be thinking about animals that hibernate near us, in Calgary. We listed those on our white board. Ground squirrels, chipmunks, mice, rabbits, beaver, skunks…
I drew an exemplar on the board of the kinds of things that an animal might add to their nest. We looked at the kinds of lines that make a cozy home for the winter.
We then discussed if we could see the animals bundled up, what would we see? Closed eyes…curled up tail…ears that were back on the head…maybe one leg or just a paw. The animal would want a curled up little bundle and not a great big space. I had the students join me in the reading corner and read them a picture book about hibernation where we saw some beautiful photographs of animals in their nests and dens.
Their After drawing…look at the leap in their understanding of the visual world….after a body gym exercise, a movie and a discussion about how to draw grass and straw, how to draw fur and what would we see. This is where you will see more distinction between the individual student’s schema. Don’t be alarmed if some still see their world in a more flat or symbolic way. This is where you let the students be individuals. You can guide with leading questions, but really aim to NOT frustrate the students. They are NOT right or wrong.
For expressive relief, after such concentration and after a recess break, the students decorated a picture frame for their piece with snowflakes…absolutely any way they wished. We used chalk. Given time, I would do this entire project in paint, but I was exploring an idea and this media made for an opportunity for me to see how I would revise the lesson. Classroom teachers could use this idea of the picture frame on any project or piece of writing. Colour of frame and motif can vary.
Then the students found their nest.
Using chalk as the media for drawing, the students worked from their visual journal After sketches, to create their hibernating animals. Once again, scale was an issue. I discovered that their animals became smaller and skinnier as they placed them in these large nests. This makes me smile…a result I didn’t anticipate and would likely spend some time talking to them about body mass if I explored this again.
The results in this particular activity could not possibly be anticipated. However, the process was invaluable and I enjoyed every minute of interaction with the students. It isn’t easy ‘letting go’, but it’s imperative. After this experience, I will be able to revise my lesson and further develop its outcomes.
I still have reservations about adult paint nights and classes that hinge on having students create images after an exemplar. I think it’s just important to enjoy those experiences for what they are, a way to master techniques, materials or to train motor skills. They are not experiences that lean toward the development of creative thought. Closed-ended formulas are never as valuable as open-ended formulas. For the record, my thoughts only!
I found her! Kearston is now 23…that means I’ve been holding on to this letter for eleven years! With plans to move back to Saskatchewan to study nursing, Kearston seems to be doing just fine. It was a blessing to share in a conversation and to know that she is alright.
It was so good to give Kearston a hug and pass her grade seven letter back to her. I had a practice of having my students write a letter to themselves for their religion class and three years after that, would post them in the mail. I’m still holding on to two letters that were sent back because of incorrect addresses. In time, I know that these will also find their way into the right hands. May you have tremendous happiness ahead, dear Kearston!
We wrote cards and letters once and a while, Pauline to me…me to Pauline. I held her fast in my heart from the time she taught me to draw; she taught me to see. When I think about the fragments that are written and contained here, in a floating capsule of the ever-sparking information highway, I know that much of this has been inspired by Pauline. I collect blue bottles and in the morning when the soft light dazzles them, I think of my teacher. Late in the evening, when I pull up to the house, I feel happy because the coloured glass reflections glow and move and make me smile. There are people who come into our thoughts often. Pauline is one of those, for me.
She kept blue bottles on her window sills.
Painting by Robert Melville: Blue Glass Looking Out on Kootenay Lake
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
I have received a list of ecologically sound practices for your summer vacation from my young Eco Warrior living in Rodney, Ontario. I am providing you with this list and encourage all of you to participate, where you can, this summer. Hyperlinks are new for me in the blogging world, so I hope you will tolerate my goofing around with them for awhile. I think that they will provide me with an alternative to cutting and pasting information that I think is relevant and enjoy on this blog. You, the reader, can then choose.
Thank you, Eric, for the thought that went into creating this list and perhaps you can send me a photograph of the school garden that you are maintaining through the summer and I can post it here. I think you would enjoy the book, Dear Mr. Henshaw for your summer reading…the note, following your list, gave me that idea.
Here is your list for summer energy savers.
1. Use daylight, no lamps in the day time
2.turn down A.C.
3. play outside instead of watching TV
4.use a programmable thermostat to lower A.C. when your not at home.
%.wash clothes in cold water
6. change over light bulbs to low energy type.
7. make your own Earth Hour with your friends.
8. walk or ride your bike instead of driving your car
9. use the BBQ instead of the oven or stove
10. tell everyone you know about this list.
Hope you like my list. Thank you for asking me to make one for you.
Mrs.Ford made me the official ECO Warrior of my school and a few other kids
too.We check classrooms at recess to make sure the lights are off. The
teachers room is off limits to the Eco team. The teachers room has many
windows and the lights are still on and they don’t recycle very good.They
would sure get a ticket if I could go in there. hahaha