The Power of Every Day

It is April 9, 2018 for just a short while longer.

I was downloading photographs off my Canon Powershot…birds, of course. I clicked something in the process of fiddling with the files on my desk top and images surfaced from past April 9ths and I take pause.

I’m going to slow this writing down a little. I’m going to back-track. Yesterday morning I was feeling downhearted. News has been very sad lately. We had just endured more bitterly cold days and another 15 cms. of snow. I was just heavy-hearted for a lot of reasons. I received a message from my friend Michael. He said that he was up for some naturing. The weather was taking a turn for the better and the sun was out.

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We sat ourselves down on a bench at the river, after enjoying a leisurely walk right to the river’s edge. I watched a Downy Woodpecker, from where we sat. The brilliant white gulls flew overhead. Michael plugged in a bit of Ram Dass and we took pause and listened. For both of us, Toe Knee came to mind. Then we talked about death. We talked about the releasing of everything…power, ego, money, objects, even friends and family. We grieved the loss of so many who suffer addiction, hopelessness, overdose, hunger…we talked about trauma. I know. It all seems pretty dark. But, truth is, we don’t talk about some of the things that really matter. And that is why the pain sometimes continues to go on in the background.

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Michael made me cry when he told me that the paintings that my students do are an expression of the artist in me. I was grateful for the remark. And so, today, I began my day by painting with grade threes…this, after walking Max, drinking my two cups of home brew and moving, dazed, through all of the morning rituals that began April 9, 2018.

First…my photograph of the little Mrs. She only pops her head out briefly during the morning, when Mr. heads out in search of sustenance. He is usually on guard at the vent, repeating his vocalizations again and again. This morning came with her sweet face.

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The children are beautiful, as they enter into a magical silence and become completely consumed by the process of creating.

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Small conversations about Easter break…hugs from friends I have made over the years…a really great conversation about Reconciliation and the Metis with a teacher I had met some years ago…a young student, now in grade five, putting out the question, “Do you remember me?” Number lines and plotting data, first events in stories, agendas, recess, mixing of paint, sunlight filling the room, fruit yogurt, spelling digraphs gh/ph/f…wallpaper in closets…dates in calendars…logging in and logging out…the drive to and from.

Max and I at the river…releasing. We stood under a tree and big chunks of wood began dropping onto both of us. He would shake. I would brush off. Again and again. I looked up to find this guy, ravenously chipping through the flesh of the tree.

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…and this guy observing all.

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…and this guy scooting into the tall grass.

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…and this above and around me.

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…and these two courting.

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Not to mention, these two.

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April 9 was a particularly beautiful day, as it turns out. My first born took a drive to Lethbridge today with my grandson and these two photographs, make my heart sing…Steven with his Great Granny Batsford and his Great Grampa Bergman….and soon he will meet his Great Grampa Moors. What a blessed boy! and how blessed we are by him!

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Grampa Bergman and Steven

And as I downloaded my photographs onto my desktop computer, April 9, 2013 photographs surfaced. I was given the memory of my mother’s hands…and the memory of the work that she did in her life.

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April 9, 2013 Mom's Hands Folding Sheets

These were a little gift for me.

The day is almost gone and I am left with a feeling about just how powerful a single day can be. I hope to be mindful about each day I am given. I hope to remember the lesson that this day has given.

Digging Through Archives

My daughter (now, a teacher) and I were sitting together while she was still cozy in her kitty jammies this morning…me, at the dining table, she, on the stairs…she was telling me about a very inspiring Convention session that she attended on Thursday of this past week.  It turns out that the presenter was Ron Wigglesworth.  As soon as I started exploring his posts on the internet, I realized how his contributions to education and to students has been exceptional.  Anyone who has encouraged a connection between drawing and biology is great in my eyes…in fact, I’d have to say that he has done a lot of connecting between diverse disciplines.

I got thinking about archives of various projects and things that my students have explored in the past and I just thought I’d write a post that featured those.  I had fun teaching and in retrospect, I’m pretty sure that I saw the students’ hands, hearts and minds as extensions of my own.  I’m grateful for their hard work, their talents and their commitment.  For me, it was never about the marks.  A sampling…digital…there’s a load of stuff in my photo albums.  And, today, I’m celebrating it all.

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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!

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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!

Painting With Kids Outdoors on a Windy Day!

As I continue with my “My Life Falls Out of Order” series of posts…I still find little nuggets in my archives about teaching, music, nature and art moments that I wish to put in some form of reflection.

Not much to say about this one that the photographs won’t explain, but, it all began with good intentions.  When the weather is nice and the year is grinding to a close, it’s nice to get students outdoors as much as is possible.  These experiences can be based on curriculum; you just need to think it through.

So, of course, I head outside to paint.  There is a tradition of painting landscape called en plein air…if good for the Impressionists, why not for children?  Any grade…

When painting a mural, it is the teacher’s greatest responsibility to share with students the idea behind collaboration and elevation of the group’s efforts over the familiar experience of elevating the self.  Well before a project such as a group mural, lessons need to focus on the personality of line quality and the very specialization of mark making.  In a group mural, it is explained, it is important to share your marks in a variety of locations.  This will lead to a more successful piece, in that Unity will be accomplished through the weaving of many personal approaches to colour, design and line.

And…when the wind blows, just revise the initial plan.  Don’t get sad about a splatter, enjoy the impact of elements upon the collective result.

November Paint

One of the components of the Alberta Elementary Art Curriculum is Expression.  Here lies the opportunity for students to explore media, personal narratives and ‘let ‘er loose’.  While I typically embed reflection and depiction in my lessons, as well as inherently guide the students to compose well (all of the strands are connected), sometimes I focus more on the act of painting or sculpting or learning what media can do.  Seasonal celebrations lend themselves well to Expression.  Those educators who lean heavily on Pinterest for their ‘art ideas’ need to remember that these are, for the most part, Expression lessons and often of the variety that focuses on the ‘how to’ rather on the child’s personal interpretation of their internal narrative. We need to be wary of the ‘paper cut out’ approach for the sake of a ‘pretty display’. I think it’s essential the ‘art idea’ bank be balanced with more unpredictable outcomes and never sacrifice the experiences that come with Reflection, Depiction and Composition.

This month the students in my care, painted.  The use of the brush continues to be a skill to be reckoned with.  Turning the brush sideways for thin marks and flat for wider marks, another technique to practice.  Dry brush and wet brush effects can be observed and discussed.

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Creating candlelight separately, to be cut out and glued to the candle after drying…one idea…in the case that you have short bits of time for painting, instead of a sustained period of time.

The resulting collages, including a wreath of evergreen that has been created using green on green, studies in pattern.  In this case a second candle will be added on the second week of Advent (taller), a Gaudete candle on the third week (taller still and pink in colour) and the fourth candle, the last week, leading to Christmas.

Fully painted Advent Wreaths, horizontally on large paper.  Concept in composition was overlapping…we did a few exercises with our bodies before beginning this…talked a little about perception.  Notice North, South, East and West marked at the compass points of the picture plane.  These dots give the students reminders to stretch their images to touch each of those edges.  Chalk allows the students to explore placement, change their minds and plan and scheme.  Pencil is debilitating at this age.  Erasers become appendages.  lol  Just get rid of both.  White chalk rocks!

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Smaller format…still, on coloured construction for an activated picture plane.  Later, to have the candle flames whitened with chalk or white oil pastel…I would suggest that these smaller compositions might have oil pastel underlines or embellishments added after dry.

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Arachnophobia: Grade 4 Art Happening

What a wonderful group of grade fours!  They were very intense about their art…from the very beginning until the very end.

I began the class by asking the students what makes people scared of spiders.  We thought about why they have become a symbol and decoration for creepy times like Halloween.  We shared all of the types of spiders we know about from library books, movies, stories and experience.  We talked for a while about Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.

In their visual journals, the students designated a BEFORE page and an AFTER page.  I asked them to draw a spider, with their own knowledge and understanding and idea of what a spider looks like.  It could be entirely imaginary or be based on something they’ve seen before.  They were asked to add as much detail as possible.

The variety of interpretations was amazing.  I love love love their BEFORE images.

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Next, I showed the students a YouTube video…great guy…easy going and enjoyable script, “How to Draw a Red Back Spider.”  I have never been a big fan of HOW TO DRAW books, but honestly, when a class is swelling to 29 to 32 students…the YouTube Video is a way for the teacher to filter around the classroom, assist and support students.  If you are doing a demonstration/explanation at the front of the room, with your back to the students, really you are less engaged with them and more being a ‘bit of a show off’. I’m laughing as I type this.  Do what you want!  It’s just that, very late in the game, I’ve discovered that these little videos are superb for the Depiction part of a lesson.

This guy is great.

The very same students who had created the BEFORE drawings posted above, drew the following AFTER depictions.

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I didn’t have a lot of time for prep…was busy eating up a bowl of homemade leek and potato soup, so I grabbed black and white paint and orange paper and so began the expressive portion of the lesson.

Using chalk for drawing, the students were asked to use their sketches in order to create a Red Back Spider on a web.  The red spot could be coloured after both the spider and web were painted…using a red Mr. Sketch marker.

The resulting BLOW OUT session was remarkable!  A great time seeing students show their own spin on the subject.  I only wish that I had my Canon with me.  But, this will give my readers some ideas.

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The Week in Review: Paint!

I was blessed to be asked to guest teach for the entire week in one school.  I was so happy to be able to paint with children.  It is a joy to mix colours in buckets and to share them with young people.  Watching them journey through a process such as this is so gratifying.  To pour paint colours straight out of the bottle would never be enough for me!  I like to create a palette that sings!

Colour mixing

Just a few photographs were collected this week, as most days I forgot my camera.

Grade Ones painted kites on the anniversary of my mother’s passing.  I could not help but think of Mom’s spirit…soaring. The children had painted once before with me, so they nailed their technique!

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Grade two paintings of hot air balloons…I added red and blue to Tuesday’s palette.

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Concentric lines around summer symbols.  “When I call SNOWBALL, trade your paint bucket and move to a different spot!”  Everything was wonderful until the wind picked our mural up like a kite and flipped it onto its face.   Oh well, there was just a half hour left so we headed to the field for some kickball. The red, yellow and white are right out of the bottle and all of the other colours are mixed.

Cleaning Up the Desk Top Computer

I think I was looking for my photograph archives from a trip I took with my son, the summer of 2009, when I came upon some images from the end of the teaching year and celebrations with my students; specifically, my grade nine art students, our life sized sculpture exhibit and my grade seven home room.

It was that year that I invited my students to bring in a special object for our prayer table…so, every Monday, it would be the next person’s turn.  It started with me…and a stone. Jarrett Alley, a former student of mine, had passed away in 1997 at the age of 13. His place in the classroom was two rows back, but directly across from the framed article that remained, for all of my teaching years, a tribute to his life.

I think I always intended to copy and pass on a photo to each student at the end of that year, but evidently that never happened!

I’m going to loop the photographs here.  My students, of over thirty years of teaching, remain in my heart.

For the most part, I am out of touch with these students, so if my readers know any of them, please share.

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Little Birds

Thank you, Jenn, for your wonderful class!  They were amazing, respectful and so appreciative of everything I had to share with them.  I enjoyed being in your class.  I’ve collected a few ideas here that I thought other teachers might appreciate.

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These art ideas are colourful and include subjects that grade three students adore, ANIMALS!  I turned on Duke’s LIVE Eagle Cam while the students wrote their journal pages this morning and they were amazed.

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I browsed around as they worked and discovered some wonderful guidance in the word walls, the charts and the resources that are posted for student use throughout the classroom.

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This afternoon, I spoke to the students a little bit about how we can sometimes feel abandoned by God, at times when big things happen, like the news of so many people having to leave their homes in Fort McMurray.  This morning in Health, we had learned about several ways to calm ourselves down when life is stressful and we practiced a five minute meditation together.  It was amazing how calming that time was!

So, we wondered this afternoon,’when something big happens, what are some ways that we can calm down the stressful feelings we are having?’  Well, it is really helpful to know that there are kind and caring people around who are going to be there for us.  I spoke to them about the Footprints prayer and that sometimes when we don’t experience God close to us, “it is then that HE carries us”.  We are not alone.  Look at the lilies of the fields.  Look at the sparrows…the tiny birds…if our Father loves them, how much more does He love us?

I moved from this shared conversation into an art activity where I spoke to the students about observing a sparrow family in a vent across from my kitchen table.  I’ve watched these sparrows for the past six years.  At this point, there were all sorts of stories shared about nests/eggs/sparrows and I tried to listen to every one of them.

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The students are really getting to appreciate that a visual journal is for practice and exploration.  I was really impressed by their studies.

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I handed out small-scale pieces of heavy toothed white paper for their final compositions. While students were drawing, they took turns painting swirling sky colour onto blue construction mural paper, in order to create a sense of spring and atmosphere.  The students added colour with pencil crayon, to their final depictions and after observing several projected images of sparrows.

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Collaborative projects are a way of displaying smaller projects that are skill oriented.  Thanks for your class today, Jenn.

Carli’s Classroom: An Inspiring Day

There was such soft light flowing in the classroom, when I arrived.  The students and I didn’t end up closing the blinds until the sun started pouring into the classroom, during late morning.  When I arrived, I knew it was going to be a great day.

I am passionate about teaching in the role of guest teacher.  I have only a short while with the children and I want to be the very best that I can be to influence empathy, peace and learning.  I was excited to be working in Carli’s Grade three classroom and she’s given me permission to share this post with you, in the case that you want to extend off of any of these ideas and explore some alternatives.  It’s funny that we run to Pinterest for ideas when right across the hall from us, are a whole number of masters who can mentor us and inspire us with new ‘ideas’.

To begin my morning, I read over, for myself, the posted Pedagogy for teaching.  I remembered this from another visit, but wanted to remind myself.

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The community group tables allow for easy access to materials and tools that might be needed.  There is shared responsibility for their organization and upkeep.

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Student notebooks/workbooks are stored in those little white bins on the shelves…they are stored throughout the classroom in order to avoid traffic jams.  The students know where each of their items is located.

I love love love the books and really enjoyed looking at the book, Where Children Sleep by James Mollison.  I need to get myself a copy of this.  Instead of circulating and having the children read aloud to me during our individual reading time, I had several students come to me and read from this book as I sat in a comfy chair.  It wasn’t long before one of the children came to me with a student-made book on the same topic, created last year, by the Grade twos.  I think this is a beautiful idea.

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Books can be a discovered throughout the classroom, linking up visions with concepts and making learning real and rooted in literacy.

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Students created, in science, their own Rock Museum.  They enjoy using their vocabulary.

They had done lots of research and study!

 

When students have a guest teacher, they get to wear the mantle of the expert and spill over with conversations about the things they have learned.  Our birthday girl brought in crystals and minerals for her sharing from the comfy chair.  The kids were overcome with excitement by the ‘rare’ stones.

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I appreciated the student-made posters illustrating the Rights of Every Child.  Those are three D models of the structure of the ear done in partner work…made out of modelling clay.  The students have left rocks and minerals and have begun their study of sound, hearing and the ear.  I have to say, as an adult, I had forgotten the various physiological components, but these guys could give it to me rote.  I LOVE THESE MODELS!

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I felt this cold coming on and felt a bit of a headache.  I asked the students, if later, I could try out their Peace tent.  They enthusiastically told me, YES!  I have to confess, when they went out for recess, I climbed in and just chilled, exploring their posters, their sayings and their origami paper folding.

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Math centers were tons of fun, with the kids, getting up and rotating through the four stations every 15 minutes.  This gives the students opportunity to move and to shift focus.  Awesome.  I discovered that I’m not very good with Tangrams.

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For those of my readers who follow me, you know that I enjoy engaging nature where and when I can…getting out daily, with my border collie, Max.  Well, if you can’t get out there, then try to bring bits of it inside!

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And never ever forget that you are always learning…and that it’s a treasure to others that you share what you learn.  Thank you, Carli Molnar!  Thank you, Grade Threes!

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More on Carli’s classroom HERE.