Monday, February 28, 2011

Post 47 - Love this sign!... What does it communicate to you?

Blogging my evolution as an artistic art educator - An art-based experience...

Guess it is VERY important to watch our every step... Or, is it?... Thoughts?

Safety, health, happiness, and peace... Pam

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Post 46 - Sharing a future art assignment... And, I am finally moving on to the Literature Review...

Blogging my evolution as an artistic art educator - An art-based experience...

First, after moving files around for some photo altering I did for my Paper and Fiber Arts students' altered book assignment (Yes, I will share... I plan to finish mine over the Saturday crop I am attending with my friend Lisa on the 12th. So, I can show you mine at least. The student work will follow.), I realized I had work I did in the Fall that I traded on line, that i had not posted, mainly because I was drowning in school and college work at the time.

A quick explanation... I decided that since I consider "real artists" to be those who risk, and if I, one, wanted to perceive myself more often as a "real artist", and two, expected my students to face risk in their artwork, I had to start risking more. So, over the Summer, I started to exchange artwork on line with the ladies on a site called Art 42. Some of the work I received was incredible, and some not so much. Let's leave it at that...

But, anyhow, this particular exchange was done with a group that really created wonderful pieces, and I loved every one I got in the mail. The pictures above and below are of my "List of 100 things that make me happy", which I turned into instant books, and housed in little coin envelopes. I am hoping to employ this idea in my classes, either this year or next. This past Fall, when we created Artist Trading Cards and exchanged them amongst the two classes of Paper and Fiber Arts students, they all had a ball doing the trades, and I believe really loved having the art of their friends. So, I can see this project going over very well too!

Second, I am finally feeling a tiny bit better about what a Literature Review actually consists of, and how to organize it. I guess I should have tried the faithful Internet from day one. Because, if I had I might not have procrastinated so much. My problem is I am a visual thinker. I can collect all sorts of information, but I don't know how to organize it. Heck, that's probably why I create incredible art lessons and I know why I do them, yet I am relatively horrible at putting it all down on paper.

Anyhow, I discovered a wonderful site reference on the net which is giving me a much clearer idea of how to organize all the stuff I have to organize. I was always crappy at research papers, and the Literature Review is like the research paper part of my project/paper... if that makes any sense.

I will definitely be sharing this site with others, because it really helped demystify the specifics, now that I am where I am in the process. HERE it is, if you are in a geeky mood, or simply want the 411 on what I am doing today and tomorrow...

Safety, health, happiness, and peace... Pam

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Post 45 - Temple Grandin is a hero of mine... And, how I am working to be a "good teacher"...

Blogging my evolution as an artistic art educator - An art-based experience...

"I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher."

--Temple Grandin (Professor, writer, speaker, hero)

What do I do to be a good teacher?

When I create lessons and projects and challenges for my students, I work very hard to make sure I find them interesting, appealing, and exciting myself. If I would be bored, they will be bored... And, what fun is that? What learning can occur?... None.

This doesn't mean that one devises lessons that are "fluff", because we are afraid of resistance from our students. Everyone resists change and challenges that have open-ended answers. We all want to be "right". None of us wants to fail. We flee from failure.

But, we all must face it, or we are frozen in time. We cannot move forward, grow, and change... and learn.

So, I create problems for my students that require them to experiment with possible answers, brainstorm, and throw a bunch of stuff at "the wall", in the hopes that something "sticks"... something works. And, it does sometimes, and doesn't at others. But, that is the value of process, versus product.

Art educators are not supposed to be product conveyour belt managers. It is not a race to see how much "stuff" our students can produce, that makes the "best educator". It cannot be, or we miss the point. And, worst of all, our students miss the experience of moving through problems. It is the journey that matters most. Not the destination.

And, when I set about proposing ideas to my students, I always make them work with some type of "map". These "maps" are something labeled in my gradebook as Creative Planning. This label covers everything from intial sketches, to plans for making things, to writing exercises, self-evaluation tools, etc... And, believe you me, they get credit for this process! They cannot move forward without having jumped through the "hoops" of the planning process. Can they change their minds, as artists, as they are making a work of art? Absolutely! But, one must first plan a direction to take, before setting off on "the trip", otherwise one could end up in Oklahoma, instead of New York city. (And, although Oklahoma has it's perks, it does not have the Statue of Liberty, and if that is what you are aiming for, you will be disappointed.)

It is always about PLAN B, not PLAN A... This is a life lesson. It is one of the greatest gifts I give my students. To navigate the world, one must know that it is essential most of the time to have a "map". But, it is even more essential to know when to alter the route on the map, when road blocks occur, so that one can still get to one's destination.

And, those "alterations" or detours are the difference between life and living. Living is the space between. The inbetween spaces. That is where our real life occurs. That is where the real answers come to us, and where our most precious memories are formed...

The detours are the "zone"... that illusive place of our greatest accomplishments. That is where the light bulbs are blinding, and what I aim for with the projects and challenges I set for my kids... Sometimes it doesn't happen... But, sometimes it does!

More and more over the years I have spent teaching, I have been the lucky witness of it. Is that due to time and the volume of experience?

Or, am I simply becoming the "good teacher", of which Temple Grandin speaks?... I sure hope so...

Safety, health, happiness, and peace... Pam

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Post 44 - How I arrived at my "claim"/theory... And, a mathematical representation for the issues of this-and/or-that, otherwise known, as "My DaVinci code"

Blogging my evolution as an artistic art educator - An art-based experience...

So, I stated my "claim" in the previous post, and that "claim" is the theory that I am responsible for supporting in the Literature Review (part of my paper).

So, how did I arrive finally at that "claim"? (This is the thought process "stuff" that becomes a part of my Blog Purpose and Artist Statement eventually.)

1). I started by whittling down my focus, this past Fall, which started out too broad back in the Spring of last year, to... My identification issues as an art educator,... which you already know. (Just go with me on this. I am explaining stuff to you all, so I can confidently put it into words for my paper. Although, my horoscope says something to the effect of I enjoy the experience of being uncertain... Fabulous! Just what I wanted to "hear".)

2). Next, I created a question to answer about my focus, that could inform and help me develop a clearer "claim"... Still with me?... The question I came up with was, quite simply or not,... How can I effectively discover the ways in which my identification issues effect my pedagogy, and the way I feel about my identity as an artist and teacher, as it is manifested when I make art, make crafts, take risks or not, live my life, play or not, etc...?

3). Finally, after realizing I struggled with sub-focus issues, that effected my focus issue (Artist and/or teacher), and was probably effecting my pedagogy as well, I went about brainstorming, to "ferret out" those sub-focuses.

Interestingly enough, when I did this, I discovered that many of the sub-focus issues I deal with all the time, are ones that other art educators deal with, my students deal with, artists deal with, and, really, everybody deals with sometimes. In addition, I realized that identifying my sub-focuses helped my pedagogy, in the way that I planned lessons, and my personal art making as well. For example, I struggle with risk-taking. Nobody likes to fail. I don't. My students don't. But, risk is necessary for change and growth. So, I began to take risks with my own art making (I will explain in later posts), and I began to create lessons that were even more open-ended for my students (I will share some of these in later posts too.).

OK... Here's the DaVinci code part... Math for my friend Lisa, and my sister Lisa! (What is it about that name? I wonder what percentage of math geniuses are named Lisa? Sorry, digressing...)

Anyhow, because my sub-focuses seemed to be polar opposite pairs, but I still identified with each "pole", and all the "stuff" in between, I was left with a dilemma. I am a visual creature. You all know that already. So, I was really craving a visual way to represent my sub-focus pairs, for my paper, future artwork, and possibly another tattoo (Yes, I am always considering more of them... Digressing again...). I tried arrows, but too boring. And, than it occurred to me... mathematical symbols. I love crossing over into other disciplines all the time, so why not take advantage of one discipline that has art built into it... math. (Yes, kids... Art and math ARE linked! "Too infinity, and beyond," as Buzz says... Get the joke?... I know. I'm lame. I admit it with my students all the time, and they try very hard to make me "cooler". It is just not going to happen.)

So, I searched the almighty web, and found an answer on a site called "Good Problems"...

[a, b] = The value between "a" and "b", including the endpoints.

This definition fit my needs perfectly! And, here is my focus (first), with the sub-focus list below that...

[do, teach]
[artist, crafter]
[personal, professional]
[play, restrain]
[living, life]
[risk, safety]
[breakthrough, block]

4). Thus, my "claim" evolved, to be clear enough to fuel my project's direction, and the GOAL I set for myself... To create this blog, which (remember my question above), is here to help me discover, through reflecting and sharing with all of you, how my identification issues of artist and/or teacher "inform my pedagogy and personal change".

It's a bit of a maze-like path, but I am here, and I really love the idea of sharing my adventures as both an art educator and artist with all of you... now for my project, and into the future.

One result for now is that I finally don't feel uncomfortable telling strangers what I do for a living. I used to just say, "I teach high school art". Now, I add, "... and, I am an artist, as well".

It's progress! Step-by-step... Word-by-word... Student-by-student... Artwork-by-artwork...

Safety, health, happiness, and peace... Pam

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Post 43 - Claim - In my paper I am claiming that...

Blogging my evolution as an artistic art educator - An art-based experience...

Viewing identification issues through an evolving lens of inquiry informs pedagogy and personal change.

This is the theory that fuels my paper and is the driving force behind the reflection components of this blog. (This claim, by the way, was whittled down from three different claims, originally. And, cobbled together skillfully by myself, my friend Ann, and my husband... Talk about collaboration!)

I have identity issues. But, then again... Who doesn't?

Personal ones aside... I am focusing here, through this blog, if you had not surmised as much, and in my paper, on those identity issues that are directly connected to my teaching (pedagogy) and art making struggles. That is to say, "Do versus Teach".

You know... it's like that terribly old and mortifying saying, "Those that can't DO, teach"... I always get a sick feeling in my stomach, and a scrunched up expression on my face when I even think about that statement.

How many other art educators out there suffer, like I do, needlessly? Why do we have to make a choice?... Be an artist OR be a teacher...

I don't want to choose, shouldn't have to choose, and furthermore, claim that, as many others have claimed, that my art making enriches my teaching, and my teaching enriches my art making. I have witnessed this happening in my own life. So, for me, I know it is true. And, I am not alone... (This theoretical "proof" is the stuff that goes in my Literature Review... No, I am not procrastinating! Just skating around, getting closer and closer... But, I better get "on it", or I might skate myself right into a frozen pond! Ha!... Is that a crack in the ice?)

Well, anyhow... I thank you all for listening today, and for the kind and insightful comments from yesterday!

And, for your kindness, I leave you first with this quote, that Ann texted me the other day, because she knew I needed to stop pussy footin' around, and get writing...

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face."
- - - Eleanor Roosevelt

And, second, I leave you with a photo of my favorite pussycat... I wish I was Cosmo RIGHT NOW! (I am so not kidding... Yesterday, I really did look into that gorgeous, plump, self-satisfied, furry face and wish for a brief few seconds that I were he... Ahhhhhh!!!! To be paw-loose and fancy-free...)

Safety, health, happiness, and peace... Pam

Monday, February 21, 2011

Post 42 - Here's "the scoop", as my professor friend always says!... And, some yammering...

Blogging my evolution as an artistic art educator - An art-based experience...

This blog will continue to exist as my reflective "tool", for a very long time.

My Culminating Project, which is the typed paper that verbally and visually explains the theoretical reason for my blog and what I have learned, will exist as others have typically existed... in a drawer, and on loan to other universities.

[I am currently working on the Artist's Statement and Literature Review (theoretical stuff), to be turned in to my advisor by tonight. Then, I will complete the Goals and Activities section this weekend. Then, I will complete the Evidence and Reflection part during the next week and weekend. All of the paper must be finished, edited, corrected, printed, bound (X2), and turned in by the week of March 14 - 18. (I need to go outside to find as many four-leafed clovers as I can right now... LOL!)]

The "drawer thing" still bothers me though, because I have always felt that the accessibility of cyber space via my blog would allow me to share with more people. But, in the end, what I want to share, I can always include here. The whole theoretical basis doesn't have to be here, and it would probably bore most of you to death. Let's just say, it's not my favorite part to write either, and leave it at that. (Yes... procrastination IS my best friend right now.)

Over the next month, I will be finishing up my paper, and adding more to my blog. Here is where the fun stuff will be!... Photos of my students and their work, my work, my thoughts, your thoughts, etc... The good stuff!

Strange, but I just came to the realization last night that I had been reflecting publicly (via scanning and posting my pages in online galleries), at least primarily about my personal life, for a long time. Scrapbooking has been my constant artsy companion and outlet since I got married, and the source of part of my identity issues focus to my paper... (Artist vs Crafter... How can I be both?... Which is REAL art?... Etc...)

I started my reflection process with Creative Memories (completing my wedding album was my goal) and "crops" with my friend Lisa, whom I've known since we were both seven. (Yes, somebody can stand me for that long!) I progressed to "crops" at Archiver's, with my professor friend Ann, and the desire to be published as a goal. Published means my pages would be in scrapbooking magazines, several of which are defunct now... Yes, that was a "big deal"... Or, so I thought for a long while. It was validation... And, when you have always seen yourself as an artist, and are teaching art, you begin to question your authenticity, when you are making scrapbooking pages in your "free" time (no matter how creative) instead of "real art", or whatever constitutes that...

And, as I said already, I was a teacher during all this. And, I have to admit, not as good of a teacher as I wanted to be, or am now... by far. My friend Ann insisted, on a regular basis, that to teach high school students well, you had to "like" them... Yes, I can hear the groans. Who genuinely "likes" high school aged humans??... Anyone out there??... Insert cricket sound HERE...

Well, the key to my dilemma of "liking" my students, was the key to me becoming better at what I did for a living, and that living was far more important than being published in any scrapbooking magazine.

You have to like THEM, high schoolers that is. Yet, you do not have to like everything, or for that matter most things, they DO. And, after finally accepting, grudgingly, what my wise friend had to offer, I have received the best gift possible...

I love my job! I am better at it, and I finally know that I am good... My kids validate me. Not by saying how great I am or anything that "icky", but by doing better and caring more, and going farther with what has been set before them.

I challenge them. I expect a lot. I demand a lot. I want them to be problem solvers and "question posers", as Eisner suggests... And, sometimes they love me, and sometimes they hate me. But, they know I expect them to be the best they can possibly be. And, that is why I have the best job on the freakin' planet!

I get to watch the light bulbs light up!... Yes, sometimes it's barely enough light to "read by"!... But, sometimes, just sometimes, it is blinding. My kids really do surprise me. I really do learn as much from them, as I am hoping I am sharing with them... I love it when I catch them in "the zone". I long for that place...

So anyhow, at present, and since I have had experience with publicly displaying/sharing my reflections on life (Don't worry Lisa, I will still always scrapbook, no matter what!), I will continue to use and get better at using this blog as a reflection "tool" for my art and my teaching. The goal is to see the patterns, celebrate the successes, and bravely face and turn around the failures...

And, I hope you all will be here with me to share your thoughts, on whatever you wish to share your thoughts on, for a good long time to come...

You matter to me... Thank you for being here!

Safety, health, happiness, and peace... Pam

Monday, February 7, 2011

Post 41 - The schedule is coming... I swear it!

Blogging my evolution as an artistic art educator - An art-based experience...

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
                                                                                                                                    --- Douglas Adams

Safety, health, happiness, and peace... Pam

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Post 40 - The thesis is officially... ON!!!... Welcome to the cyber version of my final thesis for my Master's degree in Art Education!

Blogging my evolution as an artistic art educator - An art-based experiment...

So, why start on Ground Hog's Day?

Well, I feel like I have been "underground" over the past few weeks (new building and lots of adjustments), and it was just TIME to pop my head out, and get this "show on the road"!

And, I am giving myself almost six weeks, even though Phil has predicted an early Spring...

Six weeks to do what?... Six weeks to put my thesis up on this blog, that's "what"!

I will be posting a schedule FRIDAY, so you all will know what is going up on this blog and when to pester me. Plus, I will be sending an e-mailed invitation to several followers, advisers, and brilliant supportive friends, family, and colleagues this weekend so they can "poke holes" in my theories, assertions, and ideas.

And, with a lot of help from you all, I will be able to "publish" my thesis for all to investigate and access now and always, instead of my writing living in "the drawer" in the DAAP library for few to peruse. (My fellow graduate students already understand how I feel about that. Insert grimace "here"... And, a smile!)

Well... Here it goes!

Safety, health, happiness, and peace... Pam