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Teaching, Testing, and Creativity

  • Posted on December 31, 2013 at 5:51 pm
Blue Angel Wings by Katherine Svoboda

I encourage creativity in my students. I cannot imagine a life without making something new.

Where I am teaching I see a high emphasis on test scores.  Since I teach in an area that we are not able to “score”, I find that the administrators and teachers don’t really understand the value or creative aspects of art.  Consequently, the course is treated by some as a “filler” so that they can have their planning periods.  If we are to educate children for the future, we will have to begin by first educating the educators. Since there hasn’t been a clear-cut way of gauging creativity, it has been grossly over looked in the schools.  Even the physical arrangement of our classrooms does not support creativity.  I sense that “learning for tomorrow” is learning how to be a creative individual that can handle a variety of situations, whether they be emotional, physical, mental, or whatever.

Strangely enough, I wrote these words way back in the early eighties when I was teaching at my first teaching job and attending graduate classes.  I recently came across an old notebook that I use to write in.  When I came across these words, I couldn’t believe it.  Test scores?  My how things don’t really change after all.  We are living in a high stakes time of testing but the push for testing has been going on as long as I have been teaching.  The thing I find frustrating is how unimportant creativity seems in all of this.

However, my perspective on creativity has never really changed.  I have always felt that the most important thing for learning is creativity.  Students need to have time to explore when they are learning.  This exploration needs to involve the student in ways that force him/her to create something new, to come up with new ideas, to think outside of the box.  Most people are not aware of the many known cases of creative people that were not recognized in regular school education, but somehow through their own creativity became successful.  Of course, Thomas Edison comes to mind right away.  However, are you aware that people like Ben Franklin, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, John D. Rockefeller, George Burns, Colonel Sanders, Charles Dickens, Elton John, Harry Houdini, and Ringo Starr all quit their formal schooling at young ages?  Some went back to school, like Einstien, but others flourished by finding something they really were interested in doing.  I think the way we school students today we do not allow children to discover what truly interests them.   If you can find something that you are interested in doing and you spend countless hours perfecting your abilities at getting better at it, you may become an expert in that field.  I often think about the first time I threw a pot on a wheel.  Of course, I could hardly center the clay, let alone create a worthy piece of pottery.  It actually took years before I felt like I was somewhat of an expert, and even that meant that I could not necessarily throw huge pieces of clay.

Why have we, as parents, allowed schools and government to take our children and push two subjects at them as though that is all that is important?  It is reading or it is math.  These two areas count for everything these days.  Of course, I think these subjects are important and obviously, if you cannot read, your opportunities will be limited.  However, the next Einstien may be sitting in a classroom where a teacher thinks he is “slow” or dim witted because he doesn’t score well on government-mandated tests.  Seriously, we are messed up as a society, when all we care about are test scores.  As human beings, we are more than our last test score.  The measure of a man or a woman is not what they scored on their ACT or SAT but on how they live their life.  I worry about our society as we elevate the students that score well on tests and ignore the students that may be daydreamers or late bloomers.  We cannot discredit the different ways people learn and we should not treat students as a one size fits all mentality.  We should embrace their differences and encourage creativity and original thinking.  People that are willing to make mistakes and try something new will be willing to think outside the box and come up with new ideas.  Those new ideas may be the next invention or innovation of an old idea.  No one knows what the future is going to hold.  I didn’t have a clue almost thirty-five years ago when I wrote that paragraph about testing that it would hold true today as well.   As a society, we say we appreciate creative people but we try to put square pegs in round holes every opportunity we get when we ignore the natural creativity of children.  Ken Robinson explains in this video how our formal education system does everything it can to undermine children’s creativity.

In the end, we must teach our children to discover their interests and really follow their dreams.  What is it that is going to take to make them better people?  What is going to make them reach their full potential?  Should it be just about making money or is there something more?  What is going to make them truly happy?  We all want to produce something.  We want to feel joy and nurture our interests.  I have to agree with Alan Watts when he asked a simple question:  What do I desire?  What if money were no object?
As a society, what are we teaching our children to value?  Is it all about making money or is it about something more creative than just that?  How do we stand out in a world where we are asked to all conform to that square peg?  The artist in each of our children wants to stay an artist.  Why are we happy when our children put away what we deem to be “childish” things such as art?  Art is our humanity.  It is what differentiates us really from all other life forms. We should embrace our creativity, nurture it, and develop it.



A Day in the Life of an Art Teacher

  • Posted on November 5, 2013 at 9:00 pm


I was thinking this morning that most people would not have a clue of all of the different things I have to do on any given day as an art teacher.  Today I decided to give people a glimpse into my life as an art teacher.  I arrived at the school around 7:20.  On any typical day, I usually arrive anywhere between 7:15 and 7:25.  On Thursday mornings, we have a delayed start for the students, so I have to be in the library by 7:00 for our PLC (Professional Learning Community) meeting.

Today, I greeted my assistant principal, checked my mailbox, and headed down to my room.  I booted up my computer and got the other six started as well.  Next, I checked my email and loaded all of the programs I would be using during my classes.  These are Power School, Class Dojo, my web page, and a Word document with images of scratch art projects on it.  Next, I wrote on my whiteboard the agenda for the day for all of my classes.

By this time, my mentor students started arriving.  I immediately tell them to make sure they have any homework they need to complete and their reading book.  I assign students that are not finished with their blogs from art class to work on the computers.  The end of the marking period is Friday, so this is the last chance students have to complete any missing work in any of their classes.  I have told my students that most of this work needs to be completed by Wednesday, as all teachers must have their grades submitted by Monday morning.  During Mentor class, I check the grades of the students I am most concerned about failing.  I confer with them about what they need to be doing to get their work turned in.  I remind students to work and not talk.  I give class Dojo points to students for working.

Immediately after class a sixth grade student comes in to tell me an 8th grader had shown her some head phones that he just took from my class.  I thank her and tell her I will take care of it.  I look up the accused student’s schedule, and call his next teacher to explain the situation so she will send him back down.  As I am calling, a woman from the Service Production company peeks in at me to talk about their products and service.  She had called the day before to find out when my planning period was so she could talk with me.  I visit with her and the student shows up.  I tell him I want my headphones back and he tells me he found them.  I tell him I saw him wearing them but I didn’t take them away from him in class because I knew he was working.  He tries to lie some more about the headphones he has taken.  I tell him to stop lying and that I am disappointed that he would steal from my classroom and that I now find it difficult to trust him and he will have to earn my trust back.  I add that my mother always told me, “You lie, you cheat, and you steal.”  I told him I expect more from him and he should head back to class.   The Service Production rep says she used to teach years ago and she remembers times like that when you have to let the student know the jig is up.  I visit with the rep and she assures me that she can match Nasco’s prices.  I tell her I will look at the catalog she has left with me.  After she leaves, I get my scratch art materials ready for my classes and cut some paper that I know some of the students may need that are behind on other projects.  I organize my desk so I have all of my materials ready to go.  I notice it is almost the end of the hour so I quickly go use the restroom and fill my water bottle.

Third hour begins and I explain to the students that we have three things going on today.  First, students that are behind with their projects have to work on those.  Second, I will pick six students to use the computers to complete their blogs.  Third, students who have everything done will begin a scratch art project.  I show students scratch art projects on the computer and real samples that I have teaching them about composition, the use of pattern and texture with scratch art, and making good choices with my drawing books and pictures.  I also teach them each step to the process of creating a scratch art.  I make sure students understand the instructions, assign students to the computers, and get the rest working.  Some students want me to print a picture of something they can’t seem to find in my books.  As class goes on, I am helping students with their blogs, scratch art drawings, and trying to motivate the ones that are behind.  I talk with one girl about staying after school to be caught up.  I let her call home to see if she can stay.  One little boy has moved away from his assigned seat so I have to deal with his off task behavior.  He happens to be the most behind and I am not surprised, as he likes to talk more than work.  I move him by himself so he can get something done.  At the end of class, students have to clean up and organize the supplies.  They show me their pencils so I know they’re all put back in the boxes I provide for them.  Students are released and it all starts all over again.

This next group is a difficult class.  There are 25 boys and 6 girls in the class.  Most of the boys don’t want to be in art class and frankly would rather be home playing video games, if they had their choice.  They struggle in school and many are poor readers.    I begin the class by taking away a phone as one of the girls has her phone and has several students following her trying to see what is on it.  She lies to me and says she doesn’t have one.  Of course, I saw it and made her give it to me. … More wasted time.  She brings up her notebook and some boys have drawn some poor images of penises on it.  She says that is why she had her phone out.  More disruption!  Just know, if you are a middle school teacher, you will have witnessed crudely drawn penises in a book, on a wall, on a table, somewhere in the school.  Strangely enough, I have talked with the janitor and the boys are even smearing feces on the wall of some of the bathrooms.  Note to self, keep washing my hands because you just don’t know what the students have been doing.

I have had enough and I want to start class.  I assign six students to the computers and spend most of the next hour dealing with off task behavior in between helping students with their blogs, drawings, and cutting paper for those that are behind.  I send two students down to the interventionist so he can work with them on their behavior.  After the two boys are gone, things are better but I still have to deal with some students out of their seat and wasting time.  The last twenty minutes are uneventful until one table has a problem.  It’s right at the end of class.  One of them has spilled glue all over the table and on one of the student’s folders.  These students are friends and some are even cousins.  They continually like to pick on each other, just for fun.  I dismiss all of the students but the one table and make them do a thorough job of cleaning up the mess, that none of them of course, created.  This takes time away from my short lunch as they think I am going to give them a pass so they seem to be tasking their sweet time, until they realize the pass isn’t coming.  By the time I get my soup can and apple around, I have 17 minutes left for lunch.  Those 17 minutes are precious time.  I spend it with three other teachers that are hilarious and lighten the day for me.  I feel renewed in spirit because I know they understand what it is like to deal with off task middle school behavior.

I head to my next class of sixth graders with my apple in hand.  I get the students working and I have that one little boy that doesn’t want to do his project.  He isn’t going to do it and I can’t make him.  He is right.  I can lead a horse to water but I cannot make him drink.  He proceeds to take some pen on a string and starts flicking it at other students.  I tell him to sit down and get to work.  He tells me he doesn’t want to do that project.  The aide for another student makes some suggestions to him.  He doesn’t like her suggestions, as I knew he wouldn’t.  What he really wants to do is get on a computer, not necessarily to blog, but to do anything but what he is supposed to be doing.  This little boy has been a joy in class until the last couple of weeks.  I don’t know what is in his head but now he doesn’t want to do anything and it is frustrating.  I have tried reverse psychology, making suggestions, trying to get him to make it something special for his mom.  Nothing works.  He wants his way and that is all he will do.  In my mind, I am banging my head against a wall because I don’t know what else will work with this child.  I know he likes me but there is something making him not want to produce anything right now.  I try to ignore his protests because I am hoping he eventually will give up and work.  Class ends uneventfully.

My seventh graders come in and I repeat much of the same process.  I have one boy that is the class clown.  He interrupts my instruction many times and announces that he needs to go to the bathroom now.  I have a procedure for this and it is not when I am giving instructions.  After his many interruptions, I send him out to the interventionist.  The rest of the class is wonderfully uneventful.  I help students with their blogs and scratch art designs.  I print images for some of them and we have a good day.  I look at student blogs and give them feedback so they can improve them.  Clean up goes well and I move on to the last hour of the day.

In between classes, the girl that had her phone taken away earlier in another class tried to get me to give it back to her before the last hour.  Lessons need to be learned.  I wasn’t going to have her interrupting someone else’s class with her antics. She said she would miss the bus.  I told her she could take the short cut out of my exit doors.  She left feeling frustrated but came back at the end of the day.  She didn’t miss her bus.

My last hour is a class with all girls because it is my advanced art class.  These are students, which really love art.  I have both seventh and eighth graders in this class.  I assign some to the computers and a couple have to finish projects.  The rest are busy working on drawings for scratch art and scratching techniques with their scratch art projects.  One little girl has finished her scratch art and it is beautiful.  I suggest that she could make another if she likes as I have many different scratch art papers.  She seems thrilled by this and busily gets to work.  I make suggestions to students to improve their drawings.  Midway through class, the students prompt me to put on some music.  I put on Pandora.  This class is truly amazing.  I love the end of my day, as these students are very trustworthy, sweet as can be, and highly motivated.  It is a joy working with them.

After I dismiss my class, two sixth grade students come in to work on their projects after school.  I get a hug from the one that I had let call home earlier in the day.  She seems happy to be able to stay to work on her project.  I see a different side to her after school.  Shortly after her arrival, I hear my name over the loud speaker to come to the principal’s office.   I am wondering what is up with that and I think how funny it is because when a student is called to the office, all of the other students make  a “Ohhhhh” sound.  My principal has called a sudden meeting with some of the exploratory teachers.  The administration has started a program by pulling students out of our classes so they can go work on missing assignments for their core classes.  He tells us we have to make sure the students show up.  Evidently, two of the students on my list showed up only one day.  Many other students didn’t show up from other exploratory classes.  After some discussion and clarification of exactly what my principal wanted, I went back to my classroom to tie up the events of the day.

I answered all of my emails.  I made two referrals for the homework intervention program.  By now, it was nearly 4:00, so I told my two girls that they would have to clean up soon.  One girl got a phone call and left but the other one that had hugged me, cleaned up and stayed to chat a few minutes.  She told me her mom wants her to try out for the talent show.  I asked her what she wanted to do and I encouraged her to consider it, but if she was scared to try to get a friend to sing a duet with her.  I think she liked that idea.  She left and I finished shutting down all of the computers and finally left school around 4:15.

I know this day may sound boring to some people, but what I think is amazing, is how little time I actually spend on teaching.   I spend much more time on parenting, being a mentor, being a friend, encouraging, cajoling, and trying desperately to get students to care about themselves enough to do the right thing and try to do their best.  Teaching can be exasperating, frustrating, but also joyful.  Teaching art has moments that are just brilliant like watching a student grow and develop and yet heart breaking when I see a student give up on himself or herself.  When I go home, I am still thinking about the next day and what I have to do.  I am on the internet working on more plans for my classes.  I sometimes have to call parents.  The day never is really done and the students are often on my mind as I try to devise ways to motivate them and encourage them in art class.  Today I am thinking about an order I have to place and my budget.  I am looking at what I still need to buy for my classes.  As an art teacher, I have to work on everything from a budget, to organization, to discipline, to instructional strategies and delivery, and even time management.  There is a lot that has to be done by me that most people don’t probably realize.  I have to be able to speak to adults kindly about their children even when they are naughty.  I have to be a diplomat for the school and an advocate for my program.  I have to be a team member that works well with the other teachers and a leader in ways that I am able.  I have to be tech saavy and always aware of my surrounding and those of my students.  Teaching today seems to me to be ever changing.  The amount of technology I use in my classes is tremendous.  I consider myself to be far ahead of most teachers in the area of technology.  I am always learning and trying to share what I know with other teachers.  There is no time to be stagnant in my program.  I feel that art and technology go naturally together so it can be a great marriage of two diverse worlds.  Since my students are busy working on their blogs, I am going to share a link to them so you can see for yourselves how the two are married together.  I think most are doing a fabulous job on their blogs.  Some are still working on them but check them out, you may be surprised at the blogs they have created.  Of course, you will also witness the students that just don’t care.  Luckily, they are in the minority.

There are over a hundred blogs so just scroll down and look through them.

It Takes a Village and Other Thoughts

  • Posted on October 5, 2013 at 11:17 pm

I have deliberately not spent much time writing about the politics of D.C. this year because it is just so depressing.  However, I must clarify that the D.C. is not really the District of Columbia when it comes to politics; it is disastrous corruption.  This week, it appears we are on the brink of disaster once again.  The focus now is on the blame game, but I am tired of the unreality of the Tea Party movement.  If you just do a little reading on the internet, it is not hard to see that much of the financial backing of this “movement” is from the Koch brothers.  What is going on in politics is about money, not from the little people but from big business and influences that have nothing to do with the masses.  We are fed information from corporate owned media that wants to perpetuate their own purposes.  I notice on Facebook the Tea Party is alive and well, infiltrating and rotting the minds of people by making them more concerned about some person on welfare than the corporate welfare that permeates Washington.  There, I got that off my chest.  Now, I can write about what is really on my mind and that is children.

Global Children

Let’s Embrace the Creativity in our Children


I recently reread Hillary Clinton’s book, “It Takes a Village” and I feel a need to share what I am thinking about politics, children, and how it all fits together.  Hillary wrote this book long ago and some of the data is outdated, figures are probably even worse today, and of course, she wrote it before the technology revolution of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, iPads, iPhones, and everything else that kids are exposed to today.  I have a couple of brothers that think “It Takes a Village” is funny and they have made sarcastic remarks to me about this, but I don’t think most people understand how important it is that we all are part of creating the next generation of adults.  I think if we start at the top, and I mean the politics in Washington D.C., it isn’t hard to see how uncivil our country has become.  How could this hatred and bullying not permeate down into the minds and thoughts of our children?  People seemed shocked when some kid takes out many people at a mall, theater, school, or any place else where an opportunity is presented.  I think it isn’t hard to understand the pain and the suffering that these young people are going through.  Mental health is just not there, but mentally is there anything right with what is happening with the politicians that are in Washington supposedly leading our country?  I believe the political discourse has much to do with all of the negative things that are happening in our country.  Since Barack Obama became president, there has been an unprecedented amount of blatant racism.  Obama was not my first choice by far, but he is president and he was even reelected.  It is time that the party of “no” started to understand that what they are doing is destroying this country.  As far as the “Affordable Care Act” goes, it is now the law of the land.  I say, “Get over it.”  I wanted single payer.  I didn’t get my way but it is now time to see how it works.  The Tea Party Republicans have turned into nothing but bullies.  They want their way and nothing else.  They don’t really care about people, it is just about the next election.  Seriously, I care about my job, just like the next person.  However, I am not going to destroy some children in order to get what I want with the ones that are going to help get me a better evaluation.

It’s time our country started caring about their most important resource and that is our children.  Politicians battle it out while kids are suffering in homes where stressed out parents are out of work, where money is a constant source of frustration, and where affordable, good daycare is difficult to find.  If these politicians would focus more on getting the economy going instead of worrying about who can cut the most fat out of the budget, we would all be better off.  These are the same people that in one breath tell you, “You can pry my gun out of my cold dead hands.” but in another will be telling a woman whether she can have birth control or not.  If that isn’t crazy, I don’t know what is.  The Tea Party wants less government control but actually, they want to control everything that happens in our lives.  They want to keep the government out of their lives but want it when they want it for their own gains.  They can give government funds to churches to feed people but not to people to feed themselves.  Our children today are growing up in a society filled with hate, so if they hate, it is understandable.  I am the most positive person I know and truthfully, it has caused me pain at times because I tend to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe that’s naïve of me but I think I’d rather have a heart than be heartless and I see the Tea Party Movement as a heartless, soulless, creature that cares for no one, least of all the children.

When I was a kid, I became involved in politics because my family was into politics.  My parents were FDR Democrats.  I can remember some very heated discussions with different members of my family.  Many of my brothers today are staunch Republicans.  I think my parents would wonder how they could be so far from their roots.  However, we know our children are not cookie cutter reproductions of us, so it is understandable when some change from their roots.  What I don’t understand is how today there is so much hatred for both parties with each other.  There is a lack of respect for the president and the Democrats and there is a lack of respect for the Republicans.  I think the Tea Party Movement has brought out the worse of both parties.  They have decided that they are not going to negotiate anything which means absolutely nothing is going to be done.  From my point of view, it seems like there should be more being done to get this economy moving.  All that is happening is fighting.  How much money has to be wasted on the countless number of times the House has tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act?  I’ve lost track of how many times they have voted on it.  It must have cost many trees and hours of work for that legislation to be re-voted on in the House.  They don’t mind wasting that money but as for some person out of work hoping to get an extension on unemployment well, he/she is just a lazy bum looking for a handout.

Our children deserve better.  We had a better country when I was young.  We cared about each other.  I went to college and my school loan was $3600, something I didn’t have to kill myself over to pay back.  Kids today come out with unbelievable stress from school loans that would break the back of anyone.  It seems that education is for only the rich these days or those willing to live in a debtor’s hellhole for most of their lives.  We promise them that if they do well in school, they will get a good job when they get out.  Then we send those good jobs overseas or bring workers here because “We don’t have enough qualified people to do those jobs.”  Most of us know that this is just another way for business to get cheaper labor.  We send our kids off to fight wars that are made up of faulty intelligence only to act like, “Oh, my bad!”  Peoples’ lives are manipulated, so when one of them comes back and shoots up something, should we really be surprised?  Our children deserve better.  We send them off to school, which used to be fun, but is now turned into some kind of testing nightmare, should we really be surprised when they’re turned off and tuned out?  Our children deserve better.

We put kids under an unbelievable amount of stress from the constant talk about being fat, to what not to wear, to how they are constantly failing in schools, and how we were so much smarter than they are today.  I am so tired of the way we treat our children.  We tell them that they don’t measure up at every turn.  “Oh Johnny, your test scores really do suck.  I didn’t mean to say you are stupid but…..”  When does this abuse of our children end?  When are we going to look at children and see them as the gift they are?  When are we going to look at a child without measuring how fat or thin, or stupid or smart, or whatever other label we have deemed to put on them but as a person to nurture and help grow into a productive adult?  If we want a better country, we had better start taking care of our children.  We cannot simply drop them off at daycare or at the school door hoping that something better will appear.  We have to all nurture these children.  If you are a storeowner, do not act as if that child is there to steal from you.  Show some interest in the children in your community.  If you are a teacher, try to figure out why some children are misbehaving for you, maybe you will be the only real friend they have that day.  If you are a politician, think about how your actions are destroying our country and causing the nightmares of today for countless children across this country that go to bed hungry, poor, and tired, and wake up to the same nightmare they had when they went to bed.  I feel strongly that if a child lives with hatred, he/she learns to hate.  Do you remember this poem?  It is time we thought about how to take care of our children.


Dorothy Law Nolte

If a child lives with criticism,
he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility,
he learns to fight.

If a child lives with fear,
he learns to be apprehensive.

If a child lives with pity,
he learns to feel sorry for himself.

If a child lives with ridicule,
he learns to be shy.

If a child lives with jealousy,
he learns what envy is.

If a child lives with shame,
he learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with encouragement,
he learns to be confident.

If a child lives with tolerance,
he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with praise,
he learns to be appreciative.

If a child lives with acceptance,
he learns to love.

If a child lives with approval,
he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with recognition,
he learns that it is good to have a goal.

If a child lives with sharing,
he learns about generosity.

If a child lives with honesty and fairness,
he learns what truth and justice are.

If a child lives with security,
he learns to have faith in himself and in those about him.

If a child lives with friendliness,
he learns that the world is a nice place in which to live.

If you live with serenity,
your child will live with peace of mind.

With what is your child living?


Earth Without Art is Just “Eh”

  • Posted on September 8, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Sometime this last year, one of my previous art students, who is now in college, posted on Facebook:  Earth Without Art is Just “Eh”.  It made me laugh and think.  Ultimately, it became the inspiration for this painting, which I created for my art classroom this summer.

The "Earth" Without Art is Just "Eh"

With all of the emphasis on testing at my school and across the country, the arts tend to be ignored by educators and administrators trying to get students to pass a test.  However, art is an integral part of our world.  Art is all around us.  We cannot escape it.  We are constantly choosing the beauty we allow into our lives from the clothing we wear, to the home we live in, and to the car, we drive.  Color and beauty surrounds us and inspires us.  Life without some form of art, in my opinion, would be dull for most of us.  Most people are inspired by the performing arts, especially music.  We cannot wait to listen to music.  It can both soothe our soul on a tough day and motivate us to action on another.  We can view a painting and be mesmerized by both the detailed brushstroke or loose, fast, moving strokes.  I can remember seeing a Van Gogh painting back in my twenties that I swore the wheat was moving in.  Of course, it appeared as though the wind was blowing and it was just paint, but it was fascinating to me.

When I was young, I grew up in a very large family.  We really didn’t have time for art.  We worked hard and we just were not exposed to the arts in a way that many are today.  The fact that I became an art teacher is somewhat puzzling.  I didn’t have an art class all through my K-12 years.  I had a pencil and paper and I liked to draw.  I didn’t have room in my schedule in high school for an art class until my senior year because I was all college prep.  I didn’t take art.  I took choir.  I really like to sing but the truth is I figured I would be a failure in an art class.  I had never had art, so how could I possibly take art as a senior?  I knew I could sing a bit so I figured that was a safer bet.  However, during my senior year I remember staying up late and drawing.  One time I got out the encyclopedia and drew a picture of JFK.  Of course, I just happened to leave it on the kitchen table so my parents would see it in the morning.  I don’t remember their response but I did keep on drawing.  I went on to college as an undeclared major.  I loved college.  I took many different classes from psychology to philosophy and of course all of the other required courses and I kept on drawing.  Other students encouraged me to take an art course after seeing a drawing I did of Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”.  I don’t even remember how I discovered that painting but I wanted to draw that beautiful girl.  I thought my friends were nuts, but somehow I found myself signing up for a drawing class.  I was scared to death.  When I went to my first class, the other students were talking about how stupid it was that they had to take this “dip shit” drawing course before they could take anything better.  I thought, “What the hell am I doing here?”  I talked to the professor after class and he asked me if I would faithfully come to class and do the assignments.  I told him I would.  He told me that I would be fine, not to drop out, and to watch as some of those students do drop out.  He was right.  When I took that first class, I knew I had found my home, my center, the place where I felt complete, like I never had before.  Art gave me courage.   Art gave me purpose.  Art made me feel I was part of something bigger in this world.

Even though I missed some early art training, I have never looked back.  I know I made the right choice for me.  I love making art and I love teaching art to my students.  I feel earth without art is just “eh” for sure.  After changing my major to art, I discovered clay.  Throwing on the wheel became a passion so I spent many years supporting myself with that passion.  I truthfully only went into teaching because of my parents.  My mom wanted me to have my teaching certificate to fall back on.  Both of my parents were teachers.  When I first graduated, I taught art at Fowler, Michigan and I loved it but I still wanted to make pottery.  When my husband took a job in Oklahoma, I gave up my job and focused on my pottery.  In a few years, he left and I had to make a living for my son and myself.  I did it with my pottery.  It was tough because I had to make a lot of pottery, not just the things that most inspired me.    However, I did well enough to move back to Michigan and buy a home.  When my son was in Kindergarten, I went up to the school with my pottery wheel and some clay for his class.  I had so much fun working with those little kids that I started thinking about going back to teaching.  It appeared that in order to do this I needed to update my teaching credentials, which meant more schooling.  I had taken courses in Oklahoma but they were all pottery courses with Montee Hoke.  They wouldn’t count towards that update.  It was going to cost about $6000, so I thought I can’t do that!  Of course, with parents like mine, that was not going to happen.  They said they would loan me the money.  When I told them, it had been awhile and I might not do well, my mom laughed and told me I was a good student and I would do fine.  Of course, she was right.  I went to Central Michigan University.  My son started second grade at Glen Lake and then went to CMU with me.  We lived in married housing, which he loved!  He loved it because it was a small apartment and other kids were there.  He ended the year back up at Glen Lake.  I’m lucky he was a smart kid and easily adjusted to the situation.  I remember telling him we were going on an adventure!

That was well over twenty years ago.  After CMU, I taught art at Manistee part time for a year.  Then I was hired at Sturgis.  I have taught twenty years at Sturgis.  What I find amazing is how excited the start of a new year remains for me.  I spent much of this summer working on classroom management, creating art for my classroom, and creating new lesson plans for my students.  I totally revamped my classroom and discipline plan.  I made art to inspire my students.  I have a passion for teaching art.  I want to inspire everyone I can with how important art is in our lives.  Art gives children an opportunity to express themselves.  It can make a child feel like a super star.  It can even do that for adults.  Art can transform people and even nations.  Art is a language that we all can understand.  It can speak to us in quiet ways or loud.  It can teach us to care.  It can help us understand each other.  The earth without art really is just “eh”.


Wisconsin Protests

  • Posted on August 12, 2013 at 11:52 am

It has been a fairly quiet summer, or so I thought.  I just realized that protests at the Wisconsin state capital have continued for a long time.  I thought they had been shut down long ago by Governor Walker and his austerity plan for unions.  They just haven’t been getting the national coverage they got when the “Ed” show managed to showcase them on MSNBC.  I watched daily on Big Eddie’s show to see what was going to happen.  Of course what happened was the same thing that happened here in Michigan.  Unions took a giant hit with Republican legislatures and governors.  Here, in Michigan, we became a “right to work” state which loosely translates into a “right to work for less” state.

As an art teacher, I saw the pinch of what all of this means immediately last fall when I had to have my union dues taken out of my bank account and not out of my paycheck.  They can take money for other things including charities, but union dues, not so much.  It really annoys me and I do my own form of protest for this.  It was set up this way to really try to break the union by hitting them in the pocketbook.  Who knows?  Perhaps some teachers have opted to not pay their union dues, thinking that they aren’t getting anything for their money.  However, I am not willing to go back to the dark ages of no representation other than who you know and how popular you personally are with them.  It is sad really as this past school year was the most stressful that I have witnessed in all of my years of teaching.

The stress was caused by all of the legislation going on at the state level.  Most interestingly is the way teacher evaluations are configured.  All teachers at my school have a portion of their evaluation tied to a group of student test scores in reading and math.  This means I have a mentor class that I see for 35 minutes each day that I must nurture so they can perform on a standardized test.  If they improve, I get more points on my evaluation and get to breathe for another year.  If they don’t, well, in time it means I’m a lousy art teacher I guess.  This group is not handpicked by me or any of the other teachers.  Although, if an administrator was so inclined I suppose they could give a teacher a tough load just for fun, to drive them crazy, or to try and get them to retire.  So, we have our own little hell here in Michigan.  What I didn’t know was that Wisconsin union workers have continued to protest.

I want to share a couple video links here so people can become more aware of what is still going on in Wisconsin.  We, as teachers, and other union members, have really taken a hit in the past few years.  We have had changes made to our pensions, pay, union rights, and insurance all because of the Republican power at the state level.  I’m calling it like it is as there is no way this would have happened to this extent under Democrats.  Often I say there is no difference between the two parties anymore but this is really not true. The right wing agenda is about privatization of everything and spreading the word of God as they take away programs for the poor, women, and disenfranchised.

We must be diligent in understanding what is going on across our nation.  We cannot sit back and idly play through the summer months without being more aware of what is happening to unions, the middle class, and the poor.  I am not saying to skip any vacations.  I just want people to be aware of what is happening.

Wisconsin Capital Protestors from the Real News

From Blue Cheddar (They will be doing a live stream today at 12:00 Central time here as well.)

Blue Cheddar Video

Thinking About Ariel Castro, Women, and Equality

  • Posted on August 2, 2013 at 4:20 pm
Woman of Liberty

Woman of Liberty

Yesterday I watched Ariel Castro claim that he is not a monster, that the sex he had with his victims was mostly consensual, and that he isn’t a violent person.  It is not in his character.  When I heard the word character, I could not believe that he could even speak about it.  What could he possibly know about character?  He wanted us to believe that his problem is a compulsion perhaps for sex.  However, I don’t equate rape with sex, so I had a hard time following his form of logic.  I wasn’t planning on writing about this topic as he repulses me, but I think there is a bigger issue in our nation where women are concerned.  I don’t know the name of the woman on the talk show I was watching on MSNBC yesterday but she was upset that Castro hadn’t been tried for civil rights violations.  She talked about the issue of human trafficking and the fact that these women had their civil rights violated for years.  She said that he targeted women, which indeed made it a civil rights violation.

From my point of view, I have concerns not just about this case, but also with the treatment of women throughout our country and of course the world.  Granted Ariel Castro is a deranged person but he felt that he had the right to do what he wanted with these women.  He said his wife would argue with him and he implied that because she touched him first that he had the right to put her in her place.  Something in his makeup, and I think in the way women are treated by many in our country, made him believe he could do what he wanted with these women, including his wife.

Our society, no matter how much we scream and protest about women’s issues and rights, is still patriarchal.  As a country, I believe we look to men for the answers and give them undo regard when it comes to major decisions whether it is at the local, state, or federal level.  We excuse their behaviors, no matter how crude they are, and we still have that “boys will be boys” attitude ingrained in our minds.  I see this even in school when I am teaching.  I don’t have that attitude but it is there for many.   When I tell some boys to clean up in art class, I still have some boys telling me “That’s women’s work.”   In politics, we have many men that exhibit disrespectful behavior to women on a regular basis.  On the far right wing, there is a constant effort to discount women’s opinions to the point of forcing them to have a vaginal probe if they mutter the word “abortion.”  On the left, we still have to hear about Bill Clinton’s Monica moment in regards to whether Hillary is going to run for the presidency.  The woman that sticks by her man, like Anthony Weiner’s wife, is marginalized as though she isn’t thinking clearly and she has been coerced into accepting her fate.  Maybe she has and maybe we don’t know what really goes on in these relationships.  In these cases, the woman is made to be an appendage to the man, just another “helpmate” for the big daddy that is the boss in the relationship.  In entertainment news, we recently discovered that Simon Cowell is going to be a daddy.  The woman involved is a “gold digger” and immoral because she is still married to her husband.  The last I knew, it takes two to make a baby.  We aren’t hearing what a slut Simon is, it is all about his girlfriend.

The point I am trying to make is that we and I think both men and women, still have different standards for the two sexes.  I received an email last night from Credo action to sign a petition.  The petition deals with the fact that a number of colleges and universities across the country don’t call rape, rape.  It is referred to as nonconsensual sex.  This must be similar to the Republican that talked about forcible rape and rape as though they were two different things.  I don’t know how else to say it but rape is rape.  Women are continually demeaned when their voices are not heard and they are treated like a dog getting their heads patted when dealing with serious issues.

The other day I was talking to my sister and I told her about this video I saw which I assumed was staged but was funny.  A person was showing the excitement his cat had for him after he was gone for six months.  Now we all have witnessed the excitement our dogs show us after even very brief periods away from us.  Cats, however, are a whole another being.  I have two cats and one greets me and the other hides.  I have a dog and he’s always anxious to see me.  The reason I bring this up is that I jokingly referred to women as being like dogs and men as being like cats.  However, I think there is a bit of truth to this.  Men can take or leave us as women.  Much like a cat, they are used to being pampered.  They are used to being at the top of the food chain in respect, expectations, and affection.  They expect women to care for them and love them.  They have expectations of what they want and how they are going to get it.  Women on the other hand are starved for affection and will do just about anything to get that pat on the head, just like a dog.  They will jump through hoops to make sure their man is taken care of and are afraid that someone may see them as not being a good caretaker.  Women nurture and when they don’t everyone notices it!  Women have expectations but they often will subjugate their desires for their mate’s desires.  Obviously, there are exceptions but from my point of view, women are always last.

Now you could say that I have a unique way of looking at things because I grew up with ten brothers and I admit this, but I have noticed many things over the years.  We women were the last to get the right to vote!  Slavery was finally ended and blacks could vote but women were still chained to the concept that they were less than a man.  One of my brothers always talks about the Constitution and I just have to laugh because from my point of view, the Constitution is a living document that needs to change and grow as time changes.  So many politicians want everything to stay the same, don’t rock the boat, and just keep the status quo.  If we do this, half of society would never count for anything.  It still irks me that we could never get the equal rights amendment passed.  Those simple words of equality are very scary to some people.

We live in a time of potential great knowledge for all people.  The internet has opened the doors and the minds of anyone that is willing to learn.  Sure sometimes you have to sift through many websites to find the truth about something, but in all reality if you want to learn about any issue or how to do something the internet is a terrific resource.  I think the more people are educated the more we are apt to all be treated equally in society.  I have found the internet a place where I can discuss issues with other women that are interested in politics.  With this blog, I have an opportunity to get others to think about things.  None of us would have known about the small town in Ohio where high school boys raped a girl and nobody seemed to care until anonymous bloggers got involved.  Today I want people thinking about women and their place in the world.  Women are more than just nurturing helpmates for men.  I think until they are taken more seriously, women will continue to see much physical, social, and emotional abuse by men that think they can have what they want when they want it.  Women need to stand up and make things clear to those men that abuse.  Men that are “evolved” need to help move this issue along.  The women that are abused are their mothers, daughters, and sisters.  If we want to stop people like Ariel Castro, we as a society, have to make sure that little boys grow up respecting little girls and that gender roles are not so defined that women think they are less than men and are willing to accept less pay, less love, and less worth.

Aid for Hurricanes, How About Detroit?

  • Posted on July 31, 2013 at 5:44 pm



Detroit has been bleeding for years and nobody seemed to care but now that the wound is completely open and oozing there appears to be even less protection for Detroit from the doom of bankruptcy.  Is it doom or is it part of the long-term plan for revitalization of the city?  From my viewpoint, much like the carpetbaggers in the south, the entrepreneurs of today are swooping in to pick on Detroit’s carcass and digest the last remaining morsels of a once vibrant city for the sole purpose of making a buck.  There is money to “be made” in Detroit and politicians seem eager to get in on the action.  Everyone knows it except for the downtrodden, jobless, and those just getting by.  Detroit, which was the motor city, the home of Motown, and the birthplace of so many creative people is now the dead carcass left for the pickings of the rich entrepreneurs with connections.  I have no doubt that Detroit is going to raise again much like a Phoenix.  However, many people are going to lose a lot in this transition period.


It is difficult for me to understand why the federal government hasn’t taken much interest in the cause of saving Detroit.  I see what has happened in Detroit as being no different from a natural disaster much like Katrina, Sandy Hook, or the countless hurricanes in Florida.  The federal government recognizes the need to swoop in and revitalize places hit by “natural disasters”.  However, Michigan hit by its own form of a natural disaster, albeit economic, simply is ignored and left to its own devices.  I am sure some people will remind me to remember the auto bailout.  However, that was for a company, not for the people of Michigan.  Yes, many benefited because they didn’t lose their job, but nothing has been done about the losses in Detroit.  I still cannot believe that Detroit’s population has dwindled to just over 700,000.  It is just amazing to think of all of those people leaving.  Much of the disaster that is now named Detroit was caused by unfair trade practices and the push for globalization.  Our government pushed for these policies, which have hurt so many in our country and have continued to cause depletion in manufacturing industries across the country.  There are probably many other cities, like Detroit, that are much in the same boat.


While watching the news I learned that we are continuing our financial aid to Egypt.  This caused me to look up how much we spend on aid to other countries and I discovered that it is around $50 billion a year.  We invest in these countries seemingly to promote our own agenda.  However, why are we ignoring the continued plight in our own country?  Everyone I talk to wants the roads fixed, bridges repaired, school buildings made safe, and many other things completed.  Nothing ever is done.  All we hear about is privatization.  The drumbeat is, “Government can’t do anything right and private corporations do it right.”  Is this what is happening in Detroit?  Are we selling off Detroit to private corporations?  Is Bill Gates or someone like him, going to buy the DIA?  Every time I drive to Chicago, I cringe at the thought of privatization when I pay those ungodly toll trolls.  Recently, I saw the results of privatization in my own classroom at school.  I saw a room prepped for the school year that just lacks some basic cleaning.  It is a matter of pride.  I remember the pride that the local workers took in my room when they had managed to get all the paint splatters out of the sink.  I don’t see that in my room any more.  Schools in Michigan have been nudged towards privatization of some services and this could eventually lead to teaching as well.  I personally don’t see how a “for profit” company is going to make schools better and I am not sure it is the best choice for Detroit.  However, I don’t have a real voice in this fight.  I am just a voter.  I am not a citizen of Detroit and our senators don’t seem particularly moved to do anything about this issue either.  All I can do is voice my opinion about the issue.  It isn’t hard to see where I am coming from.  I am just a online voice for the little people, the voiceless, those that don’t have the money or means to be an entrepreneur and go out and make a profit off from this situation.

I just don’t want the Detroit Institute of Art to be sold off in a fire sale to the top bidder.  I don’t want people to lose their pensions for pennies on the dollar.  I think we are better than that.  I think we are a nation that when push comes to shove we stand up for each other.  We take care of our own.  It’s time we started doing this again.  We have to stop looking at our neighbors and worrying about the “SNAP”, they may be on, and start thinking what we can do to help each other.  How can I make my students lives better when they are having a hard time?  Detroit is no different.  How can we help this situation as a nation?  We step up when other states face national disasters why can’t we do this for Detroit?


Detroit holds potential to be a great destination city as it is unique in its placement on the water and is a heartbeat from Canada.  It has treasures like the DIA, Belle Isle, and of course other nearby attractions like the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.  It is obvious that the entrepreneurs are aware of all of this.  We cannot let all of this become some kind of playground for the rich and powerful.  Detroit has to be kept open to the public.  It cannot and should not become a place where only the connected are wanted.  Stephen Colbert and many others have made jokes about the city.  Detroit has become a laughing stock but seriously can’t we do more?  When Stephen spoke to the Detroit Free Press editor, Stephen Henderson, it is interesting to note that Henderson said his wife is the marketing director at the DIA.  Let’s hope that doesn’t mean she is ready to market the art.  I will never forget the Diego Rivera mural, which to me represents Detroit in the best way.  It doesn’t belong anywhere but in Detroit.  Detroit is bleeding.  Where are the Red Cross and FEMA when we need them?


SmileMakers and Me

  • Posted on July 27, 2013 at 10:59 pm

Ed Logo

This week I received an email offer that I just couldn’t refuse.  The offer came from a company called “SmileMakers”.  The company sells many different items that appeal to educators or anyone working with small children looking for some arts and crafts, stickers, pencils, motivational trinkets, or even office supplies.  I was emailed because I am a blogger/educator.  The company is trying to expand their educational market.  SmileMakers will give me an item of my choice from their online catalog, if I will write an online review of the product on my blog.
Kool TreasureI am developing a special reward program in my art classroom, so I chose the “Kool Stuff Treasure Chest” as it has many items that might appeal to my middle school students.   I will not be able to write a full review until I get back to school and see how my students like these little treasures.  Until then, I thought I would share a link to the website, as it does look very interesting.  I expect to get my shipment within a week or so.  Here is the link, so check it out and have some fun shopping! 

Secret Service Goes Quiet on Pay

  • Posted on July 25, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Office of George BushH.W. Bush and his Secret Service Patrol

Yesterday, I saw on the news the nice little story about President H.W. Bush shaving his head in support of one of his secret service member’s children who is battling leukemia.  I diverged off from the cute little story when I had a conversation with my sister this morning and she was quite upset to think that President H.W. Bush has that many secret service people protecting him.  I told her I thought there seemed like a lot but I didn’t actually get a good look at the picture as I was working in my studio and mostly listening to the news.  I decided it was worth a second look and I am flabbergasted at the sheer number of able-bodied men it seems to take to protect merely one of our ex-presidents.  The story is here:

Now, maybe this doesn’t bother you but from my perspective, it seems like there weren’t any cuts made in protecting our dear ex-presidents when all those cuts were made this spring to the rest of the country.  I know there are many people unemployed so I think that maybe a job in the Secret Service would be good place to look for work.  Here is the link in case you are so inclined.

I did some research because I wanted to know what it costs to take care of our ex-presidents.  Interestingly enough, I could only find the cost for their homes, office, and so forth but not the cost for Secret Service as I think it’s a secret!  Now, the cost for running their homes and so forth is also quite large.  In fact large enough that most of us would be happy with a onetime payment of that lottery prize.  I am providing a link here but the expense for 2012 was $3.7 million.  Interestingly enough, there was an act back in 1997 that would have ended secret service for all future ex-presidents after ten years.

This would mean that President Clinton would have been the last to receive this service for his lifetime.  However, contrary to what we have been made to believe about Congress and the President not getting along, they actually do pass some legislation.  In January of this year, as I loosely quote Wikipedia, President Obama signed legislation reinstating lifetime Secret protection for himself, President George W. Bush, and all subsequent presidents.  Maybe this seems fine to everyone else but I question a government that can spend so much on those at the top of the government food chain and so little on those at the bottom.  They, meaning Congress, politicians, and the right wing media have us little people worrying about the person next door getting food stamps, SNAP if you will.  As you will see from this chart, the average SNAP benefit is $133.41.  I have been to the grocery store lately and by my calculations that doesn’t go too far!

We can all get into a battle about protecting our ex-presidents but my concern is the number of secret service needed to do that job.  There have been major cuts to programs for everything from defense to education.  Everyone at the bottom seems to have to give up something, so why don’t those at the top?



  • Posted on July 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm


Netflix Arrested DevelopmentA year or more ago Netflix decided to charge more for the service I had at the time, which included getting movies mailed to me.  I remember being pretty ticked off at Netflix for expecting me to pay more.   I chose not to pay more and stopped receiving those mailed movies.  However, I kept my Netflix account and I have to say I am so happy I did.  I have decided that traditional TV for me is somewhat dead.  First, I absolutely hate most of the “reality” television that seems to be everywhere these days.  Second, I have discovered that I don’t really like waiting week after week to find out who died or what’s happening next.  Third, it is difficult to find quality TV by wading through the wasteland of what is available on a weekly basis.  Finally, I like picking my time when I want to watch whatever it is that strikes my fancy.  I cannot believe I’m about to do this without getting paid but I have to say I am about to give a shout out, a tribute if you will, to Netflix for creating programming that has peaked my interest and caused me to reevaluate my TV watching experience.


It started this May with “House of Cards”.  Of course, I tuned in because how could I not watch Kevin Spacey being a freaking, dirty, cunning politician.  I love House of Cards and watched it the first weekend it was out with fascination.  I didn’t watch one show and wait a week.  I delved in for the long haul and used up my entire weekend.  I cannot wait for the second season.  It is bound to be awesome, as Netflix has chosen to use good actors and writers to create it.  After House of Cards, I heard that they had created another season of Arrested Development.  I had only seen the show on occasions when my son has asked me to watch it with him.  I knew he liked it so I thought I should watch it from the beginning.  I prepared for the coming of the new season by watching the prior seasons.  I have found that I have become obsessed with this format.  I would much rather watch one show all the way through and then move on to another than wait a week, or a year, to see the next season.  It’s like reading a good book.  It can be hard to put it down.


After watching Arrested Development, I moved on to Breaking Bad.  I love Breaking Bad even if the show absolutely doesn’t “get” women at all.  Women seem to be some kind of whiny after thought but I don’t care because watching Walt go from being Malcolm’s dad to developing into the monster he becomes is a portrait in growing a psychopath.  The character is so interesting that I get enough from his relationship with Jesse.  I don’t really care that Walt’s wife wore super high heels and sexy clothes when she was eight months pregnant and looked like she never was troubled with swollen ankles.  In Breaking Bad, women are not the breadwinners of the show.  The cops are all stereotypical, macho, MEN, but who cares?  My son thinks Skylar is a bitch.  Maybe living with a psychopath can turn someone into being a bitch.  I can forgive the show for creating female characters that have little dimension because the show keeps me on the edge of my seat wondering what crazy development will grow from Walt’s manipulative mind.  Now, I’m just waiting for the final season to kick in.


Finally, I watched Jjenji Kohan’s Weeds and her new program, Orange is the New Black.  Weeds took me on a bumpy ride of illegal drug sales through a prominent upper middle class experience, which eventually bordered on the ludicrous, but always managed to entertain me.  Her new show, Orange is the New Black, was very strange at first to watch.  The first three or more shows I was just trying to figure out what it was.  The premise was foreign to me.  I was mostly confused about whether I liked it or not.  Then I realized that I wanted to watch the next show.  It took awhile to understand the character development.  Many flashbacks show why certain inmates ended up in prison.  It served to humanize the inmate experience.  The show exhibits much nudity and crudeness that would normally be associated with male dominated viewing.  However, this is largely about women in a women’s prison.  If you get a chance to watch it you must get beyond the first few shows to really understand it and probably appreciate the writing.  The biggest surprise for me was the casting of Laura Prepon from “That 70’s Show”.  She is outstanding as Alex Vause, a major dealer of heroin and the female love interest for Piper Chapman who is played by Taylor Schilling.  Orange is the New Black is not for the religious right or young audiences.  It has a mature theme that borders on the bizarre.  Piper begins the show as a likable enough young all American girl but as you see how the show develops, you see how destructive she can be without really even being aware of how she causes chaos to those around her.  Much like Breaking Bad the character Piper grows into someone that is hardly recognizable.  I am anxious now to see what becomes of her.


My summer time TV viewing has changed completely and has made me wonder if I really need TV as I find myself not that interested beyond watching the news or a few shows.  With programming like Netflix, Amazon, and Project TV, the verdict is still out.  However, I have discovered that the best TV shows are rarely on regular standard TV stations like ABC, NBC, CBS, or FOX.  The best shows that I have been watching are on AMC, A&E, and Netflix.  AMC could be arguably the best channel on television with The Walking Dead, The Killing, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad.  The acting is fantastic.  It is what I find missing from all of the other channels that have seemingly decided that most people want to watch “reality” TV.  There are some of us out here that actually appreciate a good story and good acting.

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