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. http://sturgisps.org/Page/4558
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