Disillusionment & Imposter Syndrome

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This chart has proven to be accurate and although my spirits are low, I am going to hold out hope for that surge of rejuvenation starting in 2016. I’m feeling a little more at ease with the five days off I’m currently enjoying, but I know that sense of dread will come Sunday night and I know I have to start a long week back with tough kids in an inner city district.

The first year of teaching is holding back no punches when it comes to weak spots and sucking away my drive. I have some bonds at the school I’m working at—but being as they are seasoned teachers in a different subject area or have different age groups… I feel very alone. I have peers who work at other schools who graduated with me in the art education program. Their experiences all seem about the same. Rough. They are unsure of who they are, if it was worth the stress and strain to get this degree (or even the money put in!), and if they’re going to make it through to see May.

Unfortunately, I have learned very quickly that “specialists” (a term I truly hate) are not considered real teachers. They hold the same weight as a sub does when they take over a class for a day. It’s next to 0. Sure, there is an adult in the room but does it matter? There are still some hard working and excited kids in my classes. They keep me as sane as they possibly can (without even realizing they are doing me the favor of participating and taking time on their artwork—even if they claim they have no artistic skill). There are too few of them to combat the ones that ruin their classes, though. It only takes one kid to ruin a period but when it’s about ¾ of your entire class? It becomes glorified babysitting or refereeing a boxing match.

I am scared that my SLOs will not show the 1/3 growth that they are looking for because trying to teach is very difficult. I get nothing of value done. I’m not sure I even teach anymore. I’m worried all my informal walkthrough are going to be viewed as horrendous and my formal evaluations will take a huge gash in my weak reputation and I will be without a job before the school year is out.

I know that I am in an inner city district. This population of students comes from backgrounds I would have no knowledge in. No personal experience. There are students who are there one week and no longer there the next. I have lost how to show them I care about them even though they have a tendency to make me frazzled. I can’t reach them all—I know that. Art is not a cure all for everyone like it was for me. I can put up with the non-workers, but add that to their distractive behavior and I’ve lost the whole class. It is a losing battle.

I signed up for the Disillusionment Power Pack, receiving emails from an educator who had felt the same things as me. It’s nice to know I’m not alone but it’s still a very alienating feeling. Grading the minimal projects that get turned in makes me feel like a failure. It’s like something that I’m sure is stamped right on my forehead and everyone can see it.

I’m hoping 2016 brings a real resurgence of energy and optimism that I so desperately need. I’m also hoping the job market is a promising one so I can put my energy and skill elsewhere.

1st Grade – Glue Line Pumpkins

One group of my first graders are a little better at handling art materials than the other, so I tried to do something I had not attempted before! Sometimes it’s fun to experiment with materials and that’s what this first grade did!

This group started off by looking at a variety of pumpkins. They hadn’t realized that there are many different types, so it was fun to talk about them all with them. We practiced by sketching some pumpkins first, drawing the pumpkins they liked best and figuring out what their shapes were. Then we looked at some still life arrangements (with pumpkins in them, of course!) so we could talk about overlapping. We’ll have to talk about it again because the concept didn’t sink in as well as i would have liked, but this was a fun start!

We spent a day drawing our pumpkin outlines on black paper and then used glue to outline them. I think investing in some clear glue instead of the white school glue would benefit me next go around. None the less, it was an interesting process to work with. First grade seemed pretty interested and they were curious to see what they’d turn out like when it was dry. The next class period I had with them we spent talking about blending colors and filling in around our glue lines. Some got it, some didn’t–but that’s okay! Some of these are pretty cool and I’m happy we got to experiment a tad! They really dug the oil pastels, too!

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7th Grade Op-Art

Thank goodness for other art educators having blogs and sharing lesson ideas! They saved my skin this first 9 weeks (as evidenced by the pop-art portraits)! This one was from another art teacher, though, and I found this lovely op-art lesson from The Lost Sock! You can view it here.

My 7th grade looked at some op-art and we talked about it a little (as I’m trying to get my 6th-8th graders to learn how to talk about art beside saying simple things like, “It’s cool.”) before starting this project. It was nice to see that students took their own spin on it and went wild on colors and shapes! I’m happy to have some student examples for the next 9 weeks because now I can see what needs improvement in my own teaching/explanations and students can see what their peers have done and not just strangers.

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1-Point-Perspective Cityscapes

There are some staples in an art education that are a little worrying to go about teaching. The state standards for where I am currently teaching suggest 1-point-perspective for 6th grade. The district had come together (before I was hired) and suggested that they do a city/landscape so I tried to take it on myself!

We talked about foreground, middle ground, and background while looking at some land and cityscapes. Students first practiced both with me and then on their own with some one point perspective boxes. We watched a few videos so they could also see someone else doing it.

Once a few of them got the hang of it, or that little lightbulb went off when it came to understanding 1-point-perspective, they took off! I was pretty happy with these. They are all cityscapes, of course, but I’m more of a city person myself so that’s okay!

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6th Grade – Watercolor Patterned Animals

Just like I hooked my 8th grade, I tried to do the same with 6th. Zentangles seem to be a big thing lately and although this current group of 6th graders didn’t really ‘get’ zentangles vs. patterns, we did get to talk a lot about pattern, line, and color.

I’ve been stashing away lots of calendars for visual references for students to use, and thanks to a generous friend who continues to send me calendars, I had a lot of animals to share with 6th grade. Thus the project was born!

I had seen some really wonderfully colored patterned animals on the internet and I had wanted to get 6th grade used to at least some of the elements of art (like I have been trying with 7th and 8th as well). We discussed contour lines and that they shouldn’t have to fear what it looked like compared to their reference images–because we would be filling the animals with pattern and various colors. Thankfully that eased some fear.

Some of the product came out very cool! In the next 9 weeks, though, I’m going to have to really push the idea of watercolors being more translucent than regular paint and varied pattern. Just like 8th grade, this first group of 6th graders were my ‘test’ group! I look forward to the next batch of these patterned wildlife! (And hopefully it’ll just be animals next time ;))

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8th Grade Pop Art Paintings

I had to hook my 8th grade immediately after that first introductory day of school. Thankfully, over the summer, I had come across this lesson from Art with Ms. Lloyd! Thanks to that blog, I had a fun medium to hook the 8th grade with–and it worked!

I asked students to select something in the media after we talked about pop art and watched this video. Students either told me who they wanted to use or emailed me a photo so I could edit it in Pixlr and make sure it was the right size. Since our copiers only print in black and white, we had to discuss value in terms of gray. We first practiced with paint making color wheels and exploring tints and shades. I showed them student examples from the blog I pulled the lesson from and looked at some other pop art examples where the colors were pretty bold or a little off from reality.

Although not all students really went along with the criteria for something/someone from the media, this was my first 9-weeks so I let a few things slide. What’s good about this group was that I got a feel for what I need to edit/change for the next 9 weeks and the other two groups who follow after that! I was much more lenient with them on the criteria, just wanting to see them follow through with the painting.

Despite all this, I got some pretty good product for students who were pretty unsure about using the grid method and painting! I was pleasantly surprised by the results and I look forward to trying it again with the next nine weeks.

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1st Grade Folded Owls

One unfortunate thing about finding out last minute what classes you have and not knowing what they can or cannot do is that planning is a bit tricky. Lucky for me, my cooperating teacher during student teaching last fall was a wizard with her younger grades and was quick on her feet if something fell through or had to plan.

I’m a huge fan of owls. They are all over my room and my students immediately took notice. So after a couple of weeks of exploring watercolor resist and primary colors with some fish (will be posted eventually…) the kids asked if they could make some owls. I remembered this project my co-op had and thought it would work pretty well!

I see a group of students with special needs on Mondays and then two separate first grade classes throughout the rest of the week. All of these classes made these owls! We started by watching a video on owls and discussing owls and what the students know about them. A lot of them already knew that owls were awake at night and what kind of sounds they make.

We started by drawing a big letter ‘Y’ on our blue paper. This was the start of our tree. We learned how to thicken the tree out, add branches, and details all for our background and habitat for our owls. Students then folded a square piece of paper for wings and the head, frayed the tail, and drew some feathers on the stomach using wavy lines in a pattern. We turned some squares into “squircles” by cutting off the corners and we explored what kind of look the owl would have. Would it be wide-awake? Kind of sleepy? Or completely asleep? We attached all of our elements and stuck our owls somewhere on our backgrounds.

Overall, it was a pretty good success. They were all eager to take them home right away so I only managed to snag a few photos (and missed the other first grade class completely—oops!) but what I got is good enough for me! I was pleased.

These are from my students with special needs:

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Everyone was all smiles in this first grade class—so I figured this was a good way to represent them! Of course, telling a bunch of first graders not to move when taking a panoramic picture means they are going to move.. Sorry to that little girl five from the right who turned into something inhuman:




The list goes on and on with these acronyms! Some of the ones I don’t know may forever remain a mystery. Current focus is strictly on SLO and OTES. It’s amazing the hoops you jump through even while teaching. Forget undergrad–this is a trip!

Oof.. Survived a whole month, though! Updates to come! So much student work to show!

Learning on the Job

I’m about to enter the third week of the school year and my head is constantly spinning—even on long weekends when I’m supposed to be relaxing and recharging! There are so many things that undergrad fails to teach you and a lot of it is the behind-the-scenes administration stuff. There are acronyms for everything and specialists like myself get tossed around to meetings that usually have nothing to do with the arts.

Between that, I am juggling 6th, 7th, 8th, 4th, and 1st grade. All classes except for 1st grade switch out every nine weeks. I see two first grade classes between Tuesday and Friday, and I have one small group of students with special needs.

Middle school is an experience! My 7th and 8th graders are pretty good despite having a few students who just refuse to do work at all. My 6-8 principal (our school has 3) has repeatedly said that if they choose not to do work and are not disturbing anyone, that their grade is on their shoulders. I have tried to get these students motivated and at least trying, but it is to no avail. I repeatedly say that their grade is based on their effort, and not talent—because I fully believe that art can be practiced and refined as long as you keep up with it.

My 6th graders, however, are in this weird transition age. They are out of the elementary school side, learning to navigate classes and lockers, but seem to have kept their immaturity levels. Unfortunately for me, this causes major disruptions. I don’t mind if students quietly chat, and I’m getting used to the idea of students doing nothing at all by choice, but when it disrupts everyone else is when it becomes an issue. I have had the principal, guidance counselor, and even the music teacher step in because the way they act is out of control. I feel bad for the students who are trying and working and I want to make their art experience enjoyable. My new plan is to separate the tables and go back to a seating chart I picked. I tried to be nice and let students sit near one another—but enough is enough! Oof… Classroom management is such a mystery sometimes. Every student has vastly different backgrounds and certain things only work certain ways.

4th grade is along the lines of 6th—but I had been warned in advance that this 4th grade (former 3rd, 2nd, and even 1st graders) has been a wild bunch from the start. Most of my issue stems from bullying and I have brought in the school’s liaison to try to mediate with students throughout the rest of their day to find out what I can apply in the art room. I have already been hit with a crayon and there has been pushing that had to be addressed immediately. Like with any class, there are the ones who want to work and be there and suddenly their 40 minutes of art class turns into 20 tops. I’m hoping for some sort of divine intervention—but until then, I’ll be making phone calls home and doing more meetings with the liaison and their classroom teacher.

1st are thankfully excited about art no matter what we do. They’re eager, ready to make art, but fly through projects like they won’t ever be able to do art after that 40 minutes. Keeping their attention is key so I’ve been working with projects that will extend at least the two days a week I see them. Other than that, they’re pretty fun and I appreciate their readiness to help at the end of class!

Once some projects get completed, I’ll start posting some examples! I need to photograph things for Artsonia and get some parents involved in that. I’m looking forward to managing the rest of my year. Learning on the job is just part being a first year teacher, I suppose, but I am up for the challenge!

I hope everyone else has had a great start to their year and it goes smoothly. At least let us hold on until Thanksgiving break! 😉

Shivering with Antici…pation!


A little more than two weeks before my first real day of teaching is upon me. I feel as though I’ve been stricken with imposter syndrome and have been wracking my brain to pull up memories of tiny tidbits I had in undergrad that would maybe solve this. My morning routine will also have to include telling myself that I am perfectly capable and, more than likely, every new teacher felt this way.

My orientation for the district is on the 12th. It includes a dinner provided by the teacher’s union, too! There’s a community event on the 19th to introduce students and parents to staff. The 21st is my first working day and then students come in on the 25th! I briefly saw my classroom last month when they were still cleaning it and I’m thrilled to even have a room—especially knowing some of my peers from school are split between two schools or are ‘art on a cart’ for their first year in the working world.

This school district is in an urban area and unfortunately I have had a lot of negative chatter in my ear upon telling my good news that I got hired. All of them from non-educators or even people in the district! Every place will be different but I am most looking forward to just sharing my own joy of art with others. I’ve had a wide variety of students and I’m thankful for those experiences. I’ve battled my own fears and triumphed in the end—even missed it when it was over. I’m excited and anxious. Most days it does not seem real. Scoring a job in my field 6 months after graduating is kind of a big deal nowadays.

I’ve been sorting through lots of first day how-tos from other educators. I’m actively following The Art of Ed. on Facebook and pinning things now that I’ve gotten back into the groove of Pinterest. There’s so much to take in. Getting my own personalized district email was overwhelming enough!

Educators that are now past that first year—any other tips that may not be plastered over the internet? Were your experiences about the same? Do the jitters ever truly vanish (or are they a good thing)?

My mind is racing. My countdown has begun.