To just have an ounce of this talent…

To just have an ounce of this talent…

 

Last night I had the chance to check out the Advanced Art Portfolio Exhibition (I think I just made that title up, so please don’t hold that against me!) at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art’s temporary location. To say that I was blown away would be an absolute understatement.

I’ve been to plenty of Museums and I’ve seen a ton of great art, some famous and some not so famous. I love walking through a gallery and then just being crushed with a piece in front of me. It’s hard to explain what my taste is in art, but when I see it, I just know.

We have an extremely talented group of artists at our school and several had the opportunity to show off their work – some of it I had seen before, but some was completely new to me. It was also really cool to get the chance to read the artist’s statements – some really took the time to examine what has brought them to where they are now. In addition, we also have some incredibly dedicated teachers who’ve worked extremely hard to foster this student talent (thank you Kelley and Renee!)

I was absolutely stunned at how many pieces just stopped me in my tracks — almost rendering me breathless at times. These were just a few of my favorites from the show. Please keep in mind that these are pics from my phone and some were taken quickly with horrible angles – so don’t hold these against the artists!

carrapple

collage2

williams

youngcollage

carr1

Just so much talent.

I’d also like to take a minute to thank the Westmoreland Museum of American Art for enabling our students this wonderful opportunity. By no means do they have to do this, but I can assure you that it’s appreciated.

If you aren’t aware, the Museum is currently undergoing major renovations – exciting things are happening for sure. It was also great to see a small section of the temporary location that is dedicated to this construction. I can’t wait to see the new building once completed.

model

artistsdrawing

 

 

Imagine the possibilities…

We have a Senior Project requirement at Greensburg Salem and I have a little bit of a love/hate relationship with it. I truly like that we have this requirement and feel that it’s a strong one at that. I know that many students get a ton out of their project, and for that reason, I think they’re great.

But then there are those students who simply go through the motions and have to be pushed and pulled and prodded to get through them whatsoever. (And I am very aware that this is part of my job with many!) In my opinion, however, the positives far outweigh the negatives – and I base this even more on talking with the seniors after they’re done, especially the ones who will provide an honest response concerning the whole process. And it’s the actual process itself that I feel is the most valuable aspect of the whole thing.

All of that blabbering brings me to this: we can do better. And here’s how: we can demand more – the students will rise to the expectations that we set, in fact, they’ll go way past them. They will amaze us if we push them and they will struggle though the process and they will have doubts and they will have ups and downs and they will learn about life. And they’ll have an incredible project at the end that they can be proud of. Isn’t that what we should want (and demand) out of each of these?

So where did this all come from you ask? Why are you writing about this now??? Well, my brother Tony, a Case Western grad, posted a video to Facebook today and I took the time to watch it. I hope that you do, too. It’s a relatively quick video and you might say to yourself no high school kid could do that. And I would tell you that you’re wrong. We just have to show them that we believe that they can do it and they will.

Or maybe they’ll fail after trying. And there’s nothing wrong with that, either. We fail in life almost daily, don’t we? And that’s a lesson, too.

So check out the link by clicking on the picture – then click on the video – I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

screencap

 

 

Remembering just how fortunate I am…

I talk to friends who don’t teach and always hear about them complaining about those they work with and I realize that I really am fortunate to work with some great people — people who are dedicated to not only helping others, but to becoming better at what they do at the same time.

Oh, and they’re funny. Really funny.

Exhibit A? If you have read my blog, then you know about my little rant about Mr. Ashton Kutcher telling us how important it is to learn to code. Well today, after getting some flak from the person who was responsible for putting said posters up, I later found this staring at me after closing my door for the day:

before

Now, I will freely admit that I cracked up when I saw this. She got me – and she got me good. But, what I also noticed, since it was outside my door and I had a little more time to examine it, was what else it said:

after

And now it makes total sense. Unless it really was just his good looks that got him to where he is. Hmm – come to think of it, I’m not sure that I’ve ever thought his acting to be all that good…

Good one, JoAnne!!!

I think I’ve said this before…

…but just in case, the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) initiative drives me up an absolute wall. It’s not because I don’t think those subjects are critically important, because I do. It’s simply because there’s one little letter that’s missing: an A. Change that to STEAM and we’re all good. Show people that the Arts are just as important as those other subjects and I wouldn’t be blogging about it.

What, you may wonder, is the big deal? Well, if you don’t work in the field of Education, I can understand that question, partly because I’ve had discussions about the topic with friends who aren’t involved and have a differing perspective. I get it. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to you – it makes sense to you – but as a teacher, let me tell you why it doesn’t make sense to me.

You see, in my opinion, NONE of those other subjects exist without a piece of the Arts attached to them – and vice versa as well. I joke with my students about me not using Math on a daily basis, but it’s a joke. Do I need Calculus or Algebra? Well, no. But that doesn’t mean I don’t value them – I just joke about them.*** In addition, I’m working in a pretty specialized field which doesn’t require it. (And that brings me to one of my all time favorite shirts…)

photo

Make no mistake about it, though, we need to make sure our students – both male and female – are exposed to ALL subjects, not just the STEM subjects (and not just the Arts for that matter).

And that brings me to what even brought this up. In our high school we currently have a bunch of posters that were put up concerning the need to learn how to code. I have no issues with the need to push this – heck, if you can’t see that this is a necessary skill for many – especially our young ladies – then you might not be able to foretell anything in our society. But seeing this poster made me a little stabby, so to speak…

kutcher

First, I have a hard time taking Kutcher seriously – even though he gave a great speech at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards Show. I just don’t see him as a master of coding. Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps he’s at home in his free time learning how to do it, and if that’s the case, then I apologize. But we see celebrities pitching ideas all the time (I’m supposed to believe that Tiger Woods drives a Buick?), so that’s not even the biggest thing that bugs me about this.

Again, we see the Arts being shrifted – and in this case, by someone who’s made his living as a result of them. “…right next to biology, chemistry, or algebra.” – UGH! How about right next to Drama or English or Pottery or Digital Communications or Choir or Band or Creative Writing thrown in there alongside the others? And again, the last thing I want to do is de-stress the importance of biology, chemistry, or algebra, but c’mon!

Okay, rant over, I’ll keep this relatively short, besides, I’m probably just overreacting…

 

*** There’s something else I tell my students about those who are strong in the math and sciences, and that’s that they typically make a whole lot of money…

#onelittleword

New Year’s Resolutions. I’m sure we’ve all made them at some point, and I doubt that most of us have ever true maintained one for an entire year (I think the longest I ever went was a month – but man, I was in shape that month!)

But during this year’s holiday season, while trying to figure out what I wanted to resolve, I came across a tweet from Lisa Dabbs (@teachingwithsoul) which led me to her blog post entitled Ditch the Resolutions and Do the Word! (Careful readers will also notice that Lisa was influenced by Ali Edwards, who blogged about her #onelittleword for 2014 — just trying to give proper credit!)

Immediately, I was drawn to Lisa’s post due to this photo:

thrive

I mean, c’mon now, how cool is that??? I was hooked – and immediately started to think about what my word needed to be for 2015. It was about a nanosecond after this that I started thinking about how I could use this with my students. I started twisting it all around and then finally realized (because I’m smart like that…) that there was no need to twist anything around. That’s the beauty of the whole thing – students don’t need different instructions to do this – the project is strong enough on its own that it lends itself to success by everyone, regardless of age.

So yesterday, our first day back after Winter Break, I introduced the project to them. We spoke of past failed resolutions. We laughed at how we all thought we’d do this or do that. And then I showed that thrive graphic and explained the project: Rather than a resolution, choose one word to keep you centered throughout the year. But choose wisely, because that’s your word for the whole year. While there were some puzzled faces, there were many more faces filled with excitement. They were hooked.

All students were required to do three things after choosing their word: tweet out their photo using the hashtag #onelittleword, email a copy of the photo so that I could show them off on this blog, and print out a copy so that I could show them off on our one little word wall.

I was actually amazed that there were only a few words that repeated (although you might see that somebody wasn’t quite sure how to spell perseverance!

collage5

collage8

collage14

collage9

collage13

collage6

collage4

collage89

collage12

collage1

collage10

collage11

collage3

collage2

collage15

collage16

So, a little bit about the process. I envisioned the students using PhotoShop or another similar program to do this. For my Yearbook students, they didn’t have an option and had to use it (their projects are below). They use PhotoShop on a daily basis, so it wasn’t much of a stretch for them to do this. For my other students (Mass Media and English), I was simply expecting them to write their word on a piece of paper, maybe decorate it, have a friend take a photo and voila. What I love is that it took all of about a nanosecond for the students to realize that they could easily do this using SnapChat – great problem solving on their part!

collage20

collage21

collage22

collage23

 

So there you have it. I really like what they’ve come up with and truly hope that it helps to guide them through their year – whether that be as a freshman / sophomore or a senior who’s closing in on graduation.

wordwall

Oh yeah, there’s that whole little thing about my word. I really spent some time on this and finally decided that this is the word that I’m focusing on the most this year. There are so many things that I want to do, so many places that I want to see – and that’s going to start in earnest, this year…

explorefinal

 

 

 

 

 

Mandated testing…

(note: I just saw that I didn’t post this after I created it last year – ugh – gotta love it! – well, here it is – can’t say as my opinions have changed whatsoever!)

The simple fact of the matter is that, unless you’re a classroom teacher, a guidance counselor, an administrator, a custodian in the building or a teacher’s aide, you have no true concept of what state/federal mandated testing does to a high school. NONE. Please don’t even attempt to say that you do.

We are taking the Keystones in Algebra I, Literature and Biology over the next seven days. These have been mandated by the state of Pennsylvania in order to not only demonstrate what a student “knows,” but also how effective a teacher has been. Um, yeah.

Let’s take  a look at this realistically. Did you take your standardized tests seriously when you were in school? If you did, I’m going out on a limb and saying that you truly didn’t need them to demonstrate your knowledge. If you didn’t, I’m going to say you are very much like the vast majority of students everywhere who flat out don’t care about them. I find it to be interesting that the same people who profess the teachings of Dan Pink — you know, the guy who diffuses the carrot and stick method of motivation — do exactly what he says not to do by conducting these tests.

Now, please don’t get me wrong — I believe in accountability for all of those involved — but especially for the students and teachers. However, we are going about this in all the wrong ways, making sure that test taking companies and politicians get rich in the process. (Incidentally, depending on which source you believe, the industry is worth anywhere between $400 million and $1.7 billion a year — and I’m pretty sure that if you’re reading this, you aren’t naive enough to believe that those big bucks aren’t a driving force behind this being done.)

Starting next year, the way that I’m evaluated in Pennsylvania will change. If it had been up to Governor Corbett, I would be evaluated 100% based upon how the students in my school perform on the Keystones. Let that sink in for a minute. My job would depend not upon my performance in the classroom, but rather on how students in my school whom I DON’T EVEN TEACH OR WORK WITH IN ANY WAY perform on a standardized test that they don’t really care about anyway.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. Maybe if you motivated them to take the test more seriously they would do better. Yeah, good luck with that.

You want to know what the students are truly worried about concerning this test? The fact that we, as proctors, are forced to take their cell phones away from them for the duration of the test. Seriously. I will have to literally ask for each student’s cell phone, have them turn it off then put it in a ziploc bag which then goes in a big rubbermaid container. If you have any clue whatsoever of what a phone means to a 15 year old right now, then you’ll understand the fiasco that ensues. And then we want them to demonstrate their understanding of Algebra, Literature and Biology? Yeah, good luck with that.