Sunday, May 11, 2014

What the Art Teacher Wore #99 and CONGRATS!

Let's Get Standardized Monday: Most frequently asked question whilst wearing pencil shoes? "Does the eraser work?" Which, to me, implies that the kids think the shoes can draw. I usually tell 'em, "No, but that's okay. I never make mistakes." Still trying to figure out why that is usually met with an eye roll and a groan. What?! blouse: Old Navy; Applique Wrap Skirt: DIY, go here; dotted tights: Target; shoes: DIY, go here

Congratulations, Natalie Friedl! 
Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner of the Best Dressed Art Teacher Contest! 
Be on the lookout for an interview with Natalie on this here blog within the next week or two. 

And thank you all who participated!
I had the best time chatting with you via email and being inspired by your creativity. 
This was so much fun for me! I'd love to host another contest like this in the future (what do you think? An annual thing, perhaps?) so keep dressin' the part and don't forget to snap a photo for me!

(And now back to our regularly-scheduled, non-bold chitty-chat:)

Well, hello here, friends! I'm so happy to see this week of giving standardized tests is behind me (and I'm quit positive I'm not the only one). This past week, my mornings were filled with quiet and calm test-giving while my afternoons were buzzing with urgent finish-this-for-the-art-show-right-now mania. It was quite the yin yang though, in all honestly, I'd have to say I prefer the yang. 

Speaking of the art show, I'm excited to say that while it isn't until Thursday evening, the majority of the artwork is up! Well, until the blue sticky stuff holds, that is. I'm very fortunate in that I have the most supportive parent volunteers at my school that hang ALL the artwork that the kids have made ALL year. Which ends up being over two THOUSAND pieces of art work. "Wait, what are YOU doing then, Stephens?! Eating bonbons whilst sipping paint water?!" Um, no, I would never do that at the same time! Actually, I've been doin' time loading and unloading the kiln, matting and framing work and lighting fires under children to get stuff finished. I only have a mini-mountain of five classes left to be hung. The school walls are looking lovely and I'm so excited about Thursday night! I see photo-heavy blog posts in the future.

In light of test giving, I thought I'd share with you the work of Harriete Estel Berman. I think you'll dig it. Until next time!
Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin is a collaborative sculpture about the effects of standardized testing on education. According to Berman's website: "Thousands of #2 pencils form an ephemeral curtain that moves with the slightest breath of air. This installation emphasizes material reuse, student education, math, science and diversity."
Harriete Estel Berman is an artist whose work, aside from installations pieces like this one, includes jewelry, tea cups, sculptures and wall pieces that are created from recycled materials. Like the used pencils, these materials often speak to the subject matter being created. Have ya'll heard of Berman? I have...but had forgotten about her work until test-giving week. I would love to introduce her to the children next year before test-taking time. Have any of you discussed her work in your art rooms?
Make Your Mark Heavy and Dark Tuesday: I think that's my fave standardized testing line. I think EVERYONE should make their mark heavy and dark, don't you?! sweater and hair clip: DIY here; blouse: thrifted; skirt and tights: Target; shoes: Softt
Berman writes, "Pencils were sent to me from around the world uniting a community of artists, students and educators. This installation represents my continuing commitment to make artwork from recycled materials addressing social issues."
"As the number of government-mandated tests multiplies, anger is mounting over wasted school hours, 'testing to the test,' a shrinking focus on the arts, demoralized students and perceptions that teachers are being unjustly blamed for deeply-rooted socio-economic problems." This quote from the article "Pencils Down" from YES Magazine, Spring 2014
Not the Sharpest Pencil, Wednesday: I'm so not. So I can relate to these poor kiddos that struggle with the test. I remember just reading and rereading the questions, not knowing the answers, looking around at my classmates who seemed to be bubblin' like no tomorrow and thinking, "I'm just dumb." I feel sorry for the kids who feel the same, it's a blow to the ego at such a young age. blouse: DIY, here
Berman says, "During the assembly, which took years, I went to schools, lectured about my work and the students worked on the pencil project. Interesting in concept, asking people to work on your art project  is not easy. The implementation was a difficult reality. More than once I had to come home and fix the pencils the students or the public assembled."

Why Maxi Dresses in the Art Room are a Bad Idea, Thursday: Because every time I squat down to pick something up or help a kid, I inevitability step on the long hem, stand up and promptly fall over. In wedge heels. Not my finest moment(s). top: Anthropologie; pencil dress: vintage, etsy; sandals: Target

This process took Berman five years. Each of the pencils was drilled with a micro drill modified by Berman's son. From there began the long and tedious task of threading each of these pencils together. According to Berman's website, there were a lot of mistakes made along the way and lessons learned. But the effect is amazing, don't you think?
Goodbye Test, Hello Mess! Friday: So happy to be back in my normal All-Art/All-Day routine! splatter dress: made by me, DIY here; top: Buffalo Exchange; necklace: Forever21; tights: Target; shoes: Dolls by Nina

Berman used model of a bell curve as the basis for her sculpture. Each color became a panel of pencils. The bell curve is how student performance on standardized tests is evaluated. Most students fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to testing which is why the graph bells in the middle.

Berman brings up the point that standardized testing is big business. We shouldn't be fooled into thinking that this is for the good of student education. The government spends over $600 billion a year on education and much of that is for text books and testing. It's clear we've lost our focus. According to me.
Berman states, "Standardized tests only evaluate a small spectrum of student ability excluding the arts, athletic and theatrical performance, creativity and more. The arts teach creativity and problem solving, two skills needed in the 21st century, but they are increasingly marginalized by a curriculum based on performance standards."

This lady gets it. I strongly urge you to check out her blog and read more, she's amazing. Until then, check this out: 


  1. Love your pencil outfits. Thanks for including my artwork in your post today.

    1. Thanks for dropping by! Looking forward to chatting with you soon :)

  2. The art installation piece is AMAZING !! I subbed last week for an art teacher...and spent the morning monitoring the hallways. I couldn't read...I coudln't do anything but stare down the halls .....such craziness. Everyone afraid to move or blink their eyes for fear of the "test police" - felt like I was in some freaky version of 1984. That'll be next...they'll turn those SMART boards into two way monitoring devices so they can REALLY watch those kids and make sure they're not cheating on the test or moving or blinking or breathing at the wrong time !! Can you tell HATE THESE TESTS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!????????

    1. I know! What an incredible piece that says so much! I think all this testing is very Twilight Zone...and not in a good way. I hate it for our kids!

  3. "Berman brings up the point that..."
    Hee-hee. Intentional or unintentional pun?
    Been enjoying your posts. Whimsical and very artistic & creative.


Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate each and every one :)

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.