Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In the Art Room: Top 5 Tips to getting the art teacherin job of your dreams

It's that time of year: Art Teacherin' Interview Season. I'm here today to share with you just how I landed the art teacherin' job of my dreams...which just might help y'all do the same.

Now, art teacherin' jobs aren't exactly a dime a dozen, what with only one to two positions available per school. So many desperate folk are often inclined to take the first job that looks at 'em sideways and asks if they wanna get Netflix and chill. Well, I'm here today to tell ya just how not to fall into that trap, find the school you really dig and land that gig!

1. Do your homework. First things first, you gotta get your foot in the door and land that interview. But how? It's called the World Wide Webbiecakes, y'all.

Story Time: If you are willing to relocate for a job, you'll have many more options. When I returned from my student teaching gig in Ireland, I found that my parents had sent out 52 job applications all over the country (like, as far away as Alaska!). I didn't have any ties binding me to my native Indiana so when I got the interview in Nashville, I loaded up my chain-smoking grandma and hit the road. The rest is history!
Google search the area you are interested in for school districts. Then, take a lil time to do some digging about that district. Are they on social media? If so, what kind of things are they sharing? Check out what teachers, parents and even students are saying about the schools within the district. Did they make the news for something fabulous or are they notoriously in the news for unfabulousness.

2. Land an Interview. When you find some schools that pique your interest, visit those district websites to find out about their online application process. I know that my school district won't even chat with you unless you've taken the time to fill that out. Even if the district you are looking into does not have an opening, don't let that stop you from applying! You never know what turn of events might lead to a job popping up. And when it does, you'll be on the list! Once you hit submit and your application is in their system, see which schools have art openings. Those are the ones to start calling. 
When you call, ask to speak with the administration. If/when you can get one on the line (those are some seriously busy folks who are often hard to track down), make sure you speak confidently. Let them know you are a seriously awesome art educator that would love to have the opportunity to meet them, interview and see their school. Practice this phone chat, write it down if you gotta. It's what is gonna get you in the door. 
3. Dress for Success. Now. Let's be clear. You want an art teacherin' job, right? Well, all that stuff they say about first impressions is for-realzies. Take it from a person who prides herself in her wacky attire: DRESS PROFESSIONALLY. In short, I would not recommend wearing the following: 
Look, an interview is not the time to express your wild wardrobe side. When I landed the interview at my current job, I totally hid what a weirdo I was from my administration (haha, suckahs!). In fact, I wore the same cornflower blue, Barbara Bush-wannabe dress I wore when el hubbo and I got hitched at the court house. I was all-pro from head to toe. If you do wanna get a lil colorful, just tone it down some. A good rule of thumb: WWGS (What Would Grandma Say)? I would also recommend No Cleavage, No Bare Legs, No Exposed Feets and FOR THE LOVE No Bra Straps. PSA #1, over and out.
4. Be Early, Be Prepared. Whatever you do, DO NOT BE LATE! Go to bed early the night before, set 5 alarm clocks, give yourself 30 minutes more than you normally would, whatever it takes. Do not show up with a latte. Do not have gum in your mouth. Get there at least 5 - 10 minutes early with your portfolio of lessons, student and teacher examples and photos neatly organized and placed on your lap. 

Oh, let's chat about that portfolio for a hot minute, shall we? Because it needs to be good freakishly fantastic. I put clay projects in their hands and got all STEAM-y with the connections the projects made. I passed around fiber arts projects and went on and on about how kids need to be working with their hands MORE in this overly techie age we live in. Then I shared a binder full of photos of my art room, my management system, my routines, you get the idea. Also in my binder were newspaper clippings featuring me and my students, notes/cards from parents, students and administration, on and on. It's your version of a Look Book so make it memorable, y'all. 

And, for the love, LEAVE YOUR CELL PHONE IN YOUR CAR. Seriously. The world is not gonna end if you don't look at your phone for 45 minutes. Do NOT sit in the waiting area scrolling through your phone, do NOT have your phone ring/beep/jingle during the interview and do NOT look at it, even if to check the time. Nothing says unprofessional and disrespectful like a person who cannot detach from their phone for a short amount of time. So, in case you are tempted, just leave it in the car. Now, can someone please help me down from this cell-phone-hater soapbox?

5. Interview Questions and their Translation. There's a good chance your interviewers have been at this interviewing thing for days, maybe weeks. They are more than likely gonna ask you something along the following lines (so, just like your phone call, have a prepared answer and rehearse it, this time, in front of a mirror). So here are some of their potential questions (and what they are really asking):
"How do you handle classroom disruptions?"
TRANSLATION: "Are you planning to send half your class to the office? Because we ain't got time for that."
ANSWER: Be honest. How do you deal with classroom disruptions or disrespectful students? Do you give a warning, have a time-out area, have consequences set in place? If you've never taught before then you might wanna do a lil internet searching on classroom management because, trust me, this question is gonna come up.

"How do you incorporate other subject matter into your art room?"
TRANSLATION: "Our students are being tested to death and our classroom teachers need all the help they can get. How are you gonna supplement your art curriculum with math, language arts, science, social studies and all that jazz?"
ANSWER: Education is not piecemeal but one continuum. All of the subjects have the ability to feed into and off of one another. Site some examples of projects that do just that. For example, weaving incorporates history, culture, math and, read 'em a book, and you got literacy. This is when you bust out your shiny student examples. No student examples? Then bring your teacher created ones. 

"Are you willing to coach track; lead marching band; create the yearbook; work on the school website; teach English {yeah, I got asked that one} and basically do a bunch a stuff that no one wants to do for very little money, if any?"
TRANSLATION: "Just how desperate are you, anyway?"
ANSWER: That's your call. I teach elementary so a lotta that stuff would not be asked of me. I value my free time. If you do as well, don't feel obligated to say yes just for the job. Be honest. 
PSA #2: Whatever you do, for the love, keep those answers short, sweet and concise. These people are only mildly interested in what you have to say. They are more than likely thinking about what restaurant they are all gonna head to when you finally shut up and leave. Impress them with what you have to say...but don't depress them with awkward and long winded life stories. If you do, you'll just give them something to talk about at Chili's over cheese fries. 
"Do You Have Any Questions for Us?" 
TRANSLATION: "Are we about done here?"
ANSWER: Yes, thank you so much for asking, I do have some questions {and here's what you need to know, so write down what they say}:

1. "What is the art budget?" Ideally, you should be looking at about $3 per student. If you get more than that, sweetness.

2. "How often do the students have art? How long is each art class?" In a perfect world, you'd see all of your students for an hour, once a week...well, except for kindergarten. They are best in smaller doses, I have found. 

3. "If I do have to send a disruptive student to the office, how will that situation be handled?" Here's what you are really asking: Are you just gonna send them back to art in 3 minutes with a weak apology and a kiss-my-behind look on their face? CUZ that ain't gonna work. 

4. "Is there an art room? Is there a chance the art room will ever be taken away and used as a classroom? May I see the art room?" Okay, the reasoning behind those questions lead me to my next tale...

Story Time: I've only taught at two schools. The first job I got in Nashville, I taught in what the administration referred to as a "portable" which I soon learned was fancy talk for a trailer. Let's not get above our raising, Nashville, a metal rectangle on wheels is a trailer. That being said, it was a great space to start my teaching career cuz at least it was a space. Two years later, a new school was built and I had a beautiful art room, complete with a storage closet, a kiln room and shelving like you wouldn't believe. The catch? Every summer, my principal would say, "Don't decorate your art room...we might be taking it from you." Do you know what a crap way that is to spend each summer? Stressing that I may be on a cart and rethinking my curriculum because of it? I started to open my mind to relocating. 

Then, one fall, I was attending my local state conference. We were doing that annoying thing where everyone goes around the table, introduces themselves and shares a bit. It was then that a woman said, "I teach at a wonderful school, in a terrific school district and I'm retiring in two years if anyone is interested." Y'ALL.BETTER.BELIEVE. I was all over her like hot fudge. We swapped digits and I literally spent the two years stalking her. I observed her teaching, visited her art room, was introduced to her faculty and staff, attended her art shows. I'm surprised she didn't take out a restraining order (thank you, Margo!). So, needless to say, when it came time to interview, it was like sitting down with acquaintances. They'd seen my face and knew just how interested I was. 

Moral of the Story: It's really all about who you get to know. Attend your state conferences, chat with folks, make friends which lead to connections. Send emails to peeps who are in the districts you are interested in (my buddy Jennifer emailed me last fall...and I gave her some tips on how to get her foot in the door with my district. Her shining personality got her the job but I like to think I helped a touch). Make it so that when you walk into that interview, you have a connection with someone. It just might get you the job.

In other news: that school in Nashville? They've never taken away the art room. Personally, I think they were trying to get rid of me...and it worked! 
We're So Sorry, But... So, story time: I went on many a job interviews when I was Fresh Prince outta College and got many a rejection. The reason? Lack of experience. Well, that's a catch 22, ain't it? Just how do you get art teacherin experience to bulk up that resume? Call you local art museums and enquire about possible jobs or volunteer positions, especially ones that will put you in contact with kids. Reach out to recreational centers to see if they need anyone to lead arts and crafts classes. If you start subbing, you'll get your face seen around the district you are interested in. And lead art lessons! See if you can rent a church space for cheap and tack some flyers up at your local coffee house. This will give you a lil income and some kid-friendly experience.

What tips and tricks do you art teachers have out there for getting hired at your dream art teacherin' job? 

What are some of the wildest job interview stories do you have? 

Newbies, I wanna hear from you too! Lemme know if you have any questions and please drop me a line and fill me in on how those interviews go. GOOD LUCK!  
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Sunday, April 24, 2016

In the Art Room: Chalked Flower Ceiling Tiles

It all started last year, when we had a visiting artist who is a street painter (aka a sidewalk chalk artist). The kids were supposed to go outside and work on their own taped off portion of sidewalk. And then...rain. With my small brain frantically searching for ideas where the kids could still work on a sidewalk-esque surface but remain indoors, the Chalked Ceiling Tile project was born! 
My super awesome administration had been asking me for a while to do some artwork on ceiling tiles. I'd put the project off as I just didn't know how to go about it. But when rain was predicted the eve before our sidewalk chalk event, the idea to have students chalk tiles came to me. After toying around a bit, I found that the reverse side of the tiles actually worked much better than the front!
Last year, second graders create these butterfly ceiling tiles as it was apart of their curriculum. This year, it isn't. So I decided to have them create something that would look nice with the butterflies: flowers! 
This year, I decided to try something a little different. I've been showing demo videos on the regular in my art room and the kids have responded really well. Because I was going to be teaching an entire grade level of second graders in a loud multi-purpose room, I thought this would be the perfect time to use a filmed lesson. I've been adding videos regularly so feel free to subscribe to my channel if you wanna. Here's the video the kids watched:
You'll notice that the video is broken down into four sections: drawing out the flowers, coloring in the flowers, adding a background, outlining and autographing. I had the students work on these from roughly 9:30 to 11am. They are used to 30 minute art classes! So, I would show a small snippet of the video and allow them to work. They knew to gather back on the floor when they were finished. Of course, they all finish at different rates. When I had about a dozen or more students gathered on the floor, I would ring my chime (yes, that was a shameless plug for my husband's company) which would signal ALL students, finished or not, to gather on the floor to hear the next snippet. I do this in my art room when we have several steps, so the kids are kinda used to this routine.
Not gonna lie, this was no small undertaking but it is so totally worth it. If you wanna do a chalked ceiling tile project with your students, you'll need the following:

* Chalk. I love KOSS brand. It's not cheap but it is rich in color. I bought 20 boxes last year and we were able to use them again this year. I will probably only need to purchase 10 more boxes for next year's tiles. We've also used them for other projects throughout the year.  
* Bowls. I had a sweet high school student shadow me the other day and I put her on the task of making a bowl of warm color chalk and cool per every two students. 
* Ceiling Tiles. One per kiddo. Ask your friendly custodian for access to his/her stash.
* Foam Brush Thingies. Get them in the variety pack at your fave hardware store. These are perfect for blending chalk.
* Bulletin Board Paper. To cover the floors. We worked in the multi-purpose room which was great for a large group of kids. Once we were finished and the tiles were stacked on a dolly, we simply rolled up the paper and recycled it!
* Baby wipes. We only used these at the very end. I mean, your hands are just gonna get dirty again, right?! Don't clean 'em til you are finished. 
* Cheap Hairspray. Get the good stuff. You know, like AquaNet.
* Fabulous Parent Volunteers. These folks are the backbone to my art program. They hang the art show. They help with clay projects. They get things done. Y'all gotta get you some. And special thanks to mine, I love y'all!
To organize this event, I simply messaged second grade and special area teachers to give them some dates. Once we landed on one that worked, I asked if they'd kindly pop in the multi-purpose room in 30 minute shifts to help the kids if needed. During that hour and a half time slot, I usually have second grade classes and a none of my other kids missed their regularly scheduled art classes, which was great! 
Once floral designs were drawn, the kids moved on to the next phase which was adding color. 
For some, this took some time as they drew their flowers small. This was fine with me! However, I did notice some having the kids stop, move and watch the next step via video was good. It meant they went back to their work spot with renewed energy.
I think I would like to do a different theme with the students each year. Because these tiles will remain in the ceiling for a long time, a different theme would mean they could easily find their tiles and remember their classes theme! I had thought of taking down last year's tiles and returning them to the current 3rd grade...but I quickly changed my mind when some of those children said, "you aren't taking down OUR tiles, are you?!" I might be fun to build on this idea and add more tiles each year. So that's the plan, for now.
About an hour in, and most kids were finishing their flowers and ready for the background. 
 Our last phase was outlining and signing our name with black. At this point, students were finishing at different speeds and getting a wee bit squirrelly. To remedy that, I had them baby wipe their hands and go to the floor where we watched an art education video. 
Once the majority of children were finished, a teacher took them outside for recess. This left me and parent volunteers to clean up and allowed those kids who were still working to continue creating. Those are usually my pokey-lil-perfectionists. I'm never gonna ask them to hurry up! 
Once these lovelies were complete, we busted out the Aqua Net and commenced spraying them like it was 1985.
Personal fave back in the day. Mostly because of the Mondrian design!
After cleaning up and cleaning the tiles outta the multi-purpose room, I loaded them onto a cart and wheeled them down to my room. Our fabulous custodian Mr. Scruggs will hang them next week...I'll be sure to share a pic! If you follow me here, you'll see it real soon! 
 Love the composition of this one!
Check out the knees of the kid on the right. Next year, we should just take them outside and hose them down!
 After the kids, before the clean up. So much colorful happiness!
 My buddy the music teachers suggested that each year, for our theme, we have the kids decorate tiles that correlate to the location in the hallway. For example, outside of the gym, the kids chalk sports equipment. And outside of the music room, music-themed designs. I love that idea!
Now that this massive undertaking is complete, I can focus on Art Show Land. 
Have y'all done ceiling tile projects? What did you do? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. xo!
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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

In the Art Room: Another Chalked Ceiling Event!

Hey, y'all! This Friday I will be leading my second grade artists in our (now) annual Chalked Ceiling Tile Event! We did this last year and it was an absolute blast. I had my doubts about teaching an entire grade level a project all at once with such a messy medium as chalk...but it went off without a hitch. I'm only changing it up a pinch this year in that we'll be chalking flowers instead of butterflies as they are no longer in our second grade curriculum. I'm also planning to film the demo process so I don't have to talk over the sound of a grade level of students, parent volunteers, teachers and the noisy multi-purpose room. I'll be certain to share with you what we create! But today I thought I'd bring back photos last year's event.
To read more about it, click yourself here. It was apart of the many legacy projects I've done with the kids over the years. In fact, that's what my summer presentation for AOE was last year! I thought I'd share with you what I presented below (now that nearly a year has past, I can share it with you here!). Are y'all attending this upcoming AOE online conference? You totally should. 
You can find more info about the projects mentioned here:
* Gallery of Gratitude
* Our School has Heart
* Chalked Ceiling Tiles
* Village of Kindness
* Johnson Elementary Legacy Mural
Legacy murals and school-wide collaboratives (aka schollabs) are something that I feel so passionate about that I paired up with Janine Campbell at NAEA and did a lil presentation about it! If you'd like to see our prezi, feel free to check it out here.
Janine is a fabulous educator and speaker! She brought us to tears with her stories of how her schollabs have impacted her students and community. When you attend NAEA conventions and see Janine's name pop up as a presenter, make sure you attend!
Back to those butterflies! I thought it would be fun to add to our butterfly tiles by adding flowers. I can't wait to see what the kids create and just how amazing they look in the ceiling.
But seeing these photos makes me realize just how much prep work I have to do before Friday. Thankfully, I had a wonderful high school student shadow me today who prepared all the plates of chalk (thank you, Chloe!). I'm sure I'll get it all done in my usual Cassie-fashion: last minute, panic-y, sweating-like-a-pig and hyped up on coffee. Yep, that's how I roll.
In other news, I'm also delusional. With less than 30 days left in the school year, I still think I have time for new units of study. I had to take a hard look at my calendar today and come to grips with the fact that I just can't fit it all in. Le sigh.
But the ceiling tiles, that's gonna happen! And I'll be certain to share it with y'all when they are up on the ceiling with the butterflies. Until then!
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Saturday, April 16, 2016

What the Art Teacher Wore #160

 Clay Week Monday, Here We Go!: Since we are studying the food-sculpture artist Peter Anton and making our own food sculptures, this Modcloth number seemed totes appropriate. sweater: Buffalo Exchange; dress: ModCloth; belt and crinoline: Amazon; tight: Target; shoes: Aldo

I shared with y'all earlier this week that it was Clay Week up in my art room. In preparation, I spent my weekend filming videos...which made for a less-than-relaxing weekend. But, in the end, it made for a much easier Clay Week experience! I'm so glad I did it. For each lesson, I shared an intro to Peter Anton, our artist inspiration for our food sculptures. Then I jumped into our clay lesson. For my 30 minute first and second grade classes, that meant I showed them the first phase of the sculpture. At the end of the 30 minutes, they bagged their project and completed it the following art classes. For my 60 minute classes with third and fourth grade, I would share with them the first half of my video, allow them time to work and then have them meet me again on the floor for the second half of the video. This allowed them to not become overwhelmed with directions. 
The best part about sharing the videos was that it allowed me a little time to breathe and prep. As y'all know, clay lessons can be taxing. This video freed me up to wedge clay (lil known secret: just put the leftover clay back in the back with some water and smack the back on the floor several times. Viola! Wedged!), cut clay and prep supplies. My master plan is to film many videos this summer to have ready for the new school year. Stay tuned!
 Clay Week = Comfy Week: When picking my clothing out in the mornings, I was all about the stretch jersey, y'all. AND washableness. Clay is so stinkin' dusty that I just knew I'd be covered. So wearing dry-clean-only/hand-wash-whateverness was not gonna happen. top: Buffalo Exchange, originally from Forever 21; dotted dress and tights: Target; shoes: Aldo
All week long I heard, "I love clay", "I want to be a clay creating person when I grow up...what's that a called again?", "Thank you for letting us work with clay!" It made me realize that I need to provide more than just one week of clay for these next year, I plan to do clay week in the fall and the spring!
 All the Emojis, All at Once: Not gonna lie, telling kids whom I normally allow to work on projects for extended periods of time that they have ONE DAY AND ONE DAY ONLY to complete their project is a lil stressful. Both for me and the artists. So I was feeling all the emojis, all the time. Happy! Rushed! Surprised! Annoyed (DID YOU REALLY JUST THROW THAT CLAY LIKE A BALL?!). You get the pitcher. top and jean jacket: Buffalo Exchange; skirt: Target; tights: Amazon
This is what our tables looked like on MONDAY. By Friday, those paper coverings were trashed. I spent my Friday throwing them away, cleaning all the clay tools and putting them up and just de-clay-ifying my entire art room. Whew! It felt so good to get all that dust outta there!
 Thursday, Don't Make Me Cut You: While I did love me some Clay Week, it truly was a looooong week. Holy Smokes! You don't even wanna know how many days this week I woke up thinking it was Friday. Only to discover...well, you know the rest. sweater: thrifted; top: Urban Outfitters; skirt: ModCloth; tights: Target; boots: Aldo
I'm sure y'all have your own methods for teaching clay. I learned everything I ever needed to know about teaching clay to children from Danielle McDaniel, aka The Clay Lady. If you aren't familiar, I strongly recommend you check out her books, supplies and videos. She is FABULOUS!
 I Ain't Too Proud, Friday: A coupla weeks ago, a sweet kindergarten student of mine wore this amazing jacket. I was all, "oh my word, where did you get that?!" To which she replied, "I dunno, my grannie got it for me". You better believe I checked the label of her coat. I immediately went home and looked up GapKids and found this the biggest size I could get it. It's still pretty snug but I'm a lil on the small side up North with the chest of a 12 year old so it works for me! dress: altered by me. It was too short so I added the leopard print jersey; belt: Amazon; boots: Frye; jacket: Gap Kids; necklace: Anthropologie
I mean, right?! I had to have it! Granted, I coulda made it but...I currently don't have time to do squat diddly so I decided to treat myself. It's good to do that once in a while (and by "once in a while" I mean thrice daily). xo!
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