Today is my first-born, Fallon’s birthday. I miss her with all that I am, and I credit who I am to her; Someone who can show kindness and empathize with the best, and also someone who will burn bridges to the ground when needed. Life is too short to do otherwise.
This will be the final sharing of some of my answers from the 2018-2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year Candidate Application. Fallon was the cornerstone of my teaching style, as you’ll see below. Although I’m no longer in the public school classroom, I enjoy continued learning in the field of education, specifically that of Visual Arts and how I can apply methods in my personal studio lessons.
I also believe that the ideas presented in this post are applicable beyond classroom walls.
Describe a project that defines you as a teacher.
On a hot summer day in July right before my first full year of teaching, I went in for my 8 month pregnancy check-up and learned that my baby’s heart had stopped beating, and she would be stillborn. My world turned upside down. As can be expected, it was a struggle to come back to work in August and be the example of strength that my students needed. However, as days went by, I found my desk full of encouraging letters and inspirational paintings that told of students' struggle and how they overcame these challenges. I began looking at the process of making art through new eyes. I realized that these students go through battles at home that I could never fathom, yet they collect the strength to show kindness to others. This is when I knew my calling was not only to teach art, but help students feel art, and how it can help us navigate horrible things we may be going through. In conjunction with community mental health personnel, I facilitate classroom and school-wide art therapy sessions throughout the year. I named this initiative QuARTz. In physical form, quartz crystal is unique in that when light is shown through it, the entire color spectrum becomes visible. I liken this to the human experience. Sometimes we may go through trials that bring us down, but with a bit of light shown into our lives, our colors become visible again. In QuARTz, activities promote personal reflection, artistic expression, and a plan of action. My role is to plan and facilitate artistic activities that are therapeutic in nature, and organize a time and place for meetings.
One project done in the past is a body mapping activity. This opportunity is available during every lunch block for an entire week. During this activity, I teach students about the elements and principles of design and color theory, explaining how certain colors, types of line, shapes, etc. can evoke or represent various emotions of the human experience. Students then trace an outline of their bodies onto large butcher paper and use symbolic colors to represent the types of emotions they are experiencing and where in the body these emotions are causing tension or relaxation. Students also use other elements and principles of art, such as zig-zag lines to represent anxiety, or organic shapes to represent a state of calm. In my experience with this project, the two areas of the body that hold the most anxious color are the head and heart. Again, I believe that when a student’s heart and head are simultaneously in the right place, they are able to learn more effectively. At student discretion, a school counselor is present during body mapping to help students with any emotions that are difficult to navigate. Upon completion of this project, students complete a survey revealing their experience as “a creative outlet for expressing feelings without words.” This project is currently ongoing, and provides student opportunities throughout the school year.
Art business owner journaling about my artistic adventures.