That is what I found when I opened the kiln last week.
I immediately closed the kiln.
Turned off the vent.
Turned off the light.
Shut the door and left the room.
I got in my car and drove away.
I tried not to think about it for the rest of the night.
The devastation inside the kiln was so bad, shards of bisque clay had sprayed out from one pile to the next in such a massive burst of annihilation, I could not tell how many or if EVERY project on the top shelf had been destroyed.
It was proof that the shelves below would share the same fate.
The only way effectively clean out the kiln when it is full of that much debris is the pull out the shop vac and suck it all up.
That night, I had a dream that Jesse Degonia and Tim Gun had flooded the kiln room. The room was full of water and I was wandering around outside searching for the kiln, because it was full of hundreds of clay projects and my students were missing them. I could not find the kiln anywhere because Jesse and Tim had hidden it from me.
The next day, I went back into the kiln room.
I unloaded the kiln, shelf by shelf, dumping the spare parts, fragments and residue into the boxes.
Thankfully, not every piece was destroyed, but several from the two classes that were in the kiln at the time were pulverized.
During class, I told the kids that the clay wasn't ready, it needed a few extra days to dry so I was trying to play it safe and not rush it....putting clay in the kiln before it is bone dry is most likely what caused the explosions in the first place.
When it is cold in the kiln room, the clay takes longer to dry out.....which equals WEEKS before students can glaze and take home their projects, an eternity in the life of a 5th grader.
I told one 5th grade day class about the kiln mishap.....I giggled nervously about the explosions.
I was so freaked out that I was either going to laugh or cry and I just had to make myself laugh because it was too late to change anything. I told them that I had to laugh because otherwise I would cry.
Yesterday, I had to inform the classes of the busted artwork that SOME kids might not be able to find their heads or their bodies because we had a 'few' explosions in the kiln.
I told them that some of the clay was so utterly pulverized that I could not even read the names....but those 'lucky' kids would get to remake their head/body today and commence to glaze it after spring break.
All total, there were about 5-6 in each class that need to remake the head.
A few were happy because the new one was better than the old one.
No body cried.
I've had kids cry because they could not draw a circle before.
I was elated that they were so nice about it!!!
In the end, everything turned out okay, even though I did lose a little sleep over it.
p.s. In case you are curious, we are making clay bobble head sculptures. Students could choose a cat or dog (some turned theirs into a pig/wolf/bird etc.) For each sculpture, they had to build the base one day, using a cardboard tube as the under structure.
The 2nd day, they had to make a pinch pot and attach the details for eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. While they worked on the head, I went to each person's body and removed the cardboard tube, checking to make sure the cone on the top wasn't too thick--which can cause air to be trapped inside the clay which can make it blow up in the kiln.
Both pieces had to dry for at least a week before I could fire them.
I can only fit about 2.5 classes in the kiln at a time since each sculpture is essentially TWO pieces.
I have about 325 students, so it is close to 700 separate pieces of clay that have to be transported into the kiln room, set to dry, placed in the kiln, fired, removed from the kiln, and transported back to the art room.
Then, students will spend two class periods glazing, then they have to be re-transported to the kiln room, re-loaded into the kiln, fired, unloaded and transported back to the art room.
Then they have to be wrapped up and taken home.
All total, I have to handle EACh piece 3-4 times, so I am really thankful this is the only major issue so far. All that transporting back and forth means the fragile pieces could break just by one drop of the box on the floor.
The BEST time to open the kiln, is after the clay has been glazed and it is all glassy and shiny. I hope to post a picture of that soon. In the mean time, I will be trying to get all 700 pieces bisque fired!
Here is a little time lapse I made Friday morning of myself unloading and loading the kiln, in case you are curious.
You might think that since I am an art teacher all I do is have the kids paint all day long. The truth is, painting is only done a couple of times a semester and not every day. (Along with glitter and clay, these are materials that we can only do for a couple of sessions before I need something clean with a simpler clean up)
It never fails, painting day starts out so promising. The kids are quiet the first moment that their brushes are dipped in the liquid goodness. They mix colors with enthusiasm and spread the paint around, enamored with the process of filling a white paper with lots of color.
The last 7 minutes of painting day are literally the worst.
No matter how many times I model the clean up procedure and go over the expectations, there is always a bit of frantic chaos.
Every paper needs to go into the drying rack, and every table needs to get wiped down.
Whether it is kindergarten or 5th grade (or any age in between), the excitement of walking around the room with a big, dripping wet painting and then clustering in groups at the sink changes the dynamic of the classroom from calm and structured to recess.
Students think that because I am distracted helping kids put papers in the drying rack, it frees them up to start a game of messy hand tag, or shoot paper towel wads into the trash can or just otherwise wander the room, instead of helping clean the tables.
A faithful few are on top of wiping everything down and refilling water buckets, but the majority of the kids are excited that they have a little unstructured few minutes to pass on a message to a crush or an enemy, leaving the rest of us to clean up the collateral damage.
Let's be honest, it is hard to watch 25 kids zoom around the room carrying buckets and trays of messy stuff and not cringe with fear. Also, let's be honest most of my classes are at least 26-33, so having a few extra kids only makes it more chaotic, not easier to supervise the whole thing all by myself. And I should mention, that I have this same nightmare on repeat 6 times each day.
This week, we started Lisa Frank inspired animal paintings. They are only 'loosely' Lisa Frank. I told the students that Lisa Frank is my favorite artist and always has been. I specifically told the boys that I knew this wasn't a very 'boy friendly' project but that I don't care because I have suffered through MANY football/sports team/boy friendly projects over the years and most likely if I told them they could NOT paint using bright colors and add rainbows, most of them would do it anyway just to spite me so here we are. Also, I have a VERY boy friendly project planned for the end of the year.
The first day of painting, I encouraged them to paint the outline of the drawing, which we projected from a small sketch using an overhead projector on 18X24 paper. These paintings are massive, so only 3 kids can sit at any given table. I've had to be creative, clipping pictures up to the wall, letting kids sit on the floor, just so we have room to work.
We found out the hard way that if they did NOT follow directions, by starting with the outline and painting at least some of the background, the paper was too lite to stay in the drying rack.
Scores of 18X24 pictures would just flutter right out of the wire shelves, because they weren't weighed down enough to stay in place. Paintings falling out of the only place I have for them to go, while I am supervising wet paint tag and lackluster enthusiasm for gleamingly clean tabletops made for a very stressful 3 classes this week.
I am very ready for spring break!!
Making it to a subway station and figuring out how to buy a ticket, and navigate our way to the south end of Michigan Ave. was completely out of the question. We were in a part of the city that was safe but we didn't know a soul and it felt very residential.
Our best/quickest/most comfortable option was to get an Uber back to Michigan Avenue.
The problem with Uber is that during a 'peak' time or event, the price can surge to 5X what a normal fare would cost. So when I accepted the ride and we paddled across the street, our shoes getting soaked, I knew we would be paying at least $20+ to go 2-3 miles (normally a $5 trip).
The driver played Sirius XM Chill, a channel that I sometimes enjoy myself. A cool beat matched the splatter of the rain on the car.
We caught our last glimpses of Lake Michigan on the shorefront as soaked bikers peddled towards safety beside the traffic we were stuck in.
It seemed as if everyone had either fled to the safety of a car or underground. The roadways were even more packed but the sidewalks were empty. Before we had reached the parking garage, I realized our Uber was part of a 'ride share' and we were on our way to pick up the next customer as there was a high demand for cars at that moment.
I suggested that we jump out, as the hardest part of the storm wasn't directly on top of us.
We pulled up our hoods and walked down the partially covered sidewalks of Michigan avenue, which were now mostly deserted.
Our last few moments consisted of drinking in the wet glow of headlights on pavement, the roasty smell of coffee at the starbucks where we stopped for a final souvenir, and the wonderful excitement of exploring a new place and making the most of a stormy afternoon.
I could dwell on all the things we didn't get to do because of the rain: Navy Pier, Millennium park, etc. But I think the trip was so special because it was unique and memorable, thanks to the summer storm that landed on top of the city while we were exploring.
As we made our way on foot out of Wrigleyville, we realized that we needed to seek shelter. We had walked past numerous tea and coffee shops in the more touristy part of the city and we were thirsty and tired of pounding the pavement. Lightening illuminated the blue head of the storm, angry exclamation points in the darkening sky. Thunder mixed with the sounds of traffic and car horns.
It was about 5:00 so we really only had a little daylight left, the thunder clouds forming above the skyline and our car miles away in a parking garage on the south end of Michigan avenue.
We found an Argo tea place and ordered a fresh, sweet iced tea and three macaroons. We sat down near the window as the real monsoon hit the city. It was the kind of storm in which umbrellas are useless and rain poured up and down in sheets from the ground and the sky, soaking everything it could touch.
The pedestrians that passed us were drenched from head to toe, caught in the squall on their way home from work or on their way to the gym. Some didn't even try to cover their heads, knowing it was useless, the rain dripped from their eyebrows and hair like they were fresh from a shower.
We watched the storm on the radar and knew that we would need to venture out eventually, we couldn't sit in the tea shop forever. We still needed to drive the three hours back to Indianapolis to get our stuff and the next morning we were headed home to Missouri.
On the last day of our trip, we were trying to decide what to do. We looked at the map and realized we were only 3 hours from Chicago. We could be there by lunchtime if we got up and hit the road.
The drive to Chicago was lovely, giant white windmills lined the highway and pretty soon we were coasting onto the toll roads near Gary that led into the city. Seeing the skyline of a big city for the first time is always so exciting. Even though you are still miles away, you just want to hurry up and get there.
I haven't driven in very many BIG cities so I was nervous about parking and one way streets. We found a parking garage near Michigan avenue. I was so excited to get out on the sidewalk, that I almost left the car headlights on. Luckily we noticed that they were on and we double checked that the doors were locked.
We grabbed our jackets (a storm was brewing) and headed out into the big city. The atmosphere on Michigan avenue in the middle of a work day is so fun, it was crowded with young professionals wearing business suits on their lunch breaks mixed with tourists and young mothers pushing strollers. We wandered past cafes with patio seating, lined with window boxes brimming with colorful summer blooms. The city traffic, crowded crosswalks, and big name shopping stores lured us on foot to explore as far as we could.
The first stop was the Museum of Contemporary Art, where we took in the colorful world of the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. The virtual digital garden of his artwork was a stark contrast to the concrete jungle from which we had just emerged.
Finally, hunger drove us across the river to Lou Malnati's deep dish pizzeria. We were sat at two comfy chairs near a big picture window. We watched as the wind picked up and sent construction workers diving for safety from the rain. People hurried by with newspapers over their heads, peering at the sky, seeing patches of sunlight nearby as the rain pelted their t-shirts, soaking their shoes. The storm was on its way and patchy on the radar. The first taste of was to come.....
The pizza was comforting and cheesy. The salad was crisp and flavorful. We wanted to explore more of the city.
We took an Uber north to Wrigleyville to see the home of the Cubs. Miss Bever is a huge STL Cardinals fan and she was wearing some Cardinal gear and wanted to check out Wrigley Stadium. We wandered around the nearly empty streets, most people were smart enough to seek shelter or at least go under ground before the real storm hit.
Last summer, Miss Bever and I decided to take a road trip to visit Miss Collins who had just moved to Indianapolis. Neither of us had been there before and Katy offered to let us crash at her place and explore the city. We drove the 9 hours, stopping at the halfway point for lunch in St. Louis for Fitz's soda and burgers on the Delmar Loop.
The drive was easy and the conversation was fun. Katy welcomed us to town by showing us around. It was rainy and stormy while we were there, but it was a safe city to explore and we kept ourselves entertained.
We explored the riverwalk, and found one of the infamous 'INDY' signs for tourists. We visited a beautiful cemetery on the north end of town that overlooked the skyline from afar. We tried a tea shop and a German Restaurant. Pork fritter sandwiches are the big thing in those parts, so I had to have one.
One afternoon, we trekked across town to the Kurt Vonnegut museum. If you didn't know, he is an author (Slaughterhouse Five, Sirens of Titan, etc.) and the little museum has memorabilia of his life and lots of his books for sale. I bought a sweatshirt with a typewriter on it. And so it goes.
Indianapolis was fun, but my favorite part of the trip was our very last day. We decided to explore a much larger city, just a few hours away as Katy had to work and there were no baseball games anywhere nearby.
Please check back tomorrow to hear all about my favorite part of our trip!
A few weeks ago, I was shopping in Guthrie, Oklahoma with some friends. Guthrie is a small town just north of Oklahoma City. It has LOTS of flea markets in old brick buildings and an awesome Goodwill, where I always find something fabulous.
While purchasing an Italian Soda at a little coffee shop, I noticed some chocolate hearts by the register. They caught my attention because when I was little, probably first or second grade, my mom had given me one exactly like that and I had never seen one before or since.
That morning, my mom had surprised us with a little treat for Valentine's day. A red-foil wrapped chocolate heard on a stick like a sucker. It was such a nice surprise before school and I wanted to save it for my lunch or snack so I put it in my backpack and skipped down to the bus stop.
My bus stop was the worst place on earth. It was lonely. Just myself and my brother at the bottom of a hill next to a highway. We were always the last ones picked up. In the winter, the wind was so cold that we had to huddle together for warmth. I do not remember if it was cold that February morning, but I know that I got on the bus as always.
When I got to school, I looked around for my chocolate heart and realized that it wasn't in my coat pocket or my backpack. Sadly, I realized that I must've left it at home. When I got home, I searched everywhere and could not find it. Did I lose it on the bus?
A week or two went by and one day, as I was crossing in front of the yellow crossing arm to get on the bus, I looked down at the middle of the highway. Beside the long yellow stripe in the middle of the pavement, was the foil heart. Smashed to smithereens, embedded in the concrete. The chocolate had melted away and it was just a silver Rorschach test with nothing recognizable except to me.
From then on, I looked for the blemish on the highway whenever I got on the bus and it was still there for years.
I had forgotten all about that little chocolate heart until I saw it in the store just after Valentine's day last month.
Have you ever watched a movie or show that delved into the idea of an alternate universe?
One of my favorite movies about alternate realities is the movie Coherence. It has a largely unknown cast, and you don't realize what is happening until pretty far into the film. I won't give it away, but this is a fantastic movie that you might need to watch more than once to grasp.
The sci-fi show Fringe eventually evolved into a tangle of alternate realities. In season 2, the existence of a parallel universe becomes the obvious source of 'occurrences' which is plagued by singularities occurring at weakened points of the fabric between worlds; over there, scientists have developed an amber-like substance that isolates these singularities as well as any innocent people caught in the area on its release.
Sliding Doors is a movie with Gweneth Paltrow. The film shows two possibilities for her life happening simultaneously. In one reality she misses a train and winds up at home where she discovers her husband having an affair. In the other reality, she makes it on the train and never finds out about her husband.
Family Man with Nicholas Cage is one of my favorite Christmas movies. In the film, he wakes up one Christmas morning with a wife and kids in the suburbs. In the previous reality, he had been a powerful business man in NYC.
The new Cloverfield Paradox movie on Netflix. The main characters are orbiting the planet which is on the brink of war as scientists test a device to solve an energy crisis, and end up face-to-face with a dark alternate reality. They also find a woman entwined with wires behind a bulkhead of the station and they learn she worked in an identical Cloverfield Station in another dimension.
1Q84 is a novel that I listened to last year by Haruki Murakami. At one point, a character argues against the existence of a parallel world, but the two main characters in 1Q84 (Q=”a world that bears a question”) are absolutely convinced that they live not in a parallel world but in a replica one, where they do not want to be. The world we had is gone, and all we have now is a simulacrum, a fake, of the world we once had. “At some point in time,” a character muses, “the world I knew either vanished or withdrew, and another world came to take its place.“
Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like in a parallel universe.
Would I be the same person?
What if I had never gone to meet that guy who worked at a gas station that my mom said was so 'cool'?
I would've never met Jeremy.
If I would not have gone on a blind date with another guy that my step-mom set me up with, I would've never called Jeremy afterward to tell him how horrible it was and we would've never had our first date.
(Our first date was dinner at Babe's and the movie Napoleon Dynamite).
In a parallel universe, who knows what my life would look like or if I would be the same person, or some other 'alternate' version of myself. I don't know if my decisions would've let me to the same conclusions ultimately or if I would've gone down another path altogether.
I guess I will never know, but it it fun to think about and I definitely enjoy books, shows and movies that delve into this idea.
I really like working with 5th and 6th graders. They 'get' my sense of humor much more than my little baby kindergarteners ever did....(technically, these are the same kids I had in kindergarten, now they are just older and with slightly more refined sense of humors).
Always when I give instructions, I model what to do, I walk to the material and point it out and I say loud and clear where to put the project when finished. I also write it on the board, underline and circle the really important things.
I try to keep the instructions simple.
Put your name on the FRONT.
Color the frame BEFORE you cut it out.
Put it in the clip OR the drying rack when you are finished.
The first day of art I show everyone where to get a fresh pencil if their lead breaks,
I give them a tour of the room and show them where to find paper towels, kleenexes, rulers, crayons, paper pal, glue bottles, dry erase boards, origami paper and trash cans.
I also go over every procedure imaginable and I try not to move stuff unless it is a special case and we need that stuff on the table for the day.
Always at about this point in the year, I start to lose my mind.
85 times a day, someone asks: "where do I put this?"
They ask: "where's the pencils?"
They ask: "where's a kleenex?"
85 times, or more, I tell them that pencils can be found at the art supply store at the back of the room. Origami paper can be found in the activity cart.
I get it that kids forget.
They don't have art every day....only every other day....but for pete's sake, it is a small room.
There are only about 2 places those things could be found!
And I really want to have the energy to help them if they sincerely need my help.
I am a pretty patient person, but I can only say the same things over and over and over and over and over that I start to lose it just a little bit. I feel like I am always on repeat!
Yesterday, by 6th hour I was starting to feel like a broken record. I kept skipping between the same responses over and over. Asking, 'is your name on that?' Saying 'Put it in the drying rack.'
I told a class that I needed to make a cardboard cutout of myself. It would have a voice box with preprogrammed responses to these questions and statements.
I could keep a remote control in my pocket and if they asked the cut out, then I could hit a button and the correct response would use my voice to tell them, while I could be working one-on-one helping someone with their drawing or some other essential task.
Most times, the student could just look around and figure it out or ask a buddy, but they ask me.
I try to remain calm and repeat myself again and again and again and again.
Creatively, I used a picture from 'lunch with a teacher' to make a mini cardboard cut out...the kids were amused...and it helped them remember the answers to the questions. Now if someone could just invent me a programable voice box with a remote control, I'd be all set.
Every day I wake up before my alarm. Sometimes it is more than 2 hours before my alarm. If I can't shut off my brain, I listen to an audio book to help me doze back off or at least stay in bed until it is time to get up.
Every day I drink the coffee that my husband lovingly prepares. Each night, I watch as he fills up the coffee pot, grinds the beans and sets the timer so that we will both have coffee in the morning.
Every day I eat breakfast in the little 'breakfast nook' room in our house. The room has lots of windows and it my favorite place to check the weather and listen to birds if the windows are open.
Every day I enjoy my morning commute. Sometimes I listen to an audio book, sometimes I listen to sirius satellite radio. Sometimes I go through town, but usually I take the interstate.
Every day I get to work by 7:00. Some days it is 6:45, some days it is 7:10, but it is usually around 7:00. I like to park in the same spot, along the front row. If I am running late, all of those spots are gone. If I am early, I am the first one and I enter the school in the dark.
Every day I unlock my door while juggling 2 or more insulated beverage cups. This is not easy and sometimes I spill my coffee trying to get in. I have learned to not fill up my coffee cup as full so that I don't spill burning hot liquid all over my hands/clothes. Usually I have my hands full of supplies, so that doesn't help.
Every day I enjoy the first few minutes in my classroom alone, before the early morning group swoops in to 'help'. I usually tackle the jobs that I forgot or did not have time to do from the day before. I always have a long to-do list which includes turning on my little lamps, unstacking the chairs, sharpening pencils, and passing out supplies/sketchbooks.
Every day I try to go to the bathroom before first hour. Sometimes I do not have time to go again until 10:50.
Every day I each lunch alone. If I eat lunch at all. I scarf down a yogurt and spend the short break setting up for the afternoon classes, dashing down the hall to the bathroom. I also use this time to cut paper and prep supplies.
Every day I get a break at 2:00. Sometimes my feet hurt so bad that all I can do is sit down, putting off the prep/grading/clean up for a few minutes. Teaching 6 classes a day is not joke. It is exhausting. Most days, I have students working in my room during my 'break' because that is Cardinal time and they are trying to get caught up on a project that they are behind on.
Every day I talk to about 3 adults if I am lucky. With a 2 minute passing period, I just don't have the good fortune to talk to many adults unless I make point to corner them and force them to interact with me.
Every day I talk to an average of 155-200 students. I see/interact and instruct 155+ in my classroom each day. In two days, I teach/talk to and interact with about 325 students.
Every day I leave school exhausted. Sometimes I stay late at school and prep stuff, but often I go home and lay down for an hour just to enjoy the silence.
Every day I look forward to my husband getting home around 5:15.
Every day I enjoy spending the evening hanging out, watching TV, cooking dinner, going out to dinner or running errands.
Every day I go to bed around 9:30. Sometimes I stay up and read until after 10. Other days I fall asleep at 8:30.
This photo was from the full moon on March 1st--2nd. This is part of my morning commute, and I thought the moon looked enormous next to the water tower in the sky.
This is my 'slice of life' blog.
My Art Teacher Blog:
This Little Class of Mine
Other Slice Blogs:
62 Days of Cats
Life is a Slice
Wilcox's Slice of Life 2017
Beth's Music Room Blog
WCHS ELL Slice of Life
The Cardinal Way
Mr. B's Slice of Life Blog
Swaim's Slice of Life
Dr. Zornes' Slice of Life
Smith's Slice of Life
Two Writing Teachers
Favorite Everyday Writer: