The 2nd sad story I always tell follows directly after the first.
Kids love to hear stories and this one happened just last year.
We were finishing a big project.
Students were working on coloring, touching up and adding final details. The very next art day, the plan was to attach the project to the painted frames, and then I would be selecting a few for an art display. Everyone else could take them home that day.
A girl who was working very diligently to finish her project explained that she planned to give her drawing to her grandpa who was very sick in the hospital. The girl had been spending lots of time visiting him, and she knew that this would be the perfect thing to cheer him up.
That day was a Friday.
The next art day for that class was on Tuesday. Knowing the girl had planned to give her artwork to her grandpa, as soon as the class began working on Tuesday, I told her that she could take it home immediately, and would not have to put it in the drying rack and wait for the glue to dry.
"Oh Mrs. Mitchell," the girl said sadly. "I won't need to take the picture home after all. My Grandpa, he died this weekend. I never got to give him the picture."
Upon hearing this sadness, lots of students begin thinking about their own special family members.
I remind them that they might not have an art class in the future at the moment they need a special picture for someone. But if they have their portfolio in a safe spot, they will always have something that THEY made ready to be given to someone.
It just might be the last thing someone sees before they die. It might bring them some comfort in their final moments, having something that YOU made hanging at their bedside.
Even though some of the stuff in their portfolio might not have a lot of meaning at that very moment, because you made it months ago, don't just throw it away. Someone will think it is really special just because YOU made it.
Your mom and dad might not save everything you make, but don't forget about those family members that you don't get to see very often. They would probably love to hang your artwork in their office or on their refrigerator so they can think about you.
Please don't throw this artwork away. Put it somewhere safe. You never know when you might want to give it to someone special.
At the end of every year, I always tell my students 3 sad stories. The stories seem to stick with them, because their younger siblings have heard about them and they ask questions sometimes.
The reason I tell the stories is because I send their artwork home and it always makes me sad if they throw their entire portfolio away before showing it to their parents. It makes me sad if they throw one drawing away.
The first story I tell them happened just a couple of years ago. I had sent artwork to the Capitol Exhibit for Youth Art Month in 2010. The artwork came back, I returned it to my 4 students (3rd and 4th graders at the time). The artwork was unique to their portfolio because it was in a big white mat, and they got a certificate for participating in the show. Most parents frame the artwork because it is really special.
That particular year, my students had painted patriotic songs with black paint on kraft brown paper. The paintings were unique because it was all about their handwriting.
About 4 years later, I got an email from someone running the Capitol Exhibit. Apparently, the governor's wife had remembered one of the piece I had sent to the show 4 years ago. She wanted to know if the girl still had the painting and could she hang it in her office?!
What a great surprise!
I did not have the girl in class any more, but I had her sister. That same afternoon, I called her mom to inquire about the painting of Amazing Grace.
When I asked Ally's mom if Ally still had the painting, she replied: " Oh, that? Yeah that was probably in her closet and got tore up. Ally doesn't take care of stuff very well. Her room is sort of a mess. We haven't seen that in years. But Ally (now in 8th grade) could probably paint it again."
I was heartbroken to have to email the governor's wife and relay the sad news. A new version, repainted now that she was in 8th grade, just wouldn't be the same.
Now I tell all of my students that their artwork is special because they will never be able to paint like this again. If they even try to paint the same way, or draw the same way they do at this age again in the future, they won't be able to replicate the results. Even though their artwork may not be perfect, like a professional, it is special because it was made by them and no one else could have made it exactly the same way.
The reason we keep the portfolio, isn't so that they pack rat every little scrap of paper, but so they have a record of the year, and a few special pieces to show how they've started out as artists.....or....as you will read tomorrow, they will have a few nice pieces, JUST IN CASE they need them.
The best part about my trip to the Capitol was just getting out of my regular routine for the day. Usually my day is SO scheduled, down to the minute, that it is hard to do anything relaxing or fun. I am also constantly interacting with kids so I don't have any time to think.
Spending over 6 hours in the car is a great chance to think. After finishing my book, listening to music, and enjoying the scenery, I had a lot of time to think about posts for this blog. I also had time to reflect on the day.
But my favorite part of my journey had to have been my stop for lunch on the way home.
Miss Bever is from Eldon, Missouri. As I was driving to Jefferson City, I realized that Eldon is only about 30 miles away. I did not realize that Eldon was so close to Jefferson City. I had never really heard of Eldon, except that it is where Miss Bever is from.
She knew that I was going to central Missouri for the day so she sent me a suggestion for lunch.
Find the big red barn looking building, the CREE MEE. They are famous for their footlong chili dogs and marshmallow pepsi.
I found the big red barn looking building and ordered my footlong chili dog and marshmallow pepsi. I sat outside on the picnic table and quickly ate the footlong. I really liked that they put the cheese under the hot dog, with the chili on top. Also, they steamed it so the cheese would melt and the bun would be soft.
It was a little cold, and a little windy and I was wearing dress clothes. I managed to each the entire chili covered hot dog without getting any chili on my dress clothes. I was quite proud of myself. I also had a side of tots.
The marshmallow pepsi was unlike anything I have ever tasted. It reminded me of a vanilla coke from Sonic, except that was nothing like a vanilla coke. It was better, a little sweeter, but not too sweet.
After my visit to the Cree Mee, I took a little drive down Maple Street. There were lots of antique shops, I really wish I would have had time to stop, but it was already 3:00, so I really needed to make my way home.
Eldon was a lot bigger than I imagined. They have a place called the Eagle Stop, you can get lunch, gasoline, a car was and taxidermy services all in the same building. It looked like a great place.
Now when Miss Bever says that she is from Eldon, I know what to imagine because I have been there.
Yesterday, I told you a little about the Capitol Exhibit.
Actually traveling to Jefferson City was is a whole other story.
On Wednesday after school, I picked up the blue Altima with the license plate '58'. It is so weird driving a car that you aren't used to. The windshield wipers, cruise control, and all other gauges and switches are in different spots, it takes a little time to adjust.
Around 7:30 Thursday morning, I loaded up the car with my phone charger, coffee, water, chips, apple, almonds, sunglasses, chapstick, and other assorted necessities. After adjusting the mirror and the seat, I pulled out of the driveway and hit the open road.
I began the 3+ hour journey with my headphones in. I wanted to finish Wonder. Wow. What a great book. I probably should have waited to finish it though because I did not pack any kleenexes and there are SO many parts that just make you want to cry. Not always because they are sad, but because they are heartwarming.
At about the halfway point in the trip, I had finished the book, so I switched over to music. I spent a lot of time searching for different channels, avoiding morning talk shows, trying to find the best driving songs. I rarely listen to local radio stations, so it was fun. My favorite music when driving through the country is old country songs, it just sounds right. When you are surrounded by cows and fields, rap and hip hop just sounds so wrong.
Once I got to the Capitol, I realized that parking was going to be a challenge. Congress is currently in session and there are many people on the Hill. Every lot seemed to be full. I finally found a parking garage a few blocks away and parked the Altima.
Then I made my way to the Capitol. Sadly, the flowering trees had been shocked with a recent freeze so the usually pink buds were brown and dead looking.
When I got in the building, after going through security, I made my way to the 3rd floor. My students started arriving right away. I spent a little time visiting with them and their families. I also got to talk to some art teacher friends of mine who were in town for the exhibit.
At 12:30, we made our way down to the 2nd floor. After waiting FOREVER, it was our turn. We stood on the stairs until it was time to go across the stage. My students were so nervous. Especially after I told them that they had to give a speech. That was a lie. But it was funny to see their faces. One of the ladies working the event went along with it, and she also told them they had to give a speech. It was so funny!
After the exhibit and a few pictures, it was time to head home. Tune in tomorrow to hear about Cree Mee!!
It has been a few years since I have participated in the art exhibit at the State Capitol. It is to celebrate March as Youth Art Month. Each teacher in the Missouri Art Education Association is encouraged to select 4 works of art for the exhibit.
The artwork must be a certain size, and it must be matted with a white mat. It also must have a tag in the bottom right corner with all the required information, and a photo of the artwork. The artwork must be postmarked by February 1st, and must include permission slips from each student's parent signed and dated. The package must also have a return label and return postage included.
Needless to say, it is a lot of work to prepare the artwork by the deadline (especially if I am selecting students that have art in the SPRING semester). Next year, I should be smart and choose something from the fall to send, as most teachers probably did.
The exhibit is a great opportunity for the students. Some are even selected by their congressional leader to receive a medal, or by the governor to hang in the mansion. None of mine have ever won the awards, but everyone who participates gets their name called during the 'award' ceremony, and gets to go across the stage for a photo. Their artwork also gets to hang in the Capitol for a whole month.
Most of the time, students go with their parents to the award ceremony. This year, all 4 of my students were able to make the trip. It was a fun opportunity for them to have been selected, and to get to participate in the event. I'm so glad I took the time to be part of the show this year.
After writing about funny moments in the art room this weekend, I remembered a really funny post I had written way back in 2011. It seems like SO long ago. But the story is so funny that I wanted to share it now with a new audience who would appreciate it for how honest it is.
One day a few months ago one of my students had on a necklace. It was one of those key chain dog tags and it had been personalized with his name and football number on it. It was very shiny and new. I told him it was very cool.
After that, he just HAD to give it to me. I knew his mom would probably be wondering where it was eventually, so I put it somewhere safe so that when he came to me later I would be able to give it back to him.
My safe spot just happened to be a special zipper pouch that I tuck into my purse where I carry my lipstick.
Today my student came to me during class wondering where ’my’ necklace was that he gave me...I told him that it was safe, in my purse.
Of course, being an inquisitive 10 year-old, he wanted to see it...to make sure that it was safe. I went to my purse and unzipped the lipstick pouch...but the necklace was missing. I knew that I hadn’t taken it out of my purse so I began searching for it. I looked in the side zipper part.
No, it wasn’t there either. So I started to remove a few of the bigger things, my wallet, my address book, a bottle of lotion, my checkbook, some ink pens, my gianormous set of keys, a granola bar.....
Finally, I spotted the shiny silver dog tag at the bottom of my purse....That’s right...it was buried beneath the bottomless pit of bobby pins, paper clips, buttons, earrings, pennys, rocks, scraps of paper, gum wrappers, tiny chunks of trident that have wriggled free from the wrapper, rubber bands, reciepts ...there it was....luckily I had found his necklace...but....when I rescued it from the rubble I realized that it had been slimed with some of that yucky spearmint gum...chunks of the gum had somehow goo-ed up the chain and his once-shiny namesake was now minty fresh with rubbed on gum residue.
He saw the gum immediately.
He looked up at me. ’What did you do to my necklace?’ All I could do was laugh. ’I am sorry’ ’your necklace got gummed’ was all I could giggle. I went straight to the sink and got some soap as he watched me frantically trying to clean off his precious un-shiny dog tag key chain.
Other students started to gather around at this point and I tried to explain that I didn’t realize it had slipped from the safe spot into the bog of junk in the bottom of my purse. I scrubbed and scrubbed, but the gum was stuck...Lime green gum.....I vowed to take it home and use some special gum remover to clean it off. "My mom’s purse wouldn’t have had yucky gum in the bottom of it" he said...."I know, but this kind of thing happens to me, I’m so sorry" I laughed, embarrassed.....
Um, yeah...my purse is not going to be a safe spot for children’s treasures ever again!!
Lately, I have been waking up at 4:30 in the morning.
My brain turns on, and I can't go back to sleep.
Sometimes I don't fight it, I just get up and put on my walking shoes. I quietly bundle myself up, turn on my flashlight and head towards 32nd and Main St, just a couple of blocks away. I use the flashlight on my dark street, until I get to the well lit main street. I walk as far as I can north, past the nuts who have been at the 24 hour fitness for who knows how long already this morning.
I pass McDonald's, and Taco Bell.
I walk past the construction site that is soon to be Braum's.
The gas station, the dry cleaners.
The neon lights are on at Dude's Donuts. Men in white shirts, aprons and white hats are moving trays around like a scene from an old movie from the 50s.
I walk past El Vaquero, The Tropicana. Cupcakes by Liz.
I walk along Main because of the sidewalks and the street lights. I worry that if I walk in my neighborhood, it will be so dark that I might get hit by a car, chased by a dog or sprayed by a skunk.
Sometimes, it is too cold to go out for an early walk.
So I stay in bed. I try to go back to sleep. To fight those early thoughts of everything I should have said or done yesterday.
If I'm lucky, I can block out the thoughts and as I lay there trying to go back to sleep, I will try to imagine myself walking at the Wildcat Glades.
I imagine the paved path. The tall grass. The water of Shoal Creek.
I imagine myself walking along the trail, under the bridges of I44.
If I am really lucky, I fall asleep before I can get to Mother Nature's crack in my imaginary walk. If my thoughts start to stray, I make myself start over from the beginning.
It is a good trick for falling asleep.
Which would you choose? A nice early work out or an extra hour of sleep?
I loved Caitlin's post about her old truck and it inspired me to write about my own!
While it never had a nickname, this old truck was a great 'first car'. A 1970 GMC long bed.
Unreliable, a gas hog, could only fit 2 other people in the front at the most. It was perfect.
While most of my friends were driving new Grand Ams or Pontiac Sunfires, this beast got me where I needed to go.
Obviously, I wanted it to be 'cool' so I added as many 'cool' things as I could afford. (I was super cool, as evidenced by the photo above).
A new stereo. A new steering wheel. A 'cool' seat cover. Fuzzy dice AND a flower lei from the rear view mirror. A dancing hula girl on the dash. That is all I could add. It was a fairly small cab. Most of the upgrades were made later, you don't see them in the picture above.
Okay, who am I kidding. This truck did not need all of that. It was cool just because it was gold and white and it was loud. When I started this truck up with its 350 engine, and gave it some gas, it made the boys jealous. They wanted to race me at the stop light. But I never did that.
There was no air conditioning, so if it was hot I had to sweat or roll the windows down and mess up my hair. The windows did not automatically roll down with the push of a button, you had to use a handle and do it manually.
Something I miss about that old truck is the smell of gasoline and exhaust. The gas gauge never really worked right, so I had to be careful or else I would run out of gas and get stranded. The gauge would sometimes tell you if you were getting close to empty, but it bounced around so much that it was incredibly unreliable.
This truck also helped my parents keep an eye on me. Since I lived in a small town and my dad was the manager of the local grocery store, I could not go anywhere without everyone keeping tabs on me. If was was somewhere I shouldn't be, or driving too fast, a neighbor who knew my dad could report back and tattle on me.
I had a lot of great memories in that beast.
When I was a kid, we lived just outside of town.
We lived on a hillside, with a view that looked out over the town.
We also had a view of a valley, and several fields. If someone was coming to our house from town, we could look out and see their car, small in the distance as it got bigger and bigger heading up to our house.
I complained that no other kids lived nearby. I was jealous of kids in my books who had neighborhood friends.
I was also jealous that other kids lived in flat neighborhoods and could easily ride their bikes----for me, it was a fast pace down to the bottom of the hill and a slow climb to the top. Not much fun.
I also hated the fact that I had to wait for the bus at the bottom of the hill. On a nice spring morning, it was a beautiful place to wait with birds singing and flowers blooming. But most days were not a nice spring morning. Most days were dark, filled with blistery wind, and pelting rain. I hated that bus stop.
There was no where to hide from wind or rain. There wasn't a shelter and there were no structures nearby. Just an intersection and a stop sign beside a big ditch.
I don't know why, but I often think about how miserable it was to stand at the bottom of the hill in the freezing cold wind and watching and listening for the big yellow bus to put its long yellow arm out, and its big red stop sign so that I could cross the highway and enter the bus safely.
I was one of the very last kids to get picked up in the morning, and I was one of the first kids to get dropped off after school. I liked being dropped off first. The shorter the bus ride, the better.
I did not like being one of the last ones picked up. If the bus broke down or it was late, I had no way of knowing if I should stay down there or if I should run back up the hill and wake my dad up.
My dad worked evenings so he was often asleep in the morning when we left for school. There were at least a few times when I went all they way down to the bus stop on a day when there wasn't any school. How miserable it was to find out that I had waited down there for so long, on Presidents day, when we did not even have school.
Since I was one of the last ones picked up, if I was not down at the bus stop waiting or there was a substitute bus driver who did not know to stop for me, there were several times that I missed the bus. If I got distracted by the TV before school and did not make my way down to the bus stop on time, the bus would just race on past.
Sometimes it would stop and honk, but if I wasn't down there, it usually did not wait for me. How fast I would run down the hill if the bus was early, my backpack dragging behind me as I tried not to fall on my face in front of the full school bus of kids watching me, annoyed that the bus was waiting for me.
The bus never came at the same time every day. Sometimes it came at 8:00. Sometimes it came at 7:45. Sometimes it was 8:05. As a result, I would go down to the bus stop at 7:40, just in case. I would needlessly freeze my fingers and toes off rather than risk missing the bus.
When I finally got my driver's license, I could drive myself to school! It was a very happy day!! No more bus stop!
Yesterday, I mentioned that managing painting procedures in the art room is more challenging than managing other materials.
As an art teacher, the use of paint brings its own levels of stress, as so many things can go wrong if students aren't respecting the procedures or the materials. Also, accidents can happen that are no one's fault due to the nature of the material.
During 6th hour on Friday, as I stood talking to a table of 5th graders who were a little louder than the rest. I wanted to see what was making them talk and laugh so loudly.
The table has 3 girls and one boy. The girls are very talented and the boy is a little rowdy, he often needs my help on projects. I'm not sure what had happened before I walked over, but several kids had paint on their fingers. The boy held up his hand to show me the hot pink paint dripping from his fingertips. "She painted on me!" he exclaimed.
Just as I uttered, "go wash it off" he turned away to skip to the sink and flicked his wrist at just the right angle that a speck of paint flew into my eye.
"You just flicked paint in my eye," I said calmly, taking off my glasses and holding one eye closed, waiting for the burn to stop.
The boy had heard me, but remained at the sink, ignoring the fact that I might be blind.
I said his name, and asked him to stand in front of me.
We role played what he should have done:
"Mrs. Mitchell, are you okay?"
"I'm sorry, it was an accident, do you need anything?"
You would think that a general sense of regard for another person's well being would be inherent in kids, an empathy for pain and suffering would be a natural emotion.
I know it wasn't the boy's fault, and thankfully I was fine, it just made me remember that teaching art is more than managing the supplies. Sometimes I get so caught up watching the clock and maintaining the schedule that it is difficult to make time for true learning moments.
I don't know if the boy will make sure someone is okay in a similar situation in the future....he might've just been parroting me so that he wouldn't 'get in trouble' during our little role playing event.
Sometimes as teachers we have to embrace those truly authentic moments to impart real knowledge, because that might be the only time they will be exposed to an opportunity to learn a life lesson.
In the safety of the classroom, they have the opportunity to ask questions, make mistakes that don't haunt them for life, and learn how to react to difficult situations.
Even though I don't teach a core subject, I know that what I do is important.
And who knows, maybe even the fact that I took a moment to stop this kid and have a conversation with him about doing the right thing, he will save someone from blindness in the future.
This is my 'slice of life' blog.
My Art Teacher Blog:
This Little Class of Mine