Recap: Behind the Scenes

Happy Marathon Monday! No, I’m not training for a marathon. I’m referring to the non-stop/never-ending nature of Mondays, which has become the norm. This post is a reflection and ‘behind the scenes’ look into a somewhat typical day as an (elementary) art teacher. Our role is often misunderstood. By sharing some insight, I hope to leave readers with more information and perhaps a better understanding. Today’s recap:

8:10 am: I arrived at school, unpacked my belongings, and immediately began prepping clay. My first class of the day (2nd grade) created Talavera-inpsired sun faces out of clay. I taught the lesson a little differently than in the past.. we began with balls of clay instead of slabs. Rolling slabs is more time-consuming, and I did not have an opportunity to roll them out ahead of time. I made 26 little balls of clay, one for each student. I also made extra balls of clay for the rest of the lesson. I bagged up the clay, organized by each table group.

8:30-8:40 am: Reported to morning duty, greeted students as they entered the building.

8:40-8:50 am: Finished prepping clay & water cups, set up PowerPoint presentation for the first class.

8:50-9:40 am: 2nd grade class.. Since I taught the lesson differently this time around, I found that some students were having a difficult time with the directions and demonstration. I plan to adjust my instruction for the next group.

9:45-9:55: Prepared water cups and paint for Kindergarten lesson, organized artworks, set up PowerPoint presentation. Although there is a 15 minute gap between 2nd and Kindergarten classes, it usually takes a few minutes for the first class to transition out of the room. Sometimes teachers are running late to pick up their class (which is more problematic in the afternoon).

9:55-10:45: Kindergarten class.. a watercolor lesson that went really well! We reviewed the proper way to paint and change colors (dip, swish, wipe). The students were finishing up family portraits.

10:45-11:45: Planning period.. more clay prep. This time I had to roll out small clay slabs for the afternoon 5th grade class. Thankfully, I have a table-top slab roller. It tends to be more efficient than rolling out slabs with a rolling pin. My wrists are grateful.

11:45-12:20: Lunch.. working lunch. Finished a PowerPoint I had started for a 1st grade lesson. Added in some information about the Chinese New Year, and about traditional Asian ink painting. Prepared painting materials for the 1st grade lesson, and managed to eat a few bites of my salad.

12:20-1:10: 1st grade class.. Sumi-e inspired dragon paintings. During the previous class period, the students viewed and discussed the similarities between Eastern and Western dragons. They created drawings last week, then added the ink this week. (I made a mixture of water with black tempera paint, it gives the same effect) They turned out beautifully!

1:15-2:05: My student teacher taught her first lesson. I was impressed with her ability to calm the rambunctious group of 4th graders, as she gave new seating arrangements, and introduced the day’s warm-up. Her lesson introduced the concept of art and nature. The students made sketches of a design that they were going to build in clay.

My student teacher’s supervisor came to observe. He and I took notes on the lesson and provided feedback.

2:05-2:10: The fourth grade class made their way out of the room. There are only 5 minutes between afternoon classes, and that time goes by very fast.

2:10-3:00: 5th grade class.. The students were finishing up jars with a base and lid. We just finished up an Egyptian-inspired portrait unit, so to stick with the Egyptian theme, the jars were inspired by canopic jars.. but they didn’t have to put organs in theirs! The students worked on the lid today. The group was a little chatty as they entered the room, even though I greeted them outside the room and requested that they walk in quietly. There are 31 students in the class, so the noise carries with the group.

Today was my first time teaching this lesson. I was a bit surprised at how much trouble some students were having in following the steps for making the lid. I know that I can always improve my teaching, but I also have high expectations for my students. In this case, I felt that much of the confusion was due to inattentiveness to the demonstrations. Nevertheless, I was persistent in re-demonstrating, referring back to my example, and drawing a diagram on the board to illustrate the process.

It can be difficult to find the balance between directed instruction (i.e. demonstrations) and letting students figure things out on their own.. especially when the open-ended nature of art projects require them to problem-solve individually. Today, I knew that the first steps in the process needed to be demonstrated to the entire group. However, once the students were expected to work independently, some of them seemed completely lost.  How do we encourage more independent thinking? How do we help students solve problems on their own before asking for assistance? 

3:05-3:15: Wiped down tables with wet-wipes. My sponges are starting to get a little grungy… I try to keep them as long as possible since they are expensive to keep replacing. The students worked right up until they had to clean up, so they didn’t have time to clean their hands or their tables.

3:15-3:30: Afternoon duty, monitored students as they entered and exited the building.

3:30-4:15: Attended a faculty meeting, which turned out to be a surprise baby shower for two of our teachers. Our principal shared a few bits of information regarding the future construction plans for our school building. We are currently at about 150% capacity.

Cookies from the baby shower

4:15-4:30: Laminated and prepared art and posters. Put up a poster and fliers for an upcoming school event.

4:35-5:15: Met with our S.T.A.T. (technology) teacher to record a video blog on our reflections about the Amplify! book. We quickly reviewed the first chapter of the book, then jotted down speaking points. The video had to be 3-5 minutes long, and ours ended up being about 4 1/2 minutes in total. Here’s the link.

5:15-6:15: Loaded the kiln with dried clay artwork from last week. I looked over the artworks from today’s 5th grade class. To keep the lids from sticking to the base of their jars, I cut pieces of Saran wrap to let the lids sit in. I spent several minutes ‘repairing’ cracked containers/pieces that were not securely attached and placing Saran wrap under the lids of each clay container.


6:20ish: The aerobics ladies started filing into the cafeteria. Their arrival is usually my cue to wrap things up and head home for the night. I put up the chairs since the chair safeties didn’t show up.

6:45: Arrived at the gym and stayed for about 45 minutes.

8:00: Arrived home.

Ohhh, Mondays…

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