Today was my first day back from Spring Break. I felt incredibly moody, tired, and stressed today. You would think that I would feel otherwise, rejuvenated, relaxed, and ready to get back to work because of the week-long Spring Break. On the contrary, I spent every single day of the break, from the moment I woke up to the time I went to sleep, with small breaks here and there, working on my Honors Thesis. I am so stressed about completing it by the end of April in order to graduate on time. Thankfully, I accomplished a good deal over the break, but I didn’t complete as much as I’d like. I also found a working groove and didn’t want to interrupt it by returning to Student Teaching. I have been stressed beyond belief this entire semester and I feel that if I was only Student Teaching or only working on my Honors Thesis, I wouldn’t be nearly as stressed as I am. I didn’t intend to do both this semester, but a registration error brought on this situation. Thankfully, everyone I know is encouraging me and telling me that they know I’ll accomplish everything because that’s the kind of person I am. It’s true that once I commit to something, I am severely committed and will even put my health aside, but looking at my schedule just demotivates me. My thesis is sitting at 66 pages right now, so let’s see if I can get it done in time!
Because today was Monday, I was able to see some new lessons and activities. At the elementary level, every day of the week is the same for an art educator, you just see different classes each day. Whatever I saw last Monday was the same thing I saw on every day afterwards. Today, my cooperating teacher wanted to start all new lessons, for the most part, because of the break. Even though some students hadn’t finished the previous lessons, she wanted them to start on the new activities. She emailed a copy of all of the lessons and handed me a printed version when I walked into the classroom.
It was enjoyable to see some familiar students this time. Again, an elementary art educator sees new students each day of the week, so this was only the second time that I’ve seen some of these students. I still am bewildered at how I’ll be able to learn all of the students’ names over the time I’m Student Teaching here, and I’m wondering if it even will be possible. I’m trying my best to retain the names when I hear them called out in class and during after-school dismissal. Sometimes I’ll see their names written on their artworks while they’re working, too. I’ve got a few names memorized, but not nearly the amount I had done at the high school level by the second week.
Today was interesting as I saw my cooperating teacher’s new lessons. With the second grade students she asked them to paint an entire piece of paper in random colors that they would cut shapes from next week to create a collage insect in the style of Eric Carle. She read The Very Quiet Cricket and then set the students to painting.
I was surprised at how poorly the students painted, immersing as much of the paintbrush as they could in the paint, swirling the brush in the paint for several moments before placing it on the paper, not mixing the colors at all, using way more paint than they needed, and trying to wash all the excess paint in the water. It seems that second grade students may need more instruction on actually using the paint. I may be assuming incorrectly, but I feel that they could be trained to not dunk their brushes and waste so much paint. I was also surprised as my cooperating teacher gave each table a container of water and then immediately began dumping the containers of water and refilling them. She went from table to table repeating this process until the end of class. Sometimes the water hadn’t been tainted by the paint too much. I felt that my teacher may be overworking and that she didn’t need to change the water so much, or even at all, perhaps. The students were also incredibly interested in playing with the water and trying to change the color of the water. A lot of the paint contributed to changing the water’s color. Maybe if the water wasn’t changed so often they wouldn’t have the chance to create so many new colors.
Another thing that surprised me with the second grade students painting was the fact that many of them weren’t just painting random colors. Although my cooperating teacher had explained that they would be cutting the paper up to create the insects next week and that they only needed to paint colors on their papers, I found suns, grass, and even bugs being painted on the papers. Even after my cooperating teacher and I addressed these students personally, they still continued painting “things.” They didn’t understand the concept, which made me wonder if this activity should be pushed up a grade level.
A similar experience happened with the third grade students as they were instructed to draw a composition inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s close-up abstracted flower paintings. The students were shown several examples of O’Keeffe’s paintings and were told to pay attention to how the flowers were drawn incredibly large with parts of them going off the edges of the page. The students were sent to go painting and were even given calendar pages of large lilies to use as reference. Very quickly, however, I found tiny flowers being drawn with suns and grass in the background. I tried explaining to students to make their flowers larger or to draw them more zoomed in, but the concept was not understood. Some of the students did draw flowers with petals that were large or went off the edge of the page, but none of the images looked abstracted or zoomed in.
A final learning experience was with the kindergarten lesson. The students were shown images of ancient cave drawings and were given a sheet of brown paper. My teacher instructed the students to crumple up their papers to replicate the rough surface of a cave wall. The students really enjoyed crumpling up their sheets of paper, though one was incredibly hesitant of messing up the paper in that fashion. After the paper was crumpled, students were instructed to draw animals on their paper and to show the environments that they live in. I was confused as to why my teacher wanted the students to show environments as the original ancient cave drawings did not. Quickly, I realized the answer. Within minutes the students were finished drawing their animals, outlining them with markers, and coloring them with crayons. If they hadn’t been instructed to add backgrounds, they would have been finished, and even with the backgrounds, they were finished and told to free draw with the rest of the class period. I feel that this particular assignment should be assigned to a higher grade level in which they can try stylizing the animals like in the original caves. I felt that crumpling the paper was a great activity for the young students, though.
It’ll be interesting to see how the classes in the following days interact with these lessons.
The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle