Tag: visual journal

The Halfway Restart, Art Teacher Style

Have Heart, a collage of text and magazines.
A snippet of a visual journal page created by one of my talented Painting class students, Fall 2020.

The day before school started, spring 2021, I laid in bed and felt something I had not felt in the last nine years. Dread.

Dread is a mental state and physical sensation of distinct weight that I often felt at my first art teacher job. Since moving schools and finding a supportive, happy place, I haven’t felt this in years. But, here it was again, reacquainting itself with me. And I hate it.

I love my job, I love my coworkers, I love my school. But, after a tough pandemic controlled first semester, it was hard to imagine going back. I felt more pessimistic about the start of this semester than I did the first semester because I knew what was coming. The combination of in-person, full virtual, hybrid feels like you are juggling and teaching three different classes in one. (Check out my survival tips here)

I hadn’t even closed my eyes and the exhaustion of what to come was already washing over me.

The next morning my husband asked how I was feeling and I was honest, I was unsure and wished I could just call it quits. He told me I couldn’t go in that way, I had to pull through because of my students.

He is so right.

We can’t let this get to us because we are responsible for so many others’ emotions. We provide care, support, and education to very malleable young minds. How we feel matters because it impacts how they feel.

I had to pull it together.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit I lamented with many others. That deep sighs hit me during my drive in and planning period. But, everyday, I will pull it together before my students step foot in my room. That is my goal, my motto for wrapping up this year. I plan to go out with just as much enthusiasm as I came in with nine years ago.

I’ve got this. We’ve got this. You’ve got this.

PREPPING FOR NEW CLASSES

The syllabus, contracts, and bathroom passes I use every year.

This semester, like many other middle and high school art teachers, I have three brand new classes. This means I get to hit the restart button (for better or worse).

Before I left last semester I printed and made copies of all my typical first day of school paperwork. Starting a new class with clear expectations, requiring parent signatures, and holding students accountable for turning them in is an important way to start the semester. (Check out my first day of school pack on my TPT and in my blog shop).

A few years ago I updated my get to know you sheets, creating a unique one for every class. I love using these as a time filler the first day, and I read every one to help me get to know my students from day one.

On the back of each get to know you sheet I always include a brief survey. I ask questions such as, what other art classes have you taken, what is your favorite art material, what is your least favorite project from another class? This helps me understand where each student may fall in terms of experience and gauge interest in different types of projects.

TIP: Include a favorite song or band question on your sheets. Use their responses to build a class playlist using Spotify or similar. Always check song ratings/warnings to make sure the music is appropriate before adding it!

ART KITS, TAKE 2

Art kits and brush tube sets to send home with students.

Before school started I once again prepped my art kits and brush tubes for my students to take home. Since we are starting the semester in hybrid mode, I need them to be able to make art at home. If we ever go full virtual, I know what is in each kit and what they are capable of creating.

All my art kits have paper sheets I have the students use as a check-off when they first go through their kit. If they are missing any supplies, they have to touch base with me to get them. This helps them see what they have in their kit and confirms they got everything (holding them accountable for it all at the end of the semester).

I have been using the brush tubes for years and swear by them. Each student gets their own set of 5 brushes that must be turned in, well cared for or replaced, at the end of the semester.

How to you keep the kids accountable? Give them a grade for turning everything back in. This won’t work in every circumstance but it is the best solution I found.

I am sending as many good vibes and happy thoughts to all you art teachers, general teachers, administrators, and more out there. If we can survive this year, we can survive anything.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog. You can read more art teacher related posts here, visual journal posts here, and check out my teaching resources on my TPT and in my blog shop. Thanks for stopping by!

Distance Learning – Visual Journals

A visual journal page of a sign that says "don't stop art."

I recently got word from my school that we wouldn’t be back before April 13th. I have doubts that we will even return the 14th, but only time will tell. This means no students, no hands on learning, no art show, so many other cancellations of events and what we all consider the norm, gone.

Just two weeks ago I walked the line between is this really serious? and will we actually have school cancellations due to an illness? It only took until the end of that week to realize the severity of the situation we are in. I immediately began planning how I could continue to push art into the lives of my students during this, because at a time like this an outlet for our feelings is as important as hand washing (although wash your hands FIRST then start the creative outlet for your mental health).

What is most important to me is that we don’t stop art. That my students continue to flex their creative muscles in this time of isolation. So what do I do? What do educators do? How do we continue to provide for our students without having a face to face with them? These questions are what pushed me into the next phase of dealing with COVID-19, I was long out of denial, it was time to take action.

Luckily, I have a project that fits well into distance learning, visual journals. Before my students left I had them take their visual journals home. If you have not started this project, all your students need is a used hardback book that they (and their family members) no longer want. If paperback is all they have, use it! If a sketchbook or notebook is all they have, give it a go! If they have no bound book option, use a piece of paper. That most important part is getting started and making something.

MY DISTANCE LEARNING PLAN

For the next two weeks I have a solid distance learning plan that focuses on visual journals. Luckily, if we continue to teach and learn from home, this project can be extended. You can find all my resources, including a presentation, handouts, and more, on my TPT here for free. I also have many how to worksheets on visual journaling you can check out here. You can also continue reading below for the general outline of my plan.

TOPIC: VISUAL JOURNALS & COVID-19

For the first week of distance learning my students are focusing on what this current crisis looks like, by reading information on reputable websites such as the CDC. They then reflect on how this crisis is impacting them, their friends and family. Next, they begin planning out a spread (two facing pages) in their visual journal that sums up their coronavirus experience in one image.

My school is using technology already put in place to support us through distance learning. All assignments are posted to our class Blackbaud page. Completed assignments can be uploaded through the same system. This organizes who submitted which assignment when, without me doing the heavy lifting. In addition, we are using Microsoft Teams as a discussion board and file holder to organize all our documents into one place and as a secondary option for students to access what they need for their assignment.

If you don’t have technology in place to support you, it will take extra work, but it can be done. Google classroom is free and an amazing way to connect with your students in one place. E-mail is another option to at least get assignment sheets and information into your student’s hands (or inbox). They can e-mail you pictures of their visual journal pages that you post to a Flickr or similar page where students can check out each other’s work and comment on them. If you haven’t started a class Instagram yet, now is the time! This could be your online gallery of work and community space. Worse case scenario, you could mail packets out, although not ideal, it is an option if it’s feasible for you (heaven knows we need to be taken care of too. Make sure you take care of you!)

At the end of the first week my students only have to submit their reflection sheet and start brainstorming designs for their visual journal spread. I want us all to take baby steps at the beginning so we don’t burn out by the end. I am taking the less is more approach, while still giving my students the opportunity to express themselves.

At the end of the second week they will submit a photograph of their completed visual journal page to me. My students will be graded on all submitted work, not every school is, but grades are great motivation to work, so I am thankful for that.

VISUAL JOURNAL SUPPLIES & HOW TO

To complete this project students can use materials typically found at home to create beautiful works of art. Included in my free packet is a list of supplies they can creatively use they may not think of as art supplies. Below is a basic list to get you started:

  • Used hardback book
  • Magazines
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Sharpies
  • Tape
  • Paperclips
  • A computer to find images and a printer to print images
  • Foil
  • Paper bags
  • Wrapping paper

Because my students are already a couple of months into our visual journal project, we work on them every Friday at school, they have already been introduced to collaging, mixed media, and examples of visual journals and techniques. If you are starting from scratch, send them here to read through how tos or have them Google visual journal or altered books for ideas. Send the visual journal presentation in my free pack. Have the students take the reigns in their art making and find inspiration on their own. The internet provides almost limitless access to tutorials, information, and tips, encourage them to use it.

As your students work on their spreads don’t be afraid to create your own. Video your process, share what your reaction to coronavirus is. Be vulnerable with your students because we are all vulnerable right now. Although my school has prohibited video conferencing of any kind with students, due to the inability to oversee actions and to be free of liability of any inappropriate or poor conduct, I can share videos of me working. Although we aren’t in the classroom together, I believe hearing my voice my instill a sense of regularity into this process.

As we navigate through this unprecedented time, if we continue to be out of school I plan to post a list of visual journal prompts students can select from and create visual journal pages about. I will check in with their progress at least once a week, and have new spreads due every two weeks.

Your distance learning may look completely different from mine, but I hope this at least provides ideas to get you started. It’s overwhelming to change everything we have been trained to do, but we can do it and we can do it together.

OTHER DISTANCE LEARNING IDEAS

If you teach elementary school, middle school, or photography classes I have been working overtime to get distance learning packs put together for you! Read below for more information.

My retired art teacher mom and I created a distance learning pack for K-5 with projects designed specifically with the abilities and needs of each individual grade level in mind. Each lesson pack includes presentations, assignment sheets to help the parents and students, and step by step instructions through demonstration videos and handouts.

I have adapted my traditional artist trading card project into a distance learning focused one that includes a mail trading session between students. I know students miss each other and writing letters, creating art, and keeping in touch with something they can physically touch can make a huge difference. Check this lesson out here.

My coworker and I have put together four photography focused distance learning packs for you. One is a free pack that includes prompts for students to explore while at home. Two lesson packs focus on setting up and taking pictures at home through constructed landscapes indoors and a social commentary on the COVID-19 crisis. The fourth lesson takes an art historical approach looking at photographs that have changed the world. These packs could cover your class for the rest of the semester if needed.

In addition, I have two art history lessons up on prehistoric art. One is designed for upper elementary and young middle schoolers, while the other is designed for late middle and high schoolers. Art history is just as important to art making and could be a good solution to art distance learning for you.

Check my distance learning category on TPT and follow me to stay up to date with new products I get posted!

Ya’ll I miss my classroom, my students, my routine. Before this all I wanted was one snow day, now I would give anything to be back in my room looking at my kiddo’s facing and talking about art, or whatever topic was important in the teenage world that day.

Good luck to you as you go through this journey. Please reach out with questions, comments, or concerns. Click my social media buttons in the right menu bar to keep in touch.

A week ago I was at the beach (practicing social distancing but in a much more beautiful place) and now am I here. I am here and I am going to do this and soon this will be behind us. Thanks for stopping by!

Check out my most recent visual journal post that explains how to create a tape transfer in a visual journal using packaging tape and printing pictures.

Visual Journal Page 55: Bedtime Bear

A collage with a dog and sleeping zzzzs, made for my Kody Bear a German Shepard, Husky mix.

When I realized what visual journal page I was blogging about today I was equal parts heart warmed and melancholy. This visual journal page is for my Kody Bear who lived a long 13.5 years, but went on to puppy heaven two and a half years ago.

Kody Bear was sweet, snuggly *at his discretion,* so fluffy, a close talker, pushy, stubborn, and so very smart. His stubborn/intelligent combination caused a great deal of frustration in college. But he eventually settled into the perfect dog.

Loosing a dog as an adult was different than loosing a dog as a child. I was so close to my family dog growing up. He was my baby. But, by the time he headed up the white staircase to puppy heaven I was two years into college and didn’t see much of the end of his life. Kody Bear was different because I was there, I witnessed his last breath, which I am forever grateful for, but it was almost impossible to bare. I am endlessly thankful that he was sick for such a short period of time after living a very healthy 13.5 years before that. I am thankful I opted to drive home from the beach just in case this was it. Because it was and I was there for Nick and him.

But, this post isn’t just about losing Kody in the end, it was about the sweetness I witnessed those last few years. Kody was a wild pup who took a lot of discipline and training to wrangle. But, he eventually found a balance that worked for all involved parties. He loved being outside, sitting near you (but never touching), and was 100% Nick’s dog. I believed he viewed me as a bonus, but not his person.

I can’t blame Kody for that. After all, when I met Nick he and Kody were already a pair, they came as a package deal. At 19, a sophomore in college, he had inherited him from his sister. I think Nick was the only one who could handle his wild spirit. I think Kody realized he had met his match with Nick and he developed great respect and love for him as a result.

And although for 11 years of his life it was all about Nick and Kody, those last couple of years he settled into some routines with me. My favorite was every night when I would go to bed he would follow right behind. It didn’t matter who was still awake, if a party was going on, or if it was 5 pm. My bear was right behind me as we headed up the stairs together.

It’s the little things that make you realize you are bonded with someone. It’s the everyday, repetitive, tiny moments that add up to such beautiful things. The moments that Kody showed me he cared, by supporting decisions for an early bedtime or laying nearby when I was upset or simply warming myself next to the fire, I truly felt connected to him.

Today, I have another bedtime buddy named Harper. She is about 80% as fluffy, 25% of his size, and is just as wild. Despite her high energy, as soon as I hit the steps heading up to bed, she is right behind me. I like to think that she represents a piece of Kody, a piece of me, and a piece of my life right now.

Sweet dreams Kody Bear.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • Mod Podge or Elmer’s glue
  • Book pages
  • Bleeding tissue paper
  • Sharpie
  • Packing tape
  • Laser printed image

VISUAL JOURNAL HOW TO

To create this visual journal page I started with a printed image of my bear snuggled up and snoozing. I had come up with the idea of having snoring zzzs floating around him as I began developing this visual journal page. It was easy to opt for a tape transfer, so you could see the layers of zs coming from Kody and spreading to the rest of the pages.

To create a packaging tape transfer you need a laster printed image, you can also use newspaper or inkjet but they aren’t as successful. Tape strips of packaging tape directly on top of the image. Flip the image over and rub the back with something hard, like scissor handles or a wood spoon. The burnishing process helps stick the ink to the packaging tape. Next, run the back of the image under water until the paper starts to raise up and peel away. Rub the paper off of the tape, leaving only the ink stuck to the tape.

The end result of a tape transfer is a semi-transparent image. Any white sections are completely see through and any dark sections are semi-transparent or fully opaque. Next, I set aside the tape transfer and started working on the background.

I first glued down strips of bleeding tissue paper I had set aside in my visual journal stash. In a previous project I had wet sheets of bleeding tissue paper to stain paper with color. I then set aside the used sheets to dry, which can result in tie dye looking tissue paper.

Next, I began writing the letter Z on pieces of ripped out book pages. I cut each one into a square then glued it down to the background. I filled the area I knew the trap transfer would be placed and slowly spread them out as it moved away from Kody. Once I was satisfied with the way the background looked, I glued the transfer of Kody on top.

Last but not least I wrote out my text on book pages, cut it out, and glued it to the right page.

Check out more visual journal pages with tape transfers here, here, here, and here.

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page about a loss in your life. Use a tape transfer to help illustrate it.

Interested in learning more about visual journaling or introducing them in your classroom? Get everything you need to teach or learn about visual journals, plus a ton of printable resources (including my tape transfer how to handout) here.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my post to my sweet Bear. Help me spread the word about visual journaling by sharing with others! Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for updates straight to your inbox or follow me on facebook or instagram. Thanks for stopping by!

Visual Journal Page 53: Full Heart, Heartbroken

A visual journal page with a cut out and background created with Mod Podge transfers.

THE STORY

This visual journal page was created back in 2012 I was at a school I knew was a short term situation. After a single year I felt too exhausted to stick it out, but somehow I pushed through an additional two years. My 35 students per class, nonexistent art budget, low administrative support, and the requirements I had to meet outside of the classroom were becoming a daunting tower of reasons I needed to find a way out.

However, despite all the marks against my school and against my job, there was one thing that kept tugging at me to stay. My kiddos. At a school like this it’s more difficult to be recognized as an employee, but it’s easy to be recognized by those who matter most, the students.

I had student who were incredibly difficult. Those relationships wore on me as much as the other ticks against the job. But, the students I connected with went deeper than any student relationships I have made at my current job. These students needed me. They needed my insight, outlook, experience, art tips, and life tips. They came from a variety of backgrounds from low income to upper class, two parent to no parent homes. I had to balance a huge range of needs, it was challenging, but it fulfilled me.

My current job comes with a big pile of plush. I have a well padded art budget, small class sizes, administrative support, and very well behaved students. But I am not needed here. I could walk out of my classroom at any moment and these kids would have ten other teachers more capable and caring than me to take my place. When I walked out of my last job my students didn’t have that. They were left with teachers in the same situation as me: worn out, worn down. Or they were left with teachers only working for their paycheck, unable to be fired despite poor job performance, watching the clock until retirement. I was heartbroken because I felt like I was failing them.

Leaving that school meant I left a huge unknown. I didn’t know who would take my place, I didn’t know if they would have support. I felt like I was abandoning them, letting them down. I felt so much guilt that I couldn’t fess up to my job change until the last days of school, and I only informed those who I felt closest to.

I snuck out of that job with my tail between my legs, but the sense of relief I felt driving off campus the final day is indescribable. For the first time in three years I had hope, aspirations, and excitement for what would came at the end of summer.

a visual journal page made with collage and mod podge transfers.

“It breaks my heart to walk away… but I can’t wait to see what my future holds.”

This visual journal page was created in my last days at my first job. It was my way to process my emotions, to face the fact that yes I was sad and that was okay but I was also thrilled for what was next, which was also okay.

I have been at my current school, my second job in the adult world, for going on eight years. This job comes with its own set of challenges. I am tapped on the shoulder to take on tasks often, I wear ten different hats other than teacher on any given day, I have very high expectations from my students, parents, peers, and administration. I have never worked harder in my life in the last eight years. But the huge different is how I feel at the end of every day. I do not go home exhausted. I do not go home morally torn apart, emotionally worn down. I wake up every morning ready to go to work and start my day. I don’t dread Mondays, the end of breaks. I look forward to the start of every school year.

Moral of the story is that we have to show up for our students. I wish I was able to show up every day for my kiddos at my last job, but the job didn’t allow me to. Although I am far down the totem pole if you stack up the faculty at my current school, I am a better teacher to my students because I am taking care of me. You have to take care of you.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • Mod Podge
  • Printed images
  • Paint brush
  • Book pages
  • Thin Sharpie

HOW TO

To create this visual journal page I primarily used printed images. I wanted the yin/yang of my emotions at the time to be the focus of the page. I looked online and found a range of skies, from dark to light, and printed them out. I also knew I wanted a silhouette representation of me on both sides of the story, preparing to leave and my new beginning. After finding these and printing them out, I began laying out the spread.

I ripped the printed sky into strips and positioned them on the page. After cutting out the silhouettes I played around with placement, but felt like the spread was lacking a focal point. After some brainstorming I decided to include a heart to add a pop of color, focal point, and provide another visual for the way I was feeling.

After finding a heart image and printing it I created a Mod Podge transfer on a separate sheet of paper that I had collaged ripped up book pages on. Mod Podge transfers create a semi-transparent image and they are much more interesting to look at if they have something behind in the image.

MOD PODGE TRANSFER HOW TO

  1. Paint a coat of Mod Podge onto your image and let it dry.
  2. Paint another coat of Mod Podge on your image and let it dry.
  3. Paint a third coat of Mod Podge on your image and while it’s wet place it face down onto the surface you are transferring it to.
  4. Let it dry.
  5. Once the Mod Podge is try, wet the back of the paper. Once the water soaks in, carefully rub the paper until it starts peeling off.
  6. Continue to rub the paper off until you can clearly see the image you transferred.
  7. Let the image dry and check to see if you need to re-wet and rub off paper in any other areas.
  8. REMINDER: You are creating a mirror image, any area with text will show up in reverse. To avoid that flip the image before you print.

I then printed a second heart image, in reverse, to create two sides of the heart. After finishing a Mod Podge transfer of the second heart I glued them to either side of a book page still attached to the binding of my book. I then cut the heart out, added pieces of book pages to create a space to write words, and wrote the words on top.

I loved the look of the Mod Podge transfer of the heart, so I decided to create Mod Podge transfers of the entire background. Once I finished with each strip of sky, I glued it down. I then added a ripped out encyclopedia page to the center of each page in my visual journal and layered another strip of sky on top.

Last but not least I added the silhouettes to each page.

CHALLENGE

Cut a shape out of a page still attached to your book binding to add an extra element to your visual journal spread. Try focusing on a moment when you felt pulled in different directions.

Interested in learning more about visual journaling or introducing them in your classroom? Get everything you need to teach or learn about visual journals, plus a ton of printable resources (including my magazine fade and tape transfer handouts) here.

Want to see more examples of using Mod Podge transfers in visual journals? Check some out here, here, and here.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog and visual journal page! Help me spread the word about what I do by sharing this post on your social media outlet of choice! Thanks for stopping by!

Visual Journal Page 41: Already on Edge

I was already on edge.

I had woken up early, showered, carefully selected my most professional outfit. I was driving on 285 en route to an interview.

It wasn’t just any interview. It was an interview at a well regarded private school that happened to be across the street from where my husband worked, we could carpool. I would have an actual budget to teach art. I would have small class sizes. I would work in a building dedicated to the fine arts. I could move on from my current job where I felt worn out, unappreciated, overworked, and like I was only a warm body available to proctor standardized test after standardized test.

A lot was weighing on this moment. I had to crush it. I couldn’t stay in my current job another year. Something needed to change.

All of these thoughts circled my head when suddenly taillights flashed ahead; the sound of crunching, and squealing tires followed. I glanced quickly to my right and miraculously in that split second the lane was open, I jumped over just in time. I had just missed being another car in a string of crushed metal.

A few seconds earlier or later and I could’ve been stuck on 285 while my interviewees awaited my arrival. I felt a wave of relief followed by the anxiety of almost being in an accident.

I was already on edge.

By the time I reached my interview my nerves had calmed, I had collected my thoughts, I was ready. I walked onto the school’s campus and was overwhelmed by how beautiful it was. I sat through five different interviews, and while intimidating, they were all so welcoming and nice. It felt like a place I could belong.

Seven years later that 285 corridor has become my commute. Hopefully I will continue to avoid accidents on my way to my beautiful campus and cushy private school job.

Supplies:

  • Visual journal,
  • Rubber cement or Mod Podge
  • Scissors
  • Watercolor
  • White paper
  • Book pages
  • Thin sharpie

How To:

To create this visual journal page I wanted to recreate the scene of the accident. As I drove past and glanced to my left I saw at least three cars had rear ended each other, but quite a few were stopped. I decided to stick with that number, after all odds are more pleasing in art.

I sketched out the crunched up cars on a separate sheet of paper and filled them in with watercolor. While the watercolor was still wet I blew it where the cars made contact to create a splatter effect. Once the first layer of watercolor dried, I add more detail and some shadows and highlights. I cut it out once it was dry.

Next, I cut out triangle shapes from two different colors of book pages. I wanted to create a graphic, loud symbol that would somewhat blend into the background. I glued the smaller triangles on top of the a larger triangles, then carefully placed them in the book. Once I was satisfied with their placement, emphasizing the cars hitting each other, I glued them down.

The watercolor cars were added next, then a few more book page triangles to the bottom. Last but not least I added the text using a thin sharpie.

Challenge:

Create a visual journal page about a stressful moment in your life. Incorporate cut up book pages somewhere in your image.

Check out more of my visual journal pages here. Interested in teaching visual journals? Check out my TPT lesson here.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Help me spread the word about visual journals with others. Thanks for stopping by.