Thursday, October 27, 2016

Your community needs an art teacher. Part III: The Pay Off

This is part three of a three part story.  Revisit Part I or Part II .

When my daughter started junior high she had to decide whether to take band or art as an elective.  I'm an art teacher, my husband's a professional musician.  Decide child!  Which parent do you love more!!?!

It wasn't really like that.  She is already very musical, and band seemed the way for her to go.  Since I was opening an art studio with after school art enrichment classes anyway, she'd hopefully get her art education gaps filled in.

The opening of No Corner Suns Art Studio coincided with this new policy in our school district.  I found the scheduling system completely unreasonable.  But, it did help convince me that our community needed quality arts education.

I took the plunge, and devoted myself to the art studio in the summer of 2015.  I maintained my philosophy that arts education is for everybody.  I developed classes for all ages and abilities and kept advertising and advocating.  I couldn't quite keep my eye off of the public school job postings though...

It's scary okay!  I just quit a job I had for nine years.  I'm making no money. We're paying for health insurance out of pocket. Paying rent for two small businesses!  Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that?  My husband is self-employed too? We have a mortgage. Three kids!  Two of them have braces! What was I thinking!?

At one point I noticed a .2 job posting for a neighboring school district.  Between running the business and my sporadic teaching schedule, it took me awhile before I actually applied - and for some reason I emailed the principal expressing my interest in the position (which - you know- I don't really want to have to talk to people...) She emailed me back almost immediately saying they were having interviews the next day! Aaahhh!  I'm not ready!  But, I pulled it together.  I was offered the job the same day my dog died.  It was such a relief.  Not the dog dying.  That was the worst.  Having that part-time job to return to in the fall in a respected school district. It eased a little of the pressure of my new life endeavor.

Over the past year and half I have maintained working super-part-time (as I like to call it) in the public school.  I haven't had one day of standing like a deranged Mona Lisa in the front of the room either.  I have also kept the art studio and maintain a pretty steady weekly schedule.  Classes and students have evolved and I have started teaching more adult enrichment, and less wine + paint.

I've also become that art teacher.  My community did need an art teacher.  When I started blasting ART CLASSES! ART CLASSES! ART CLASSES! All over town, I should've realized that even two years later, people remember.

I've become this GO-TO person for after school enrichment, mural painting, sign making, Brownie painting & pottery badges, libraries looking for unique programs, park district classes and children's events, school programs, museum functions... and more.  Most recently I was asked to teach classes at a small private school twice a week.  It was the easiest job I ever got. I'm known as this art teacher and I was asked to do a job that I actually love doing.

When I say "Your community needs an art teacher" it's because I started to think - who was doing all this stuff before I came along?  Nobody.  Honestly, until my junior high kid had to make that decision between music and art, I didn't even realize how little art my community had.  We didn't have quality after school arts classes, or wine + paint parties, or after school art club, teen nights, make-n-take art projects at our street fair, or paint parties at the park district, or real art teachers teaching library programs.  How were those Brownies earning those badges?

The pay off.  Yes, so now I am the richest and most famous and most powerfulest art teacher in all the land. Ahhh haaa haaaa haa.  Not quite. The business pays for itself; and fancy dance lessons, camps, and all those little extra things for my daughters.  Real school goes towards family expenses, but we are living off my husband's earnings. I can't recommend just quitting your job willy nilly.  The real pay off is the actual work.  I still come home physically and mentally exhausted, but it's different.  I have real pressure to advertise and sell my teaching as a business, but I also have the power to teach what I want when I want.  Sometimes I'm at the studio till 9:30pm, or on a Saturday afternoon, but there are only six kids in a class, and they are hilarious and we are learning some awesome stuff.  Sometimes there's a kid who's not hilarious, but I only have to see them an hour a week for five weeks!  Instead of a whole year, or six years!  Sometimes I have to talk on the phone *eeeewwww* or respond to email, or talk in person to other people.  Amazingly, this has been easier over the past two years.  It's almost as if repeatedly doing something over and over again makes something easier to do.  Oh yeah, and there is paperwork, insurance, taxes and bills, but there are also classes where we drink wine, and that's been a pretty good pay off too.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Your community needs an art teacher. Part II: Teach where you can, 'cause you are teaching

This is part two in a three part series. Revisit Part I

June 4th, 2014 will be a day long remembered.  It was the end of my long non-teaching teaching-streak, and it was the beginning of No Corner Suns the business.

On June 4th, 2014 I hosted my first wine + paint event.  I wrote a little about it on the blog, but more importantly, I was teaching. I was actually teaching.  Whippee!  I'm an art teacher!

I turned No Corner Suns the blog into No Corner Suns the business that year. I can't type out the proper word to describe how I remember that time.  Let me think.

Have you ever made frozen French fries?  You pull the hot cookie sheet out of the oven and put it on the stove top to cool for a bit.  You rummage around in the cabinet for a serving dish, and get ready to slide the piping hot fries off the pan.  As you reach for the spatula you snag a rogue fry on the countertop and pop it in your mouth, but that fry ain't hot, and that fry ain't cooked. You just ate a cold uncooked french fry. Your mouth is filled with little chalky, mushy, greasy potato, and your chewing, and swallowing, and spitting all at the same time.  That's the word I would use to describe that time.

If you are driving to school thinking, "Hey, maybe I'll get into a car accident and wont have to go to work!" Then you probably don't have a job you love.  The cold greasy french fry feeling of your life might be a better alternative.

It started off with getting classes hosted at our park district (yes, I had to talk to real people).  They were very eager to have programs for their guides, so that wasn't too bad- it's getting students to actually sign up for your classes that is the issue.  I got my name out there and started spreading the word. ART CLASSES!

Mid 2014 was the year that kicked my ass.  I started to teach where I could, 'cause I was teaching. Library classes? Yes! Wine + paint parties? Yes!  Private events? Yes!  Children's birthday parties? Yes!  A volunteer art booth here, there, & everywhere? Yes! Yes! Yes!  I was also determined to get my name everywhere.  I emailed every art teacher and principal in close vicinity. I passed out flyers, hung up posters,  and became a general nuisance.

I started renting a classroom.  I advertised everywhere I could (that was free) and offered classes and events for cheap.  I took every job I could manage. No wait.  I took every job.  I wasn't managing anything.
I'm smiling like a crazy person. Everything will be Allllllll right.  There's nothing creepy happening behind you.
I was still teaching in my school .75 time

I was not supporting myself doing this.  My .75 job was supporting my family, all the crazy extra teaching was supporting the business.  Furniture, rent, supplies, advertisements - everything was going back into the business. Why would I possibly be doing this?  I was actually teaching.  My days at real school were mostly miserable. My time in the studio was not.  I was hoping it would pay off at some point, I just had to hang in there.




Thursday, October 13, 2016

Your community needs an art teacher. Part I: How my job made me crazy

In June of 2015 I decided to quit my "cushy" .75 art teaching job in the public school system.  I had been part-time in the same school district for eight of my nine years there and I wasn't going to get tenure.  As part of every art teacher's unwritten job description, I had worked constantly to advocate for my program and it just wasn't doing anything.  I was tired. My time there was done.

I didn't just walk into the principal's office and decide to quit. It had been on my mind and in the works for over a year, and it wasn't easy.

Do you have those days when you are at school and you've prepped this pretty cool lesson that maybe you've taught before, or maybe is new and you are kind of excited about. The kids start to file in, and your smiling and greeting them, because you know to make that personal connection and it's fun to see them. But then, one kid is pushing another kid, and they start chasing each other around the table, and there goes a kid over by your desk for no reason, and they all start talking, and one kid is sitting in the wrong seat, so another kid starts to push the kid who is in their seat, and you walk over to deal with that, meanwhile another kid is on the floor crawling under the tables, and another kid is grabbing crayons and moving piles of supplies and finally your like "what the hell?"  Yeah.

So, the kids go back in the hall and you practice lining up quietly and you talk about tip toeing like mice and sitting like the Mona Lisa and looking for ready tables and keeping hands to ourselves and not touching supplies and smiling at Mrs. Kostal and... one kid pushes another kid who bumps into another kid who steps on another kid but they manage to sit down but they are still talking or touching supplies or making noise.  Your standing in front of the room looking like a maniac with your hands folded and a deranged smile on your face modeling the Mona Lisa again thinking "what the hell?" Yeah.

So, you kind of wait and wonder if you should go back in the hall or start with kind of a clap or a loud "ALLLLllllll RIIIiiiiighhhhhht CLLAAAasssss."  Your still standing there with the deranged smile on your face when one kid starts shushing everyone. Not a nice shushing either.  A loud, obnoxious, oh my goodness, way worse than the talking shushing, shushing.  Another kid yells, "SHE'S WAITING!" and although you are waiting, that's not helping, and you now realize you've lost complete control.  You're still gripping your hands in front of you in the polite Mona Lisa fold, but now the skin underneath each fingertip has turned white, and there are actual nail marks forming in the top layer of skin.  The deranged smile has definitely morphed into a clenched mouth and your nostrils are flared.  Yeah.

Almost every class, almost every day.  I'm not a new teacher.  I know when I've lost control of a class, and I know what I have to do get it back.  I know when I'm actually teaching, and when I'm just controlling an environment.  I know when my kids are learning too.  I also know that teachers can't do it alone.  I was coming home physically and mentally exhausted every stinkin' day and I hadn't felt like I had actual taught in a long time.

I had only been in my old school district one year when I first tried to get out.  I was teaching at three schools, one was art-on-a-cart, one had a principal who made the special area teachers sit at a child size table during a staff meeting, and one had a passive aggressive secretary.  However, the window for getting a new teaching job is kind of small, and art postings are slim.  Bonus however- I'd need a maternity leave my second year so I stayed, and finagled part time and two schools. Although, without some headache. A certain principal wanted me to teach the same exact amount for .75 time.  I started trying to get out again four or five years later.  I would start looking in February.  I would religiously stalk all the nearby school districts websites looking for postings.  Did I even want to BE a teacher?  What if I never got a new job?  What if I'm stuck here forever?  What else could I do?

I contemplated switching careers all together. Could I do graphic design?  Should I try getting into illustration?  I took a design class at our community college, and eh... I started trying to build up an illustration portfolio. eh. I decided to start on my masters degree. Luckily the program in curriculum and instruction fell through and I ended up getting my MA in art ed.  I don't know.  I love art.  I love making art. I'm just meant to teach it, even though my situation was driving me insane.

I had to take the bull by the horns and change the situation.  I couldn't keep letting year after year pass without it getting any better.  I started thinking of places besides a school where I could teach.  The park district, the library, after school programs.... Ughhhhh that seems hard. I wouldn't have a classroom, I'd be lugging around supplies, I'd have to advertise, I'd have to talk to people...

I kept not doing that.  At some point though, I did that.


This was the email I got from the administration office on my last day of work.  I had worked in the district for nine years. I wasn't expecting a love note, but geez... a little cold.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

No Fail Acrylic Painting on Canvas. It was fun! Was it Art?

I held a special Modern Art Masterpiece Class at No Corner Suns Art Studio on MLK day.  I had seen this little idea on Pinterest.  Using masking tape to mask off a canvas, and painting over it, and thought that would be a fun thing to try.

A fun thing to try...  yes.  But is it art?







Isn't that the real struggle?  I want my studio to be a learning place, yet I want to appeal to the masses too.  What I've learned is that I can have it both ways.  It is a matter of finding FUN and SUCCESSFUL lessons that do actually teach something.  No matter the age.

This little class began with a discussion of Modernism to an extent.  We looked at some Mondrian, and Miro.  We talked about horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines too.  Once everything was taped off, we got only the primary colors and spent a lot of time mixing, mixing, mixing!  Then we painted.  It was one hour, it was fun, and look at those faces!  It was successful.

Monday, February 23, 2015

How do you feel about themed art classes? Is The Fine Art of Harry Potter fine art?


IMG_6806
Things that I love, like Star Wars, Dr. Who, Harry Potter, Cat Memes, and Jurassic Park just don't get much attention with the K-5th grade set.  I have in the past taught a meme project to 4th & 5th grade, and we used Dr. Who during our van Gogh unit in 5th, and I'm always quoting Star Wars...

None of this impacts my students with as much enthusiasm as it does me.  No one laughs when I say "I have a bad feeling about this..." and no one understands my terrified face when their water cups start to tremble.

I started coming up with themed classes and events for teens that come to my art studio.  I started Fandom Friday in the Fall and it has been very popular. I recently tried adding themes to more of my classes that teach outside of school with varying success.

I just wrapped up a three week class called The Fine Art of Harry Potter.  I planned the mini-curriculum to include headmaster portraits, wand-making, and mini-figure construction.

We began with headmaster portraits.  We looked at various portraits found on the Harry Potter wiki.  I equated them to portraits painted by Rembrandt and during the Renaissance.  We learned how paint with acrylics, mix colors, and generally use our imaginations.

Our second project was Wand Making!!  This was fun.  We used dowel rods and model magic.  We looked at some of the famous wands of the wizarding world.  We were inspired by those, but ultimately designed our own.  Very fun!  Teens love Model Magic.

View the Flickr album to see some pix.




Friday, February 20, 2015

Purple Palaces at the Park District

I just wrapped up an Art Smart class through my local park district.  Kids ranged in age from PreK-2nd.  It was a lot of fun and a cute little group of artists!  On our last day we talked about architecture.  We studied onion domes and pattern and looked at photos of St. Basils and the Taj Mahal.  Then, we designed a purple palace for a prince who loves pattern... and onion domes.  They were so cute.







Thursday, February 19, 2015

Kindergarten Mondrian Paintings with Black tape and tempera cakes!

I see kindergarten at the very end of the day for one hour.  It's already February, and it is still a struggle.

However, they really took to Mondrian!  We looked at some of his paintings and watched this cute little YouTube video:


Next, I passed out the black masking tape and let the kids start to build shapes with the straight black lines.  This took them about 40 minutes.  They were doing an excellent job and were very careful with the tape and scissors.

We used Primary Colored Tempera Cakes the next hour to paint in our shapes.  Almost immediately they started mixing - which as far as Mondrian is concerned - is just terrible.  As far as a kindergarten art teacher is concerned - it was fantastic!  "I made Green!"  "How did you make violet?"  "My yellow looks brown!!"  It was fun, and I do not think it diminished the finished product at all.
In the beginning there was red, yellow, & blue.