Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Bottle Stoppers Meet Gaudi

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona...

I've got Gaudi on the brain again. My idea is to design clay bottle stoppers for some vintage glass bottles that I've been finding at Antique Fairs. I made some early prototypes. But, I'm not super happy with them. I think that they need a more over-scaled extravagant appearance. Something grand is necessary. So, I've been peeking around, looking for some of Antoni Gaudi's drawings and plans. I'm interested in his natural and organic shapes. But, I'm also interested in his mathematical shapes. Hoping to get back in the shed to work out my ideas during the Christmas Break from school.


Sagrada Familia sculpture...

The towers...

Gaudi's method for designing arches...

Complex geometries...

Walking inside the spiral staircase was wonderful...

Might be a handy book to have...

When the tools become a sculpture...


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Math Rant.



I attended a math conference today, as part of my professional development. Before the last session, all about teaching children fractions, a man made a comment that I've been chewing on all afternoon and evening. He said, "My wife saw all of these capable teachers walking in through the gates of Asilomar, and she wondered why so many kids are not successful with math." There were four of us in the room, when he made this comment. So, I mentioned my previous experience with public school in California.

1) There are relatively few teachers attending this conference, compared to the number of professionals actually teaching math. Let's face it, there are a lot of educators who are not in it to win it. I immediately thought about two teachers at my old school. One refused to use the math materials and curriculum that had been adopted by the school for our use. In fact, her books weren't even unboxed. I'm not sure what she was doing for math instruction, and the lackluster principal wasn't sure either, but didn't do anything about it. Another teacher, refused to use those materials, and was continually provided funds to purchase his own math materials. There was an additional teacher on my team who could barely make it to work each day, let alone provide effective instruction. No one was held to any standard in regards to instruction.

2) My old school district wasted hours and hours of our time in staff meetings. Teachers would all be using "Words with Friends", only playing a passive role in discussions about the school. There were disastrous collaborative meetings each week. That time could have been used to plan valuable activities for students, but was not. The district would bring in speakers for our professional development, instead of sending us out. These were meetings with huge numbers of teachers, and they were usually taught by people from the County Office of Education. They were taught in lecture form, with no one actually paying much attention. Teachers were not treated like professionals. It felt like we were being punished, and were not actually expected to improve our skills. I always felt offended that I was being treated like an employee who didn't care about getting better at my job.

3) Money for professional development was squandered and spent elsewhere at my old district. It was  important to have a fancy new high school, a state of the art football stadium, and more technology. But, it wasn't important to spend money on things that directly affected students. Professional development has a huge impact on instruction. It also motivates and excites teachers, getting them to try new strategies and routines.

4) And, while we're at it, there was no money for field trips either. That's just a side note. The money man at the school district was fired for misplacing funds. But, the superintendent was somehow protected from his malfeasance, although she was his direct supervisor. The County Office of Education came in and took over the financial management of the district.

5) My school had a gifted and talented program. The district couldn't fill this separate program, so they just started letting families "self-identify" their children for the program. Students had to be English speakers in order to be allowed into the program. Basically, it created a racially segregated school with two tracks. Guess which track had more effective math instruction? Guess which track had parent involvement? Guess which track had all of the struggling and resource students? How can students learn from each other, when no one in the class is proficient? No peer role models makes a weak class. Kids can't collaborate effectively or learn from each other. Year after year, kids made little improvement. So, the GATE students scored high on the state test, while the struggling students failed. Because there were more strugglers, than GATE students, our school was constantly failing. If the segregation of students had ended, I'm sure that the scores of ALL students would have improved. Most of the GATE students were actually just grade level students.

6) My school had a resource services director that didn't want to increase her case load, and so set quotas on students that could receive testing. She also only wanted to work on IEPs during her day. So, she rarely actually taught kids. Luckily, there were some marvelous aides at the school. They would deliver services both in and outside of the classroom. One aide in particular, was great with math instruction. I watched her teach a severely learning disabled student to learn to count to 100. She worked on it with him over and over, until he had reached mastery. Such patience.

I feel so blessed to have moved to a parent participation charter school. Students work hard. Parents participate in the learning process. Students complete homework assignments, and if parents feel it's necessary, they seek help and tutoring. I receive emails about assignments. All three parts of the caring equation are in place: the parents, the student, and the teacher. And, our resource staff is fabulous. They really are involved. The school is small, so each student is known and valued.

The public school system could invest in more effective professional development. All teachers should be able to attend conferences like I attended today. Our students are worth the expenditure in time and effort.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Lady Washington

We learn that a sailor's duffel bag was also his resume...

It showed off his sail stitches, and his knot abilities...

Jason and Brianna check out some scrimshaw...

Here's a close-up...

We learned about trading and travel along the Pacific Coast...

Joshie learns how to calculate knots and how to use a compass...

A daring repairman works on the lines...
We drew vocabulary diagrams, based on this illustration...


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Working Like a Dog, with a Dog...

The plan is to make a dozen cupcakes and five nests...

Turns out, I'm a coiler now...

Needing to decorate and then to make eggs...

It was freezing in the shed, so this guy bundled up...

Trying out a bird mold, with no electricity in sight...

When it rains, I can't plug into the garage power...

So, I layered up and worked by candle light...

Hoping that the order for the dozen cupcakes is for reals...

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Gratitude



 I have a lot of gratitude in my heart. These are just a few things that have made my life better:

       Family:     

                 I love my family very much. Over the years, more kind people have been added to our 
                 circle. It has been a delight to see my nieces and nephews find, and then form their own
                 families. I am thankful for my oldest sister. She seems to hold our entire family 
together with the power of her love and kindness.


       Friends:     

                   I'm not one to have a large support group of friends. I have a small number of people that
                  really mean a lot to me. Sometimes I'm amazed that they stick with me and my nonsense, but they do. Their kindness and support makes 
                  life worth living.


         Shelter:      

                 So grateful to live in a home in a semi-safe neighborhood. My house is my sanctuary. I've
                  been working on renovating it for about 16 years. It's finally almost done. Like a mandala, just in time to let the termites have their way with it...
                  


         Animals:    

              I'm lucky to live with animals. I appreciate Snorkel, the class turtle. She puts up with a
                   lot of virtual poking and prodding. And, the class fish are pretty patient, too. They put up    
                   with being overfed and starved on quite a regular basis. My all time favorite
                   support animals are my two doggies, Percy and Winston. They are yin and yang. 
                   Winston is mellow, loyal, obedient, and intensely watchful. Percy is "all bets are off" 
                   nutty. He is a very playful and affectionate puppy. Each day, when I get home, we have a 
                   spectacular greeting routine. Their unconditional love is both smothering and nurturing. I
                   can't seem to work out in the shed, without Winston watching my every move. He's an
                   awesome creativity task-master.


         Work:      

              I am thankful to be employed at a school that values "the whole child". Academics are 
               very important, but so are the things that enhance and enrich education. I like that parents
               are involved in the educational process. Last week, I had a parent stop by after school in        
               order to ask me about her son's reading score. She saw my car at 4:00, and waited for me.
               This never happened at my old workplace. Parents were so busy and disengaged. The very
               nature of financial survival in the Bay Area, kept them at assorted jobs. Also, the nature of 
               the educational system itself, discouraged parent involvement. I appreciate being able to 
               share my passion for art with my students, without criticism. I also enjoy being the only 
               teacher on my team. It means that there aren't any compromises, and the responsibility is 
               all mine, whether for success or for failure.


          Machines:

I am thankful for my new scooter, Marcello. He's extremely swift and fun. The more I read
about the past, the more thankful I am for my washing machine, and my car. The modern
conveniences leave me leisure time to do my art work. Trips to the laundromat really
ate into my art time. Now, I can multi-task, creating while doing chores simply. 
Having clean, potable water is a blessing. I can't imagine the burden that hauling
water is to many people on our planet.


           Humor:     

                I am thankful for having a sense of humor. The world is a pretty dark place of late. Being
                 able to take the long view and spot the irony is a help. Kids always make fun of me for 
                 laughing at my own jokes, and for laughing at inappropriate times. I think that having a 
                 sense of humor is actually a virtue.


         Past Experiences:

The past definitely colors the present and the future. I am grateful for all of the memories 
and challenges that I've had during my life. There is only one person that I'd have preferred
not to know, and that's a pretty good track record. Upon reflection, that person moved me
to a location where I needed to be at that particular moment in time. So, I can now understand
the purpose for all of the heartache. It did have a purpose. In general, I have been blessed
to overflowing. I don't have a lot of money, but I am rich in all of the things that make
life worthwhile. 

             

Work Never Takes Vacation

Pulled some nests from the kiln...

These didn't fit, so I'll have to fire another load...

Will be selling some nests at our school fundraiser...

I like that this one looks like rustic carved wood...

Piper's pumpkin rattle finally emerged...

These cupcake boxes now need a brownish wash...

Made a dozen more for the Take Aways show in January...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Proportional Drawing

This is one of my Thanksgiving class traditions...
Each person carefully draws an assigned section of a photo...
Hoping that this is a new holiday tradition, as well...
Once all of the drawings are done, I randomly connect them...
Watercolor is tricky on this for fourth graders...
Each person "sees" proportion and color differently...
And, now home to put a wash on these cupcake boxes...