Tuesday, January 30, 2018

back by popular demand

bob ross has made a comeback.  the truth is, i'm old enough to have watched him when his show aired on channel 10 the first time, in 1983. 

i would sit, mesmerized by the relaxing brushstrokes and soothing voice of the "happy trees" artist.

and now i'm having fun as my students do the same.  enter:  a room full of 7th graders...casual conversation turns to bob ross, i put on a video, and thus a new tradition is born!  today we listened to a remix song encouraging the creativity in everyone.  it is stuck in all of our minds now, but it's a good message, so that's ok, right?

if someone talks while we are working and listening to bob ross, they will "shhh" each other, which i find hilarious.  i think i'll order the tshirt that says, "make mistakes in life?  it's ok, they're all birds now."

what's your favorite bob ross quote?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

in honor of ursula k. le guin

author ursula k. le guin, best known for her science-fiction and fantasy writing, passed away this week.  it seems fitting to post one of her quotes,

"love doesn't just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new."

Monday, January 22, 2018

color your winter

need some color in your january?  look no further than professional finger painter iris scott!

scott, a trained artist, happened upon her finger painting technique accidentally one day while painting abroad when all the brushes were dirty.  and i'm so glad she did!

in addition to regular K-8 art classes, i also teach after school art and i'll admit that even i was skeptical about doing this with a group of kids.

but they really rose to the occasion and had a complete blast doing it!  the picture caption from our afternoon?  "28 hands, 100 gloves, 14 masterpieces and a whole lot of FUN".

for more about iris and her work, you can visit iris scott

Monday, January 15, 2018

all lives matter

putting ourselves in a position to imagine someone else's perspective, especially today for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, can be powerful.

to do this, first of all, i watched the documentary "STEP" about an all-girls leadership academy with the goal of every student graduating from high school and attending college.

it follows the lives of several young African American ladies through their involvement with dance and what they learn through teamwork and perseverance.

i also read, "Reading with Patrick" by Michelle Kuo. Kuo, Taiwanese, volunteers as a Teach for America program in Helena, Arkansas. the realities of life are tested for her as one of her most promising students, Patrick, is jailed for murder while she is away pursuing her law career. Michelle returns to the Mississippi Delta where she and Patrick discover the power literature has to bind us together.

Monday, January 8, 2018


this could be the year for you to do some of those things you've always wanted to do!  it doesn't have to be a big-ticket item, either.

for me, it was taking a stand-up comedy class!  i learned so much.  there are a lot of funny people in the world, but i took for granted how much effort they put into their routines.  it's not enough to be funny, it helps; so does having a keen sense of timing.  but there are key portions to creating a stand-up comedy routine that is a hit with your audience.

exercises the teacher led us in:

1)  brainstorm things you think are funny
2) WHY are they funny? (ironic, contrasting, shared experience, etc.)
3) what does your audience need to know about you/the topic in order to understand the humor?

i appreciated that they said, "never punch down", that is, comedy is not about degrading anyone, but it is ok to make fun of yourself, use humor to work through an experience, or join in a common cultural irony together.

just because something is funny to one person does not mean it will be a hit with someone else.  spending time answering and developing "where is the joke?" and being self and others-aware, though, can greatly increase the odds at joining in the laughter.

in my case, teaching middle school has a lot in common with improv and feels like a small department of insane hilarity woven into my everyday world.  what are some things you find funny and why?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

honesty, hope

i have permission to publish a friend's poem here; finding it to be such a poignant expression of honesty and hope for our culture and times...

New Year's Eve 2017

Fireworks surround our cheap hotel
It was a dismal, bruising year
Short-lived dazzle and sulfur smell
What is there to celebrate here?

#Resist and #MeToo but
#BlackLives(Still Don't)Matter
Hurricanes and earthquakes
Empty gun control chatter

Tomorrow we lay my grandmother down
Her vacant place a silent chair
Each grief an assault, no words will be found
Yet traces of hope pierce the air

Fiery messengers whistle and squeak:
A shout, this flare of ours
Bumping along on rock bottom, we
Send rockets toward the stars

by Alison H.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018