Shoot for the Moon

“You can’t use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have.”  Maya Angelou

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Heart-a-Day #9:  Hidden Figures

“Dream big” is a recurring theme on our campus. It’s always resonated with me. I was seven years old when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. With that first step, a universal dream became a reality. My big dream was far from the celestial stars. I dreamed of being an artist, an actor or a singer. As a teacher, I’m all of those. I have achieved my big dream.

Working with children to help them find and realize their big dreams is what drew me to education. I treasure finding the first spark of a student’s dream. I watch them and listen to them as they maneuver through their day. When I find their strength, I encourage them to focus on it, treasure it. My hope is to fuel the student’s drive and determination towards their dream. I try to work with my students to transform challenges to successes. This is how dreams begin. Regardless of a child’s gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status, I’m determined to foster any dream, big or small. “Shoot for the moon,” Norman Vincent Peale said. “Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

How can you help your students to dream big? How can you encourage them to take chances with difficult tasks? How can you demonstrate the joy of seeing a project through to completion? Tell your students about your big dreams and how you’ve achieved them. You can make a difference, one dream at a time.

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

It’s Raining Again…

“Art has the power to transform, to illuminate, to educate, inspire and motivate.” Harvey Fierstein

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Heart-a-Day #7: Rainy Day in PS

Today’s heart is no coincidence. It’s raining and cold outside. Rain, students and creativity can be a daunting mix. When it rains, nothing is predictable inside (or outside) the classroom. Still, there’s a definite excitement in the air and the energy level is intensified. Capturing that energy is the best way to find creative opportunities to manage changes from inclement weather. So, we’ll look for a rainbow, draw pictures of it, then expand into a science lesson on the color spectrum. We’ll listen to the sounds of the rain and mimic the storm with our hands, feet and voices. We’ll begin softly, like the light patter of raindrops, then end with what sounds like crashing thunder. Of course, we’ll sing songs about weather, including the inevitable, “Rain, rain, go away; come again some other day!” If the opportunity presents itself – and I’ll do my best to make it happen – we’ll channel our inner Gene Kelly and do some singing and dancing in the rain…indoors.

How do you get ready for a change in weather? Is there a way to use it to your advantage? Can your students build rainy day forts with their desks, then write about fort construction? Can you create a class song, dance or rap about the rain. Don’t miss the opportunity. Like another Broadway song says, “The sun will come out tomorrow.”

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

Like a 5 Year Old

“The urge to draw must be quite deep within us, because children love to do it”

David Hockney

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Heart-a-Day #8: Op Art Heart

Children’s artwork inspires me. It’s open, honest and free. It’s filled with emotion and vision of the future. Most importantly, it says, “This is me. Accept me as I am.” When we’re doing a classroom art activity, sometimes my inner adult wants to take over. It wants them to make their work look like my sample. It’s so important to remind myself that these children are five years old. They’re creating art for their age, not mine. Their art is perfect, just as it is. If a student gets frustrated with their work because it doesn’t look “right,” I remind them – and myself – that their work looks exactly as it should. In this moment, it’s perfect. When I can help a child realize this, their smile inspires me to create even more opportunities for creativity.

Are you able to put the inner adult aside when your students are working on an art activity? Can you let them make mistakes and grow as artists? Can you support them and let their art “just be?” Fill your day with opportunities for creativity and your students will inspire you!

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

Going in Circles

“Be true to yourself. Make each day a masterpiece. Help others. Drink deeply from good books. Make friendship a fine art. Build a shelter against a rainy day.”  John Wooden

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Heart-a-Day #6:  Op Art Heart

I suppose there’s a certain comfort in repetition. Teaching the same lesson the same way each year is comfortable. But after 17 years of teaching, I’m less comfortable with repetition. Maybe I’m just getting antsy. When I feel like I’m going in circles – repeating a lesson because it’s comfortable – I know it’s time to shake things up. I need to make the lesson more relevant to both me and the students. Like this: last Friday, we had our annual “100 Days of Learning.” (In case you missed it, you count from the first day of school.) In the past, my students made the same 100-day headband with 100 stickers on it. Same old, same old. So, this year, we made head bands with ten strips of paper stapled on them, each strip marked with ten boxes. The students needed to fill each of the boxes with stickers, stamps, numbers, letters in their names, hole punches, dots or drawings. This was a much more meaningful lesson, since it integrated groups of ten. The students were gloriously engaged. OK, I’ll confess. I saw this on a social media site for teachers and I tweaked it a little. Still, I get some of my best ideas from other teachers. Whatever it takes to make me stop going in circles is just fine with me.

How can you change things up when you’re going in circles? Is there another teacher you admire who’ll serve as your sounding board? How about group brainstorming during lunch? Let go of the familiar and try something new. Get out of the circle and run free!

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

 

Bull’s Eye

The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Kurt Vonnegut

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Heart-a-Day #5: Op Art Heart

My goal as a teacher (and an artist) is to always hit the bull’s eye on my figurative target and be successful. When I approach a lesson with creativity, there’s a better chance of success. When I make a lesson meaningful and relevant, the students are engaged and, of course, learn more. Before our recent field trip to the San Diego Zoo, we discussed which animals we wanted to see. “The zoo keeper always knows how many different kinds of animals are in the zoo,” I explained. When we arrived at the zoo, I gave each student a small golf pencil and an “Animal Counting” journal. I instructed them to note in their journal each time they saw a different animal. Here’s where it got fun: some students made “x’s”, some made tally marks and others even drew pictures. (Remember, I didn’t tell them specifically how to keep track of the animals.) Each student was excited about their own tracking method. Then, we expanded the journal entries into a counting lesson. Bull’s eye!

How can you hit the bull’s eye? Where can you increase student engagement through creativity? It doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can be as simple as having students draw a quick sketch of how they think a character in a book is feeling. Any attempt at change is growth. Each attempt gets you closer to the bull’s eye.

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

Make Mistakes

“Art is about building a new foundation, not just laying something on top of what’s already there.” Prince

 

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Heart-a-Day #4 Op Art Heart

Many of these Heart-a-Day drawings have flaws. I was aware when they occurred, but decided to live with them and move on. While I can still see the oops, I think they make each piece unique and original.

Each year, before I teach my first art lesson, I read to the class “A Big Mistake.” It was written by Lenore Rinder and illustrated by Susan Horn. This story is about a child who makes a mistake while creating a piece of art. They get frustrated, taking it out on their artwork by blotting and splashing paint on it. But then they stop and look at the work and see it’s potential. Finishing it, they become satisfied with the results. I want my class to know that – both as artists and students – when they make a mistake, they can say “oops” and move on.

I make mistakes every day I teach. To be honest, most days I make several. I try not to dwell on them. I find it much better to acknowledge what I did, then think of how I can improve or change it. I want to learn from my mistakes – and bid them farewell. I’ll even say to the class, “Oops! Mr. Stanley made another mistake. I better fix it and move on. “There are no flaws in artwork,” my friend Bette likes to say, “mistakes add interest and individuality.”

I think this also is very true for teaching.

What do you do when you make a mistake? How can you fix or change it? Can you learn from it, let it go and move on? Do you have to hold onto it or can you forgive yourself? How can your mistakes add to your interest and individuality as a teacher? Make the mistake. You’ll be surprised how it improves your teaching.

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

Riding the Wave

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”  Vincent Van Gogh

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Heart-a-Day #3 Op Art Heart

When a teaching technique is working well and going right, I obviously want to keep doing it. It’s sort of like catching a really good wave and body surfing to shore – and then catching another one. Last spring, our class planted sunflowers outside in a large square of dirt. When they grew, the sunflowers would form the walls of a “house.” To enhance this exercise, we counted the days until our seeds sprouted. Then we regularly tallied our sunflowers to see how many were growing. We measured the height of each plant. We read books about sunflowers – including one about Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. We painted sunflower pictures, using his style as a guide. Finally, we celebrated by presenting the sunflower blooms to members of the school staff and administration who had been kind to us all year. So many lessons from one exercise – and I can’t wait to do this again!

What’s working for you? How can you grow it? Is there a beloved book you can extend into other subject areas? How about creating a story around a math problem, so the problem is more fun to solve? Can you introduce a social studies topic with a drawing lesson? Take a chance. Catch your wave and ride it.

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)