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Glittery Life

transitfan's picture

wasting a little time in happy way today, and a lot of time in an ominous way tomorrow

Today is Ms. Presley's birthday. (She is turning 30.) She is wearing a brightly colored spring dress which draws lots of compliments as we walk through the hallways, but she gets even more attention for the occasion of her birthday. One teacher bought her a gluten-free cake from a fancy bakery; a student (I think) brought her a box of 4 cupcakes from another fancy bakery (no SuperFresh cupcakes from these people, apparently!) which are not gluten-free so Ms. Presley offers them to me to take home. (I am appreciative, but then as I am leaving I realize I forgot them and wasn't sure if it would be polite to go back and bother her for them, so I don't. I hope she found someone else to take them.) Meanwhile, both sections of fifth-graders sing happy birthday when they enter the room, apparently people also sang to her at lunch, and near the end of the first section Mr. Baker comes by to accompany students on the piano singing to her again (he didn't know they already had sang, of course.) One section of fifth grade brought a card that everyone signed. I like that teacher's birthdays are taken as seriously (maybe more) than children's here; it suggests that colleagues pay attention to one another and care about each other.

abenjamin's picture

Fieldnotes 4/19

4-6 year olds with Ms. B

9:30-11:30 class

9:10, I walk in at the same time as one of the girls and her mom. 2 more girls arrive within five minutes.

Ms. B (tired, not quite ready for the day), was not happy about the girls arriving so early. She’s not a babysitter, she doesn’t get paid to watch the kids until 9:30, and she’s not responsible for them until then. She is also often doing prep during that time, which means not being in the classroom the entire time, which doesn’t allow her to watch the kids fully.

Ms. B says we should send a message to the parents for next week.

Kids draw when they come in.

Focusing on artist Gene Davis today

Black paper, Ms. B prepped with lots of cut up colored paper

Ms. B starts out by making sure they all put them vertically (very vertically) and right next to each other. Encouraged patterns, hidden, changing, no patterns, etc.

Thought Ms. B seemed to really want them to be “perfect”, the kids took some liberties to make them unique and different, which made me really happy. Ms. B seemed totally okay with they way they came out.

(Later on, when the parents arrived, Ms. B was telling one mom how she really likes her students to be creative and open with their art…Maybe that is her ideals, but it doesn’t always seem to me like she embraces this fully.)

Snack and story time

Ms. B suggested I come up with the lesson for next time! Calder? Mobiles, figures

abenjamin's picture

Fieldnotes 4/18

K-2nd grade with Ms. A

New term (2nd session)

5 kids usually, only 2 today

(T and R, brothers, from last term), (A, from last term) (D and L, sisters, NEW)

D and L (younger), only 2 who weren’t in the class last term, but they both use to go to Ms. A’s class for two year olds when they were younger.

Both girls have light brown/blonde curly hair.

D older, more talkative, asked lots of questions.

L asked some, but was often looking to her sister.

Ms. A told me their mother was from Spain and that they spoke Spanish at home, though their father couldn’t speak it.

Today: Clay fish (circle fish)

(Sketch of project steps)

For this activity, Amy brought in clay, circle and flower cutters, forks, rolling pins, wooden clay tools, and little cups of water.

First, the clay was handed out and we started banging it, flattening, etc. Ms. A asked D and L why they thought we did that. They made a few guesses, and then I jumped in and explained how it was to get the air bubbles out so that they wouldn’t explode in the kiln. Then Ms. A introduced the project.

Demo: cut 2 circles, close together (sketch), cut line across to make 2 tail pieces (sketch), score tail and combine (sketch), score circles, but tail between and combine (sketch), then make fish face: put line, push hole through for eye (sketch), scales: use finger to push in, tail: lines, etc.

transitfan's picture

winding down, and an activity I think went well

Today was my last music-reading mini-course of the semester, and it was certainly mini, with two of four students present. I wonder if the two that didn't show even knew it was the last class. I'll email them later. Although it was a little rushed, I taught just about everything I needed to teach in this mini-course. They didn't learn all their intervals, and although I suggested they work on the last few on their own, I'm pretty confident that they will not. One said that he is going to start taking piano lessons again, though, and I think my class will be useful for that. If I had known, I might have focused less on skills that would be useful mainly for singers (namely, intervals.) This was my most reliable student, having missed only one class. I feel like they all did pretty well; none stuck out as especially quick but I'm sure they could all pick up music theory again should be wish to pursue it further. The people who missed classes will have missed some other relatively important concepts; I could schedule a make-up, I guess. But the concepts are quick and simple; and frankly they probably know enough by now to be able to learn the music that was assigned in chorale.

transitfan's picture

field notes exceprts thinking more about classroom management


Today only 1 student shows up. He was absent last week and is eager for a private lesson to help him catch up. We review and learn to identify scales. Due to lack of time, the other students in the class will not learn this; it's not essential to identify harmonic and melodic minor scales but it's nice. One student who was absent has missed three weeks in a row, she told me in an email she has been off-campus on weekends due to a combination of family emergencies and other commitments. She says she is practicing on her own so next week we'll see. I emailed the choral director to let him know, but he didn't seem upset. I think it was a mistake to schedule Sunday afternoon class, although it sounded like a good idea at the time.

(Fourth Grade)

...I lead a somewhat complex activity in which the students broke into groups of four and “composed” a rhythm of 8 measures in 4/4 time then performed it. Some groups really took it a great level by adding movements to their performances. Overall, there was a huge range in how long it took groups to write. I tried to hurry some groups along, which didn't really work. I didn't have a back-up for when students finished writing. There were a few times I struggled to get their attention. Ms. Presley urged me to be more “alpha” and to be sure to get them quiet rather than trying to talk over them. This also came up during the “performances”; some were not very good listeners.

abenjamin's picture

Fieldnotes 4/12

New Spring term this week. (still working with Ms. A and Ms. B)

4-6 yr olds with Ms. B


New boy, E (now there are two boys in the class)

E and A (girl) go to school together

E seems relaxed, gets to drawing in sketchbook right away, talks with other kids, tells me his full first name, but he goes by the shortened version

Today: Matisse Fishbowl paintings (sketch). Mixed Media, pink paint table and background, tempera paint patterns, tank, etc. Paper leaves and flowers, red tissue paper flowers in background

More planned out than usual, Ms. B mentions to me, I agree, comment that’s especially good for the first day. (she laughs, jokingly offended by my comment…)

Paint for the first half, then wash up

Story and snack: Ms. B reads while I clean up

E doesn’t want to sit during story time (he doesn’t have a snack), seems comfortable (happy?) standing for this time

After story, go to gallery. New show of animal art

Play I Spy (introduce to Eli, he asks and makes sure that everyone gets a chance)

Rather overexcited in the gallery, larger class, moving around a lot, not slowly, hiding things behind pedestals

Back to rom, add paper and tissue paper to paintings. When finished, kids go into other room to play (as usual) Some don’t feel like playing, stay and draw in sketchbooks. One doesn’t want to play or draw, seemed content to sit with us while others drew. 

abenjamin's picture

Fieldnotes 3/28

In between terms at the art center, there is a one week Spring Break camp, where students can sign up for morning, afternoon, or full days of classes for one or more of the 4 days (M-Th).

C (head of children's programs) asked me to come in and help out for Spring Break! I showed up on Thurs. morning, not knowing what class, who I would be working with, etc. C comes out, says theres a clay class and a jewelry class. I have more recent expreience with clay (I haven't done jewelry since I was much younger), but C mentioned that the Jewelry teacher seemed overwhelmed by the number of students who signed up for her class, while the clay instructor was okay with a large class, so I went to Jewelry.

She was very happy to have a helper. She hadn't arrived to prep as early as she would have liked, so she ahd a lot for me to do and put me to work almost immediately, to prep materials. I was super happy to be useful.

Older teacher, 50s maybe.

For the spring break classes, all ages sign up for any classes, so this class had a v wide range: 4-12. At first I thought it would be insane for 4 yr olds to learn to use jewelry tools, let alone be in the same class as 12 yr olds (and vice versa), but it actually worked out pretty well, each child managed to scaffold the activities to their own level (easy to do w/ each project).

abenjamin's picture

Fieldnotes 3/22 (2nd class)

After school class with Ms. A

Tie die paper

Last day!

I arrive in class and Ms. A asks me if I want to lead the class today. Though I had no idea what the lesson was that she ahd planned, so she quickly shows me, and demos/I do it and I'm ready to introduce it to the class! She prefaced the class as a whole (she is still in charge), but allowed me to instruct the demo and really show them what we were going to do: we did it together, I demo'd and presented each step, while she wrote down the steps, so they could remember more easily.

I was incredibly pleased that Amy asked me to lead. It was natural and notintimidating, really, at all. The only thing was that I didn't entirely know/understand her lesson plan, so I was a bit unsure of the second half of her lesson plan, so I was a bit unsure of the 2nd half of her lesson, but with her there, it was okay. If I had simply been given the plan and the materials to teach on my own, I might have tweaked it a little, but because she was still there, I treated it a bit more jointly and put more faith in a plan I had doubts about. Because she was there to help/answer questions, it worked out well.

abenjamin's picture

Fieldnotes 3/22

2yr olds with Ms. A


Gold and Silver this week

last week: only B and gma E, all the colors (Rainbow day)

Glitter on clay starts and moons, add glitter to paint and paint on paper

Only S and mom B and B and gma E today

Working more with glitter

Ms. A and I each would work with one of the pairs, switching off throughout class. Much more relaxed, natural at this point (last day of term). 

Like private lessons (child + parent + teacher)

From the beginning of my placement to now, I've grown so incredibly comfortable in this setting (2 yr olds and adults) and esp with S and mom B. Looking back to the start, when I had never worked with students as young as two, I was very anxious. Now I could easily see myself continuing to work with this age group on a regular basis. 

I am very sad to end this class and to stop working with this particular group of students and adults. I'm still unsure of where I want to go in the future in arts education: schools (full-time), museums, or art centers. Relationships with students are so important to me, as well as reaching "the masses". I'm still really leaning towards piecing things together: maybe working at a museum in education, teaching at art centers/privately on the side

abenjamin's picture


Went to a 2nd grade class at a quaker school. Teacher A (15 students, 3 teachers)

12:45 back from recess, moment of silence

12:50 person of the week (Every Friday)

Introduce me to the class, "we have so many teachers" "I wish we could have a million teachers"

Reminder of commenting

Girl (S) sits in front of class, shows large pictures of herself: on a sports team, on a trip

(sketch of room and student set up)

Thoughts to bring back to my placement from this class: kids interacting with each other, asking/answering questions

other kids listening, looking on mostly silently, just a little restless, moving chairs, playing with tape

Teacher A: "You did a great job of listening and not commenting"

ready for comments, many instantly put their hands up

ex: where did you make the sandcastle? what did it look like?

1 or 2 adults came to the door throughout Person of the Week, Students don't really notice/react

Teacher A: "It makes people feel good when ppl ask questions!"

1:05 Choice Time: look at S's stuff, read. shared choice time with other 2nd grade class, relaxed, open environment, not too hectic, but a bit of structure. Some reading, writign, drawing.

Teacher A: when theyre writing during choice time, she's okay telling them how to spell it. She's really just happy that they're choosing to write and read at all.

A little loud, having fun, but not too disruptive

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