About this Site and Me

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Flower Mound, TX, United States
Hi, I am an artist, wife, mom, gamer and the Elementary Art Educator at Donald Elementary, a sweet and wonderful school in Flower Mound, TX (outside of Dallas). This is a great place to see how we are integrating studio habits with technology and interdisciplinary connections. I also love to share my "wisdom" (Re: Experiences. From mistakes.) about teaching Elementary Art. I love what I do, and I've been doing it for a long time. Creating and teaching Art is what I live for. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

I wish I were back in college. A letter written in love to my Art Teacher friends.

This past Friday was a huge eye opener for me. I hosted an all day Art and Tech inservice for our district's art teachers. I fully expected 5 elementary art teachers to show up and we would play and paint on our devices.


27 teachers, secondary and elementary filled my art room! I didn't have enough chairs, but what a great problem to have. I have thought about you guys all weekend long. (by the way, can I say how great it was to work with secondary teachers! Loved getting their perspective. We split up way too much, imo.)

Looking around, I saw looks of fear, nervousness, overwhelmed-ness (new word!), excitement and hope. Because now every school in our district has ipads in some way or another. And we need to use them. And here I am, (I am no expert, by the way, I am just loud) trying to guide and assist.

Thankfully, Alan Kohutek, Instructional Tech Specialist, came and talked to us for a few hours. He told them what helped keep me off the proverbial ledge last year: that this tech is just a tool. The iPad will be obsolete someday, the websites and apps we are using will be outdated, so our kids need to know basic art making skills. Like observational drawing, painting, printmaking, weaving, clay, etc. These devices are creation tools, how are we going to use them?

We gave suggestions for incorporating tech in the art room, awesome art apps (go here: ipads in the art room and FISD Techtators) and I pushed for Minecraft. Because if 98% of the kids play it, why can't we use it to teach art concepts? Why does it have to be "a waste of time"? Wouldn't it be amazing to teach architecture?

We talked about how to start, where to go from there, school based frustrations and successes. We talked and the flood gates opened.

I stood in front of my colleagues, master teachers who excel at their craft and awesome new teachers trying to get through their first years of teaching, and I fully realized the enormous amount of change occurring in Art Ed right now. With not a lot of help or guidance but with a whole lot of frustration and fear. Art teachers who are saying in one way or another: what I do in my art room is good. Why do I have to change? As I scanned the room, a bit overwhelmed, I saw a student teacher in the back, quietly taking it all in. And I thought, MAN I want to be back in college!

This girl has no idea. But check out those glasses.
Me and my mom, circa 92, yep;)

Nooo, not really, but at least there, we could sit with our peers and debate and discuss these changes. We would have knowledgeable professors (right?) leading our discussions.  We would all be reading the same literature, and we would have a safety net to fall back on. Once you are in the classroom, it's up to you to grow professionally or resist the change and deal with those consequences.
And this is scary.

And we are not alone. Reading through blogs (see here: rainbowskies and dragonflies and artroom 104) from Art Ed teachers across the country, it's the same thing. Change is here and it is big. East Coast Art teachers are grappling with yearlong assessments of student growth, incorporating STEM into STEAM (STEM hasn't made its' way to Texas that I am aware of?) and Common Core (not ever coming to Texas). We here in LISD are part of the High Performance Schools Consortium, and with that comes implementing 21st Century Learning. And a ton of technology.
And this is scary.

That was last year for me. Last year was rough. I spent most of it filled with self doubt about my role as a teacher. I questioned every routine, every lesson, every hallway display, every use of technology (Like: can I still do Power Point Presentations? Am I allowed? Or does it have to be a Google App presentation? Or a Prezi? Who can answer my question? Substitute whatever words you need. The Answer is below). I was in Full Freak Out Mode. I wanted to do cool stuff but couldn't for various reasons (some out of my control: like infrastructure issues! Some not.). I felt that I was a total failure as a teacher and had failed Art Ed. I had lots of anger and resentment. And I love technology! And I don't mind change, as long as it makes sense!
I considered leaving teaching, for...what...I have no idea...(ok, full disclosure, I considered for exactly 7 minutes. Where would I go?). I was bummed and stressed and had these awful headaches.

Then summer came and I rested.

I read some books about changes in Art Ed and realized HEY! I am kinda already doing that! Yay for me! I played with art apps on my iPad. I chilled.

To my friends: The chilling helped. By taking a step back, I realized a few truths I had quite forgotten or overlooked in my panic (yes, panic. I was having panic attacks you guys. Panic. Attacks.).

Repeat after me:
  • I am an artist who teaches. 
  • I believe in the importance of Art Ed.
  • I am smart and capable. I can do this.
  • We are all on the same technology journey. It is not a race.
  • I am already doing 21st Century Teaching in my room, and I need to promote and model what I am doing.
  • I need to let kids make more choices and stop telling them what to do every step of the way.
  • The iPad is a tool like a paintbrush is a tool.
  • I will no longer allow other people's negativity, ignorance and/or stubbornness to get in the way of my awesome teaching.  
  • I will take my time with these changes and remember the students come first.
  • The answer to my "freaking out question" above (backed up by the LISD Tech Dept): When it comes to using tech, use what you like. THERE IS NO MAGIC APP OR WEBSITE that is perfect for everyone. If you love Animoto or Educreations or iMovie, great. If you like Schoolweb, use it. If you want a Google Site, do that. If you use Weebly, great. If you don't want to blog, you don't have to. But don't expect a one-fit-for all answer. You are a professional and you have options (but hey, ahhhhh, read the Terms of Service first. Just saying.). 
.....I am no expert. I am just loud.



  1. Great post Leslie!!! As i started to read the section, "Repeat after me" I became overwhelmed at reading the first three and tears started to stream down my face...you hit right on the head, I have been that overwhelmed stressed teacher who no longer wanted to be an adult and wanted to run away from it all... but yes, I AM AN ARTIST WHO TEACHES, I BELIEVE IN THE IMPORTANCE OF ART ED, I AM SMART AND CAPABLE AND I CAN DO THIS!!!! Thanks for the pep talk!!!( I'm smiling now!!!) :)

  2. Well I was in tears reading yours! We are in this together even though we are miles apart:)

  3. Leslie---You are the one that has given me the courage and confidance to take technology head on. The recognition I have received this past year is thanks to art teachers like YOU that motivate and inspire me to grow. I am proud to call you colleague, friend, and mentor!

  4. Way to go, Leslie! Keep doing what you're doing, girl!