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.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What would happen if "Specials" led Professional Development?

If you have a school with a dynamo Specials Team (Art, Music, PE, Library),

You might want them to lead a Professional Development Day about Creativity.

And if you have them lead a Professional Development Day about Creativity, 

 They're gonna want to play Mission Impossible...

8am, Friday morning. Coach Eby explaining the rules.
Donald teachers are about to get some serious team building time!

Serious team work and a touch of competition...
Not bad for 8:30 am...
Holy Moley! You guys.  I LOVE MY SCHOOL.

 It is not often you hear about a Fine Arts Team (Specials) leading Professional Development for their school. But. That. Is. What. We. Did!

First, some background:

We are a 21st Century school. We have had technology (Apple and Google) for a few years now. We do PBLs. We have PLCs. We do Flexible Learning Environments. We have 3 STEAM labs with Mind Missions, robotics, Lego's, etc. We do TONS of trainings, meetings and professional growth. We are shaking off years of crippling standardized tests and teaching to the test. We are ready for some real teaching, some cool design planning, some true knowledge building time.

Our fearless principal, Michelle Wooten, taking part in this workshop. She is a great example of First Followers.

At the same time, while my team has sat through various school-wide PLCs, PBL trainings, new technology and STEAM training, we were steadfast in our capacity: we want to be viewed as THE consultants on staff for creative, visual and musical language. We are the experts on research. We are the experts on health and mobility. We are NOT support staff. Instead of forcing us into a round-peg-square-hole, why not allow us to assist classroom teachers for a more robust learning experience?

A survey went out to the staff at the start of the school year: what do you need the most? 
Answer: how to be more creative with the kids. 

And then the craziest thing happened. Something wonderful and crazy. Our Principal and AP came to my team and asked us to lead the October Inservice day. So we could put our money where our mouths are, step up and be consultants on staff, and teach creative thinking strategies. We had 3, 45-minute rotations for teachers to visit (Also available were Special Ed and GT strategies.)

GarageBand with 3rd grade teachers

Full disclosure: teaching how to be creative is not a one time, 45-minute deal. It takes time, practice and a real strategy. It took a lot of time researching creative thinking skills to come up with a lesson for teachers.


The day started at 8 am with our PE Teacher, the fabulous Coach Eby, teaching a leery bunch how to play Mission Impossible. (See the pictures above.) This is a favorite game for our kids, they even play this game in the dark, silent! 

This was a great and fun team building game. It brought us closer, made us laugh and got us all ready for the day of fun, relevant Professional Learning.

After that, we had rotations: Olivia Norine, Music taught easy ways to incorporate GarageBand into existing PBLs, our Media Specialist/Google/Apple Expert Kathy Hoffman (remember when they were called "librarians"?) taught classes on Keynote, Pages and Numbers. Our GT teacher led discovery in the STEAM lab, and Special Ed teachers taught inclusion tips.

A Mind Misson for Chip the Chipmuck

My overall goal: to demonstrate the connections between Art and what happens in classrooms all day long. 

These teachers already know that Art is valuable, they just don't know why.

Proof that teachers can listen to directions! Come on, you know we are the worst!

I chose to do a Brain Sketch (also called a Round Robin). This is a novel way to brainstorm and collaborate new ideas visually.

As I was on a short time line, I had all the materials out on the tables: rulers, cups to trace, pencils, erasers (keep in mind that many teachers are concrete-sequential, and need an orderly work environment with clear directions). I tried to keep it as smooth and easy as possible.

Happy and engaged K-5 teachers, getting their Art on...

Lights were dim, as studies now show that we are more creative in dimmer light.

I played soft, calm meditation music to relax nerves, because there were nervous laughs.

Everyone got a piece of paper and had to follow my directions:

1.             Draw a joyful line that touches 3 or 4 sides of your paper. 
2.             Rotate your paper to the person on the right.
3.             Create 5 circles.
4.             Rotate to the right.
5.             Draw 3 diagonal lines. Rotate.
6.             Create a lemon slice. Rotate.
7.             Etc, until they end up with their original paper, then:
8.             Identify lines that need to be thicker, areas that need to be erased

  I went ahead and called this “editing and revising” to connect with our LA teachers

Some of the visual directions

 I modeled facilitating, and walked around giving gentle reminders:

“Every time you get a new paper, this is now your work of art. Every mark you make should be a mark of purpose.”

"Consider size, placement. Look for those weak areas that need work."

“How you could use this technique in class with to help with brainstorming? Creative writing, group work, PBLs?”

I got lots of "but what if" and "should I...?" questions, like we do with the kids. I answered the same:

"It's up to you, you are the artist" 

(Who doesn't like to hear that?)

What we discovered:  Classroom teachers and Art teachers say the same things to the kids. 

A huge connection! Clasroom teachers looked at me with new eyeballs. Now we need to demo this connection to the kids, who truly keep things compartmentalized.

Can you feel the relaxation and peace from these teachers?
They loved this.
A good variety of drawing and coloring media
I offered lots of color choices and suggested palettes

Once finished with the design, the teachers created a leaf from their paper. Again, to meet all learning types and due to a short session, I had leaf templates available if they wished, Or they could create their own leaf. 

A Creative-Leaf, if you will. Oh, that is a bad pun. Sorry.

We attached them to the black paper tree I created outside my door for this very purpose. This small, final act was their performance assessment. It gave them a sense of completion and satisfaction, and those are reasons humans need to create.

Our Creative-Leaves
Loved the enthusiasm and smiles from this workshop

Make no mistake; no one is thinking that a 45-minute workshop on collaborative drawing is shaking the foundation of public education. I am not naive enough to think that all my teachers now totally "get" what I do. 

I will say that their response was overwhelming positive, and they want to do this again. 

I will say a few teachers have approached me to let me know they are trying these techniques during brainstorming sessions with their kids.

I will say classroom teachers are more open to collaborating with my team.

I will say it was refreshing to be viewed as a Teacher Leader, a Specialist with valuable skills, instead of attending yet another pointless Professional Development. 

I will say that I love my job.

close up of awesome teacher art 


  1. Awesome! You have a great team and staff!

  2. Yeah! I've been wondering what you have been up too! This must have been such a cool day! Hope all is well in Texas! :)