Bark: Peace of Mind for Parents

A few months ago a friend of mine with a house full of teenagers told me about BARK, a monitoring tool for parents to help protect their children/teens from online threats and dangerous content.

I was like cool, I’m glad you have that.. but I watch what my kids are doing, I have a content filter on my wifi. I’m good. But we are a busy family and I wasn’t really monitoring their text messages, their emails or their usage. I said I did, and I have really great kids, so I wasn’t too concerned.

But I haven’t been a public school high school teacher for 20 years for nothing! I knew that we needed more protection. So I asked my friend how the Bark monitoring was going and she raved about it.

So I tried it. And the first week trial was a bust. Why? Becuase you have to actually download the software/app and link your kids accounts. And I just didn’t want to have to fight with my teenager about linking her apps and accounts to the Bark dashboard. It looked time consuming and frustrating. So I let that be my reason for not going through with the trial.

Time moved on and my network of teacher friends and social friends kept telling scary stories of their kids on social media and deleted texts. And with that, I was all on board again. My teenager needed a new phone and I just made that the requirement. As long as we are paying for your needs and wants, we will require Bark to protect you.

The initial set up took about 30 minutes for the teen and about 10 minutes for the tween as she doesn’t have the same volume of content.

The first time I got an email stating that a potential issue needed to be reviewed, I was like OH CRAP! (That was day 1.) But I clicked on the link and saw that it wasn’t a thing. My teen and her father had been having a discussion about violence in America and she had googled content. It was a great start! No real issue was at hand, but the conversation was started about me seeing potential threats.

A few days later I got an email about her friends not so nice words being used in text messages. This allowed her to tell her friends that I don’t see content UNLESS it has profanity or inappropriate content. And that I see it whether or not she deletes it.. so just don’t send it!

And what about the tween? Well, she has been flagged for potential bullying. It was her text to her sister!!

Not every conversation has been easy. Some reviews made me stop and question what is allowable on You Tube, for both girls!

So if you are concerned about the content that your children have access to or see, I would highly recommend BARK! We still have our content filtered using Circle and we extensively use the Apple Screen Time tools, but BARK has filled a hole that we didn’t realize wasn’t actually a pothole, but a pathway. We now have a gatekeeper to that pathway and I have peace of mind.

And yep, I love Bark so much that I am now an ambassador for Bark Across America!

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The need for monotony

Over the last few months, I’ve been increasingly aware of my need for monotonous tech-free activities like watering the grass, pulling weeds or cleaning the pool. So much of life is run at full speed. It’s loud. It’s fast. It changes at seemingly warp-speed. We are in a constant state of hyper alert.

Cleaning the pool

In contrast, I spent much of my summer doing monotonous activities and could literally feel my body relax and reset in a way that I hadn’t noticed previously. There was something distinctly different about the way I viewed the world, the way I breathed and the way I thought about my body. Instead of being hyper-critical about all things, I stopped. I lived more in grace.

And yes, I know that I was in the blessed time of the year called a teacher’s summer break, but it was different. I wasn’t glued to the computer or phone screen. I wasn’t looking for constant entertainment. I was truly focusing on being present in the moment…. and those moments consisted of a lot of weed-pulling, grass-watering and pool-cleaning moments.

Fast forward to this past week of school and my students complaining about monotonous tasks. They are bored. They don’t know what to do. They want immediate gratification. And it hit me. We don’t know how to handle monotony. Life has changed so much that we don’t know what to do when we are asked to repeat the same activity or motion time and time again without expecting different results or being entertained. Even when we repeat the same game level, we handle it differently, so our brains are still on full alert!

This weekend while I watered the grass and pulled the weeds, I chose to not put in the earbuds and listen to the audible book. I chose not to listen to the latest songs on my play list. I chose to just work and listen to the natural sounds of my environment. And once again, I felt my body relax and reset. The monotony of watering the grass and pulling the weeds allowed my brain to rest and I processed the week.

And now, I’m looking forward to the week with a new since of purpose. I really want to offer monotony to my students! They won’t know what to do! No music? No technology? Nothing.. just a monotonous task? But dang, when was the last time 15-18 year old students were tasked with resetting their minds? When was the last time teenagers were asked to focus on repetition. That’s why they love calligraphy and weaving and melty beads! WOW!! My mind is kind of blown! They desperately need for their hands to be engaged in an activity that is slow and purposeful. Their bodies are craving the opportunity to reset.

So that’s what we are going to do later this week. I’m pumped about it. I’m sure they will love it as much I enjoyed boring tasks as a teenager too. πŸ™‚ I’ll let you know how it goes.

Becoming Dust

The last few years have been full of soul searching, what ifs, why nots and personal growth. During this time I faced countless professional disappointments. Well, not countless, because believe me, I’ve counted them, sorted them, held them tightly, and cried many tears over each and everyone. During this time, I’ve also enjoyed many professional achievements. But those achievements I tended to discount as they were fun or creative or seemingly easy.

I missed the billboard signposts for my life. I missed the flashing warning signs along my path. I missed a lot as I tried to force my way into a career field that was traditional and appropriate. But guess what? I’m not traditional or appropriate. πŸ™‚ I’m creative. I’m bossy. I’m incredibly organized and notice every detail. I get sidetracked by seemingly insignificant things like posters left on walls long past the advertised event or miss-spelled words or glaring grammatical errors. I’m creative 24/7 and truly believe with my entire being that every person that is breathing is and needs to be creative.

With all that said, you would think that I would have figured out that maybe my restrictive path might not be the best option for me. But I can also be really stubborn and goal driven and focused. So quitting before I reached the goal seemed like failure. And I couldn’t face that. I’m not a quitter.

And then I read Present over Perfect. Actually, I listened to it while walking and weeding the flowerbeds. And one day it hit me. That goal that I’d been struggling to reach so desperately… WASN’T MY GOAL! I let someone else’s goal become my goal. I let someone else tell me what they thought I should be and I believed it.

But no more. As Shauna Niequst states in her book, “What I’m finding is that one of the greatest delights in life is walking away from what someone told you you should be, in favor of walking toward what you truly love, in your own heart, in your own secret soul.” And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I know that I have to do something that allows me to be creative.

And then if that wasn’t enough for me to say, OK! I started listening to Lysa TerKeurst’s book It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way Dang. The timing was God’s timing as I was finally in the right headspace to hear what I’ve known for years. I’m going to have to embrace the dust of disappointment so that I can be remade into something even better.

And as an artist, I totally get the imagery of clay on the pottery wheel. I realized after listening to TerKeurst talk about becoming dust and being remade and how on the wheel a potter doesn’t destroy what is being worked on because of frustration or because something was bad… the potter remakes the piece because he knows it can be better! I kept allowing myself to let the self-destructive thoughts take over and tell me that I wasn’t worthy. Instead of looking at each disappointment as an opportunity to evaluate the path and see where I needed to go next, I allowed the disappointments to become mental whips to remind me that I didn’t deserve the opportunities. I would dissect each interaction, each interview, each no and berate my soul time and time again.

Looking at the mosaics at the British Museum

But finally, I realized something. I am not a broken piece of pottery that has no value. I am a beautiful mosaic. Like the incredible mosaics that I saw in the British Museum, I am beautiful and unique and made up of thousands of colorful pieces. My broken dreams and goals are not trash. These broken pieces of my heart help create the incredibly beautiful me.

And the mosaic of my life isn’t even close to being complete. I’ve really just begun. I have new goals and dreams. And interestingly, just like clay that has been overworked and needs rest before being molded again, that where I find myself. And I can finally acknowledge that. And it’s not just okay, but necessary.

A Trip of a Lifetime

Over the first week of June, Doug and I went to London for our 20th Anniversary trip. It was amazing, wonderful and every sort of adjective that you can think of! We ate incredible food, we visited all of the tourist spots and we walked at least 60 miles.

Traveling with Doug is fun. We get along really well and rarely get cross with each other. After 20 years of marriage, we complement each other perfectly and I don’t take it for granted!

One of the best parts of the trip was our day trip to Grantham and Cambridge. When I was in college, I spent the fall semester of my junior year at Harlaxton College in Grantham, England. That semester taught me how to be a traveler, how to navigate through foreign countries and handle myself in places where English isn’t the primary language. That semester abroad gave me wings for my future.

I’ve always looked to the Fall of 1995 as a special time and I wondered if the reality of Harlaxton would live up to my memories. Well, on Saturday, June 8th I got to take Doug to see Harlaxton. And it was everything I remembered and more.

After spending the morning in Grantham we took a train to Cambridge and joined throngs of tourists walking the streets of Cambridge and gawking at the schools and churches. Cambridge is an incredible city. The highlight of the afternoon was going to Evensong in the Chapel at Kings College. As a couple, Doug and I have spent many, many hours inside churches, but we have never been able to experience something like this together! Even better, because we were quiet, reverent and patient when we entered, we got the absolute best seats!! We sat directly across the aisle from the choir and facing the officiating preacher. It was amazing! The image below is one from the internet as they don’t allow photographs inside the chapel.

Sitting next to Doug and reciting the Lord’s Prayer and participating in other liturgical aspects of the service with him was something that I will cherish always.

The entire trip was really a trip of a lifetime. We did so many incredibly amazing things.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here… Betsy, Greg and Chelsea with Euro Travel Coach made our trip happen. Months and months before the trip I started asking Betsy questions about how to make this trip the best possible trip. After consideration and thought, I went ahead and booked their Custom Itinerary Planning Plus. It was expensive, but OH SO WORTH IT! Euro Travel Coach asked questions, listened and then booked everything for us from the hotel to Wicked tickets to train tickets to numerous meal reservations. I did nothing! It was awesome. For a control freak like me, that was hard to let go, but dang, they took care of every detail of the trip. So if you are considering a vacation in Europe, you should totally check Euro Travel Coach out. (and NOPE, no kickbacks are coming to me for this advertisement!)

At the end of the day, I loved every moment of this trip. The almost 40 hour trip home because of mechanical problems on the airplane can’t even diminish my joy. Here is to hoping that we don’t have to go another 20 before going to see where Doug spent a semester of his college experience! I just hope the Euro Travel Coach has expanded to Brazil by then! πŸ™‚

Pessimistically Hopeful

Pessimistically Hopeful.

That’s what I’m feeling today. About a lot of things, but maybe that is really the way I’m describing my life right now.

I’m pessimistically hopeful because there are potentially some good and great things on the horizon, but when you add the real dose of life experience to that hope, I’m pessimistically hopeful at best.

To start, I’m using these pictures of this spiny cactus to remind myself that sometimes life emerges from the unexpected and thought dead. You see, we bought this spiny cactus last summer at a farmer’s market and it lived in its plastic container for almost a year sitting on the edge of the flowerbed, not planted..it was forgotten although I walked by it at least once a day and regularly thought we should plant it.. but I didn’t. Through the winter and into the spring it looked dead. I figured the couple of hard freezes had gotten during the winter must have killed it.

Finally, a few weeks ago, Doug planted it in our front bed. It was listless and couldn’t remain upright without a support. Doug put the old decorative fence piece next to it and let it lean on it. A few of the sections fell off immediately and it looked sad. Dead.

But it wasn’t.

The rain, the sun and nutrients from the ground has brought it to life. The once sad looking plant is beautiful and healthy and bringing forth amazing flowers.

And so, I’m reminding myself that sometimes life does actually deliver on the potential and possibilities. I know that sounds incredibly jaded and sad. But dang, the last decade has had some really tough lessons and lingering issues were the answers were never given and the dreams and goals never reached.

But today, I’m enjoying the beauty of the flowers and praying for that same gift for Maddie’s feet.

Yesterday we met with a new doctor, Maddie’s 31st specialist. We were never actually suppossed to see him. It was an incredibly strange set of events that got us to this Neurologist over five hours away. He was kind, and interested. He was caring and deliberate. And more than anything, he listened, he looked and he took his time. In fact, the appointment was at 10am and he spent an hour talking with us and then asked if we could come back at 2pm for testing. We did and after another almost hour of working with Maddie he gave us hope.

Maddie has been wearing AFO braces on both feet for almost a year after spending much of the previous year wearing walking boots on one or both feet when one day her feet just stopped working.

She has had every test imaginable and all come back normal. There has been no explainable reason for her feet not working. But Dr. Martin yesterday said, there is ALWAYS a reason, we just have to find it.

And he might have.

So Maddie will start physical therapy and has a plan and a goal.

More than that, we left hopeful and not defeated. Over the last dozen years, we have left defeated, disheartened and discouraged time after time from specialists. We either left with no hope or were treated dismissively as Maddie is a “complicated case.”

But yesterday, we were treated with care and dignity.

And so, I’m pessimistically hopeful.

I pray with my entire being that just like the cactus that has flowers blooming despite everything, Maddie will return to college in the fall being able to regular shoes some of the time and will eventually be free from the AFO braces. I pray that her body will grow strong. I pray that she will continue to bloom, just like she always has, despite the struggles that are put in her path.

What I learned from having my students create a service project for Law Enforcement Week

When one of my friends, the wife of a law enforcement officer, asked if I would be interested in having my students create something for officers to help celebrate National Law Enforcement Officer week, I said sure.

I had no clue what to make and didn’t know how my students would react to me throwing another project at them this late in the school year, but I figured, why not. It’s art class.. we can punt. Hallelujah, we don’t have the dadgum STAAR test to so we can take a few days and work on a service project instead of curriculum.

So we did. I went and bought 8×10 canvas panels and washi tape and started cutting out the names of the officers with my vinyl cutter. I made a sample and showed my students what to do and we got to work.

And here is what I learned.

My student’s cared. A couple cared because they had dads and other family members serving the community as law enforcement officers. But in general my students cared because these officers had made an impact on their lives.

I heard stories that would make you stop and reevaluate everything you think you know about officers and teenagers. I heard stories of compassion in times of trouble, in times of grief and in times of stupidity. Students asked to specifically work on a number of the officers plaques because they had been to their house and had helped them during crisis.

I heard stories of faithfulness and sacrifice.

I watched my students blossom by taking 45 minutes out of their day for a week to focus on doing something nice for someone else. They questioned why we couldn’t do projects like this for all of our civil servants. They smiled more. They were more considerate.

In the end, my students made 80+ plaques for our local law enforcement officers. These signs aren’t perfect. In fact, some are not even close to “good.” But every sign was made with heart and every plaque was signed by a well meaning student with a personalized note.

When we handed off the plaques to the local police and sheriff’s department deputies it was with excitement and a little trepidation. What if they didn’t like them?!

But they did. πŸ™‚

I have to say, the work was worth it. My students may not be the best at drawing 50 stars cleanly and evenly… but they have learned so much about being good citizens and that is worth all of the leaking paint pens and clogged white gel pens in the world!

Consistency, Improvement and Achievement

As a teacher, much of what I do is hidden in a classroom and is never seen by the public. For the most part, that isn’t a bad thing! Students need to be able to try and fail and learn without fear of the world judging their progress. But sometimes, it’s nice for the world to see our progress and celebrate our achievements.

One of the really big and visible projects that my students and I spend thousands of hours on each year is the UIL Theatrical Design Contest. Unlike most of the work that my students and I do on a daily basis, the theatrical design contest garners interest from parents, teachers, the community and administrators alike as it’s a pretty cool contest and has some nice hardware in the form of awards. πŸ™‚

2019 SHS UIL Theatrical Design Team

Over the last 8 years, I’ve had the privilege of working with the team as co-coach. The other coach, Mindy, and I are pretty awesome partners. We balance each others strengths incredibly well and are able to keep each other motivated and moving forward when the other gets downtrodden. Thankfully, we haven’t yet been ready to give up on the same day!

As more and more school districts across Texas learn about the contest and hear about the awards and points the school can earn in UIL, the competition gets tougher. As a veteran team with lots of awards, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to keep winning. And this isn’t easy! Especially when schools look to our team as the team to beat and learn from us on what to use and how to win! Eek.

SHS UIL Theatrical Design Group Entry, State Runner Up

But this post isn’t about the competition! This post is about the process, the system that we have created and what I have learned about coaching winners over the years. When I read (actually listened via audible) the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, all of the things that we do on a daily basis as coaches really solidified.

James Clear’s mindset is that true success and progress is created with incremental change. Working for 1% growth or improvement everyday. Clear also talks about how this 1% mindset pushes you to continually improve and refine the process. You aren’t swinging for the fences everyday. Your aren’t trying to hit a home run every time you come up to bat. You are just focusing on getting to first base every single time you come to the plate.

The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.

Β James Clear,Β Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

In 2013 when we won our first medal in Theatrical Design, Mindy and I looked at each other and said, okay… we can do this! SHS students had made it to the state meet prior to this year, but we had never been able to break into the medals. With this win, we reevaluated what we had done before and what we needed to do the next year to do better. And we did. We had two winners the next year. The next year we had 6 medalist with 2 being state champions.

And we have continued to have this level of success because we have created a solid system and continually refine what we do. After this last week, all I really wanted to do Monday was chill. But my students were already processing and thinking about next year. I talked with all of my classes and told them of the success of the last week and we celebrated our students medals. I invited students to be a part of the team and welcomed new interest.

We don’t even have the prompt for next year, but I have almost a dozen students already sketching, brainstorming and working on techniques that can help them achieve their goals for something that is truly 365 days away!

Why are they interested? Well, success breeds success, we know that. But I think some of it is that we are teaching skills that are applicable to so much more than one contest. Learning photoshop or how to draw in perspective are transferable skills that allow students to consider their world in much broader terms than previously imagined. While a student may use photoshop to create their poster for marketing, that student has also learned about graphic design and has useful job skills! While a student learns how to draw a set design in perspective, those same skills are the base skills for architecture and industrial design.

Never Miss Twice

https://jamesclear.com/good-habits

Finally, James Clear talks about simple things you can do to build better habits and one of his tenets is to NEVER MISS TWICE. I love this mindset. In the world of art and theatre where so much of what we do is subjective and difficult to judge, I’ve taken the NEVER MISS TWICE mindset to heart. I use this in my classroom with students about deadlines. I use this for my personal accountability. I use this in all aspects of life. And we use this coaching this contest.

Yesterday, I asked students to reflect on what they learned during this last year of work and what they would tell students as they began their journey for the upcoming year. Much of what they said embodies the mindset of NEVER MISS TWICE. Like, time management and research, owning design decisions and following through with these decisions.. and so much more. I’m sure that it is odd to many that I would claim the concept of NEVER MISS TWICE in the art world. But really, so many times one off day leads to a week of wasted efforts. One decision made in haste requires a truckload of more work. It is so easy to compound the problem because you aren’t willing to address the problem head on and instead of dealing with it once, you deal with it twice or three times or more!

And there you have it. My thoughts and reflections from this past week in terms of achievement and growth. If you haven’t read the book Atomic Habits, you should.

Who do you want to be in 10 years?

Life is busy. We all know that. It doesn’t matter where you are in life and what commitments and responsibilities you have, we fill up our lives with stuff. Lately, as my life seems to almost spiral out of control with deadlines and struggles, I’ve actually taken more time for myself than ever! Maybe it’s counterintuitive, but I’m better for it.

So what have I been doing for myself? Well, I’m listening to books and walking. It started simply. I joined a “Stepbet” Challenge and needed to get my steps in everyday. Four days a week I needed 12k steps and two days a week I needed 14k with only one off day. So I figured if I was going to be outside walking, I might as well listen to a few audible books.

So far I’ve listened to Michelle Obama’s book Becoming, a couple of Brene’ Brown’s books like Braving the Wilderness and Daring Greatly, Rachel Hollis’ book Girl, Stop Apologizing and I’m currently listening to Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Over the weeks, I completed the step challenge and have started a new one. I’ve cried as Michelle talked about her father’s physical struggles with MS. I’ve been challenged to “lean in” and be vulnerable by Brene’. I’ve been motivated by Rachel to not just dream, but actually fight to make my dreams a reality. And currently, I’m being asked to reexamine every seemingly insignificant thing I do in relation to the things I want to do by James.

It’s a little overwhelming. Even for a goal-setter, go-getter like me!

But as my mind races with possibilities, and I dream about the absolute “best me” and how I can get there, I am reminded that my journey is not only mine, but my girls journey as well.

There are so many things I wanted to be as a young girl. So many dreams and opportunities that I wanted, but didn’t see as possible. If I can change anything, I want my girls to know that they can be ANYTHING and DO ANYTHING.

So I dream. And at 44 years old, it’s harder to dream big. The crushing weight of reality does its very best to limit our dreams to what might be possible. But it doesn’t have to be.

Enter the TEN, TEN, ONE

Rachel Hollis in her book Girl, Stop Apologizing talks about dreaming and wishing and how important it is to actually put feet to our dreams if we want them to become a reality.

Hollis asks us to see ourselves as our best self in TEN years. Who is that person? What does that person do? etc..

Then you take that person that is 10 years away and write down TEN dreams that need to come true to make that person a reality.

Finally, chose ONE goal that if completed would help make the person that you want to be in 10 years a reality.

And so I’m pondering and praying. I’m contemplating and considering. I realize that since I have always wanted to be EVERYTHING, I’ve never gone all in on one thing. Creating my mental image of my best self is way harder than I thought it would be. Choosing to limit my focus makes me re-evaluate my options and path.

Who do I REALLY want to be in 10 years?

And so, as I consider this… I’m giving myself the freedom to start from scratch. I don’t really have to limit myself to traditional expectations. I don’t know that my “ideal me” will be any different than I see myself right now, but it’s an interesting thought.

Thankfully Doug is my biggest cheerleader, so I am empowered to meditate on my goals.

And in the meantime, I’m working on small habits that can be layered upon each other for big impact. James Clear’s ideas of “stacking habits” is awesome! I love that I can stack a new needed habit on top of an already ingrained positive practice. For example, my workouts are a habit. I AM an athlete. It’s part of who I am. But my breakfast choices are often really bad. So, I’m choosing to stack a new smoothie habit onto the workout habit. I’ve done this before and it worked, but I got out of the habit as I didn’t place any real significance to the practice. My daily practice of working out will now be followed by making a protein smoothie and making the bed before jumping into the shower. The difference in time is negligible, but by stacking these activities, I’m much more likely to actually create the habit. Pretty cool huh!

So I leave you with this. Change is hard, but being frustrated with your current state and not knowing how to fix/change/improve your situation is worse. Go read a book. Go for a walk. Just DO SOMETHING.

February Goals in Review

February was a busy month. I felt like all I did was run from one thing to the next, but when I look back on my goals, I didn’t do too badly given that I work full-time and have two part-time jobs plus a “side hustle” as a one act play judge along with having a family!

My goals:

  1. Hit my move goal everyday of the month.
  2. Log 6 workouts a week.
  3. Run 50 miles.
  4. Lose 5 pounds.
  5. Hit a new PR on squat.
  6. Scrapbook October 2018.
  7. Reorganize the laundry room.
  8. Create one art piece.
  9. Write a monologue.
  10. Mail 3 letters.

What I accomplished:

  1. I didn’t hit my move goal everyday. I consciously choose to sit one day. I was tired.
  2. I didn’t get 6 workouts a week, but I logged at least one workout all but 5 days of the month and finished with 27 workouts for 28 days.
  3. I ran 52 miles, including one 1/2 marathon.
  4. I gained and lost more than 5 pounds.. what can I say, I like a good roller coaster. But my net lost is a little over 1 lb for the month. More than that, the waist of my jeans is a little looser.
  5. I don’t know if I hit a new PR on squat, but I’m lifting heavy. I love that.
  6. I scrapbooked over 50 pages in February!
  7. I didn’t necessarily reorganize the laundry room in a pretty decorating way, but I cleaned it up and put things in the cabinets. Yay!
  8. I helped students develop a new art process by creating a miniature vinyl portrait. I didn’t keep it as I was using it for teaching, but I’d give myself credit for the task.
  9. I didn’t write. bummer.
  10. I mailed a few letters.

So here I am. Ready to crush March.

Feeling strong and sassy.

Art Ambassadors

It’s been a couple of months since I blogged. Lots of happenings, too much to catch you up on for the most part, but I do have a really awesome update to my classroom.

First, I can say that shaking hands with students is a winner. It has been an amazingly easy transition.. except that it took about 2 months to feel normal to me. πŸ™‚ Students responded immediately and now just expect that I will shake their hands everyday. So with this element in place, I felt comfortable adding a new piece of the “Capturing Kid’s Hearts” mindset, but I tweaked it to work in a fine arts environment!

This is the ambassador piece.. but I called it my Art Ambassador program.

After I welcomed all students into class today, I explained that I needed help with a few things in and around our room. I told the classes that I felt that it was wrong that the students in a class didn’t know each other’s names and that it’s hard to feel like your are on a team when you don’t know who is on that team!

So to that end, I wanted to invite students to take leadership roles in the classroom and that each week we would welcome a new ambassador who would shake everyone’s hands and say their names. I explained that shaking hands should be a natural and comfortable thing to do not just with a teacher or adult but with their peers.

The Art Ambassador will also be in charge of leading “Good Things” three times a week to start our class day. Why? Because as much as I want to lead “Good Things” and as much as I believe in the process, life and teaching get in the way of good intentions if there is no one keeping me accountable! So with students helping to keep us going and moving, I know that we can do it!

And finally, the Art Ambassador is responsible for welcoming guests in the classroom, for explaining to new people about our classroom and offering the new person an opportunity to sign our social contract.

And here is what I learned today. Quiet students who don’t necessarily get called on, were remembered. Students that have stories to tell, but are afraid to voice them did so. Students that had moved in late, had schedules changed or were otherwise “new” were given an opportunity to get acclimated and learn names.. and they smiled.

Bottom line. Asking for Art Ambassadors allowed me to ask for help from the students. I asked for leaders. I asked for accountability. I asked for teamwork.

And I got it.

I’m not a new teacher. I know that there will be bumps in the road. Heck, it wasn’t perfect by any means today. In one class, after three students gave very superficial “good things” I said that I realized that this class doesn’t trust each other with their hearts and that we have to work on being trustworthy friends and uphold our social contract better.

But my takeaway.. a quiet foster home student’s “good thing” that she barely whispered to the class.. that she is being adopted. Yeah. Gut check. We cheered for her.

My prayer is that I remember these moments of transparency and love and team and that I hold myself accountable and ask for my Art Ambassadors to lead the way.