The Value of Pictures

This week’s #EdublogsClub prompt was to add photos to posts. Well, I’ve got that one down. I am constantly taking pictures and videos. My life is well documented. In fact, I have to say that I am rather proud of the fact timg_9832hat while there are 7,802 pictures in my phone, many of those pictures include fun family moments, cool projects that my students are working on and simple everyday selfies. And these photos haven’t been taken and left to die in my phone. They live again on instagram, twitter, this blog, Artsonia and facebook!

As an educator, I have learned the value of a picture taken of a student at work in my environment. A picture can express hope, frustration, encouragement, success, failure and so much more. I use pictures to show what my students are working on, what they are struggling through and eventually their successes. It keeps students accountable as I post updates on my high school art facebook page regularly and no student wants basically the same photo uploaded day after day!

Further, parents really enjoy looking into the world that their children spend so much time in. There are no secrets in my classroom and I really work hard to get authentic moments. Yes, I often end up telling kids to move their phones out of the shot.. not because I want to hide the fact that they are listening to music from their phones, but their phones are not the story of the picture and I’m afraid some naysayers about education and teens would see the phones and not see the kids hard at work!

Below are pictures taken on Tuesday from my classroom during one of my art 2 classes. It only takes a couple of minutes to take pictures and post to my school facebook page, but the goodwill from student’s families and friends is incredible!


So there you have it. I truly love taking photos of students at work and of their finished projects. It clutters my phone and overwhelms my storage space at times, but it is worth it. Besides having photo evidence of what is happening in my world, it also is a really important level of transparency in this day and age. While I don’t take pictures of every student everyday, the body of photos show the life, camaraderie and work ethic of my students and the once hidden high school art room is captured, shared and enjoyed by students, parents and the community as a whole.

Redefining Leadership


This week’s #EdublogsClub prompt was a sticky-tricky tar baby one for sure!  Here is the prompt…

Write a post that discusses leadership, peer coaching, and/or effecting change. Here are some sentence starters that may help you as a work on the ideas for your post:

  • The best school leader I have ever worked for/with…
  • Teaching leadership skills to students…
  • The qualities of a true leader include…
  • Leaders don’t…
  • Leaders never…
  • Leaders always…
  • I wish my school administrator/boss…
  • As a leader, I wish to improve on…
  • A leader I admire…
  • Peer coaching…
  • Effecting change…

I pondered what to write about. I have so many thoughts about school leadership! Dang, I’ve been a public school teacher since 1997. I’ve taught in 2 states, in 7 school districts and worked for almost 20 principals. I’ve seen and learned A LOT about leadership! But I also want to continue working in public education and want a job as a campus administrator, so I’m not looking to air out our dirty laundry for all to see!

And then, in my course work I came across a Ted Talk by Drew Dudley and it was a light bulb (or lollipop) moment. If you have 6 minutes, it is definately worth watching!

Here are my takeaways from his talk.  Dudley states “We’ve made leadership something bigger than us, something beyond us. We’ve made it about changing the world.” Further he says that our mindset is that until we do something big enough to deserve the title, we devalue the things that we CAN do everyday.

And finally, Dudley says that sometimes the most important moments, where we are true leaders, where we impact a person’s life, where we change the trajectory of someone’s future are simply moments that are forgotten to us. We move on not even realizing that we made an impact.

So instead of focusing on the things that I wish my leaders did, or the things that I wish my leadership wouldn’t do, I’m redefining my interpretation of leadership. Yes, I want leaders to do big things that will change the world. But more than that, I want leaders (and I am including myself and my fellow teachers) to be leaders that change individual moments in the lives of our students. I want to celebrate so many “lollipop” or forgotten moments each week that everyone starts seeing themselves as leaders. I want to celebrate so many seemingly insignificant moments that impact the lives of students and their families that the students see their own leadership potential.

Because THAT is how we Redefine Leadership.

The parallels of long distance running and public education

I’m writing this from the comfort of my recliner. My sore and blistered feet are propped up and I’m eating all the carbs in sight. Why? I ran a 1/2 marathon yesterday, so today I feel entitled to calories and rest.

I’m not a new runner and the 1/2 marathon (13.1 miles) distance is one that I typically enjoy and am trained to complete. Yesterday’s race I made “rookie” type mistake and wore shoes that I knew going in I shouldn’t wear, but I did anyway. I paid for it.

By mile 3 my feet hurt. By mile 6 every left step was uncomfortable. By mile 11 the hot spots on the side of my right foot were killing me. But I kept going. I considered stopping and checking on my left foot, but I didn’t want to see the wound that I knew was there. So I just endured it and finished the race.

And while contemplating my stupid shoe issue, I came to realization that much like the problems with my shoes, so are the problems in education.

How? Well here are my parallels.

  1. These shoes are not a new shoe for me. I’ve worn this brand for years. But this pair is newer and they have never felt right. While the brand and the style didn’t change, something about the way they were made was changed.

    Isn’t this the way of high stakes testing? We have been testing in public education for years and years. I’m not even saying that testing is bad. We need markers so that we know what learning is taking place. But the way the tests are made has changed. The purpose and the mindset has changed even though the official reasons for testing are still said to be to measure student success.

    And because the shoe still looks like the shoe we know, we expect to be able to wear it the same with the same result.. and we end up with a bloody toe. And the test while it has changed its name over the years, still is supposed to measure student success, so we and teach the students the way we know how, expecting the same results… and we end up with disenfranchised and unsuccessful students. 

  2.  The shoes never fit right, but I wore them anyway.

    From the first time I wore the shoes, the tops of my toes rubbed in them. For short runs, my toes would be a little pink when I finished running, but it wasn’t too bad. For longer runs, I’d make sure that I wore thin socks.  I knew there were issues. But I continued to wear them. My older, comfortable shoes were past their mile markers and not suited to long runs anymore. And of course, I had just gotten these shoes. They were clean and pretty! They just had to get better!

    And so goes education. After almost 20 years in public education, I can say honestly that some of the things that we do are just plain stupid. The newest and best things for engagement, to boost test scores, to prevent drop out.. and on and on.. some of these things do work. (This post isn’t about those things…. ) And some of them never fit right, they rub students and teachers the wrong way, have continued issues and are just bad. But we do them anyway, because it is the new’s shiny and clean and pretty.. and surely, once we get used to it, it will get better! 

  3. I knew that the problem existed, but I ignored it.

    For months I wore my “pink ghosts” knowing that they didn’t fit right. But I ignored the problem hoping that eventually the issues would work themselves out. Every time I put them on, I knew the possible blisters. I would rationalize the issues and go on with my run.  My toes would hurt after a few miles, but oh well. I’d tell myself to get out that other pair of shoes from my closet and try a different pair. Good intentions and really pretty easy to take care of. But after my workout, I’d be in a hurry and quickly be off to work and not think about the shoe issue until I was about mile 3 into a run. I know, it doesn’t make sense.. but not much makes sense a 4:30am! 🙂

    And the same goes for education! Oh my does it! We know that problems exist and we even know how to fix many of them. But we act as if we ignore the problems that they will eventually either get fixed, graduate or go work someplace else! This mindset helps no one, nor does it make sense.

Running and public education are my passions.

As I strive to be a better runner, I have to be willing to stop and make necessary changes… often ones that only can be seen after the first 6 miles… including trying a new brand or style of shoes.

As I strive to be a better advocate for public education, I have to be willing to stop and make necessary changes.. often ones that can only be seen from inside the school building. For now, I focus on my classroom… but one day in the not so distant future a campus? I can hope. Until then, I will remember that this is a marathon.

My Working Space

Welcome to my Week 2, #edublogsclub post.

The prompt asks me to share about where I get my work done, how my space is organized and any tips or tricks that I want to share.

To begin,  while I spend more hours in V-21 than anywhere else, I don’t know that I really get all that much work done.. at least between the hours of 7:45am and 3:40pm. I typically work on my graduate classes or projects for myself after hours at home. But for this post, I am going to focus on my classroom.

The Physical Space

Here is a glimpse of my classroom on the first day of school. After almost twenty years teaching, I still love the clean and organized room at the beginning of each year. It’s kind of like the “new car smell.”


As reflected in the pictures, I have a lot of space. Good thing… I have a lot of students and two class periods a day I teach Art 2, Art 3 and AP Art and have students in both the front and back classrooms at the same time.

And then there is the real life part of this post…

This is what my corner of the room looks like today…. img_9545-2

Yes, it is cluttered! Yes, it is visual chaos.

I do my absolute best to keep the space organized, but it really gets tough. One of my best teaching qualities is my commitment to differentiation for all 120+ students. The downside is that giving personalized instruction and projects to every student who comes into my room takes lots of materials, time and space!

The aesthetics

A few years ago while taking graduate arts education courses, I learned about the Reggio Emilia approach to classroom management, education and space planning. While I still have way more useless stuff on my bookshelves than I’d like, I really took the mindset of environment as the third teacher to heart. The research discussed in the Reggio Emilia Inspired classroom resonated with me and pushed me to activate ways for students to use the “hundred languages of children” which included sculpture, painting, drawing, touch, texture and so forth.

Further, in bringing this philosophy into my classroom, I was challenged to discard the primary colored plastic tubs of the typical American classroom. Why do we find it necessary to hide supplies from students? So I stopped. One of the biggest changes was the way I stored my colored pencils.  It was a small thing in the scope of a large classroom, but it has been great!

The back story on this was that our tennis coach asked me one year if I had any need for the plastic tubes that tennis balls come in. I said yes not really knowing what I would use them for. Well, the tubes are PERFECT for colored pencils! The clear containers were exactly what Reggio Emilia called for! And because they look cool and are organized, there wasn’t a need to hide them in a closet. Even better!


Tips and Tricks

An efficient classroom is not only one that is organized, but one that makes sense. I have been in classrooms where there were exact procedures for folders, late work and so forth, but these procedures didn’t make sense or were not consistently enforced by the teacher.

So my biggest tip for life in education is to create procedures that you are not only willing, but capable of enforcing and carrying out EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  If you can’t commit to the procedure, then don’t bother.

For example, my students know that when it is getting close to the end of class, they had better have their space clean, supplies put away and be seated, or they won’t be dismissed when the bell rings. No one leaves the room if anyone is standing. Done. And even then, I have to say it almost on a daily basis. I don’t say it ugly, but I have to say.. “Where are you supposed to be?” or “If you plan on leaving when the bell rings, you need to be seated.” or any of the many variations on the same theme.  It’s a boundary. The teenagers in my room know that it is there, they expect it to be enforced, but they are going to check.. every single day. That’s the job of a teenager.

And you know what? Because I enforce such a seemingly insignificant procedure, I don’t have many problems in my classroom. Why? because my student’s know that the rules are the rules and I will follow through. I don’t have many rules. I don’t have arbitrary or crazy ones. I have simple, easy to enforce meaningful rules.

So that is my biggest tip and trick for classroom organization and management. Keep it simple..and keep it going. Every single day.

Man, I had so much more to say, but my soapbox is only so big, so I’ll step off it now and save my other organization tips for another post.

Final take away

At the end of the day, whether you work in a classroom, in an office, at your kitchen table, or from your bed, create for yourself a space that is inviting and a place that works for you. Sure, we all want to say that we want it to be more  organized.. but do we? Sometimes somewhat organized or loosy goosey is what resonates with our personalities and I don’t feel like apologizing for my stacks of project piles on the corner of my desk. Neither should you.

So thanks for stopping by and I hope enjoyed a glimpse into my world.

i refuse to feel guilty

The world would have me believe that I am not enough. I’m not supposed to like who I am. The media and my news feed say that I should be constantly trying to make myself better either by using special products or eating (or not eating) certain foods. The commercials on tv, the ads on social media and the magazines at the store check out lines push me to question my body image, my lifestyle and my parenting choices. img_9517

But I’m done with that.

I refuse to feel guilty about the fact that I LIKE ME!

I am fully aware of my shortcomings: my bmi that says that I am overweight, my waist measurement that says I’m fluffy, my cluttered house, my spoiled children, my neglected husband.

But you know what… even in the midst of my daily disappointments, I like me.  It has taken a long time to get to this point in life and I refuse to discount my joy because of my shortcomings.

Join me in the joyful mindset. Focus on good things.

I’m going to eat real food this year, not processed diet food. I’m going to celebrate being 42 and a mother of 3 incredible girls.  I’m going to strive to be physically, emotionally and mentally stronger everyday. I’m going to enjoy sitting on the couch with my husband and maybe I’ll even watch a little tv! I’m going to do handstands and cartwheels and maybe even the splits. I’m going to run 1/2 marathons, ride my bike and swim laps.. because I find those things to be fun. I’m going to paint and sew and scrapbook.

I’m just going to enjoy being me.


The Value of the 4H Youth Fair

I just delivered my girls entries to the Erath County 4H Youth Fair. I am writing this post BEFORE awards happen. On purpose. Because the value of this contest is not in the ribbons and the awards. Yes, they are nice. Yes, they motivate us to get the projects finished. But the value of this contest is so much more than a 1st Prize or Best of Show.

As a newcomer to the world of 4H, we are still learning all about the various contests and opportunities for our kids. I am constantly amazed at the many projects they can participate in and experience. All of the projects, be it painting, drawing, sewing, cooking, fashion, decision making, acting, showing animals and more have actual REAL LIFE applications. Unlike so many of the manufactured and virtual experiences that seem to pull focus because of the glitz and technology, 4H projects and contests make my girls think!! I love that.

So what did Lexi and Kylie compete in this year for the fair?

Well, Kylie is in her last year as a Clover Kid. (K-2nd grade). Kylie turned in three photographs, a drawing, a repurposed craft and a snack! Clover Kids don’t win anything, but they start learning about the rules and meeting deadlines.

Lexi is in the Intermediate division (6th-8th grades). Lexi turned in all 5 categories of photographs, made a textile, a jewelry set and a snack.

So what does all of that really mean?

It means lots of planning, organizing and work on the part of the kids and the mom! Yesterday after school, gymnastics, a band parent meeting and dinner, Lexi had to finish the hem of her cape and both girls had to make their snacks.

Then we had to do all of the paper work and packaging. It would have been really nice to just say the heck with it. But we entered, we paid the fees, and we committed to the process, so it didn’t matter that it was late and we were tired.

You finish what you start!

This morning as I delivered the entries, I was tired. All the parents were. 🙂 But the camaraderie was overwhelming. In so many competitions, it is stressful and everyone is against each other. In our county (and I think 4H in general) the parents help each other. My hands were full, the registration lines were long, and I was running late. A mom who was finished getting her daughter’s work entered walked up, took the bulk from my arms, stood in line with me and helped me get my girl’s entries where they needed to go. She didn’t have to do that. Our daughter’s compete against each other. But that isn’t the world of 4H. I love that.

And here are our entries. Ready for judging!! I am so proud of my girls for their hard work. And I’m so thankful that our community supports the work of 4H and is committed to teaching students that learning is so much more than what happens inside a school building.


Goals for 2017

I’m a big fan of setting goals.  Not so much resolutions, as those seem to be out of reach, never gonna happen goals… like never eating sugar again. Talk about a set up for failure. But attainable goals, absolutely!

This also means that my children are asked to consider what they want to accomplish for the year. We are a goal oriented household.  Why? Because as I explained to a family member, if you don’t set a goal how can you evaluate how you spent your year?! Having goals also helps focus your efforts and keeps you from floundering from one thing/event/activity to the next.

So for 2017, my goals are:

  1. 1000 miles of cardio, 2 minute plank and the splits.
  2. Bench press 80% of my body weight
  3. 6 races (1/2 marathon and/or triathlons)
  4. Lower BMI by 15% (yes, this one is going to be tough)
  5. Read all of Psalms, Proverbs, Romans and the Gospels
  6. Complete the course work for my superintendent certificate

The rest of my household created equally rigorous goals for themselves. My only requirement on my girl’s goals were that they had to be something that wasn’t necessarily achievable in January.

We also have to update our Frantic Family board with a new rallying cry. If you haven’t ready 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family, you should!!!  Here is the board from last year.


What is great about this is that we could look back to the board and see how we accomplished so many of our Defining Objectives!

My plan is to make a pretty board this year! Add it to my list…

So there you have it. My challenge to you is that if you haven’t written down any goals for the year, do it. Don’t get tied up in resolutions. Make plans to achieve your goals!

My Blog Story

In an effort to get my blogging back on track, I’ve decided to link my personal blog, my work blog/portfolio, my classroom blog and all of my random musings to one site. Last year I lost the desire to blog, because I never knew where to put my posts! Do I post to the family blog? My work blog? At one point in 2016 I had at least seven different poorly created and rarely updated sites. This is the year of simplifying! And I’m choosing to post it all to!


I’ve also joined a weekly blog club! Every Tuesday those of us bloggers who have joined up with #EDUBLOGSCLUB will be given a prompt and then we will respond.  I am excited as it will hopefully give me that kick in the pants to get things going again!

So Week 1: My Blog Story.

Hmm. As I alluded to at the top of this post. I am a veteran blogger. I’ve had a website or blog since the start of such things! In fact, I created my first website in 2000 and it was called Time Flies and it was about scrapbooking.

Since that time I’ve had numerous websites and blogs and have very much enjoyed learning about and using technology as it developed. In fact, making the decision to bring all of my creative outlets into one platform is a little disconcerting to me. It shouldn’t be. I get that. But for whatever reason, it is.

Along with creating blogs and websites, I am also:

  • a wife and mom
  • a teacher and hopefully one day soon please campus administrator
  • a runner and triathlete
  • an artist and visual historian

I use my blog to tell my story of my crazy, very full and beautiful life.