Professional Practice

Helping Yourself and Your Students (Ep. 212)

As we continue to settle into this new normal, we learn more about everything we will need to deal with moving forward. Today, Tim is joined by AOEU writer Sarah Krajewski to discuss mental health, ideas for distance learning, and the power of positivity. Full Episode Transcript Below.

Resources and Links


Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by the Art of Education University and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.

As I told you last week, we are going to be spending the next few episodes of the podcast talking to people in education about what’s working for them, what’s working for their students, and what ideas they might have that everyone can use. With schools across the country being closed, I’m trying to look at this situation as an opportunity for us to share, for us to learn together, and ultimately to do what’s best for our students. So today Sarah Krajewski is going to be back on the show and she has a lot to share. We’re going to talk about mental health, dealing with anxiety, the importance of positivity, and how to create online videos, and how to connect with our students. So before we start the interview though, I do want to remind you that AOEU will be continuing to host a free webinar every Thursday night as we all try to get a handle on this new normal.

Last week was the second webinar that we’ve done and we had presentations on making the most out of working from home, how to teach for creativity when you’re teaching online, and some mindfulness exercises that you can employ for yourself and for your students. So if you miss that, you can watch it on the AOEU Facebook page or find it on the AOEU website. This week on Thursday night, seven o’clock central, we will be back. You can register for that. See all the resources we’ve put together at Okay. Sarah has been waiting. It is time for us to chat. Let me bring her on and we can get the conversation started. All right, Sarah Krajewski is joining me now. Sarah, welcome back to the show. How are you?

Sarah: Hey, I’m pretty good. I’m happy to be back.

Tim: Awesome. I’m looking forward to talking to you. We have a lot of cool things to talk about. You’re doing a lot of cool things right now, but before we dive into those, can you just tell me a little bit about your situation? Where you are right now, like what does life look like? What does teaching look like for you at the moment?

Sarah: Yeah, I imagine it looks kind of similar to a lot of other people’s as far as self quarantining and sort of being away from other people and e-learning and online teaching. So I’ve been self quarantining for 11 days. I have a little notebook that I keep track of how many days go by. So it’s been a week and a half and I’m keeping busy making YouTube videos for my students and then posting those same videos onto my IG TV channel on Instagram. They’re called the cool beans club because I actually say cool beans as a column response in my classroom all the time.

So like when I give directions I’ll say cool beans and the kids are all like, cool beans. I figured they’d relate to that title a little bit. Yeah, so I’ve been busy doing, I’ll usually set up an afternoon to record a bunch of tutorials and then the next day I edit them, I schedule them. Then of course trying to keep my sanity with a daily walk and I’ve already totally rearranged my studio. Kind of went to town working on a couple of things in the house too. So trying to stay busy and trying to accept the current situation.

Tim: Yeah, I think that’s a good way to put it. One thing I wanted to ask or I guess dive into with you is just dealing with anxiety and dealing with mental health. I know this is something that you had covered in that first webinar that we did and I know a lot of people are feeling really anxious right now. Not only about teaching and trying to navigate all of these new things, but they’re feeling anxious about life and about the world around us. So before we I guess get into how we deal with it, can you talk a little bit about why you think we should be talking about our anxiety? How it helps to kind of bring it out in the open?

Sarah: Yeah, for sure. So I kind of thought as I was a kid that I was the only person with anxiety. I thought that I was some sort of weird freak that would get nervous about things or just be scared a lot or sort of panicky about things. That’s because I guess I didn’t realize how much anxiety shows itself in different forms for different people, but that especially in some sort of crisis like this, a lot of people are experiencing some sort of anxiety. Whether it shows itself through depression or panic attacks or worry or whatever it might be. Anxiety is a huge, huge part of kind of coping with how to keep really strong mental health. So something that I noticed helps me even when I was a young kid, something that helps me is knowing that I’m not alone in the way that I feel.

So that’s why I like to try to be super open about anxiety. So that people know, “Hey, you’re not the only one that feels like this,” and we can support each other through a weird feeling that we might have or something that we don’t really know how to deal with. So talking about anxiety and realizing you’re not alone is one of the main things that helps me. Even just talking with my family or friends and just saying like, “Hey, it’s going to be okay. Right? You’re feeling this too,” makes me feel like we can get through it together. Then also something that has helped me a little bit that I’ve worked on specifically with my husband Adam, we’ve been doing a lot of chatting about just how we can communicate well with each other. I always used to be, but continue to be kind of nervous to talk about things like mortality and life, death, and things like that.

It’s a scary topic, but the more we talked about it, the easier it got. So now I feel like we can have an interesting conversation about death or mortality and it’s less scary to me. So I’m kind of practicing that immersion therapy with talking about anxiety. The more you talk about it, the more comfortable it feels and it kind of takes away the power of the scariness that it holds over us. So talking about it can be a really great way to kind of just make yourself feel a little bit better about the reality of it.

Tim: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. I think that’s some good advice. I guess taking it a little bit further beyond just talking about it and sharing about it, can you tell us about some ideas on strategies or just ways we can best deal with our anxiety?

Sarah: Yeah, for sure. Keep in mind, obviously I’m not an expert. I’m just another person like everyone else here who gets scared and who just likes to talk about the way you feel because it can hopefully kind of tear down that barrier of being nervous about talking about therapy or anxiety or things like that too. So speaking about therapy. If you are able to continue or start therapy with someone, especially during this time. Once our school got canceled, probably one of the first people I messaged was my therapist and I said, “Hey, can we still have our meetings? Can they be online or be a phone call?” So I even have like a phone call this afternoon with her. So if you’re able to do that or start that or look into it, you don’t have to be someone that has this really tragic life event to do therapy.

It can be something to help anybody and everybody. So I would highly recommend doing that if you’re able. Then if that’s not really a possibility or in addition to therapy, doing check-ins with families and friends. Family members and people that are around you. Each day I have a list of people that I message and just say like, “How’s everybody doing today?” Right? Just kind of keep talking to each other so that you don’t feel that alone feeling and not just assuming that everybody is “okay” during this time. A couple other things that have helped me like I mentioned at the beginning was doing a daily, it’s kind of like bullet journaling, but it’s a real rough version of it. So I have a notebook that basically just says the date, how many days I guess, how many days into the quarantine it is.

Then I’ll write a couple of bullet points. So even today I’m looking at my list and it just says like, “Okay, I’m wearing regular braids today. I’m listening to Glass Animals, the band, I’m listening to this podcast or I started a roast in the slow cooker.” It just says random bullet points, but that it kind of grounds me in what today is so that I can go back and kind of look back or helps me sort of remember the main things that stood out from my day. So that’s helped me a little with my anxiety and keeping track of what I’m doing. Then certainly the last thing I can think of is of course to make art. As art teachers hopefully you find art therapeutic in whatever way you choose to make it. Hopefully it’s not a stressful act for you, but it can be a way to kind of let out your feelings if that helps you.

It can also just be a way to practice and experiment and take your mind off of something if you’re getting a little distracted. My favorite thing that kind of touches on that a little bit if you’re familiar with the artist Laurel Burch, she has a lot of health issues and she would work with really beautiful, bold, bright colors and was being interviewed and someone had asked her, “Do you ever paint your pain?” She said, “No, why would I want to do that?” So I thought that was a really interesting comparison of right now if people are feeling sort of anxious, do you want to go the route of trying to emote that in your art or maybe try to just surround yourself with positivity and color and does that make you feel better? So I like Laurel, her version of art therapy is just saying, absolutely not. I’m not going to paint anything negative or painful. It’s all happiness from here on out.

Tim: Yeah. Well that’s actually the perfect segue way into what I wanted to talk about next. Just kind of spreading positivity and using art to do things for other people good because I think we always feel better when we’re doing positive things for the people around us. You shared on this topic, again back in the webinar, but can you talk about just some ideas for spreading positivity with art, whether those are things that you’ve done yourself or some cool things that you’ve seen other people doing?

Sarah: Yeah, so the main thing that I shared on the webinar was just a simple way to do positivity posters since we’re all mostly inside. Creating some sort of poster that you can put up in a window so that as the multitude of walkers that have been out pass by your window, it helps to give them a little bit of a boost. So whether it’s a positivity poster or I believe it started in Italy, there’s been this rainbow celebration where you can make a really awesome rainbow and then post that in your window. So I’ve seen these really awesome ways to kind of almost decorate your home or the place that you’re in and then share positivity through words or images with those posters. So I know that we’ll have probably a link to that as well. I mean clearly with the mantra, I put lot of weight in positive affirmations both for my students and myself.

So I’ve been writing on the mirrors in my home in the bathroom or we have a chalkboard in the kitchen. So I have things on there like this too shall pass or it is okay. Having affirmations around me to kind of use that positivity with words as I’m just kind of meandering around my house, it’s all around me. So that can be really helpful. Some other things that I’ve seen to spread positivity is, I think it’s called like chalk the walk, but it’s really just decorating either your driveway or a sidewalk with sidewalk chalk so you can spread rainbows in that way. Positivity. Yesterday I went outside and I made this kind of activity course. So I know I’ve seen some friends doing things like hopscotch, but I had lines that you could follow with both feet or jump from rock to rock and do all these sort of things so that the little kiddos or I’ve seen adults out my window, which has been really fun to just do this kind of activity course for the tiny little span of sidewalk in front of my house.

So kind of trying to make it a way to connect with your community or with other people around you. Even just again coming back to you making your own art and being positive about what you do, maybe now’s the time to pick up another thing. My sister is really awesome at embroidery and sewing and so I’m going to work on a little bit of embroidery, which I’ve never done before. At the same time, I don’t want to stress about doing more projects. So I want to also reiterate if you don’t do anything new, that’s totally fine. That sometimes just that feeling of like, “Oh, I wasted time or I didn’t do anything.” It’s like, “Well, if you enjoyed what you were doing during that time just watching Netflix or whatever, then it’s not wasted time.” So trying to keep that positive mindset and attitude about anything and everything you choose to do can really help persevere through something like this.

Tim: Yeah, that’s good advice. Now another thing that I wanted to ask you about was something that you mentioned at the beginning of the interview. You’ve been recording a lot of videos, you’ve been putting them on your Instagram. So I guess first questions for you, like what are the benefits that you’re seeing from recording those videos? Secondly, how have your students responded to seeing those?

Sarah: Yeah, so the videos again, how I usually do it is I’ll set myself up to just record a batch of them at one time because that kind of makes sense for me. So those of you that are watching my videos, I have three chunks where my hair’s the same, but my outfits change. So I’m doing all that also within an hour of each other. It’s kind of a behind the scenes little sneak peek, but the benefits that I see there are lots. Of course the first one is that my students can access them whenever they would like. It’s on YouTube and Instagram. Whether they have some sort of technology at their fingertips ideally, but I know that not all of our students do. The fact that they’re short. It doesn’t have to be a live thing for me is really beneficial.

That also it’s out for a lot of artists. So I’ve seen people like students that are not my students that are doing things. I love that because the whole point in doing things especially now is to make it easy and attainable for as many people as possible because it is kind of tricky right now. So we really have to lean on our community to help each other. I also think that specifically for me, there’s parts in the videos that I find beneficial about the fact that my kids can kind of maintain routine or those new artists or adults or students that are watching the videos can learn our mantra. Then at the end of the video, I do a little bit of a mindful meditation.

So it’s like a minute long, but it’s just a quick little breathing trick of some sort to kind of ground yourself for the rest of the day. So I think that is sort of a passion of mine to try and get the viewers to just relax a little bit. I know you asked about how my students are responding to that, but ironically last week was a prep week for us. So people were preparing things and then this week is my spring break. So technically.

Tim: Okay. They aren’t doing anything with them yet.

Sarah: Well, so e-learning for us technically doesn’t start until March 30th, but I’ve already posted eight videos because I can’t not do something. So I mean I wasn’t required to do anything until after spring break, but I’m like, you know what? Let’s just go for it. So that’s why they’re out. I still have seen a lot of people sending me things about the stuff they’ve been doing. So it’s been a really awesome way to kind of just get started. It works for me. I’m comfortable doing it and we go to town.

Tim: Yeah, that’s really cool. I guess I wanted to ask you too, I’ve seen so many people asking about how do you record videos? What should I do? Et cetera, et cetera. I guess I just want to give people an idea on how they can get started with that. So question for you is what are some of the topics you’ve covered and what advice would you have for people who are maybe apprehensive or don’t know where to start when it comes to recording videos?

Sarah: Yeah, so I actually have an article for how to make videos for, that we can link to as well. So it’s got sort of the way I do it naturally. Everyone might have to just tweak it a little bit to figure out what you’re comfortable with, but something that I loved from the webinar with Amber Kane too was reminding you and I know a lot of people were mentioning it as well, but I remember her saying don’t feel like you have to edit things and watching your teacher mess up and be like, “I don’t know how to turn off the camera,” is kind of fun. It’s okay if it’s not perfect and the kids will love that. So remember to just do what you’re comfortable with. As far as how to start, I use iMovie because that’s what’s available to me. I film it on my phone only.

Then the only kind of fancy hardware that I have is a gooseneck phone holder. So it just clips onto something and then it’s got sort of this big long wire I guess and then a clip for my phone. So you can put your tablet in and then do things like birds eye views or some other higher up filming instead of having to hold that device. So that works for me. That’s really all I have. Then I edit in iMovie and that’s it. So I don’t try to make it too complicated. Again, if you’ve never done online video stuff before, I have some tips in the article and also just reminding yourself not to stress about it because now it’s not the time to add that extra stress. So just do what you’re comfortable with.

Some of the topics that I’ve gone over, of course I did one on the positivity poster which I discussed during the webinar and then some fun things like abstract, intuitive art. We’ve done some shadow art. The ever popular found object color wheel which has been all over Instagram, super fun. Shaped creatures, collaborative coloring sheets, which I totally made my husband color for me. I was like, “I need you to color on camera.” One of the upcoming videos is a memory game. So I made these memory cards and then I go out into the living room and I’m like, “Hey, can you come play memory with me quick?” You’re a big part of this right now. He’s kind of become my student which is fun.

Yeah, I guess. Then at the end you were asking about some advice for people that maybe have or have never made videos before. What I really wanted to touch on was that I want you as a person to focus on what’s going to work best for you. You do you. The thing that is going to be hard, even for myself and other people is that comparison factor, which can be kind of dangerous and stressful and it can be hard to not compare yourself to other people. I just got a print for my studio that says comparison is the thief of joy because I find myself sometimes as an educator and as a person saying, well I didn’t do that or I didn’t do that. I wanted to remind everybody, mostly reminding myself, but saying it out loud that we are all talented art educators with equally valuable ideas, however we present them.

So just continue to share and create and you can reinvent or be inspired without hesitation. So just because you might’ve seen someone say, “Oh man, X art teacher already posted about making rainbows. Now I can’t do that.” It’s like, well yeah you can. Your kids want to see what you do and maybe somebody won’t be able to see their video or whatever. I think we all just have to remember to take a deep breath, be strong for us as educators, and share content without the fear of being judged or comparing yourself and reminding you, especially on Instagram and social media which is kind of where we’re all living right now, that you’re seeing everybody’s highlight reels. When you’re seeing the cool beans videos, I’ve edited those, right? I’m picking the clips that work and that I didn’t stumble over my words for. So that’s my highlight reel.

That’s the best video that I can put out. There’s points where it doesn’t go well or I’m frustrated or whatever. That’s not the part that you’re seeing. So just kind of a shameless plug to say everybody breathe. We don’t need to compare, but that we can all be talented, wonderful art educators and share with each other and encourage each other to keep going through this very weird time.

Tim: Yeah, I think that’s some excellent advice. Cool. Now before we go, while we are all quarantined and staying at home, I’m having all my guests give out some recommendations. So we need to chat about something to watch, something to read, and something to listen to. So let’s start Sarah, with your recommendation for something that people should be watching right now.

Sarah: Yes. So something that I recently discovered, it’s called Repair Shop and it feels like the Great British Baking Show, but it’s with antiques. So it’s really amazing. I love British Baking Show because there’s this gentle piano music and everybody’s quietly, calmly stressing about making muffins. It’s so amazing. The Repair Shop is just as cool because people bring in some sort of loved object that has things wrong with it. Then these awesome repair people bring it back to life and it’s really wonderful. So it’s super chill, great music. I mean I grew up watching Antiques Road Show, so kind of right in line, but a modern twist. So I would suggest that highly.

Tim: Ooh, I like it. I like it. My recommendation, I have been watching a lot of NPR tiny desk concerts on YouTube.

Sarah: Oh my goodness. I have not heard of that.

Tim: They are fantastic. You literally have these people in the NPR office in front of a tiny desk playing whatever. No matter what genre of music you like, there is tiny desk concerts for everybody. They’re fantastic. Anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes long and just great if you need a break. So yeah, check those out. Second thing, something to read.

Sarah: Okay. So I’ll admit, I’m not a person that’s going to sit down and grab a book all the time, but I do have a book that I wanted to share that’s been on my nightstand for a while that I hope I’ll be able to read. It’s the Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, which is JK Rowling’s ghost or not ghostwriter, what do we call that?

Tim: Pseudonym. Yeah.

Sarah: So I’ve been wanting to read that. I kind of started it and especially during the school year, I can never seem to finish a long book, but I heard it’s really great and I’m excited to read it.

Tim: Oh that’s really good. So I just finished this book called Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I just finished a really long run and I have this bad habit of accomplishing the long run and then be like, “I’m never running again. I did that, I’m done.” Anyway, I wanted to read that book again. It’s like my third time, but it always kind of inspires me to get back out and keep exercising and keep running, which is something I need right now. So that’s a really good one. All right. Then finally a recommendation for something to listen to.

Sarah: Okay. So I had to break it into two categories because I’m a pretty big podcast listener and I love music, like especially in my studio I’m always going to be playing music. So podcasts, I’m just going to list them. Don’t be mad at me, Tim, for having like four.

Tim: How long is this list? We only have so many, no I’m just kidding. We can do long podcasts because nobody minds. They’re stuck inside. They need stuff to listen to. So yeah. Go for it.

Sarah: So the podcast list would be, You’re Wrong About, which is a great one. They talk about things from history like OJ Simpson trial and the Tonya Harding incident, like different things. Then go into how the media kind of turned that and the hosts are really funny and hilarious and it’s awesome. So that one’s called, You’re Wrong About. Heavyweight by Jonathan Goldstein is amazing. That one talks about something to revisit with your past and they go through a story and Jonathan will be the mediator to make something come to light. So it’s this really beautiful storytelling podcast. The Dollop is another one that has to do with history, which is not my favorite thing in the world. Sitting down and trying to memorize history is so not my forte, but Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds host that one and they’re both comedians.

So it’s hilarious. Dave just reads parts from history to Gareth and Gareth just responds to them because he doesn’t know. It’s really funny. A lot of these that you might want to pre-listen before the kiddos listen with you. Then the last podcast that I love is Threedom which is with Scott Aukerman, Lauren Lapkus and Paula Tompkins. All three comedians, all three hilarious if you want to giggle. Then the music list. So I was trying to keep my music small. Again, I was just searching through my iTunes and I’m like, I can’t pick a favorite. It depends on if I’m going for a run or a walk. I usually listen to rap, like Kendrick Lamar, Logic, Wale, Chance the Rapper. That just makes me feel good. I also love as I’m working in my studio some kind of more electric music. Jack Garrett, Isaac Delusion, Glass Animals, Electric Guest. There’s so many awesome ones. If you need music recommendations, message me on Instagram. I was like, I don’t know how to pick.

Tim: Oh I love it. We should just do a music podcast.

Sarah: I know, you’re right. Actually there’s this really awesome podcast.

Tim: You listed enough podcasts, Sarah!

Sarah: I’m sorry Tim! But the podcast just literally breaks down the, Oh gosh, How to Pimp a Butterfly. They just talk about all of the texts and everything in the album. It’s amazing.

Tim: That’s awesome. I love it. All right, so I’m going to do two quick recommendations and then we’ll get on out of here. Podcast for me. There’s one called the Missing Crypto Queen and it’s produced by the BBC. So the audio engineering is just incredible, but it’s all about this lady who was running a giant pyramid scheme based on cryptocurrency and then just absolutely disappeared just in the middle of nowhere and no one can find her. So it’s this storytelling slash investigative podcast and it was just really brilliant. It’s like eight episodes. So you can get through it without investing too much time and it’s really, really good.

Sarah: Okay good.

Tim: Okay. Then music-wise, since you listed all your music, I’ll just go with who I’ve been listening to all the time and that is The Wombats, just a spectacular band. I love them so much. So everybody should give them a listen as well. All right, cool. So Sarah, we’ll end it there. Thank you so much. I appreciate all of the recommendations, all the advice, the awesome conversation and hopefully we will talk to you again soon.

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. Stay well.

Tim: All right. Just like last week we talked for a long time, but hopefully you have that time. You don’t mind a little bit longer podcast. Now before we go, just one more reminder for our webinar that’s happening on Thursday night seven o’clock central. This week we’re going to cover a lot of great topics. Making online meetings enjoyable. We’ll cover some art history, maybe some tech tips. I hope you can join us, but until then stay safe. Take care of yourself and please take care of everyone around you.

Art Ed Radio is produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you for listening and we’ll be back with you again next week.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.