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Not everyone can be lucky enough to have 7 days off of school in a row like Cassie just did. But you can make plans to make the most of your time off! Listen to Cassie’s best advice on sparking the creative process (4:00), why you should take the time to connect with friends and colleagues (8:30), and why you need to appreciate your time off (10:15). Full episode transcript below.
At my school, we have this amazing man. His name is Mr. Scruggs, and he is our head custodian, our school DJ, that’s correct, and my favorite thing that he does is he is our weather predictor with 100% accuracy. When my man, Mr. Scruggs, says that we are going to be out for school, we know we will definitely be out for school. I mean, this guy can even call it like a week ahead of time. It’s amazing.
Every morning, I have the pleasure of hanging out with him and our SRO, Officer Bean on the front porch, and we do morning duty, every morning for 30 minutes. We’re usually chatting about our favorite shows and, of course, the weather. Not too long ago, Mr. Scruggs said, “In a couple of weeks, we’re going to be out for several for days. Get ready. It’s going to be lots of snow days.” I said, “Get out of here. If you’re wrong about his, I promise you, I will find you, and I will twist your little pinky finger back because I’ll be so stinking mad. Do not even get my hopes up.”
The next week, he starts in again with that talk. It’s a Thursday. It’s 68 degrees outside, and he swears that ice and snow are coming, and the next day, we won’t be in school. It’s 68 degrees. The ground is super warm. Get out of here. What do you know? That very afternoon while it was still in the 60s, they called school the next day. Snow was coming.
Now, I’m in Tennessee, you guys. I’m originally from Indiana. In Indiana, that snow’s gotta be up to your eyeballs before they will cancel, but here in glorious and amazing Tennessee, if they even think it’s going to snow, we shut this town down. We’ve even had days where it’s too cold outside for the children, so we close school too. Tennessee’s a great place to be, I’m telling you.
When we all got that phone call, me and my two buddies, we went out for celebratory sushi. I mean, the weather was still glorious. The next day, sure enough, a little bit of ice and stuff came, and just like my friend Mr. Scruggs predicated, the snow and the cancellations just kept coming.
Y’all, I come to you right now in this podcast on my seventh consecutive day off. If I talk a lot, it’s because I haven’t actually talked to anybody other than my cat and my husband, occasionally, in the last seven days, so please pardon me, but let’s talk snow days and how to best spend that surprise gift of a day all to yourself. This is Everyday Art Room, and I’m Cassie Stephens.
Are you ready to hate me even more? Now that I have seven days off, are you ready? Get this: My school district builds in like eight snow days. So far, I haven’t had to make any of these days up. I know. Again, y’all all need to move to Tennessee, but I’m not leaving my school, so don’t even think about it, wise guy. Let’s talk about how to make the most of that magical snow day gift.
What’s funny to me is, as a kid, sure I loved me a snow day, but as an adult? I live for snow days. I’m just going to put it out there, that does not mean that I don’t love my job. What it does mean is that I love staying at home and creating, and the creative process is what we teach. On my snow days, that is basically all I do. That, and record podcast, apparently. I love to catch up on crafts.
Here in Tennessee, if they predict snow, even a spit and a sputter, you hit the grocery stories, and you buy all the milk and all the bread on the shelves. All of it. Even if you don’t eat bread and milk, you just do this because that’s what we do, but me, if you’re me, you skip the grocery store, and here’s what I did.
First day, morning, when we did have a little bit of spitting and sputtering, I made sure to get out to the craft store for my provisions, and here’s what I had in mind. If I’m going to be snowed in, knitting a scarf, a rainbow scarf sounded like the best thing for me. As I’m scooting down the isles of the craft store, loading up my cart with all things yarn, I decided, as I turned a corner and saw a complete wall of latch hooks, say what, I decided to get me a latch hook kit. Y’all, I’m an 80s kid, and I grew up sitting on my babysitter’s couch latch hooking a mushroom in all those glorious avocado greens and browns and yellow ochers that were all the rage in the 80s. Ugh, so unfortunate. What kind of palette color was that?
Now, they have these kits where they’re fabulous, and they’re very 80s-inspired. A lot of them very Lisa Frank. Lots of rainbows and unicorns, and in my mind, in grabbing this kit I thought, “Ah, this will be great. I loved doing this as a kid. I could put this in my Early Finishers fibers area.” Yeah, so now that I’ve been snowed in for several days, not only did I completely do the entire latch hook, I also then sewed it to the back of a jean jacket. That’s right, I’m currently wearing a giant rug on the back of my coat. Don’t judge. It’s really cozy.
Anyway, all that to say, I’m loving catching up on crafts, crafts that I don’t normally make the time for, things that I would normally say, “You know what? You’ve got a lesson plan or make videos for your students.” I’m taking time for me, and I’m not feeling bad about it. Not one bit. That giant bag full of projects that I was going to start and record and create lessons for has remained untouched for seven days. Am I going to regret it tomorrow, Friday, when I actually have to go back to school? Uh, yeah. Probably, but right now, I am living and loving life, and I think that’s what snow days are for, for maybe just taking that time to really indulge yourself and creating and in crafting.
I know I’ve been talking a lot about that lately about getting back to our roots, so to speak, and getting back to creating. That’s just for us, not for lesson planning, but just something for us. I know I’ve shared before that I’ve been in slumps in my creative life where I didn’t know what I wanted to make. I had that itch, but I didn’t know how to scratch it. I’m telling you. Hit the craft store. Go up and down those isles, and you might see something that spoke to you when you were a kid, and you might find that it still sparks a little interest in you now.
I’m not afraid to admit that I now want to latch hook a giant Mona Lisa on the back of a coat. No, I’m not kidding. I can’t believe I’m about to have a wardrobe that I’m going to have to vacuum, but hey, to each his own, I say. I feel like that’s what snow days are for, letting our imaginations run wild and really indulging ourselves with the fun craft.
I also think it’s for catching up with art teacher and friends. Wednesday nights are my nights when I go live both in Instagram and Facebook, and most nights, I’m just chatting about my week, some things that I’ve discovered, some things that are working, some things that aren’t, lessons that I’m doing with my kids. Really, it’s just a time for me to unwind with people who get me. I’d love to have you join if you’ve never joined our chats. I was really hesitating this week to even do it simply because I hadn’t been at school all week. Did I really want to brush my hair and go live and talk to people? I think my voice was actually a little scratchy. I hadn’t been talking to anybody in days, but it was really fun because it just helped me connect.
I feel like, as art teachers, that’s something that we rarely get the chance to do. We connect with other teachers all day long, but they don’t get us, y’all. We are a rare breed. We need to be amongst our own. For that, snow days, so good. Pick up the phone. Call a teacher buddy. Go live on one of your favorite social media outlets, and just connect with people. Why not? It’s, I’m telling you, it’s better than therapy, and much cheaper.
Another thing that I’ve really been indulging on are podcasts and shows and just flipping through my favorite craft books to get ideas. All of these things have really excited me, rejuvenated me, got me, dare I say, excited to go back to school tomorrow? I’m ready. I mean, it has been seven days. I really should be ready, but I’m feeling a lot lighter and a lot more excited. Was I worried at the beginning of all these days off about how far back that was going to push all of our projects and all of my students? Yeah. So worried. I mean, I’m supposed to be taking artwork to our local art museum for our annual art museum art show. That was supposed to happen yesterday. I haven’t been to school to even mat, frame, and pick out artwork. Was I stressed? So stressed, but what can you do?
That’s the thing, when we have these days off, everything is going to be pushed back. Everything’s going to be put on the back burner. It’s fine. Sometimes, when I find myself stressing things like that, I just think, “You know what, in a year, am I even going to remember what was bothering me? I’m probably going to remember that I didn’t enjoy my time off, and that’s no good,” so let it go. It’ll still be there. It ain’t going nowhere, and it’s fine.
Enjoy those special gifts that are snow days. Find yourself a cozy craft to curl up with, maybe a good book and a good podcast, and really just enjoy that time off. If you have more people in your house other than your husband and the cat, you might want to talk to those people and spend time with them too. I mean, family is what we rarely get to spend time with when we’re heading to school every day and in the hustle and bustle of our day to day. Make sure to obviously carve out some time for that.
Snow days. I’ve only got a few hours left. I’m trying to think all of the crafts that I could manage to cram in, in my time off while not hanging out and chatting with you. Thank you so much for letting me talk to somebody, a human. Oh my goodness, it’s been so long. Have a great week, y’all, and stay warm, and if you’re in need of a snow day, just remember this. Are you ready? Pajamas inside out, white crayon on the window sill, a silver spoon under your pillow, and ice cubes flushed down the terlet. All of those things, and of course, followed by a good old-fashioned snow dance just might grant you the magical gift of a snow day.
Tim Bogatz: Hello. I want to take one last chance to tell you about the Art Ed Now Conference on Saturday, as in two-days-from-now Saturday. We will have over 20 presentations that are all online, all incredible, and all relevant to what you’re doing right now in your classroom. Each one comes with resources and handouts for your room, and you have access to every video for a full year after the conference. Today is the last day to register, and you can learn everything you need to know about the conference at artednow.com.
In fact, we have a discount for Everyday Art Room listeners. If you use the code “SAVE20NOW”, that’s S-A-V-E-2-0-N-O-W, all uppercase, you will get $20 off the registration price. Again, make sure you check it out at artednow.com after Cassie wraps up the episode.
Cassie: Let’s take a little dip into the mail bag. This first question comes from Katty. She has a question concerning art shows. She asks, or she says, “I live in New Hampshire where the temperatures fluctuate quite a bit, and I’m trying to mat my artwork and find some sort of adhesive that’ll make it so that my artwork doesn’t get warped due to the fluctuating temperatures in New Hampshire.” Brr. New Hampshire sounds very cold. I bet they get lots of snow and zero snow days. Move to Tennessee, I’m telling you.
She’s asking about an adhesive. My favorite adhesive to use when I am matting and framing student artwork, and when I’m matting and framing student artwork for art shows, I mat on construction paper, usually black just because I feel like it looks really nice. I actually have parent volunteers that handle a lot of that for me. We have a couple of different things that we’ve used. It basically depends on the mom who’s doing the matting. I just let them decide what they’re comfortable with.
The adhesive that I feel like works the best at making sure that the artwork is really adhered, and it’s nice and smooth and flat and doesn’t tend to fluctuate a bit, is 3M spray adhesive. Now, it’s like hairspray, so of course, it sprays everywhere. You’ll want to definitely cover your surface. There is a smell, so you’ll want to either wear a little face mask if you’re very sensitive to that, prop open a door. Definitely don’t do it when children are in the room.
I usually spray the artwork on the covered area, and then take it to the construction paper and on a different table, and then lay it out there. The reason I keep the construction paper on a different table is because literally, the spray gets everywhere, so you want to keep it separate. Once you’ve got it matted that way, you could always stack books on top of it, and hopefully, that’ll keep everything nice and flat, if you’re trying to stay ahead of the game to do it months ahead of time, keep it nice and flat for when your art show rolls around. That’s amazing. I don’t know what that’s like. I’m usually matting and framing up until the very day of the art show.
Her next question is, “I have questions about the deer mesh. Where do you purchase the deer mesh? How many students do you have, and how many projects do you display on the walls?”
If you don’t know what she’s chatting about, about the deer mesh, I know I have shared this a lot on my blog. I actually have a Art Teacherin’ 101 video where you can see how I hang the artwork for my art shows. We purchase deer mesh, and it is a kind of mesh made out of a very heavyweight kind of plastic almost like fishing line, and it looks like a grid, this mesh does. My parent volunteers, they attach it to the wall with gaffer’s tape. It is the strongest tape that you can use to adhere the deer mesh to the walls. From there, the parents, we’ve used paperclips to clip the artwork to the mesh before. That was a big-time fail because when it came to taking the artwork off, untangling paperclips was no bueno. Not fun at all. We use clothespins.
Her question is how much deer mesh to purchase. I have about the same amount of students she has. She has about three to four hundred kids that she teaches at her school, and I think we purchase about three to four rolls of deer mesh. It’s very inexpensive. We purchase it from Amazon. The great thing is, is that if the teachers take it down and fold it up nicely, you can just rubber band it and put the classroom teacher’s name on the mesh, and then save it from year to year. I mean, it’s pretty sturdy stuff. It will not get torn up or beat up, so you should be able to recycle it. Personally, when we take it down, sometimes, it is given back to me in a giant wad, and I don’t want to fool with it, so I just cram it in the back of my closet where it’s probably still sitting today.
She was asking how many works of art do we put on display. It’s been our little tradition at my school to display every single art that every child has created in my school. I don’t have a huge student population. Also, I do projects with my students that are not very quick, meaning, we’re usually working on one project over the course of a couple of weeks, especially with my 30-minute class. There’s only so much we can do.
At the end of the school year, each one of my students usually has between five to six two-dimensional pieces. Sometimes not even that for my older kids because their projects take even longer. We usually have two to three three-dimensional pieces, usually something that they’ve hand-stitched or perhaps made out of a clay or a paper mache, and those things usually are not able to be hung on a wall, especially if it’s a sculpture.
For our art shows, we hang up everything everybody’s made on the walls. Then my room is transformed into this place where we display all the three-dimensional pieces. One bit of advice I’m just going to throw out there, Katty didn’t ask about this, but I’m just going to, I’m just going to say it is I was at a conference, a national conference several years ago about art shows, and this woman gave an amazing bit of advice. She said to request the day off the day of your art show. She spends that day just putting the finishing touches on her art show, getting everything hung, last-minute stuff, basically, scrambling to make sure everything is in place.
When I went back to school, I made mention of that to my principal, and she went for it. For the last probably five years, I’ve had the day of my art show off, and I cannot encourage you to inquire about that enough because it will just make it so you can actually enjoy the experience. You could breathe a little bit easier. You’re not scrambling, you’re not rushing, you’re not sweating it out while trying to teach your classes. Just a little bit of advice about art show town.
Let’s take another question. This one comes from Paula. Paula has a question about clay. She says that she has about 500 students, “And my challenge,” she says, “is that I want to do clay so badly, but I can’t afford it for 500 students with what little budget that I have. Do you have a recipe or know of what that would be reasonable to make for paper clay? I have a teeny, tiny tub sink, and it’s very small, so I have to be really careful what I can do.”
Well, I wrote a clay book, and in my clay book, I do have several recipes on making your own clay; however, the recipes netbook do not include making a paper clay. You can make clay easily with flour, salt, and water, and it’s called salt dough clay. You can find so many recipes for that online. It doesn’t involve a lot of supplies. It doesn’t involve you having to stove-cook anything. It’s pretty basic, pretty simple. You cam make some interesting projects with it. It does take a longer time to dry. I have noticed putting those projects in front of a fan helps. When your students make something out of that clay, if they’re careful and make it thickly enough, it’s pretty solid stuff, so it can give them that experience that you really want to share with them; however, because there’s flour in it, there could be an allergy.
She’s asking, however, about paper clay. If you can afford it, I would encourage you to looking to buy CelluClay. CelluClay is made by Activa Products. I’ve used it a ton both with my students and on my own. You can find a lot of videos and blog posts on my blog and my YouTube channel about it. It’s inexpensive stuff, so if you’re looking for paper clay, you might want to consider CelluClay; however, if you just want to make it on your own, when I have used CelluClay, it seems to me that it is a paper-based clay; however, the paper is very, very finely ground, like down to a pulp. You’ll have to do a little bit of homework to see how to create a paper pulp. I’m assuming that you could shred paper, and then soak paper for a while, maybe overnight, and that’ll make it so that it breaks down a lot easier.
Once that paper has been soaking overnight, you can probably break it up. You could then let that dry by straining it, and then laying it out on your counter, and then go back and add water and maybe a touch of glue to it. You’ll know it’s a good quality kind of clay when it actually, when you squeeze it, water doesn’t come out, and it actually feels like something you can sculpt with.
All that to say, I have not tried that, but in high school, I do remember we did something very similar, and we pressed that clay into cookie molds and make sculptures that way. That’s the little experience that I have. Definitely something you’d want to test out on your own before straight away bringing that into your art room with your kids.
Great questions, ladies. That was a long-winded mailbag, but some really awesome questions that I wanted to share. If you guys have questions for me, please feel free to send them my way. You can find me at [email protected]
All right, my friends way up there in the Midwest, I’m talking like Wisconsin and Minnesota and the Dakotas and all of that. You people on the East Coast, you people who know what to do with that white powdery stuff that scares us lily-livered Southerners so much, y’all probably never, ever get school called, and for that, I’m so sorry. I wish I could gift you a snow day. Y’all know I wouldn’t do that. I’m not giving up my snow days. I’m sorry. I like you, but not that much; however, if you find that you just need a day, take a mental health day. Give yourself a snow day, and just enjoy that time off.
I remember my first year teaching, I was burnt to a crisp, and my boyfriend, now my husband, said to me, “Take a day off. Stay home. Do what you want to do. Relax.” It made a world of a difference. I went back to school the next day and just felt so rejuvenated, relaxed, and so much better. That is what the gift of a snow day should be for. If you can’t score yourself one, then I’m going to tell you to go ahead and take you one, a mental health day. Ah. We all need it, and we all deserve it.
This is Everyday Art Room, y’all. Thank you so much for joining me, and I’m Cassie Stephens.