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You’re on break now–or at least really close to it! So what do you need to do now that you have a couple weeks off? Relax, reflect, and reset. Join Cassie as she talks about the 3 R’s and how you can take care of yourself with this time off. Listen for stories on how she relaxes over break (5:00), what ideas she has come up with in the process of reflecting (9:30), and how she will reset her classroom management when returning to school (11:15). Full episode transcript below.
Alright, I’m about to tell you a story that’s going to date me quite a bit, and I’m okay with that. I grew up in the late 70s, early 80s, before Nintendo, before Game Boy, before games on your phone. The closest thing that me and my cousins happened to get one year for Christmas was what looked like a miniature arcade game. It was Barbie sized, and we each got an arcade game of our own. I had Frogger, my cousin had Donkey Kong, and my other cousin, she got Pac-Man, and we loved those games. I suppose you could call them portable, but these things were pretty clunky and big. Not something you would just toss into your backpack.
We took these games everywhere we went. We were obsessed, including a four hour flight with our family, grandparents included, down to Florida. Now this story will definitely date me because on this flight, my grandparents sat in the smoking section of the plane. Can you imagine? At one time people believed that if you actually smoked in a different part of an airplane, it’s not going to bother the people sitting in the non-smoking part. But whatevs. And here my cousins and I were sitting in the back of the plane, in the non-smoking section side of course, we were kids after all, playing our video games.
Now, if it’s one thing I have to admit, I am the worst at playing video games. I will set the reset button faster than you can say Pac-Man. In fact, every 30 seconds you could find me pressing the reset button. I loved it because I could start over brand new. Fresh. No more squished frogs on the pavement. How great is that? The only problem was that my cousins had the same bad habit as I did. And every time we pressed that reset button, a super annoying, high pitched ear worm of a song would start. Frogger sounded like this. “Ne ner ner ner Ne ner ner ner Ne ner ner,” I would go on but I don’t want to annoy you any more than I already have. Anyway, Grandpa sitting in smoking section is going bonkers hearing at the back of the plane us starting our games over and over again. And I remember him coming to the back of the plane and yelling at us and telling us to stop it with that racket.
And surprisingly the other adults around us on the plane, they all came to our defense. They told him to sit down, we were just kids, we were having a great time. But what I think those adults really were relating to, to us kids pressing that reset button, is that same desire to want to be able to start over again. To press a reset button, to make things brand new, and why not give it another go? That’s how I feel every time I approach a break from school, whether it be a summer break, a winter break, Thanksgiving, you name it. I love the idea that I get to come back to school with that reset button pressed. That’s what I plan to do after winter break, and that’s what I’d love to chat with you about today. Let’s talk about how to relax during our break, how to reflect on what’s worked and what hasn’t, and how to press the reset button so we can start over brand spanking new in a brand new year.
This is Cassie Stephens, and this is Everyday Art Room.
Alright, so let’s talk about those three R’s. These three R’s are what I plan to be doing over my almost two weeks of winter break. Relax, reflect, reset. My favorite word. So let’s talk about relaxing. What is it that you do that really helps you unwind where you feel like suddenly your shoulders aren’t up by your ears, where you feel like you can just breathe a lot easier, you feel a lot lighter. What do you do that gives you that great feeling of relaxation? I feel like everybody is so different in their relaxitory, it’s a new word, outlet. So I’m just going to share with you what really helps me relax and unwind.
Personally I’m a big fan of treating myself. I love to treat myself, but I also love to treat myself on a budget. I’m a girl who loves a bargain. So for me one way to relax is to hit estate sales, thrift stores, anything where I can spend a little cash, find a cool treasure and not feel guilty afterward. I also am a fan, this school year alone, I’ve actually never done this before, of getting a massage. You all, if you have never had a massage before, I cannot recommend it enough. I was always a little weirded out by the notion of a stranger touching me, however I was in a car accident earlier this school year, totally my fault, I’m sure you’re not surprised, and one of the things my doctor recommended was that I get a massage once a month, and I cannot tell you how both relaxed and rejuvenated I feel after getting a massage.
Catching up with friends and family of course is what I know a lot of us will be doing over break, and what a wonderful way to relax. But my very favorite way to just unwind is to spend time alone. I don’t know if this would come as a surprise to you or not, but I’m a little bit of a loner. Having grown up kind of an only child, my brother didn’t come along until I was 10, so technically you could say I led kind of an only child life. I really grew up being comfortable spending time with myself and entertaining myself. So one way that I find to be extremely relaxing is to spend time alone, usually creating. Painting, sewing. Those are the kind of things that really helped me feel relaxed, and that’s exactly what I plan to do over my break.
But then after a while, a couple of days of just turning off or trying really hard to turn off my teacher brain, I’m going to need to turn it back on again and do some … I’m going to call it gentle reflecting. Sometimes I catch myself, usually at the end of the day, or at the end of a difficult class or a situation that I didn’t enjoy while teaching, I find myself reflecting, but it’s more like beating myself up. And that is so counter productive and it doesn’t get me anywhere. It really ends up just making me feel unhappy. So I think it’s important when we’re spending this time during a break to kind of unplug, to make sure we spend some time relaxing without thinking too hard about school. Without turning incidences into a broken record that skips again and again in our head.
So for me, I’m going to spend some solid time relaxing and then do some reflecting, but I’m going to go easy on myself. So I’m going to start by thinking of my classes from the top to the bottom, meaning when I have a class walk into my room, what’s working right away? Currently right now when my students walk into my room, there’s tape on the floor that shows them where to sit. I know I’ve shared that with you before.
However, when I have my large doubled up classes, there’s tape on the floor, but still these kids keep tending to spread out everywhere on the floor. What they don’t seem to understand is that they need to scoot all the way down to the end of the line and make enough room for all their friends, and I’m starting to turn into a broken record. I want all of our art time together to be used productively, and it’s not productive for me to repeat myself. So I’m thinking of ways to try to change that up so it becomes a lot smoother and streamlined. So for me I plan on adding little circle dots to my taped line so there’s no question as to where my students will walk in and sit down.
So it’s just little things like that where I’ve been just kind of taking a mental note of “Ugh, that’s not going as smoothly as I would like. I’m going to make sure to reflect on that over break.” Also, I’m thinking of adding more things to my early finishers area. I know I’ve been sharing a lot about that with you all lately, so as I’m watching my students enjoy the early finishers experience, and I have to tell you, they are loving it. I’m getting excited with all of the things I could add. In fact this week I added origami to my early finishers area. I had a bin where I just cut up an origami book, had it laminated. Inside that bin I threw in some origami sheets and it’s working great. I added my spirograph to my early finishers area, which has been a huge, huge hit, and I even added a Pictionary game, which was a lot of fun to see what kids gravitate to what.
So that being said, these are the things that I’m going to reflect on, but not beat myself up on. I’m going to think “Okay, this is an issue, or something I want to work on. What can I do about it instead of just, this isn’t working, this isn’t working.” So I plan to spend some positive reflective time and then of course, there’s the reset. So when I return back to school, I’m fortunate enough that I actually have two professional development days before my students come. I also have this habit of sneaking into school on Sundays when my school is actually open and working on my room in that nice quiet space. And this really allows me time to reset, and I’m excited about that because then I can press that button, the reset button and be better prepared for my students when they come back.
I’m going to kind of approach my January, my new year as a new school year, in that we will be going over once again, those routines that I’ve established, but going to be honest, they’ve gotten a lot looser now that we’re near the middle of the year. So pressing that reset button is going to allow me to really … I’m not going to say tighten the reins, but just remind the students what our routines and our procedures are, what our reward system is like I’ve shared in my past podcast about the blabber brush and just what they can be working toward for better art room experience.
So I think that by spending that time relaxing, reflecting and then just getting ready to press that reset button is going to really make it so this upcoming chapter in my school year is going to be a really exciting one. So that’s what I plan to do over my winter break, and I’m super stoked about it. But I’d love to hear from you all. What do you do that really helps you to relax? What are you going to do that’s going to help you reflect? Are you jotting things down that aren’t working, and if you aren’t, I would recommend it just so you won’t forget the things that you want to kind of look back on over break and think hard about what you want to change up and what you want to do to press that reset button.
I’m excited, and I haven’t even hit winter break yet, so that’s a little crazy. Let’s not get too excited here Stephens, and I just spoke to myself in third person. That being said, thank you so much for letting me share how I plan to spend my winter break, which by the way, cannot get here fast enough.
Tim Bogatz: Hello, this is Tim Bogatz from Art Ed Radio. I want to tell you about our upcoming Art Ed Now Winter Conference in February. We’re now just six weeks away. You can go to artednow.com to check it out and see what it’s all about. In short, it is an amazing day of professional development. Over 20 presenters, the awesome contemporary artist Alexa Meade as the feature presenter, and more resources and lesson ideas than you can even imagine. It’s taking place on February 3rd, and you will have access to all of the presentations and resources for a full calendar year after the conference takes place. Again, you can see everything at artednow.com. Go ahead and check it out and then you can finish this episode as Cassie dives back into the mail bag.
Cassie Stephens: Let’s take a little dip into the mail bag shall we? This question is about art shows, and it comes from Cattie. She says “I have questions about the deer mesh that you use in your art shows. Where do you purchase it? Also, how many students do you have and how many projects do you display on the walls per child?”
Alright, let me back up a little bit. When we do our art shows, we do them every spring in May. We, and when I say we I mean me and the amazing mom volunteers that come in to help hang our art show. We hang every piece of art that every child in our school has created throughout the year. I teach about 350 kids. Usually that means for my students that I have about three to maybe seven or eight pieces per child that are two dimensional, and then we often have clay pieces, sewn pieces like stuffies, and our sculptural items. Those get put on display in my art room. We transform my art room into a gallery for three dimensional pieces.
But back to hanging on the wall. After years of using things like blue dap, which is blue sticky stuff, hot glue, masking tap upon masking tape, only to come into school the next day and find tons of artwork on the floor. I was at my wit’s end. My bookkeeper recommended deer mesh. Apparently they had used it at the preschool where she had previously worked and we have never looked back. So what is deer mesh? It essentially looks like a nylon netting. We purchase our deer mesh from Amazon. It comes on a roll, and we usually buy about four of those rolls, and I want to say it’s under 20 bucks. It’s pretty inexpensive.
Here’s what the mom volunteers do with that deer mesh. They cut a piece of deer mesh that is the size of the wall space where they want to hang to artwork. To anchor the deer mesh to the walls they use gaffer’s tape. G-A-F-F-E-R-‘-S. It’s important that you get the name brand because the off brand stuff just doesn’t do the trick. Gaffer’s tape is what they use on movie sets to hold down cords, so you know the stuff is very strong. They use the gaffer’s tape both at the top of the deer mesh and at the bottom to anchor the deer mesh to the wall. From there they simply use clothespins to hang the artwork. That’s it. I never find artwork on the floor when we go about hanging this in this method. I cannot recommend it enough. The great thing is of course is that you can use the clothes pins year after year, so that’s a one time purchase, and same with the net.
What my teachers do when they … I actually asked the classroom teachers, kindly of course, to take down the artwork and distribute it back to the students who place it in portfolios that have been made by RTAs. The teachers usually leave the deer mesh up because they love it since they can then hang student artwork on it. Those teachers that decide to take it down, they usually just fold it back up neatly and either give it back to me or they keep it themselves, which is great, because like I said, we can then use it year after year. I hope that answers your questions Cattie. Great question. I know that’s like the mystery that every art teacher has to solve, that how do we get artwork to stay on the wall. Deer mesh, gaffer’s tape, clothes pins. The end.
My next question is about felting. “I see that you do a lot of felting on your blog. Can you tell me what are your favorite supplies and where do you purchase them from?” Great question. Now I’m going to approach this question in two ways. From both as person who’s a crafter who just loves to do this on the side, and for somebody who wants to teach this to their students.
If you’re somebody who’s just interested in needle felting on your own, I would hop on Amazon and get yourself a Clover needle felting tool. It’s a little pink tool, it’s about the size of in ink pen and it has three needles sticking out of it. I love it because it’s so easy to hold. You’ll also need a cushion if you’re a needle felting. A surface to needle felt on. Something that’s going to have a little bit of a give so when you’re doing the stabbing motion, which is what needle felting is, your needles won’t break. And again, the cushion you’ll want to get, it’s going to look like a scrub brush, it can be found on Amazon and it’s made also by Clover.
Those two supplies would be great if you’re doing this on your own, however, purchasing a class set of that would get very costly. So I have two resources that you might want to look into. Personally I love Sue Bunch of Back to Back Fiber. She’s great. She’s provided a lot of class kits, so if you’re interested in doing that with students, she can hook you up with a much more inexpensive way to teach needle felting than it is to purchase those more expensive supplies.
Also, Natasha, who owns a place called Esther’s Place, is another great resource. Both of them are very quick to respond on email and can definitely do a better job of answering any questions you might have as these two ladies are pros and I cannot recommend working with them enough. As far as purchasing roving goes, you could purchase from those ladies, but you might also want to consider just looking locally. It’s always wonderful to support a local artist who’s creating their own wool roving to sell.
Once you get your needle felting supplies, I have a lot of needle felting projects on both my blog and my YouTube channel and there’s a ton of resources out there. You will absolutely love needle felting. You definitely got to give it a shot. Great questions guys, keep them coming. Please feel free to send any of your questions my way. You can find me at email@example.com.
So what’s the very first thing you are going to do on your winter break? I think I’m going to make a list of all the relaxing things, the ways I’m going to unwind. I’m going to make that list because I’m a big time lister. I love making lists, especially to do lists. I rarely do what’s on the list but it always makes me feel good to jot it down and just dream about maybe one day accomplishing getting to the bank or the post office. Why don’t they have the same hours we do? I just don’t get it. Whatever.
So I’m going to make a list of all of the things I’ve been putting off that are going to help me relax. And then I’m going to go to that other list, my reflecting list, but I’m going to wait a couple of days before doing that. And then when we go back we get to press that reset button without the really annoying Frogger song. I hope you all have a wonderful, relaxing, reflective break and that you’re ready to hit that reset button come the brand new year. Thank you so much for joining me today guys. It was so much fun chatting with you. Have a terrific week and a wonderful winter break.
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.