Thursday, August 7, 2014

Let the planning commence!!!


My Erin Condren Teacher Planner arrived in yesterday's mail!!!! WOOO!!!!! Decided to do a video for the unboxing so you can see what I selected for my own customized Teacher Planner. 

If YOU are interested in getting an Erin Condren Teacher Planner. I have some coupon codes that will save you $10 - that's about the cost of domestic shipping (that I got and is the cheapest option) + a few more bucks savings. Two of them are general use and one is a teacher coupon code that expires. Please see below for codes...

:: Coupon Codes for $10 off ::
Automated referral code so I can get product credits https://www.erincondren.com/referral/invite/andreaellwood0211-7505 
Teacher Coupon code, expires midnight PST on 10/15/2014 =>TLP1014TXG9EJWUL 
First Time ordering code, no expiration date =>WELCOME10
[If you want to read the rest of my review that would have been included in my video, click through to get through the break! Thanks!]

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Working my way back

Hello everyone! Hope you all are enjoying your summer with however you are selecting to spend it. Despite my best intentions to spend my own summer doing things of relaxation and leisure, I have been doing nothing of the sort. :-p Sometimes divine callings and the complicated demands of life simply require things that deviate from your best laid plans. 

Despite the aforementioned, I'm definitely thinking about the start of school (in less than 25 days!) and returning to the classroom AND blogging here. *YAY!* As always, I have grand dreams and great intentions. However... it's safe to say that that sort of stuff always lands me within my own embarrassing failures (AND in front of quite the audience at that). I'm doing my best to avoid the previous though and one way that I have learned aids in such prevention is coming up with a reasonably sound and executable plan. Does this make me sound like someone who lacks the ability to dream and spontaneously create? (Which is an individual who is far from the one I have known myself to be most of my life) I don't know. All I do know is that I have learned very much that it IS true that failure to plan all too often lends to me planning to fail no matter how/what I might intend, hope for, dream of, or scramble to make happen. 

All of this said, this coming year marks the 9th year of my teaching career and the 7th year at my current school where I am in my 2nd year as department head but incidentally? It will be my FIRST year as the sole Visual Art Teacher and having my very own classroom (though I had my own classroom years ago when I was in public school). 

It's all very exciting but also quite daunting at the same time. I'm going to be teaching all of the courses that I have been teaching in addition to three other intermediate/advanced courses. I will also be working closely with the principal and the academic dean to "chart" a better path for the visual art curriculum which will likely involve a huge overhaul of the courses offered (including new course descriptions, clearly defined and communicated study "paths" for art students to navigate, and other things that fall into the realms of "etc."). Does all of this sound a little like chaos waiting to happen? I am being realistic and saying that it quite possibly does. Still, I'm determined to take all of what I have learned and know I'm able to do in order to steady myself so that when the waters (that I'm metaphorically on) start becoming choppy, I don't end up so motion sick that I cannot do what I am determined to try and do - which is stay the course!

For the past couple of months, I've been anticipating all of the things that I know I will need to do better and one of those things is being more organized, concrete in my forward thinking ways, and documenting all of because my memory and retention isn't nearly what it used to be. Truth be told, I don't use a Teacher Planning book despite trying to use one year after year only to have the thing be crushed at the bottom of my teacher tote bag before even half the year has arrived. In thinking back on my failed attempts to do this better (because I NEED to do this and I don't deny it), I came to some conclusions about what my natural work habits are and how to adhere to those so that it's not such a chore to do classroom and teacher planning.

One thing in particular that I learned is that the teacher planners/organizers that I have used in the past aren't that well suited for the curriculum/content that I teach and/or the approach that I take in the classroom. I was able to identify the things that I believed would be essential for the unique things that I sort of require that seemed like they should be readily available. I set out to find a teacher planner that would as many of these things as possible and despite my best efforts (and they're pretty decent and it's safe to say that if something is out there I. WILL. FIND. IT.), I was turning up empty handed and becoming increasingly frustrated. 

As things happened, I was about to give up after MONTHS of dealing with this and then I finally found what I believe is a bit of a "holy grail" for my finicky teacher planning needs... HELLO, ERIN CONDREN TEACHER PLANNERS!!!!!!


I don't know where these things have been and why I haven't ever heard of them before but I know about them now and I have already ordered my own planning book and I am IMPATIENTLY awaiting its arrival - that should come just in time for teachers work week a week and a half BEFORE the first day of school. 

Please know that I'm not plugging this product because I'm getting any sort of compensation from them at all and I haven't even gotten mine yet (but I hope to share an initial review and then follow-up review eventually) about my thoughts on it. If you know anything about Erin Condren products, you might note that they are a bit on the pricy side but honestly? I am not a big shopper and so when I do spend money, I am always willing to have it be something that is worth the money (however much it might be) so that I don't have to spend any more money again because I have to replace what was supposed to work to begin with. 

I've ordered my Erin Condren teacher planner and I'm so excited to get it soon!!! If you don't need a teacher planner, she also has a life planner (that's still pretty amazing if you ask me) and a wedding planner (also amazing and I recently bought one for a friend as her engagement gift). If you are interested in ordering an Erin Condren planner (of any type) too, you can do so and get a $10 coupon toward it by way of THIS LINK (which is a referral link from me and it allows me to accrue credits toward my next year's planner). 

Anyway, I'll let you know when I get my planner but just wanted to pop on here to say hi with an update of how things are in my niche of the world and also let you know that I am certainly interested (and thinking deeply about!) how I will get back on here more often than not (at all). 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Please continue to hold -- Thank you!

Original works of art by my almost 6yo daughter (left) and an artist I just love named Katie M. Berggren (right)
Popping on here to say hello just to see how you all are doing (albeit) without me.

Despite the quietness that has remained here on the blog, plenty has been going on for me! In my time away, I have still managed to occupy myself with more than enough that makes it even harder for me to want to come back - though I AM wanting to do that eventually and not just close this blog completely.

In my time away, I have come to realize how important it is to take the leave of absence that I have. I haven't been here on this blog and I even "pulled the plug" on my instagram as well!! My pause in blogging was something that I knew I needed but doing so on instagram too? That's something that just ended up happening just because I must say, it's been really Really REALLY nice. It's given me back something that I have lacked for quite too long - which is the real opportunity to be much more fully present in my life. Just as blogging stole that from my teaching and professional life, instagram definitely did that in my personal and family life. By taking myself offline though, I have reclaimed all of the things that I so willfully gave up without realizing that I ever did so in the first place.

I have a little more than a month and a half of teaching left and then I will be brought right to the start of summer - which already is chock full of all sorts of things to do. It's a wonderful and glorious thing to realize not only how full my life has become but also to not feel like I can't fully enjoy any of what I have been so blessed to receive. If you have ever considered taking a "leave of absence" from the online world? I would encourage you to not be afraid to just go for it. It will give back you in dividends what you never realized you were already giving endlessly of yourself within the virtual realms.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

What to do now and next

Hi! Sorry for not being around for a long while. I don't have any good excuse of how/why it happened like this other than to just note that I really really needed a break from this blog.

I have been blogging on and off (but mostly on) for over a decade now and (if you've never tried to before) it can be quite a lot of work getting in the habit, staying in the habit, and delivering fresh content. This is especially true for content specific or niche blogging (which is what I do here). After I finished my masters degree (about October/November time) I found that I really and truly needed a mental break from writing papers and doing research and trying to get back on the metaphorical horse after doing such an amazing amount of blogging last year was only harder because of the break that I needed. So? I took the break and that's why it's been so radio silent here.

So I'm back here today to post this but honestly? I don't know when I will be back again and I am still trying to pray about what to keep doing beyond me just feeling like I need to be still and focus on other things (than this blog). I find that by not blogging here, I am much more connected and present with my 5.5 year old daughter and husband and students. I am thinking a lot less about how to churn the life and art teaching on my everyday into blog content and more about just being fully present and focused. This year for the One Little Word campaign I decided on the word "treasure" and I think it's going to work much better than last year's word of "joy" because it's been a focus of mine most recently in what I do, how I do things, and how I regard things before me. I've become so much more aware of the need for me to have less of a life virtually and more of a life actually.

I have loved this blog so much but I really and truly feel like I will probably not return to the posting schedule I had last year because it made it really difficult for me to have the time and energy I now know I want to have for my family and my students and to serve my school community. Blogging so much also makes it difficult for me to create artwork for my own professional development. I haven't painted in months and having realized this I decided that I needed to change that by trying to do something of my own art creation because I was starting to feel stagnant.

I have never kept up with a sketchbook OR done watercolor painting in all of my life but I recently started to do both in an effort to get beyond my own prejudices and learn something new that I had previously been so staunchly against. I got a visual sketchbook for both myself and my daughter and we have been trying to do a page a night in our books with either ink and watercolor or just plain watercolor. We both have less than a half dozen finished pages but it's been amazing so far and I am amazed that I was ever so against daily art creation (like in a sketchbook or visual journaling) OR watercolor. I have been "doing it wrong" the whole time. Thankfully, I have seen the light.

A page I finished last evening in my journal after everyone in the house was sound asleep.
I know I don't want to abandon this blog but I also know that how I have done it in the past is not a way that I can keep doing it in the present or in the future. I have a lot of content on here and I am regularly getting unique hits because of people finding things I have archived in the way of art lesson project ideas. (I'm so glad that what I have shared continues to be so useful to others!) Still, well... maybe it's time for me to deliver less that ends up being much more because it has greater substance at least as it applies to what I originally create - either in my painted sketchbook or with my own explorations of the creative process, creative callings, or what I am learning about the art of teaching art.

In any case, I hope you all are doing well in your classrooms and with your own artwork. I have previously "preached" the importance of being an artist as being actively creating art pushing yourself to do better design and stretching your creativity. I think perhaps it's time for me to do that sort of thing rather than giving myself endlessly to the efforts of others, the development and understandings of their creative processes, and enabling them to create beautiful works of art. That's what I do every day and when I leave work, I need to do a better job of allowing myself the same sort of gift.

So, I'm not quitting this blog or even taking it offline in any way. It'll keep being here. I just might be here less often but perhaps at the same time with a more worthwhile presence.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Save the Dry Erase Markers!



At my school, we don't have blackboards and instead we have white/dry-erase boards. When I first came to this school over five years ago I was really excited about this fact because in public school I had blackboards that I had a real love-hate feeling toward for all of the reasons you might imagine if you have any experience dealing with blackboards. Still, having white/dry-erase boards wasn't nearly as awesome as I thought it would be. They soon became just as annoying to me as the blackboards were but just in different ways.

(Now, I understand this is totally a "first world problem" that I am referencing but just please bear with me.)

One of my biggest issues with having a whiteboard in class is the marker issue. Markers go missing all the time but if they aren't missing, we have issues with them because the ink seems to run out very quickly. For this reason, I barely use my whiteboard and I'm almost always fussing about not being able to actually use it.

All of this in mind, a week or so ago, I started noticing that even though I wasn't using my board, the markers would always be arranged and positioned the way they are pictured above. While it seemed a little strange that they were like that (and seemed to always be put back to be like that), I didn't think much of it and I wouldn't disturb them either. Then the other day, I found the individual who was putting them like that! It was a STUDENT ARTIST!!! And almost every day, if the markers weren't like that, he would arrange and position them like that. While in the midst of him doing it, I commented and laughed and said, "Oh YOU'RE the one who is doing that! I was wondering what was going on!" The student artist, who is actually also one of our star football players and who is a really big and burly guy and sits very close to my teaching station in the front of the room, smiled sheepishly and said, "Yeah... it's me." And then I asked him why he was doing it and he said, "Well... Mr. *so-and-so* does it all the time and it makes a big difference and makes it so the markers always have ink. It really does make a difference so I was trying to help you to have markers that wouldn't be so hard to use."

I gotta tell you - when he said this and said why he was doing it? It just about made my whole month and I feel like it's one of the nicest things any student has ever done for me - however small it might seem because it makes such a big difference. And OF COURSE it works, y'know? Because it helps to keep the ink flowing toward the writing tip vs. having it settle in the middle of the marker. Why didn't I think of that?

Anyway, surely you all have been doing this and I am the only one not doing this but I just wanted to share this little "feel good" anecdote because this kind of stuff is always nice to hear about in my book.


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