Clay: Hard Work but So Worth It

One of the challenges of studio work is organizing “messy” materials with large classes.  Some teachers might be hesitant to work with paint or clay because of the possibility that the materials won’t be used properly, clean-up will be too difficult, kiln firings will interfere with the class schedule, the list is endless.

The bonus of working with these materials is waiting beyond fear.

Today, I was able to phone a parent whose child discovered an unknown talent that had been waiting for the potters wheel.  As soon as he began centering his clay and forming his first bowl, I could see that something was different in the way he worked.  Pure talent.  I can’t wait to see what else he creates.


Tomorrow, I get to phone another parent because of what I’ve seen when her child works with the coil technique.  Beautifully formed vessels that are structurally sound and so much larger than I can create.  So unexpected, and so refreshing!


Right now, both of my grade 9 classes are working with clay, which means that I need to make sure that there is enough material ready for over 50 students.  Organizing this much clay is keeping me on my toes, but it’s been so much easier to recycle used clay since I began using our pug mill.

Until this year, I’ve had to soak any clay that dried-out, and wedge it all by hand.  Sometimes it was too much for me, and I ended up hurting myself which meant that I had to ask my students for help or accept defeat and postpone using clay for a while.

Everything has changed this year.  I’d been saving old, dry clay for *years* and I’m so happy that I can breathe new life into some old dusty bricks.

An unexpected bonus is the ability to participate in an Empty Bowls fundraiser next month, which will benefit our Legion and our Food Bank.  It makes a huge difference for students when they know that someone will need to eat soup out of the bowl they make!

I am so grateful for the funding that was provided for purchasing our pug mill, and I hope that our community benefits from the work we do in the studio.  In a small way, I hope to pay it forward, and to share this story with my students while they create.



Posted in Art Education | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Keep It Simple. (thanks, Rachel)

I wanted to share a few things because they stood out to me, and maybe they’ll stand out for you too.  The first is an image, shared by @Alison on Instagram:

Sometimes I get a bit caught up in trying out new things.  Which lead to more things.  Soon, I’ve got so many things to keep track of, I don’t know how to handle it all.  That’s basically been my life over the past 5 years, and I’m learning how to keep things simple.  My health requires it, and my family deserves it.  And so do I.

Six days ago, as I was tidying up, I somehow made my back unhappy and it didn’t let me off the couch for about four days.  While in my couch “time-out”, I had the time to watch a few movies, dig in to “Girl, Wash Your Face“, by Rachel Hollis, and I even listened to a few podcasts (also by Rachel — holy cow, she is a creative force).

One page stood out above all the rest:

I stopped.  I think I might have even held my breath a little.  How did Rachel know this feeling?  Goosebumps.

I haven’t been painting for months:  there is always something else to do.  Work, of course, and cleaning, and bringing the kids to lessons, and…, and… .  How is it that I let the most important to-do item fall to the bottom of my list?

My friend Liz (a retired teacher who is adventuring and teaching in China) spoke to me about using our gifts, and that there is a reason why they’ve been given to us.  It’s true — when I create, and especially when I paint, I feel that I am living life to its fullest.  In a way, it’s a bit of a selfish feeling, but I also feel closest to God in those moments.  And I miss it.  In this way, Rachel is right:  it is a way to worship, to reach closer.

Now, to carve out the time.




Posted in Art Education | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Take 10 Minutes

Take 10 minutes and go for a walk.  This is one of the suggestions provided by my therapist today.  I think it’s important to share this with you for two reasons:

  1. It really is important to go for a walk, even if it’s a short one.
  2. We need to mention therapy more often.  If we talk about it, perhaps it will become more normalized and people would benefit from getting help when we need it.


Although some of our conversations have improved, and we encourage “others” to talk about mental health (think about #BellLetsTalk Day), we rarely discuss our own mental health.  There are a variety of reasons for this, including social awkwardness and the potential of sharing too much information.  I get it.  There’s a time and place for everything.  But where and when do we have these conversations?

So, I’m having one.  Actually, I’m having a few.  Last week, I asked my doctor about therapy, and he was more than happy to book a referral.  Until then, I learned more about my workplace EAP (Employee Assistance Program), and had my first over-the-phone session this evening.  Surprisingly, it went rather well, although I had been disappointed that there were no face-to-face options for our area.


View this post on Instagram

i love therapy. therapy is the best goddamn thing i ever did for my mental health. i treasure all of it, the hard moments, the scary moments, even my bad therapists managed to teach me something in the end. therapy still has a stigma around it. sometimes when i’ve mentioned to someone that i attend therapy, they ask “why?” get that uncomfortable look, and i sense their gears turning, trying to figure out what’s wrong with me, haha. “because i’m mentally ill and i’m working on myself”, i say. sometimes it gets awkward, but most times it opens up some real, vulnerable conversations. i love when that happens. so i always make a point of saying “i’m off to therapy, i’ll be back in two hours”, when i left school or work to go to an appointment. because that’s what i do if i have an appointment at my dentist or physician, and there’s noting unusual about that, so why should therapy be any different ? i’m proud of the steps i take in therapy, i’m proud to see progress, even if it’s slow. therapy is cool 🌈 • • • #mentalhealth #mentalillness #mentalhealthawareness #psynligt #nostigma #mentalhealthwarrior #recovery #schizophrenia #eatingdisorders #bulimia #anorexia #ptsd #borderline #bpd #ocd #bipolar #bipolardisorder #anxiety #depression #pain #chronicillness #adhd #art #digitalart #artistsoninstagram #comic #crazyheadcomics

A post shared by ⭐️ 𝒎𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒍𝒅𝒂 ⭐️ (@crazyheadcomics) on

What are your thoughts about mental health?  Do you talk about it?  Are there people you feel more comfortable talking to?  Have you talked with a therapist?  Have you benefited from using your EAP?


Posted in Art Education | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Have You Participated in a TLLP Project? Please Share Your Experience(s) with Technology!

Next month, Leanne Oliver and I will be leading a session for new TLLP groups.

We are going to provide a variety of technology options for these new groups, such as Google Tools, Flipgrid, TeachOntario, Twitter, Telligami, etc., but we would prefer to have a collection of stories from our PLN!

Use the comment section below to share your story:

  • When did you begin your TLLP?
  • What was the experience like?
  • How did technology help you share your learning?
  • What worked well, and what didn’t?
  • What advice can you give to new TLLP participants, re: technology?

When you have shared your story/advice, please share this blog post (feel free to tag other people who might help too).  It would be great to provide some solid options for our new TLLP groups!

Thanks so much 🙂

Posted in Art Education, Ed tech, Education, technology, TLLP | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Benefits of a Flexible Workplace Day

The transition between semesters is hectic, to say the least.  High school teachers enjoy tying up any loose ends from first semester, marking culminating tasks and/or exams, calculating final marks, writing report cards, and preparing for new courses that begin in semester two.  This is why I wanted to take advantage of a Flexible Workplace day; to have the freedom to stay at home if need be, and to focus on a course that I haven’t taught before.  I knew that a lack of planning would affect my stress levels, and that’s the last thing anyone needs at this time of year.  Or any time of year.  *I also knew that my friend Lindy would be presenting to new teacher candidates at Lakehead University and I couldn’t wait to hang out.


While Lindy shared her presentation in the Bora Laskin auditorium, I began preparing my Course of Study for ICS2O (Introduction to Computer Studies, Grade 10).  It was my opportunity to text my Principal a number of times as I refreshed my memory on the requirements for courses of study, since I hadn’t had to write a new one for some time.

Later, I stopped in at my high school to speak with Sam, our Information Technology Services Technician, who sorted through a variety of computer parts to help me build a collection of equipment that could be used in my course.  Not only did we begin preparing a rough plan for the first few weeks with Computer Studies students, but we discussed his role and how his post-secondary education related to his work.  He also agreed to visit my class to share his knowledge with students!


I left school *early* (because I could), and because I had arranged to meet with Peter McAsh and Doug Peterson, my two friends (and superstars from ECOO).  When I found out that I would be teaching ICS2O, they were the first people I contacted.  I have relied on their amazing support for years, and I wasn’t about to stop asking for help now!  😉

We reviewed a long list of resources that they had been sharing with me over the past while, and they helped me gain a better understanding of the overall flow of the course.  I could feel my stress levels subsiding as my familiarity with expectations grew.



So, I guess this post is a bit of a thank-you note.  Thanks to our union for negotiating a day that respects teachers and allows them to use time that suits them best.  Thanks to my Principal for allowing me to use this day the way I needed.  Thank you to Doug and Peter, for helping me wrap my head around this course (and for the constant hand-holding that will probably be needed through this semester).  Thanks to Sam for helping me prepare the equipment that we will need for hands-on learning and for your courage to come and speak to my students.



Posted in Art Education | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

One Word 2018

I’m not sure if there is a term for the kind of moment that helped me realize what my #oneword2018 would be, but maybe someone who reads this post will be able to help me find it.  What is it that happens when we finally allow ourselves to relax and to drift, to forget about our daily stresses and allow our minds to wander?  Those moments when we are just about to fall asleep, or when we are driving a familiar road and we begin to daydream — where new ideas are formed, and we connect what seem to be distant thoughts that become an entirely new creature.

Yesterday, my family and I went to see the movie Star Wars:  The Last Jedi and at one point I found myself emotional because I had been pulled into the story and found myself connecting to one character’s desperate need for hope.  In the middle of a movie theatre, I found what I needed to move forward, whether it was the realization that I yearned for hope or that I loved the feeling of wandering and getting lost for a time, I’m not sure.  Maybe both.



Image credit:

Posted in Art Education | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Too Much

This year has been tough.  I discovered that I have limits because I pushed myself past them; my commitments, projects and goals became too much as I began to cope with a variety of health concerns in my family, including my own.

For the first time in my teaching career, I was overwhelmed — but it took me a while to understand the reasons why.  I neglected the professional goals that I set for myself this past summer because I couldn’t even think about work.  In fact, I still haven’t opened the two books I planned to read during July and August.  Usually I love diving in to new ideas and challenges have always excited me.  That’s not the case right now.

The beginning of this school year didn’t feel the same way as other years; the excitement was somehow muted because I couldn’t seem to fight my way through sadness and anxiety.  It felt a bit like being under water while everyone else was on dry land.  Sights, sounds and even movement became clouded and murky.

Thankfully, I have had people I could turn to, who would listen without judgment and offer compassion.  As much as we hear about the importance of talking to others when you’re struggling, it is a seemingly impossible task when you’re the one who needs to talk.

Look for the silver lining.  There are people who are going through much worse than you.  Other people are busy with their own problems, they don’t need to hear yours.  If you tried hard enough, you would find a way through this.  It’s not that big of a deal.  There are thousands of ways I could convince myself not to make that phone call to my little sister, or to text a friend.  These moments are the hardest:  coming to terms with the extent of your problems and needs, and accepting them enough to reach out — and to fight the fear that the person you talk to won’t be able to (or want to) help.

My family and I have begun to focus on our health, something that requires a bit more effort and planning than we have been willing to sacrifice in the past.  My daughter and I began working together on a side project that was completely different than anything we had done before.  I’ve needed to readjust my sails and rethink my priorities, sometimes a few times a day.  Joyful moments are slowly finding their ways back in to our lives and I will do my best to welcome them with open arms.

To my family and friends who support me, thank you.  Some of you have held me through some of my raw moments, and your kindness means everything to me.

If you are struggling in any way, and find it difficult to cope, take a moment.  Or two.  Or as many as you need.  Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to accept love from others.  Don’t forget to talk.  A lot.

Posted in Art Education | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments