Sunday, February 26, 2017

Culture Impacts Everything, Even High School Art Competitions

I just finished helping put on a regional competition at my school. Nowhere else do you see what is going on in our society so clearly as at a show where kids are getting prizes. This was a regional juried art show that leads to a state competition. I wish it was as prestigious as it sounds.

First, for some reason visual arts is the only group that exists in our state that has a state level competition outside of University Interscholastic League-which means to most administrators we are virtually invisible. In order to counter that, some teachers in Houston organized a regional competition under the umbrella of Texas Art Education Association. It started out as a simple, good idea. It was an outlet for students at the high school level to show off their artwork and perhaps experience some interesting workshops.

But, as with all good things, it has outgrown it's original purpose. Just like our Federal government, many of the same officials who began the organization are still in charge. They have moved up the food chain to become Art Coordinators and are thus far removed from what is expected in the average classroom today. And just like any other administrator, they pile on more expectations without considering the endgame.

Secondly, there's the website to consider. This website was drawn up and created about eight years ago. In internet terms, it's a dinosaur. There are countless links, drop down boxes, and mazes of vaguely labeled pages. This is the first clue that things are not as simple as they seem. Just finding the correct page to print a list of names requires the investigative skills of Sherlock Holmes. Trying to use them, since they were all composed with what appears to be a Windows 95 mindset, requires the patience of Job.

In a world where we are urged to move to paperless solutions, we, the hosts of the competition, went through no fewer than 20 reams of different colored paper to print labels, forms, judging forms, teacher forms, disqualification forms and more. The website, which I already mentioned was outdated, glitched and printed three of every single form. Three. So we had to spend about three hours Friday night removing and discarding duplicate forms, then filing them alphabetically. Needless to say this was time consuming at a time when we had many other things to do.

Did I mention in my district we're virtually invisible no matter how well we do? Only two out of 70 art teachers from our district and five out of 200 teachers in our school signed up for paid positions to help us. We asked, we cajoled, we begged, we gave them free lunch...not even our district art coordinator-who's paid far more than I am-could bother to show up to say hi at a regional event that included every single high school she allegedly coordinates. It's like we're the Wallendas and there's no net.

Worse still is that students must have forms on the back and their teachers were clearly informed of this fact months ago. Yet, probably 20 percent of the teachers came wandering in to ask about printing entry forms and even reference resource photos on site. Isn't it bad enough that our current students don't read directions--do we really need instructors modeling that type of behavior? But I digress

Third, is the behavior of the teachers was overall okay. But as with anything ten percent of the people cause ninety percent of the problems. I've already mentioned the problem with forms. Forms have been on the website since November. There's no excuse for people to show up for a regional, 2000 student plus event sans the required documentation. Yet, there it was. I was running the control room from the library and I had no less than ten requests to print multiple forms, images and such. What is more, on work that should have come from photos taken by the student, teachers were actively changing the images! But, because they whined and because the state president was there, it was insisted we print everything. No personal responsibility there.

Fourth, at Qualifications, where the size, media, artist name and forms are verified a girl's drawing, which was good, was disqualified because she told the worker she got the image from a Google image in direct opposition to the rules stating "all photo sources must be original to the student or directed by the student." Even old family photos are no longer acceptable. (I know-draconian measures but we've had SO MANY PEOPLE plagiarize copyrighted works that there was no other option.) The girl ran off with her form to her teacher who then pulled off the photo, said it was his mistake it was on there and that it was an image "from her mind." Jeez. Students were supposed to go to Forms first-to check their forms and then Qualifications to check their image. This was outlined to teachers via emails,  maps and signs. Many students simply skipped Qualification because they and their teachers KNEW their documentation would be DQ'd. This meant that at the input level, we underpaid wage slaves in the control room had to chase down images to get them requalified.

All these things take time. Did I mention the website was outdated and glitchy? After getting the scoring forms, the scores had to be in put into the official website. The website would be fine for a few minutes then go down for no reason. Since I was in control room I was filling in wherever logjams cropped up. Input was slow but steady. As we finished that job, the score papers were separated into stacks by teacher. Also artwork that was not going on to Area competition, which was the afternoon segment, was being returned to designated areas for teacher to retrieve later at a specific time. This was stated to the teachers, who were supposed to sign up for Remind-a texting messaging program. So why were teachers showing up, taking papers,  before the time? What happened then was we found that some of the runner had not turned over scoring papers to the input people. So we needed to go back through the stacks and find them so we could balance the number of works scored with the total number by adding in the DNA's. We had a list of forty artworks where no papers were found. I suspected one teacher, a particularly unpleasant sort who complained about one of the nicest judges and who had a parent try to file a lawsuit last year, of taking papers from her stack and showing them to the students before authorized. Four of her pieces were on the list of missing scores. This will be important later.

We finally made it to Area judging. I never got to see a single piece. While this judging is going on teachers are picking up other works and their papers and I'm organizing for them to pick up medals. The database prints a medal count supposedly in real time. It's getting later and later-I've been at the school since 5:30 AM. The administrator in charge is antsy to go and starts locking doors, shutting down restrooms and hallways. She insists we move my entire medals set up to the cafeteria. I need a printer to get the latest print out of receipts with medals. She finds one and I'm told that Area judging is nearly done. Because we have three buses of kids still hanging out, I opt to print and get as many medals as possible and send the rest to them this week. Most teachers understand. But the teacher mentioned before gets all huffy to the point that she has our principal copy the eight sheets showing her kids got a certain score which is not reflected in the receipt I have because not all the data has gone through. THOSE PAGES WERE THE ONES WE WERE MISSING BECAUSE SHE TOOK THEM WHICH IS WHY THE NUMBERS ARE SCREWED UP! I have never before been so tempted to punch a woman in the face.

We bag medals with help of a few kind souls who see there's no way one person can do this. All the other paid staff bailed at 6:00PM and it's now 8:00. If we don't want to be there until midnight the numbers have to be taken NOW. So I tell people, give me your contact information on the receipt and I'll contact you and get you the medals. The same people who brought every single one of their students (more than half the total at the event) are the ones who bitched the most. They are also the ones who repeatedly produced the most problematic and questionable works. They go out the door and we four teachers spend the next two hours taking down signs, picking up trash, moving the art that is advancing to a safe space.

At the end I am so tired I can't feel my feet. What should be a fun, exciting experience for students and teachers was neither. I not only don't want to put on this event again, I don't even want to urge students to participate. I don't want to go to the state event in San Antonio and I certainly do not ever ever ever want to see the self-serving teachers who made this such a miserable event . We worked so hard. We got food trucks, on site macarons and ice cream, snow cones and more. We did it without our administration doing much and in fact coaches and directors actively tried to stop us. What should be an honor for our school is tarnished because nobody, NOBODY in this district or this organization give art teachers the same kind of support they give every other subject. I was so tired I was too tired to eat or sleep. All I could do is sit while my legs ache and my heart is so heavy because it is evident that no matter how hard we try or I try, we are taken for granted.

When I retire, which is coming probably next year, I will run off this and send this to every single member of TAEA because until someone tells them what a huge mess they have created, nothing will change. Until then, I'll keep this handy. I want to remember why our schools are the way they are and why our culture is at risk. And a culture where people can simply ignore rules, or worse, set up rules for some that others don't have to obey, is a culture where elitism will always occur. We see that with our government, with power trips around the world. That this organization would allow some teachers to bully others who are simply trying to put on a damned high school art competition demonstrates how low people can go. There's really nothing left anymore but for everyone to be selfish and contentious over everything. I give up. Oh and by the way, if you are a state level official showing up to oversee a regional show, sitting around schmoozing with your besties in the breakroom is not the way to help. Get up, stop making exceptions and HELP.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Tit for Tat

I am not sure how the namecalling, the labels and epithets further this national dialogue. How does littering my Facebook page with "liked" articles calling the president Hitler and subscribing those who voted for him as bigots and geeks do anything to knit together this broken nation? For eight years I watched as everything I had done for years-being a mother, being a wife, being a good citizen, being patriotic, supporting our military and police-was called into question. I am not naive enough to believe 100% of any group is good or evil, but the repetitive drone and smears of the Left are making me not dislike them as a group, but avoid them as individuals.

My sister in law lives in a million dollar home on the beach in California. Her husband has a hefty pension paid for by the state of California. Basically they are highly funded welfare cases. She's a liberal. Today she posted on my Facebook a lengthy diatribe calling Trump Hitler and vilifying those who didn't blindly choose to vote for a deeply flawed Hillary Clinton. This daily harangue, some of it deliberate disinformation and misinformation, has legs.

My grandson's mother has half sisters and family in Seattle. Since discovering her family roots, she has decided to embrace a strident leftist tone. She has talked about taking her sons to the local women's march. I know the kind of signs and "costumes" are out there. My grandson can read-because he's smart as a whip. I don't want him exposed to this toxic spew of hatred.

My other sister in law lives in Aurora. Her husband pays all their bills. They spend to the limits of their credit. She's a liberal and also lobs FB bombs at me.

I'm not one who likes launching grudges, but why is it okay for them to throw all of this at me and I am not permitted by the social conventions and something I like to call "manners" from dishing back in kind. So I've dumped them both, coming short of blocking them just in case in their childless states they need help.

I'll dial 911 for them.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A helpful list....

Below is a helpful list of contacts should you be tired of what passes for humor on various shows lately,most notably Saturday Night Live. Feel free to use it and share. Let your opinions be known. Ironically I picked this up from a liberal website.

Both Facebook and twitter accounts are included. Have at it. This is not over.

Kohl’s - @kohls

Campbell’s - @campbells

State Farm - @statefarm

Cheerios (General Mills) - @cheerios @generalmills 

T-Mobile - @Tmobile

NBC Sunday Night Football (NFL) - @SNFonNBC

Lincoln Motor Company - @LincolnMotorCo

Toyota - @Toyota

Sensodyne - @Sensodyne_US

Sears - @Sears

Kia Motors - @Kia

Metro PCS - @MetroPCS

Sprint - @sprint

Farmers Insurance - @wearefarmers

Nissan - @NissanUSA

Time Warner Cable - @TWC

Lexus - @Lexus

Korean Air - KoreanAir_KE

Audi - @Audi

Honda - @Honda

Neutrogena - @Neutrogena

FAGE Total Greek Yogurt - @FAGEUSA

Payless ShoeSource - @PaylessInsider

Wells Fargo - @WellsFargo

TJ Maxx - @tjmaxx

Yoplait - @yoplait

Subaru - @subaru_usa

Swanson (Campbell’s) - 

University of Phoenix - @UOPX

La Quinta Inn - @LaQuintaInn

Olay - @OlayUS

GMC - @ThisIsGMC

Target - @Target


Microsoft - @Microsoft

Subway - @Subway

Redds’s Apple Ale - @Reddsappleale

Hyundai - @Hyundai

National Geographic - @Natgeo

PlayStation (Sony) - @PlayStation

Sony - @Sony

Johnson & Johnson – @JNJNews

Jack Daniel’s - @JackDaniels_US

Ford - @Ford

Morongo - @MorongoCasino

Disney - @Disney

Disney Aulani - @DisneyAulani

JC Penney - @jcpenney

X-Box - @Xbox
Mercedez-Benz @Mercedesbenz

GE - @generalelectric

American Express - @AmericanExpress

Cover Girl - @covergirl

POM - @pomwonderful

Old Navy - @oldnavy

Head and Shoulders - @headshoulders

Jeep - @jeep

Verizon - @verizon

Absolut - @absolutvodka

HBO - @hbo

Macy’s - @macys

Hulu - @hulu

Axe - @axe

Tide - @tide

Aflac - @aflac

Kit Kat (Hershey’s) - @kitkat

Hershey’s - @hersheys

Guitar Hero (Activision) - @guitarhero

Activision - @activision

Ross - @Ross_Careers_ny

El Pollo Loco - @ElPolloLoco

Supercuts - @Supercuts

Bud Light - @budlight

Grub Hub - @grubhub

Amazon - @amazon

AMC - @amc_tv
Jack in the Box - @jackbox

Wienerschnitzel - @wienerschnitzel

Men’s Wearhouse - menswearhouse

Hilton Hotels - @hiltonhotels

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tired of this......

I wish this was hypothetical.

I have a senior student, we'll call him Bill.
Bill is in an advanced studio class, which should be a signal he like art and has done some of the previous classes successfully. Bill stopped working in the middle of the first semester. He didn't do half of the projects and didn't turn in the digital portfolio, which is the semester exam. This semester I emailed parents, counselors and principals that the student was over-engaged with his phone and wasn't working in class. My previous interaction with parents and administrators led to nothing but more aggression, so I decided to shape the class where the student could work as he chose, as long as he turned in work. I gave three weeks worth of project and allowed students to work in any order they chose as long as a project was turned in every week.

He turned in nothing, but spent plenty of time on his phone. When I asked what preparation work he had done, he replied he was working at home. The end of the semester is here and he has produced nothing and has one of the lowest scores I've ever given. I don't know what more a teacher can do than give students assignments and expect them to turn in work. I try to design engaging pieces. We did covers for CD's and poster sized printouts. And yet somehow in spite of that I fear the blame will fall on me.

Just last week the mandate went out for all students to upload work to their portfolios (not the art one-the one they are supposed to keep as "a district of innovation." And when said students hadn't uploaded work, it was blamed on teachers. I presented information three times. Yet it appears that students are to bear no burden for their work or their responsibilities.

Saturday, January 07, 2017


Once again, I face the task of dismantling Christmas. I admit to being sentimental. I have the nativity set I bought piece by piece from Avon when my kids were small. I set it out each year, surrounded with angels in its own little environment. I have the crafty glitter-laden ornaments my children made, the marbled ones my daughter and I made more recently and a collection of ornaments dating back from our first Christmas as a married couple (we found a tree on Christmas Eve, thrown out by a nearby office and an old string of lights which ended up burning the carpet of our apartment) We didn't have a star that first year, so I illustrated one. It still tops our tree. There's ornaments for the times our children were baseball players, dancers, musicians. And in taking down these memories from our tree, I wonder who will collect them when I am gone.

Each of these pieces were a part of our family. Yet my children don't seem interested in pursuing the idea of children. I know they would be great parents. My son and his wife are wonderful people. My daughter and her husband are great with kids. But it doesn't seem as if they are even considering becoming parents. Perhaps it has to do with their economic struggles. All these thirty somethings work hard at jobs that offer little real security or long term promise. Although they've paid off student loans and bought houses, they all seem more interested in acquiring things than being parents. Perhaps it is selfish of me, but I feel that becoming a parent has been the making of my youngest son. I truly don't think you can look beyond yourself until someone else depends on you for everything. But my grandson lives with his mom and step-father. Any memories we would leave him probably wouldn't be especially valued by him because his mother wasn't involved.

I look at the shiny balls and smiling angels and wonder if they will end up as just a lot sold as antique in some shop. Or worse, I fear that my memories and theirs will simply end up in a landfill, forgotten. I don't want to be the stereotypical Mom who asks when I'm going to have grandkids but golly, I see families with far less having kids out the door. I want someone to carry on. I want someone to remember us. I want a baby to love and spoil unconditionally.

In our nation, the birthrate is dropping. I think too many of the next generation have decided it's not worth the time and bother to become parents. That's sad because that kind of love simply doesn't exist outside of becoming a parent. Maybe things will change. Right now, I'm pretty sad.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

What Should Be Celebrated?

I understand celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, graduations and retirements.
I understand celebrating holidays of all kinds-religious and not.
I understand celebrating days honoring people like George Washington, Martin Luther King and other heroes.

But I do not understand why my school is literally celebrating autism.
In the same way some in the deaf culture appear to want to isolate themselves based on their disability, it appears that some people on the spectrum (or more realistically, their parents) want to make autism appear not just to be normal, but to be desirable. Hence, my school now has banners "Celebrating Autism."

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Even in my school we've started various weeks of celebration for African Americans, Hispanics, not Asian yet although they outnumber Hispanics in my school, LGBT and a variety of other special snowflake holidays that not only seem to "celebrate" but to promote diversity at all costs. Indeed, I'm seeing more divisions than I did before. But these circumstances are not the same as a disability that can often rob a person of the ability to function.

So what next? Will we be "Celebrating Spina Bifida?" What about "Celebrating Cerebral Palsy"-how come Autism gets this kind of fake boost when it is something that we should want to counter with proper education and training instead of treating it like a party trick when a kid melts down in class?

This appears to be more of the same nonsense that wants us to pare down expectations for everyone in order to accommodate the few