Leave the room better than you found it

Leave the room better than you found it

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In the final few days of my high school student teaching placement my classes were working on self-directed projects and I got a lot of eye rolls from my students because I wouldn’t give them all of the answers…there are very rarely definitive answers in art. We had learned and practiced watercolor techniques in making visual music paintings, so those skills were there for them to use as they liked. This was their chance to make art about 2-Pac, soccer, ghosts, K-Pop bands—whatever was interesting to them, and while some really ran with it, I had to hover over others. When you make more room for choice, students test minimalist approaches. They would come up to me and tell me that they were finished and I would tell them that they weren’t and point out why. There were steps on the project sheet and written on the board that they would completely skip so I started including random instructions on the board, like asking them to draw cats and pizza slices on the top of their worksheets. Still, even with what we were still lacking at the end of my eight weeks, we had come a long way. My cooperating teacher said that I taught him a lot about patience. My 5th grade Language Arts teacher always told us about how often while teaching she just had to remind herself that patience is a virtue. My professor, Dr. Anne Becker, has told us about how if she was having a bad day with a high school student she would try to picture them as a cute little kindergartener. My strategy is to remind myself and my students that we are all still learning.

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I moved on to A.G. Bell Elementary School this past week and set up a little desk space for myself in my new art room. I noticed the class rule “Leave the room better than you found it” right in front of me. I like to think that is what I accomplished at Senn. In elementary school, students are bit more transparent. A first grader excitedly welcomed me with a hug, exclaiming, “I love that you’re here!” Another young student jumped up and down when he saw me walking to my car after school and brought his mom over to meet me. Though I have a class of 8th graders that dress like they’ve walked off a TV show about high school in 1995, they aren’t as intimidating as some of my high schoolers were in the beginning.

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On my last day at Senn I cried after first period. I cried again after school. Again before I went to bed. And once more the next day. Some of my students couldn’t make it through a sentence without a swear word for their life and there had been days where we just had to agree to disagree, but I sure do miss them. Middle school has always been my favorite age because I love how honest their lack of emotional control is. By high school they are much more guarded, so it is pretty amazing when they start to let you know them. A super quiet student came in after school a couple of days to work on a painting while her boyfriend was at volleyball practice and she talked my ears off. Other students I learned about through the essay assignments they all complained about. I knew enough about all of them that I would have stayed much longer if I could have.


student’s self-directed project

While I doubt I got through to everyone, even on days when I didn’t feel very successful something was turning. My reviews are in, in the form of the thank you card my cooperating teacher passed around for my students to sign. These are a few of my favorite notes:

Life is a bitter pill to swallow. I don’t know. You were really cool and pretty relaxed and I got to learn a lot about paint. Thank you! *Hello Kitty face*

 …Don’t forget to get my mix tape when it drops.

You were a good teacher and spoke to us about more than [art], but about the future. Thanks for everything you’ve taught us.

Thank you for pushing me to do the best that I can.

Thank you for all the patience and effort you put into trying to improve our grades.

…My grades went up because of you which helped increase my GPA.

Ms. Crone you’re the first person to open my eyes to the delight of art, along with my brother. You opened up the box of my creativity, a creativity I didn’t even acknowledge…This experience has impacted me in a way nothing else has. Thank you for returning my creativity.

Thank you for not making me feel bad about how I draw :)

Thank you Ms. Crone. You taught us so much about art that we didn’t even know existed. Your daily enthusiasm for art really motivated us to do our best. We hope you get your teacher’s license and that life treats you well. P.S. We’re experts at watercolor now :)

I don’t like art, but you’ve made it fun and interesting! You will be missed <3



I was exhausted for at least five out the eight weeks I spent with my high school students. I’m starting to reach a balance, but there have been sacrifices along the way. I’ve missed a few birthday parties because when I spend most of my weekend days planning and grading so I can go out later I’m usually too tired in the end. I’ve gotten pretty lonely at times having time for little more than work and sleep. Before I play D&D with my friends now there is actually a designated “Teacher Tea Talk” where we have tea and I get out all of the good, bad and ugly of my teaching experiences. There have been quite a few difficult moments. But, I think I’ve looked at that card every day since I got it. Most of my students will never use the eleven watercolor techniques I taught them again, but that was never what it was about, and I think they know that.

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Post-It note critique

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Visual Music Painting