Posts Tagged ‘Central School’

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Dance Dance Dance

December 10, 2019

Dance Education grant

Thanks to Martha Piscuskas for providing information for this blog post.She is the interim director for arts education, Maine Arts Commission.

Hunt and Allison Smith

Nearing the gym, through the corridor literally owned and decorated by the K-third grade Central School students in South Berwick, one could already hear the rhythmical claps of a class fully engaged in old-time dancing. Recently I paid a visit to Kate Smith’s music program, where the whole school was treated to a residency with Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artists Hunt and Allison Smith, who played and taught old English, Irish and even Russian dances throughout the  week.

Thanks to the leadership of Kate and the Physical Education Teacher, Kristan Tiede, the school received a Maine Arts Commission Dance Education Grant and funding from the Marshwood Education Fund to bring this duo to play their fiddle, accordion and teach traditional set dances in circles, squares, and lines over three days. The teaching artists held the attention well of the students, no matter which age group. Even parents, siblings and teachers got to join in with a community family contradance one evening. Says Kate, “I know the residency with the Smiths will renew my confidence in teaching units that embed dance in music units in a more thoughtful, appropriate and successful way.  

I love the opportunity to integrate other subjects and collaborate with peers deepening student learning while giving us the chance  to learn from each other.”

I invite you to learn more about the Maine Arts Commission grant opportunities and the Teaching Artist roster.

The dance education grant at the Maine Arts Commission was established in 2012 with the help of Thornton Academy dance educator Emma Campbell and several dance programs and studios in southern Maine. Through a fund raiser performance they have contributed thousands of dollars so students, school communities, and teaching artists  across the state could benefit from dance education learning opportunities.

If you have any questions about arts education programs at the Maine Arts Commission please contact Martha Piscuskas, Interim Director of Arts Education.

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Hike Through History

June 25, 2019

South Berwick

In May I was invited to the Hamilton House and Vaughn Woods in South Berwick for the 25th anniversary of Hike Through History. It’s an annual teaching and learning opportunity in RSU #35 that continues to be a success due to the commitment of many educators and volunteers. It is usually held in town so it was a treat to have it in such a beautiful woodsy setting.

Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leaders and Music Educators Kate Smith and Kris Bisson collaborated in teaching traditional dances and music. First they taught the 8th grade students from Marshwood Middle School several dance steps and they turned around and taught the elementary students. In addition, they also taught a few modern dances. Melanie Crowe, Marshwood Middle School art teacher and MALI Teacher Leader worked with students teaching them techniques and they turned around and taught elementary students. Printmaking, weaving, painting on stone and poetry. I was so impressed with the level of engagement of the 500 students who visited and provided the instruction. And, the hundreds of volunteers and parents. It was simply wonderful – a real community collaboration.

All of the photos in the blog post were taken at the two stations where Kris, Kate and Melanie were.

The information below was provided by Julia Einstein, Education Program Coordinator for Historic New England, who plays an integral part in the success of the Hike Through History.

For this year’s Hike, it was all about character studies—and for the grade eight students to look at each person, or family, as a character you can “inhabit” after you have researched the parts of their life. As a result, the student is able to enjoy this way of learning as he/she  steps into the history of the people and of this place that was once the center of the town of South Berwick. This location at Hamilton House (built in 1785) and Vaughn Woods tells the story of the native people, first settlers, the start of America, and how we changed from an agricultural to an industrial nation. Inventiveness and inventions through these times, from a shipbuilding, navigation on water, and early photography.

It was a pleasure for me to be able to write the content for the student’s work in the classroom, as well as to mentor two grade eight classes for this special, new Hike. I, along with a committee of content writers, each put together our topic to include main Ideas, characters to include, vocabulary, possible Activities, and sources for additional Research.

Here’s a brief overview of what I put together:

Hamilton House Walk Through

Topic:  Hamilton House’s long, long, life — three families over 236 years! — and the different ways they lived.

Main Ideas: Did you ever “read” a house? If we learn to “read” the details left behind, a house can tell stories of the people who lived there long ago!  The Hamilton House contains lots of history, as there were three owners, over different centuries.

Possible Activities: A student tour of the first floor of the Hamilton House–a guided walk into 1785 and walk out in 1898 in which the 8th grade students give the elementary visitors the prompts to observe, notice details, and ask questions. Also, create activities or experiences to share the lives of the three different families who lived there.  Why were they there?  What did they value about the house and land?

Inspired by History: Elise Tyson & Sarah Orne Jewett

Topic: Historical preservation, Literary and Visual Arts in the 19th century

Main Ideas: What is “inspiration”? A beautiful, historical place like the Hamilton House can give us inspiration! Elise Tyson would have taken advantage of the recent invention of a (more) portable box camera to move around and photograph outside and inside the Hamilton House. One is able to look into her photographs to study the early days of film photography. It was very rare for women to be photographers during this era! Sarah Orne Jewett would have used her portable wicker writing box to write on site. One is able to read her fiction (The Tory Lover) and non-fiction (River Driftwood) based upon the landscape and characters of the Hamilton House, as seen in these excerpts:
River Driftwood She described Hamilton House in 1881 as being “like a glimpse of sunshiny, idle Italy: the sparkling river and the blue sky, the wide green shores and the great gray house, with its two hall doors standing wide open, the lilacs in bloom and no noise or hurry, – a quiet place, that the destroying left hand of progress had failed to touch.”
The Tory Lover “As for Colonel Hamilton, the host,” she wrote, “a strong-looking, bright-colored man in the middle thirties, the softness of a suit of brown, and his own hair well dressed and powdered, did not lessen a certain hardness in his face, a grave determination, and maturity of appearance far beyond the due of his years. Hamilton had easily enough won the place of chief shipping merchant and prince of money-makers in that respectable group, and until these dark days of war almost every venture by land or sea had added to his fortunes. The noble house that he had built was still new enough to be the chief show and glory of a rich provincial neighborhood.” Due to these two friends’ inspiration and love of history, we are now lucky enough to be able to learn about and experience this beautiful house and grounds.

It was also an wonderful opportunity for me to expand upon a school program that is already in place for grade three students of Central School, “Amoungst Friends, Sarah Orne Jewett and her Circle.”  This circle expanded to her friends Emily and Elise Tyson (later Elise Tyson Vaughn and her husband Henry Vaughn), who she convinced to purchase and restore the house to it’s Hamilton era glory–and in the process to preserve history.  In a visit to all third grade classrooms, I introduced the students to the Hamilton House and guided the students to make a Captain’s Log. When the students visited the house, they were guided to make an observation, both inside and outside in the garden, and record in his/her log, by writing & through sketching. We also played a Maritime Trade Game–with a partner, the students used a World  Map to find the source, the countries from which  “raw” materials brought back to South Berwick by Jonathan Hamilton’s ships. It was a ton of fun–a great way to prepare for the special upcoming Hike.

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In Today’s News

May 21, 2019

Hike Through History with Kate and Kris

I love it when I hear about teachers who are collaborating to provide learning that involves multiple grade levels. Most schools are divided by grade or age level yet in life – family, church, community groups – people are almost always together with all ages.

When Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teacher Leaders Kate Smith and Kris Bisson were planning curriculum together for the annual Hike Through History for their students, I wasn’t surprised when they told me about their ideas to connect their students through dance. Kris teaches at Marshwood Middle School and Kate teaches at Central School – both are part of MSAD35, South Berwick.

Today’s news article, which includes video footage, is from seacoastonline.com and documents a unit that has been going on for a very long time in the district. In fact, this year Hike Through History turns 25!

From the article

Music and choral teacher Kris Bisson said, “Kate Smith and I designed a curriculum about music and its link to colonial times. So our focus is about dances then and now; it wasn’t just a source of physical enjoyment, but also a chance to be with your neighbors and your town community.”

On the lawn of Central School, eighth-graders worked recently with second-grade students showing them folk dances people did in the early 1800s as music sifted through the air. The dances they have chosen are authentic, matching how people actually danced in Colonial days in South Berwick and surrounding towns. One person called out the dance on a microphone. “Heel and toe, heal and toe, slide, swing your partner!” The eighth-grade students decided to plan this year’s hike around a wedding ceremony so they could show children the old-time dances as well as a few modern dances to demonstrate similarities from the past to the present. The Heal and Toe Polka, Chimes of Dunkirk, the Twist or the Macarena all have commonalities.

You can read the entire article AND see video footage of a rehearsal. It is so fun to watch!

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Wisdom from Maine Arts Educators

September 4, 2018

From the voices of veteran visual and performing arts educators on starting a new school year

Make it a delicious school year!

Whether you’re just starting to teach or you’ve been add it for 50 years or somewhere in between you might be excited out of your mind to start or having the back to school dreams and asking yourself “how the heck am I going to do this?!” or somewhere in between. I asked veteran teachers “what’s your message for new and veteran teachers starting off the school year?” Here they are – WORDS FROM THE WISE and EXPERIENCED! It’s an amazing, amazing (and amazing) collection. THANKS to everyone who contributed!

Collectively below is the wisdom of 654 + 65 years of teaching. These are not in any particular order!

Kate Smith – 20 years
Central School, South Berwick Music Educator, Grades PreK-3
-The first friends you should make are the secretaries and the custodians.
-Drink plenty of water.
-Advocate for transition time between classes (see above).
-Don’t take yourself too seriously.
-Take the time to know your students.
-Find an Arts mentor. (MALI teacher leaders are great!)
-Build/maintain/reach out to a network of teachers for a sense of community and just-in-time support.
-You are going to mess up and wish you could forget it all. Write it down instead. Some day it’ll make you laugh like crazy.

Jake Sturtevant – 13 years
Falmouth High School Music Educator
If there is one thing I have learned to do over the course of the time I have been teaching it is to breathe. The power of breath is so important, and it takes moments to do. I still have those feelings of being overwhelmed and always reaching for the surface of the water beneath the pile of to-dos and hope-to-dos, but now I just try to pause and take a breathe and allow that feeling to settle and often it moves further from me.

Jen Etter – 11 years
York Middle School Music Educator 
My biggest words of advice starting a new school year and something that I am attempting to be mindful of is to not lose sight of the big picture getting bogged down in the details. Education is ever changing and constantly evolving and that can be frustrating at times. Keep focused on the big picture and what you know to be important and always keep students at the center!
Patricia Gordan – 37 years
RSU#14 Windham Raymond, Music Educator
  1. I do not just teach music to children. I teach children through music.
  2. Whenever I get to the point where I begin to think I know what I’m doing, I gain more wisdom and realize I still don’t know what I’m doing. (Keeps me humble.)
  3. When I have a student who is a behavior challenge I try to get to know them better and build a relationship with them outside of class.
  4. Music is a vehicle for expressing all thoughts and emotions. It can be scary to share the sad and angry songs with students. Will I get negative feedback from parents? “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” is a song about death! Should I use it? Of course we should be tactful and careful, but songs in music class should cover all emotions.
  5. A musician must have the heart of a gypsy and the discipline of a soldier. -Beethoven – Some students will be really good at the heart thing and some will be really good at the discipline thing. Stretch them toward the other skill.
  6. Sometimes I have a hard time with the word, “fun.” Music is fun but it is also hard work. I want the students to have more than “fun.” I want to feed their souls. I want them to feel the natural high that comes from producing a fantastic product that is the result of extreme effort.
  7. Especially for elementary teachers – Listen very, very closely. The “music” is in there somewhere. 😊
Iva Damon – 10 years
Leavitt Area High School, Turner, Visual Art Educator
Going into this year I am really resonating with going “back to basics”. We’re here for the kids as they are at the heart of everything we do. Remembering that at the end of each day, I am able to make connections and help achieve steps in their learning. At the same time, this year I am going to work harder at self-care and making sure to take time for myself.
Holly Leighton – 10 years
Mattanawcook Academy, Lincoln, Visual Art Educator
Teaching is not something you learn and then implement for the next 30 years. It is a constant.

The more I learn the more I realize what I don’t know. It is the “what I don’t know” that drives me to learn more. This is how I grow as a person and educator. It is a continuous cycle that inspires a fresh outlook to each new school year. Take workshops and conference opportunities, no matter how long you have been teaching. After 20 years of teaching I am always come back with something I can use to positively affect student learning and engagement.

Cindi Kugell – 29 years
Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, South Paris, Visual Art Educator
Know your “Why”. When we focus on our reason for teaching, and for me it’s because there is nothing cooler than working with kids, it gives our lives purpose, clarity and focus. Working with kids keeps me young, inspired and energized and the gratification that I get from students excitement centered around the arts fuels my passion. I truly feel that teaching is my purpose.
Hope Lord – 28 years
Maranacook Community Middle School, Winthrop, Visual Art Educator
Each school year is a new opportunity for teachers to inspire students, innovate, take risks, collaborate, and celebrate the arts.
Adele Drake – 15 years
Hampden Academy Visual Art Educator
I believe in always being open to learning and receiving help and support from others.
Jane Snider – 26 years
Hancock Grammar School Art Educator
While working outside all day in my gardens to end my summer season I was thinking about all of my gardens, how much they had grown since early spring. I realized how much my teaching is like my gardening! Many plants are now in need of a rest, much like my students and I are in late Spring! I have nurtured the seedlings, plants and bushes throughout the season. I have carefully and thoughtfully helped them showcase their beauty! They’ll be back next year, bigger and brighter! Tomorrow I return to school to nurture my students and showcase the beauty of their learning through their art! I’ve had my rest and restored my spirit, I’m ready to carefully and thoughtfully begin a new season for my students! What do they need to grow and flourish?
Sue Barre – 25 years
Waterville Senior High School Music Educator 
Every year (on the advice of my first principal) I work to learn something about each of my students that has nothing to do with music. This process keeps me on my toes and it is also fun for my students to share their non music passions. I am often uplifted, sometimes saddened, and every so often astounded, to the response I can get from “share three things you did this summer.” My personal goal this year is to greet my students every day at the door……they deserve my attention, whether they are making music or not.
Carmel Collins – 20+ years
Lake Region High School, Naples, Dance Educator
Education today is like working with a living breathing organism. It is forever in a state of flux; morphing, refining, retracting, reshaping……Practice being flexible, adaptable and innovative, learn to let things go and move on, keep light on your feet and don’t get stuck in the mud!
When a parent or guardian becomes angry or frustrated with you, always remember that to them they are fighting for their child, a child they have loved and nurtured since birth. Most of the time they are not angry with you, rather it is the situation they are frustrated with and they are looking for help. Try to stay focused on the issue and don’t make it personal. Practice this and they will become your friend and loyal advocate.
Melanie Crowe –  16 years
Marshwood Middle School, Eliot, Visual Art Educator 
The anticipation of a new school year brings up so many emotions – a changing of the seasons, realizing summer is coming to an end, wiping sand off of my sandals for another season, and the vegetable garden bearing fewer treasures. Although, the excitement of meeting new students and having a chance to bring in a fresh approach and atmosphere to the classroom is a just as much a welcome adventure today as it was entering my first year 17 years ago. I am honored to share the art studio with my middle school artists, the opportunity to engage, challenge, and expand their minds is such a precious experience. The years go by in a blink of the eye, the students faces change, but the desire to light the flame of love for art grows stronger each year. I look forward to working with my colleagues integrating art in as many avenues as I can, bridging the gaps from one content to another so students can see how their learning is not in isolation but interconnected. When students can see how valued they are in the art studio, they begin to believe how valuable their art making experience is. I wish you all a wonderful school year working with the youth of Maine and beyond!
Lindsay Pinchbeck – 12 years
Sweetland School, Hope, Founder, Director, Teacher 
New Beginnings
An opportunity to start again
Still jitters – every year, conditioned since a child
Now knowing
The mix of wonder, unease and transition
Breathe
Fear not the unknown
Anthony Lufkin – 12 years
Friendship Village School, Prescott Memorial School, Union Elementary School, Rivers Alternative Middle School, RSU 40 
Every year is similar, but never the same. Each summer goes by faster and faster, but despite wish for more R&R, I always look forward to the new school year. Art and teaching are similar to me in that they are both all about making connections. In art we attempt to connect with artists of the past to understand their ideas, or we try to connect people with our own ideas and perspectives through creation. Teaching effectively requires making connections with students in a way that they can relate to, understand, and appreciate what we are teaching. If we lose connection, not only does artwork become insignificant to us, so does the purpose for learning. Each school year is an opportunity to make connections in new ways. Being in relatively the same position for several consecutive years gives me the insight for identifying ideas and processes that will relate to specific students. As I prepare to start my 12th year of teaching art, I am looking forward to “reusing” successful lessons, opportunities, and connections I have been able to make thus far.  However, I am also looking forward to experimenting with new ideas to better convey ideas, and give students new ways to understand, and more importantly connect, to what art has to offer.
Andrea Wollstadt – 20 years
John F. Kennedy Memorial School, Biddeford, Music Educator
Allow yourself to get caught up in the excitement. Students involved in music have a passion for music. Their joy and excitement is infectious. These kids are PUMPED UP about playing in an ensemble or participating in a music class. Whatever worries or anxieties you might have about the upcoming school year, make sure you give yourself a chance to catch some of their enthusiasm.
Lisa Marin – 22 years (and this is her last)
Jonesport-Beals High School & Jonesport Elementary Visual Art Educator     
Words of wisdom for the new teacher: I remember that first year being very excited, nervous and worried about doing a good job for my new students, the school system, and my colleagues. I tried to get as much input as I could from my fellow art teacher friends, who were very gracious and generous with advice and materials. I was told to relax, have fun, and realize that it takes a few years to make the program your own. So, cut yourself some slack and you’ll be great. Oh yes, and make friends with the custodial staff. Their help over the years has been invaluable.
Words of wisdom for the veteran teachers: It may sometimes be hard to keep up the energy and enthusiasm in the face of new and increasing demands on your time that have little to do with quality teaching for students. I’ve tried to combat this by finding ways to shake up my lessons. I’m looking for ways to incorporate materials I’ve been unfamiliar with or slightly intimidated by to blow out the cobwebs! It’s been fun and I often find I am helped in my success by my students. We say we are all in this together!
For the soon to be retiring teachers (like me): Plan ahead for what you’d like to do post retirement. That will make the transition so much easier. This sounds like a no brainer but is often overlooked. As much as you might love your job remember, you do the job, you aren’t the job. A new teacher’s approach can be wonderful. We were once new teachers as well with fresh ideas. Enjoy your new year!
Shalimar Chasse – 25 years
Wiscasset Middle High School Visual Art Educator rk Middle School Music Educator 
I like to start right off with hands on- avoiding the loooooonnnnnnnngggggggg and boring “expectations” talk that mostly sounds like “wha wha wha wha, wha wha, wha wha” to students just waking up after a summer of sleeping in until noon. I refer students to my on-line site and a unit binder that holds class expectation information. I send them home with a parent guide to art class and encourage them to review this with their parents and return with a parent note confirming their time together and comments or questions. I encourage students to ask me any question to help them acclimate to our space and class while we are doing our first day art activity. Students know what is expected, some need reminding or clarification or simply to know they might not get away with something they have tested. They come to art to Do art- so I like to meet their expectations hoping they might return the gesture.I love the newness of a brand new school year- with no mistakes in it. I like to think of the upcoming year and classes as the best we will experience yet.
Allie Rimkunas – 14 years en Etter
Great Falls Elementary School, Gorham, Visual Art Educator 
Love your students. The most difficult ones need the most love. As an art teacher, I rarely know the home situations, or past trauma that these little ones might have or are still dealing with. I try to keep that in mind when I know a difficult student is coming into my room. Every day is a new day and a possibility for new positive interactions.
I have been teaching for 14 years, and every August brings a new batch of school anxiety dreams. Never fails. I figure that if I didn’t get them then I am not doing my job and changing it up enough.
Catherine Ring – 65 years
Isle au Haut Visual ArtEducator 
Share your passion for learning with children. It’s contagious!
Jane Kirton – 20 years
Sanford High School Music Educator 
Be Compassionate . . . Be consistent . . . CommunicateBe compassionate – Music is one of the few subjects that connects the heart and the brain. Showing compassion towards my students and my colleagues is who I am. The world is filled with so much pain, we don’t know what our students are going through at home. I take great pride in the fact that from day one I tell my students that my classroom is their home and we are a family.  No bullying is allowed. If there is a drama free atmosphere in the room, our music will sound better!  Show you care, smile (even though you are a nervous wreck). Don’t forget to be kind to yourself.  Take care of you – exercise, drink plenty of water, yoga, anything to relieve stress.

Be consistent – Consistency, in my eyes, is critical in good parenting. Set your classroom code of cooperation on day one and stand by it! Treat everyone the same. Discipline can be challenging for a new teacher. Discipline allows a successful start for the entire class. I always remind myself I can always ease up a bit as we get into the year but hold firm to your rules. Keep up with the paperwork (yes, there are certain things we need to do as part of the job which doesn’t have anything to do with what we teach – just “get it done,” don’t put it off.)

Communication – I always tell my students that I’m not a mind reader. I encourage them to tell me what’s going on. It is also important to communicate with them and their parents – concert schedule, paperwork, etc. Communicating with your colleagues is also important. I recently read a post where a new teacher was critical of older teachers in their district in the ways they were teaching. Not a great way to start!  We’re all in this together. Reach out and communicate.  Communicate with your administration, janitors, secretaries, etc. Ask if you don’t know!!

Rob Westerberg – 32 years
York High SchoolMusic Educator 
It’s not about the product, it’s about the process. Precious few are going to remember your concert or art exhibit or play or dance recital three years from now. But dozens of years from now every single participant will remember their journey with you to create that product, and whether or not you caused them to flourish academically and blossom personally. If you take care of those two things – on a daily basis – the rest will take care of itself. Academic without personal is tedious. Personal without academic is cheating them. Both combined is spot-on and will leave you at the end of the day feeling like it was all worth while. Because it will have been.
Charlie Johnson – 44 years
Mount Desert Island High School Visual Art Educator 
Get to know your learners; it is through positive connections that a teacher can discover that which is not always overt from an individual. We are all unique and we are all special, and if you endeavor to learn about your students in a positive manner, it goes a long way toward developing a teacher/learner relationship that benefits both parties.
I’m just starting my 45th teaching year, and I’m just as excited about my new students and classes as I was my first year, because I haven’t fallen into “the same old thing” trap and have many new pieces to explore with my students!
Barbie Weed – 14 years
Gray-New Gloucester Middle School Visual Art Educator 
I always find that the best way to begin a new school year is to forge connections with students as soon as possible. Whether students are returnees for new to the school, taking a little time to get to know something about them sets a positive tone for the whole year. I’m excited for the new experiences that students will bring to my classroom.
Jean Phillips – 30+ years
Wiscasset Middle High School English and Drama Educator
Life is an occasion; rise to it.
Lisa Ingraham – 12 years
Madison Elementary School Visual Art Educator 
Plan meticulously, but keep your mind open to teachable moments. Some of the best learning experiences in my art room began with a student question, interest, and/or aha! that changed our direction for that day.
I’m looking forward to a great, creative, messy year!
MaryEllen Schaper – Retired in June with 42 years
Dance Educator 
Take your work seriously; don’t take yourself too seriously. The work is VERY important, but you can be replaced.
For new teachers, yes, you want to develop positive relationships with your students, but they are NOT your friends. If you need friends at work, develop friendships with your colleagues.
My former superintendent, used to say, “we are there to teach ALL children. Parents send us their best. They don’t keep “the good ones” home”.
We never know the baggage a student brings to school, so listen and be kind. Help students learn that that baggage may be a reason, but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse by the student, the teacher, or the parent. There’s a difference.
Applicable Lin Manuel Miranda “Hamilton” quotes:
“Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room?” You might not be. I have learned A LOT from my students.
“I am not throwing away my shot.”  You have amazing opportunity to influence lives now and beyond anything in your wildest dreams, so go in EVERY DAY and give 100%.
“I am looking for a mind at work”. Teach your students to think outside the box, ask questions, and how to find answers, even if they might not be what you had in mind.
“Talk less. Smile more.”  Breathe. listen. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll see and hear.
“I wanna be in the room where it happens”.  You ARE in the room where it happens every day. Savor it. It goes by quicker than you’d think!
Lori Spruce – 10 years
Brewer High School Visual Art Educator 
Contribute to the knowledge and skills that you have not only in your own content area, but also expand out to involve your colleagues content areas as well. By doing so, you help not only yourself,  but also students and teachers can learn and grow in the same way. By getting out of your comfort zone and content area, the relationships that you build are invaluable and help build the confidence needed to model what you learn.
Pam Chernesky – 26 years
Mt. Blue High School, Farmington Visual Art Educator 
Start each school year open and ready to build a new community! Bring your best self and a positive attitude to what you do. Every year there will be new initiatives and demands on your teaching and your time, but the real focus should be meeting your students and sharing the excitement of creating and learning with them. Remember that you have content knowledge, passion, and experiences to share and that your students want to learn from you. Don’t become bogged down by the initiatives, administrative demands, or even the details of lesson plans. Offer challenges and take risks in your classroom! Laugh with your students!  Have fun!
Kris Bisson – 16 wonderful years!
Marshwood Middle School, Director of Choruses 
No matter what type of learners you have in your classroom, every student needs understanding.

When I’m excited about what I’m teaching, my students are excited about what I’m teaching!

Theresa Cerceo – 15 years
Dr. Levesque Elementary School & Wisdom Middle High School, MSAD # 33 Visual Art Educator
Trust your instincts, value your strengths and keep yourself open to learning new things.
Danette Kerrigan – 13 years
Sacopee Valley Middle School Visual Art Educator 
Every year is different, but poses the possibility of new discovery and greatness. Every year is the same – the same bright expectant eyes, sleepy heads, hugs and growth. Starting a new year is never boring, always keeping me on my toes, yet is as exciting as opening a new box of crayons… the possibilities are endless. Fashions change, expectations change, requirements change, students stay the same – still needing reassurance, encouragement, celebration and a champion.
For new and veteran teachers – breathe. Embrace each day and reflect at the end on what went well and be honest about what did not. Remember that everyone has something to offer, even those adults who may try your patience. They too, got up this morning, hoping to do the right thing. Assume good intentions. Always apologize – even to students – especially to students – when you have had a bad day and spoke shortly when you shouldn’t have. Remember that you are making an impact you don’t even know about yet.
Rick Osann – 15 years (retiring this year!)
Bonny Eagle High School Media, Theatre, and Visual Arts Educator 
Be sure to be yourself. Teaching can be really stressful and it’s easy to try to be different to either be the “perfect teacher” or to get your students to “like” you.  The most important thing is to feel comfortable in your own skin.  Students of any age recognize quickly if you’re not being true to your core beliefs. Students will respect you if you just be yourself.
Bill Buzza – 25 years
Edward Little High School Music Educator 

Some words of advice for the beginning of the year:

#1 – Take time to get organized. We get so busy and there are many demands on our time. Using an organizational system that works for you allows you to spend more time teaching.
#2 – (New teachers) Find a mentor and don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s much more efficient to learn from others than trying to reinvent the wheel.

#3 – Don’t be afraid to say “No” but keep an approachable demeanor. Many times students try to learn / push a teachers limits. We need to be committed to our response and consistent so students know what to expect.

#4 – Build relations with everyone; students, administrators, parents, colleagues, custodians. There will be a time when those connections will pay great dividends.
What’s your advice to new and returning educators? Please email me yours and I will collect them for a future blog post. How will you include and support new teachers in your school/district? Please introduce them to the Maine Arts Education blog – its easy to subscribe (on the right side, half way down). And, invite them to join the community by joining the arts education list-serv by sending me their email address.
Before we get to the “wise words” from Maine, Nancy Flanagan taught K-12 music for 30 years in Michigan. She blogs for Education Week, the TEACHER section called TEACHER in a Strange Land (you may want to follow her on twitter) and on August 6 she wrote a post called Ten Non-Standard ideas About Going Back to SchoolIt’s worth the read (after you read what Maine arts educators have to say)!
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Poetry Residency

April 27, 2017

South Berwick – Central School

This is being re-posted from http://www.brianevansjones.com/ with permission from Brian Evans-Jones. Brian can be reached at brian@brianevansjones.com

This week I finished the biggest project I’ve yet worked on as a teaching artist: teaching poetry to 80 second-graders at Central School in South Berwick, ME.

The residency spanned 11 days of teaching, plus an evening Showcase event, from the end of March to the middle of April. The aims were two-fold. First, to teach the second graders some important things about how to write poetry. But behind that, the goal was to use the writing of poetry to increase their overall confidence in themselves as writers and users of language.

Over the first 9 days, I helped them to draft 7 different poems using different tools. We started with group poems composed of lines beginning with repeated phrases. At this stage I introduced them to the idea of writing discrete sentences on strips of paper (Sentence Strips) which they then assembled into a poem, not only to make writing easier than starting with a blank page, but also to get them thinking about poetic lines. The Sentence Strips were also perfect for our first lessons in rewriting, when we added words to our Strips to make them more descriptive, thought hard about what order of Strips made the most sense, and looked at where we could insert new Strips to expand our ideas.

Here are some of those Strip poems in process:


We kept on using the sentence strips for poems built around verbs (an animal performing a mixture of real and impossible actions) and then metaphors (transforming an ordinary classroom object into many different things). Along the way we practiced using rhyme effectively. The last poem was a Personal Poem on a topic special to them, and this they wrote without the Strips. Finally, they chose their favorite poem for sharing, and worked on intensively on revising and editing it. The poems were shared with parents at the Celebration Night, when the students also worked with their parents to write new poems using some of the techniques they’d learned.

Here are just some of the poems and accompanying art, ready for display at the Showcase night.

As an extra bonus, one of the parents (Deb Cram) made a montage video of almost all the students reading a line or two from their poems, which you can view here. The poems will also be published in a chapbook along with student artwork, and there will soon be an after school Creative Writing group to help keep the writing going! Phew—now I understand why I was exhilarated and exhausted when we finished…

The residency was funded by the Marshwood Education Foundation, which funds projects in the Marshwood School District. We hope that the residency may have demonstrated sufficient value for the District to fund future annual second grade poetry residencies, although with budget issues everywhere, who knows what will happen.

As a teaching artist, this was a huge undertaking, working with a large group of fairly young writers for 12 consecutive days. I was tremendously conscious of how much the second grade teachers were giving me, trusting me with their students for so long, and allowing me to disrupt their well-oiled routines! From my point of view, the residency, while challenging at times (it was my first time managing classes with up to 40 second graders at once), was a great success. Not only did the students write very many wonderful poems, but the majority of them also enthusiastically grasped the idea of revising their writing, which is so important for their school writing careers. I know that several students who had struggled with literacy and writing produced poems that surprised and delighted their teachers and themselves. It’s too soon to say definitively whether the residency will have a significant long-term effect on the cohort’s performance as writers and users of language, but the signs are good. And the poems are great.

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In Today’s News

April 17, 2017

Poet Brian Evan-Jones

“I create a blur of color,” said one young poet.

Another student wrote, “I’m a shiny pearl, white and precious.”

“I remind you of the memories that have happened in the past,” a student wrote.

“It was as if I was saying I love you mom and dad with my eyes,” another young poet wrote.

Brian Evans-Jones

These are some of the lines that 2nd graders at Central School in South Berwick have written as part of an artist-in-residency with poet Brian Evans-Jones. Brian is on the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster and has created a program called “Literacy Through Poetry.” The residency at Central School was made possible through a grant from the Marshwood Education Foundation.

Deb Cram wrote the above for seacoastonline.com. You can view a video and read the rest of the article by CLICKING HERE. Thanks to Central School music educator Kate Smith for sending me the information to share!

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Outside Classroom

July 28, 2016

Kate Smith doing much more

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 8.12.54 PMCentral School in South Berwick’s music educator is Kate Smith. She not only is totally committed to teaching music but she totally understands the value of getting students outdoors to learn, interact with, and being creative in the environment. CLICK HERE to learn about the outdoor classroom at Kate’s school.

Please email me about other kinds of work that you do at your school so we can learn about it!

Kate is the 2014 York county Maine Teacher of the Year and a member of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Leadership team.

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