Posts Tagged ‘Marshwood Middle School’

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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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Glorious Celebration!

December 18, 2018

Maine Excellence on Arts EducationLast Tuesday at the State House Complex the celebration for the Maine Excellence on Arts Education was held. The Maine Arts Commission (MAC) was proud to invite young artists and musicians from throughout the state and recognize them for their accomplishments. Over 250 attended the ceremony including 160 students from SeDoMoCha (Dover-Foxcroft) and Marshwood (Eliot) Middle Schools, 45 teachers and students from 9 Maine schools/districts. The chorus students had never met each other yet they came together and sang America, the Beautiful (arr.

Marshwood Middle School music educator Kris Bisson and SeDoMoCha School music educator Kaitlin Young share conducting America, the Beautiful

Ruth Elaine Schram) which started the afternoon program in the Hall of Flags. It was amazing and moved many in attendance to tears. The visual artists were recognized for their individual artwork by Julie Richard, the MAC Executive Director and Charles Stanhope, the MAC Chair.

Students from Marshwood, under the direction of music teacher Kristine Bisson, performed a piece called The River Sings its Song. The original lyrics and music were written by the students during a collaboration with Kris and Brian Evans-Jones. Brian is a teaching artist and a poet who did a residency during the 2017-18 school year. Students made the connection between an unused bridge in their community and their place in the world as young adolescents. During the performance students shared the story of the work which you can read below:

  • Rowan: Our school is comprised of students from Eliot and South Berwick, Maine as well as from Rollinsford, New Hampshire. There are nine rivers in these three communities, with some that flow into each other, much like our student body blending two independent states. We could easily connect to our rivers and bridges since most of us spend time near them in our towns. WE CAN RELATE.
  • Sylvia sharing part of the story

    Kelsey: We took a field trip to the bridge and river to discover the history this area has experienced. We were inspired by the natural beauty as we saw a great heron fly from its spot at the river’s edge. We wrote about the decaying bridge and the babbling river as the driving force that keeps going forward no matter what the season or changes might bring. This is how we feel about our own paths in life: nothing is impossible. WE HAVE PURPOSE.

  • Samantha: We learned about the native Americans, early settlers, and modern-day dwellers at this site. + We wrote a grant to work with a poet-artist-in-residence, Mr. Brian Evans-Jones, to help us dig deeply and gather thoughts into one complete lyric. + We learned how to create music that fit our thoughts and translate into comfortable melodies our voices could sing. + We trusted our fellow students to share our honest thoughts and ideas which led to a larger collaboration with our entire class; and later, the entire chorus of seventy-six students. WE LEARNED ABOUT EACH OTHER.
  • Julia: Our composition has two sections: one slow and solemn section for the bridge: abandoned, destined to be removed; another section for the river: always moving, reaching forward, regardless of destination, an unpredictable path.  The bridge is presented at the beginning, for this is what you see from afar as you travel the road. But surrounding the bridge, always, is the river. The river holds hope: providing power still, for our town. It is cleansing. It is peaceful. It is free. WE CREATE OUR LEARNING.
  • Marshwood Middle School Music educator, Kris Bisson, conducting the chorus.

    Eva: BRIDGING ADOLESCENCE: A RIVER FLOWS THROUGH USIN 2007, THE GREAT WORKS RIVER BRIDGE IN SOUTH BERWICK, MAINE WAS CLOSED BY THE STATE DUE TO DETERIORATION. IT WAS TOO EXPENSIVE TO REPLACE.   ONCE A SCENIC DRIVE ON VINE STREET, IT NOW COULD NOT BE TRAVELLED BY CAR, BICYCLE, OR FOOT. WHEN OUR CHORUS TOOK A FIELD TRIP TO EXPLORE, WRITE, AND DISCOVER THIS BEAUTIFUL AREA, MANY OF OUR STUDENTS HAD NEVER BEEN HERE. 10 YEARS OF OVERGROWTH COVERED THE ROAD AND SURROUNDING AREA THAT HAD BEEN DORMANT. WHAT COULD WE DO TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

  • Sylvia: PEOPLE BUILD BRIDGES, BRIDGES BUILD COMMUNITIES, COMMUNITIES BUILD OPPORTUNITIES. MARSHWOOD MIDDLE SCHOOL CHORUS DECIDED THAT WE WOULD EMBRACE OUR COMMUNITY AS OUR CLASSROOM. The metaphor of ADOLESCENCE being a BRIDGE was an easy one to relate to because there is a path before us;  yet we cannot predict the journey. And travelling the path is something we all have to do… sometimes together… sometimes alone… or sometimes with help…The elements of nature, history, and a sense of belonging are important to the human spirit. AND THIS IS WHAT WE WROTE…. WE HAVE POWER.
  • Kendra: We learned that a new footbridge for bikes and pedestrians is being planned by a local neighborhood organization. We wanted to help with this effort and held a school-wide Talent Show. We donated our proceeds to the Bridge Brigade towards the one-million-dollar cost of this project. We even had a model of the footbridge on display in our school to help spread the word about the efforts being made to keep a bridge in this location. WE EDUCATE OTHERS AND MAKE AN IMPACT. 
  • Students sharing the story, Hall of Flags, State House

    Dani: Beyond the notes, our students learned about each other and themselves. This project helped us to become reflective writers. We respected everyone’s personal ideas and many times offered encouragement to each other. We experienced creating melodies and harmonies that were designed entirely by us. We recorded melodies and emailed them to Mrs. Bisson or went to the piano to play what was in our heads so we could share with the class. And we shaped them all into one cohesive work: “THE RIVER SINGS ITS SONG”. WE COLLABORATE, AND TOGETHER,WE GROW.

  • Sabrina: In November of 2018 the State Department of Transportation removed the existing bridge. NOW THERE IS A VOID. We experienced history. We saw a bridge in need of repair. We learned that it wasn’t going to be healed. We witnessed photos of its removal. We witnessed loss. We would like to include two reflections from our chorus members to share the impact this project has had on our own development: “As we have experienced composing, practicing, and reflecting, I have developed a strong emotional connection with this piece. It symbolizes the change of our town landmark, but also the change I now see in me.
  • Kendra: “The struggles of adolescence are travelled by all of us and therefore, all can relate to this piece. The river’s emotions are brought to life in this lilting piece full of sorrow and mystery. Hope intertwines and creates crescendos of joy. Let the river sing its song!”

The performance was video taped in its entirety and posted on the Marshwood Education Foundation (one of the projects’ funders) Facebook page and by Senator Shenna Bellows. I suggest that you take a few minutes and watch and listen!

SeDoMoCha Middle School Chorus

Students, under the direction of SeDoMoCha music teacher Kaitlin Young, performed Glorious. And, incredibly glorious it was! The song was based on the composition performed by Macklemore, featuring Skylar Grey. The additional lyrics and choral arrangement was created by the SeDoMoCha Middle School Chorus which was based on their developmental transition. The audience was moved by their words and obvious passion for singing.

Olivia Larson, grade 4, Hancock Grammar School. Art teacher: Jane Snider

Thirty-six students representing nine schools along with their art teachers were recognized for their artwork which is part of an exhibit in the State House Complex including the Governor’s reception area, the Health and Human Services committee meeting room, the Education and Cultural Affairs committee meeting room, and MAC. This is a “first” time exhibit – the student work hangs in the same location as their teachers. The schools and teachers included in the exhibit are listed below. All are teacher leaders with the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative. Grade 4 student from Hancock Grammar School, Olivia Larson was so excited and proud she said: “This is the best day of my life”.

  • Gorham Middle School, Teacher: Amy Cousins
  • Hancock Grammar School, Teacher: Jane Snider
  • Jonesport Elementary and Jonesport Beals High School, Teacher: Lisa Marin
  • Marshwood Middle School, Eliot, Teacher: Melanie Crowe
  • Maranacook Middle School, Readfield, Teacher: Hope Lord
  • Oxford Hills High School, South Paris, Teacher: Cindi Kugell
  • Brewer High School, Teacher: Lori Spruce
  • Richmond Middle School and High School, Teacher: Jeffrey Orth
  • Waterville High School, Teacher: Suzanne Goulet

Amy Cousins, Gorham Middle School art teacher and two of her students receiving their certificates from Argy Nestor, left and Julie Richard, right

The pride was evident in the faces of students, teachers, family members, and legislators. The art is on display at the following locations until April 31, 2019:

  • Maine Arts Commission
  • Cross Office Building second floor North and South corridors
  • Education & Cultural Affairs Committee room 202
  • Health & Human Services Committee room 209
  • State House, Office of the Speaker of the House
  • State House, Governor’s Reception Area

If you’d like a map that includes the location of each piece email me and I’d be glad to email or snail one to you.

Below is a video created by the Maine Arts Commission Marketing & Communications Director Ryan Leighton. You can see photos of the artwork at THIS LINK and photos of the day at THIS LINKI hope you’ll visit the exhibit.

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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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Storytelling in the Arts Classroom

August 27, 2018

How might you use storytelling?

At the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Summer Institute “Storytelling” was the overarching theme. It was interwoven in many aspects of the 3 days.

Storytelling session led by Jake Sturtevant and Lindsay Pinchbeck

Falmouth High School and MALI Design Team member Jake Sturtevant and Sweetland School founder and director and MALI Design Team member Lindsay Pinchbeck provided a workshop on Storytelling and they set up a Story Corps tent where teachers could visit during the institute and have a conversation, similar to the National Public Broadcasting Story Corps.

We listened to musician and MALI Teaching Artist Leader Tom Luther tell his story of the stroke he had almost a year ago. He worked his way back and to almost full recovery using a ‘beginner’s mind’ and his music.

Brian Evans-Jones and Kris Bisson

MALI Teaching Artist Leader Brian Evans-Jones and Marshwood Middle School music educator and MALI Teacher Leader Kris Bisson shared their story of their incredible collaboration during the 2017-18 school year where they composed a song about an all but forgotten bridge in South Berwick.

Elementary visual art teacher and MALI Teacher Leader Elise Bothel shared her story and research on self-care tools and how they are enriching her life and positively impacting her teaching.

A panel on Leadership included stories from Catherine Ring, co-founder of MALI and art educator, teaching artist and MALI Design Team member John Morris, MALI Teacher Leaders: music from York Middle School Jen Etter, visual art from Brunswick High School Jenni Driscoll, and music from SeDoMoCha school and Maine’s 2018 Teacher of the Year Kaitlin Young. All unique!

Stories in the Leadership session

In a recent edition of the eSchoolNews from NAfME music educator Lori Schwartz Reichi reflects on her college wind ensemble rehearsal when her conductor would pause to tell a story. She wondered why he would take time out of rehearsal to share details of his personal life.

Years later when she started teaching it made perfect sense to her. The stories her professor told were intentional ‘pauses’ in the rehearsal. READ the entire article and learn more about the power of storytelling in the music classroom. (Storytelling has potential in any classroom)!

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MALI Summer Institute Day 3

August 3, 2018

Hard at work

Brian and Kris

The day started with Teaching Artist Leader Brian Evans Jones and Teacher Leader Kris Bisson sharing their story. For several years the Great Works Bridge in South Berwick, where Brian and Kris live, has been closed. Last year at the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) summer institute Brian and Kris decided to collaborate and shed light on the bridge by composing a song. Brian is a poet and creative writing teacher and Kris is the music educator at Marshwood Middle School; they each brought their expertise to this year long project and the results are amazing. A true integrated unit that involves real life learning and students making a difference. Kris and Brian shared their inspirational story with the participants at the institute.

The day continued with teachers working independently and collaboratively on their Logic Model which outlines plans for the next year (and some longer). Intervowen in the day was the opportunity to watch the Ashley Bryan film “I Know a Man” and to slip into the home made story corps booth with one other person to share a story.

The end of the day included a gallery walk to take a close look at the participant’s plans and provide feedback to each one. Some expressed that a 4th day should have been included as participants left excited and feeling accomplished.

Speaking of storytellers, some educators extended the day by hearing the panel discussion on Ashley Bryant’s work and seeing his show at the Portland Museum of Art (PMA). Mr. Bryant is quite the storyteller and his children’s books are exemplary; marrying the words and images beautifully! Quotes from Ashley in the film were good reminders for all of us: “Don’t lose in us it’s the one thing we have in common.” “Be reminded of the child in you…you sometimes suppress it….” Thanks to the PMA for providing the opportunity that directly connected with our summer institute theme: Storytelling!

 

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Marshwood Middle School

June 4, 2018

Performing tomorrow

Maine Arts Leadership Initiative participants, teacher leader Kris Bisson and teaching artist leader Brian Evans-Jones have collaborated on a project that will be premiered tomorrow night, June 5 at Marshwood Middle School.

The premiere performance of “The River Sings its Song”, funded by the Marshwood Education Foundation will take place on Tuesday, June 5, from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Marshwood Middle School’s seventy-six member chorus has worked the entire school year to research, discover, and collaborate to create a unique curriculum-based study of our local community through the Great Works River and Bridge in South Berwick, Maine. The students worked with artist-in-residence, Brian Evans-Jones, to create their thoughts and then with their Choral Director, Kristine Bisson, to take their words and compose an original piece of music to be sung by the Grade Seven and Eight Marshwood Middle School Chorus.
The students are donating $200.00 from their annual Middle School Talent Show to the Great Works Bridge Brigade to help support the fundraising efforts of the Brigade to build a timber-frame footbridge where the bridge once was accessible. They will be presenting the check to members of the Brigade this Tuesday evening at the concert.
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