On thankfulness, art and gift-giving

As an educator, the week leading up to winter break, for me, is usually fraught when toe-taping and anxiety as I count down the time with students so that I can play catch-up for Christmas with my family.  This year was totally different.  Actually got my act together a while ago and was 100% enjoying the last week of school knowing that once the weekend arrived, I was truly on break.  No frenzied shopping, wrapping, etc… I could really just be on break and enjoy the season.  Illustration: me in my robe writing this post on this sunny Sunday morning.

Staff gifts are a puzzle for me.  Heartfelt, personal without breaking the bank.  Does such a gift exist?  So I left it off truly believing that a genuine note of thanks always trumps an obligatory gift.  Always.

Then along came David Theriault and Austin Kleon.  @davidtedu mentioned Austin’s book at #elearns and I purchased a copy right then and there.  Steal Like an Artist is an aesthetically luring little book that so caught my attention, it was in the mail before the conference session ended.

My older son is an artist.  At 11 years old he embodies every stereotype I imagine–moody, perfection oriented, laser like focus (to the detriment of homework and chores and eating), searching for models and mentors, but avoiding structured instruction.  Perhaps not true stereotypes after all, but 100% the artist I live with.

The teacher in me bought the book, but my mom-self has taken it over. And even my educational-leader-self is in on the action.  After my first read, I bought one for each of our teachers.

photo (32)

As I read it the second time, each teacher I work with came to mind.  Denise is an artist and a teacher, I gave her the quote, “Draw the art you want to see…”  Julia single-handedly carries our garden program, so she got, “Let us give more time for doing things in the real world… plant a plant, walk the dogs…”  To our new teachers, “Keep all your passions in your life,” because I worry that new teachers are consumed by the job.

Each copy included a quote and my letter of thanks.  And it felt great.  This was the personal, heartfelt, not-breaking-the-bank gift for 2013.  On the inside of each cover I wrote, “Because teaching is an art.”  I don’t want our teachers to forget that nor think that I don’t recognize the art of our profession.

Gift giving is so much fun!  And I couldn’t resist sharing it with the author, @austinkleon.  I sent him a tweet with the pic and thanks.  Here’s what I got back:

Screenshot 2013-12-22 at 8.51.57 AM

Happy to acknowledge Austin’s work and share it.

My son has been reading the book a bit as well.  He doesn’t take direction about his drawing very well.  The section titled School Yourself has been great for him.  He scours youtube and goes through a lot of paper as he works.  He’s got his own way and it’s working.  Who am I to judge?

With my personal life in order and school closed for two weeks, I am in the Christmas spirit.  The last few days of school absolutely drove my good friend @lorideen crazy–Christmas music playing in my office, jingle bell earrings on… What is wrong with you?  I could hear it in her voice.  Nothing wrong here.  A few texts back and forth with my mom and I realized it’s one of my happiest holiday times in recent memory.  Nothing to really put my finger on to explain that, but I do know my treadmill, PLN and site staff have a lot to do with it.  I’m managing my work stress so much better than my first two years, and that allows me to be easier with my family and friends.  I should take note of my new teacher quote and keep some perspective for myself too.  The twitter #nerdlution challenge got me back on my treadmill, and I feel great.  I’m working with an amazing, hardworking, student-centered staff.  My kids rock and my husband’s on the other side of too many funerals this year.

As far as this two week break is concerned, Christmas with a 9 & 11 year old definitely takes center stage.  But I also have a list of things to read, try and learn for myself.  It’s exciting to think about the time I’ve got to sink my teeth in and be ready to share the goodness with others.

So before the whole post goes way too sappy, I am thankful.  And I hope you are too.

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