Tag Archives: celebratingart.com

Art and Poetry Across the Curriculum

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ImageAs the entries come in for the art and poetry contest, I appreciate more and more the time that teachers take to have their students enter our contest. I received an email last week from a teacher who stated that even though her school was asked to not teach poetry in order to make time for more testing, she felt the benefit of entering our contest was too great to ignore.  She related that she was going to teach poetry to her kids and send them into our contest no matter what.  We appreciate the support, but more importantly we appreciate what she is doing for her students. Through the demands of state, local and national testing, classroom time is filled.  It is a challenge to fit in everything that is required. 

When I was teaching in Illinois, the state added speaking and listening assessment for all public schools.  I traveled the state through the education service centers to not only explain the state requirements, but to also help teachers use as little class time teaching the requirements as possible.  Cross discipline teaching became the key as teachers used math story problems to assess listening, or history oral reports to teach content in history and assess speaking skills.

Poetry and art are the same.  Each year we receive hundreds of poems written about science and math topics, and art that breaks down the parts of a flower.  These come from teachers who felt the teaching across the curriculum not only helps teach the concepts of the parts of an atom or the battles of the Revolutionary War, but also teach language and art skills.

I hope classroom time doesn’t get so filled with the tedious tasks that we lose sight of what is important.  It takes thinking outside the box and some creative energies, but working art and poetry into more “academic” subjects can sometimes achieve several objectives at the same time.

Don’t play it safe! Creativity takes courage

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Ten years ago, I went to California to spend the weekend with my 98 year old grandmother. She was a sculptress that has work in several museums around the country and worked with Gutzon Borglum (who did Mt Rushmore) . We we wanted to go to her studio and make castings of some of her best work. What I did any other weekend that year I can’t tell you. But that weekend became an event that I will remember the rest of my life. She lived to 103 and is now gone.

Each day we have the opportunity to do things that are memorable. The last sitcom I watched on TV was Seinfeld in the 1980’s. Yes, I am culturally illiterate about the latest celebrity. But instead of that time watching TV, I have done a hundred projects with my kids and hopefully made the world a better place.

With our art and writing contests, there are a million kids who will NOT enter the spring contest. There will be several thousand that will enter. These students took a risk and will send in a bit of themselves through their art, poetry or essay. Henri Matisse said, “Creativity takes courage.” The students who do NOT enter will have no benefit from playing it safe. The students who Do have the courage to enter may not move on in the competition or be accepted to enter, but they won’t know unless they try. However, the students that are accepted to be published or are a top ten winner, will have taken a risk that will give them a reward they will remember the rest of their life.

This weekend, do something that you will make it a memorable weekend. That is my challenge. Make it a weekend, like I did ten years ago, that I now look back and remember. Those are the days that we cherish and the opportunities that are rewarded.

The challenge and the success are worth the risk

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Thirty years ago my students felt a C was average.  To earn an A  was an  accomplishment.  Today, when I state to my students that  the average on a test was 85% I am thinking it was an easy test.  A different reaction is from my students who are worried why the average is so low.  What happened to having a few students excel?  When everyone is rewarded as if they excelled, it takes away from those that worked hard to be the best in the class.

In judging art and student writing, we put in literally thousands of hours reviewing the entries.  Entries are viewed by more than one person and then the ones that we feel are worthy are invited to be published. The final winners come from these entries.  When we do not accept an entry, we are not suggesting that it is not art or that is is not a poem or an essay.  Not being accepted simply means that our judges thought other entries were more deserving to be published.

In working with student contests, we often have parents and teachers contact us and ask if we accept everyone who sends in an entry.  There are some publications that may do that and have as their sole purpose to sell books.  That is not who we are.  Our goal is to be selective enough that it is an honor to be included.  We want the “A” and “B” entries, the best entries,  to receive recognition. If everyone is accepted, the accomplishment is diminished.

Sometimes entering a contest is discouraging.  You may not be accepted.  And then when we see the winners, we don’t always know the history of their success.  For every success, that we see, there are often many struggles and failures that we don’t see.  We all know the story of JK Rowling, and her many rejections before Harry Potter was accepted.  But she kept trying, took the risk of rejection and we all know the result.  Never limit your own opportunities.  Take the chance and let others make the decision.  If you don’t take the risk, you are limiting your success.

Reach out with your creativity and you’ll be amazed who you may touch

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Saturday night while watching the Miss America Pageant, I thought of all the accomplishments that culminate to this one ending competition. These outstanding women had decided what they wanted, paid the price and were now reaping the rewards of their hard work. While watching the pageant, the finalists were on stage and a few of their accomplishments were written across the screen. For Miss Arizona, Jennifer Sedler, (who ended up as 4th runner-up) one of her accomplishments was having a poem published in 5th grade. In checking our records, it was our company Creative Communication, that published her poem “Hawaiian Seas” in the Fall of 2002.

When students enter our art or writing contests, they are students like everyone else. As they move on in life, talents are developed. A 5th grade student becomes Miss Arizona. Or another student, Angela Bishop, who wrote to me the following:

My name is Angela Bishop, and almost ten years ago you selected one of my poems to be published in the Southern edition of your book. I was 15 and it was the highlight of my young life. Although it has been nearly a decade, I just wanted to finally express the thanks I have felt all these years. I cannot thank you enough for accepting my work and publishing it. I have been writing since I was a child and have continued to write. I am currently working on my second novel. So, thank you, thank you, for the confidence you unknowingly gave me in 1999. I plan to keep writing for as long as I possibly can. Your poetry contest is a wonderful thing, and you open a window for tomorrow’s great writers to find their way through and gain the confidence in their work. Keep it going, you are making dreams into realities.

To both Jennifer and Angela and thousands of other students, I am glad that we have been there for you. We helped you in creating an accomplishment that you can be proud of and add to your resume. When students wonder if they should enter a contest, I give a strong affirmative. You may not be accepted to be published, but if you don’t enter you know there isn’t a chance of being published or being a top ten winner. Sometimes you have to take a risk and enter a contest. It may change your life. Just ask Jennifer and Angela.

What are we communicating with our art?

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After leaving my Interpersonal Communication class last night, I thought of the application of communication theory and the entries we receive in our art and poetry contests. One concept is that every message has a content and relationship dimension.    When we hear a message, what the words mean is the content.  What the person means and the subtext behind the words is the relationship.  Let me give you an example with the following dialogue.

Wife:               “You watch too much TV.”

Husband:         “I do not.”

Wife:               “C’mon honey….you do too.”

Husband:         “All right then, I won’t watch any TV for a whole week, dang it.”

Wife:               “Oh, just forget it.  Do what you want.”

Husband:         “Forget it!  How can I forget it?  You come in here and make a big deal out of my TV habits.  Then to satisfy you, I agree to cut it out completely and you say forget it.  What’s   wrong with you anyway?”

 

Now when the relationship is in trouble, the husband will wonder why they are unhappy as the only thing they fought about was the TV.  However, beyond the words, at the relationship level, the real message has nothing to do with the TV, but a wife who is wanting to have some attention paid to her.

So often we receive wonderful pieces of art or poetry and the content is wonderful.  However, the piece is not appropriate (from our standards) for our readers and viewers.  We are very protective of our students.  When we receive a piece of art from an obviously talented artist, but the image is of a violent or sexual nature, even though the content is good, the relationship between the artists and our student readers is such that the poem or art would be rejected. That is always a tough decision, and often we will contact the student to let them know that they have talent, but our contests are not the correct venue for them.

Maybe my connection of communication theory to our contests is a bit of a stretch.  If so, then, oh well.  However, in either case, I hope I gave you something to think about with either your relationships and why a simple argument blew up into something larger, or for our contests and why a great piece of art or poetry was not accepted to be published.

If you want to hear more about Interpersonal Communication then give us a like.  Have a great day.

Art is an amazing communications tool

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You cannot not communicate. If this was an English class, the double negative would stand out a bit. But in a Speech Communication class, it is an important concept. Everything we do communicates. What you say, how you say it, what you wear. Even if you stand not moving with your arms folded and don’t say a thing. You are communicating.

I tell my students this becomes important when they go to a job interview. In the book “What the Dog Saw” by Malcolm Gladwell, an example he uses applies this concept to job interviews. A study where a group of individuals watched a short video clip of a job interview. We are talking about a very short clip. The interviewee coming in and shaking hands. Just a few seconds. When comparing the choices on who should be hired, the actual interviewers in comparison with the individuals who watched just a few seconds of the interview, the results of who should get the job was pretty much the same. In those few brief seconds, much was communicated. You cannot not communicate. Just saying your name and giving a handshake sends volumes of communication.

I liken this to what happens in our writing and art contests. So often, we are sent poetry or art where the presentation of the material is lacking. A piece of art where the concept is good, but it lacks the professionalism that separates quality art. Simple things like the paper that is used, messiness with the medium or clean lines. I mean, no matter how good the art is, when it is presented on three holed lined paper with smudges of color like something was spilled on the edges, something is lacking. You cannot not communicate. The presentation sends a message. The student did not take a national contest seriously.

In all our interactions, be aware of the messages you send. Look at the total message as you are always communicating something and we are often not aware of the message we are sending.

On an end note, enjoy the small pleasures of life. I just put my 12 year old daughter, who is in a wheelchair, to bed for the night. Her feet felt like they were frozen. But take a soft cloth bag filled with beans, 3 minutes in the microwave, and a foot warmer is a small pleasure that makes her comfortable. There are so many things that we miss when we rush through life. The smile on her face. My heart took a picture. Her smile communicated volumes.

Help your students challenge themselves

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In my last blog, I talked about the challenge of “Doing Hard Things.” I have found in being a parent and a teacher, that when a student pushes themselves a bit farther, the result is a greater pride in their work. As teachers, it is often tough to balance between trying something too hard that leaves the student frustrated, and something challenging that leaves the student with a sense of pride. We don’t start with formal portraits or sonnets. We follow the guideline from the movie “What About Bob.” We take baby steps. Build on small successes, but keep moving forward.

However, if you don’t challenge your students, they often don’t take pride in the project. Each year my children compete in the National History Fair. In viewing the competition, the students who stand a little taller by their displays are the ones that have a sense of personal pride. These students were not minimalists, These students pushed themselves a bit. I am the director of Speech and Debate at Utah State. We compete in a conference against 25 other colleges and universities. We are a state school. Our competition is often the larger and more prestigious Pac 10 Schools or the small private liberal arts schools. However, my students have taken the  conference for eight straight years. Are my students any different than our competition?

In reality, their ACT scores are probably lower than those of our competition. The difference is what I expect of my teams. I expect excellence and they rise to the occasion. Whether we win or lose, my expectation is that each student do their best. When I teach the same contest to my middle scholl debate teams, the result of teaching hard things?

We have taken the Utah State Championship two out of three years. So often, we have packets of poems or selections of art, where I know that the teacher did not attempt to “Do Hard Things.” The teacher did what was easy and comfortable. I challenge you to work with your students and push them just a bit farther that they thought they could achieve. You would be surprised by what they can do. Create projects that they can look back and say “It was hard. But I did it!”. Those moments often transcend the classroom and create successes that are carried throughout life. Have an awesome day.