Tag Archives: writing

The Thumbprint of a Teacher: We Leave Our Mark

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ImageAs our judges read each poem and look at each piece of art, it is amazing what these students create.  Many of the teachers become unmet friends.  Where as many class assignments are generic in nature, many pieces of art and poetry have a clear thumbprint from that teacher’s style. 

Yesterday, I was judging art and without seeing the school or the teacher’s name, I could identify both by the art that was submitted. It was a school in Texas, whose students each do a very original painting; however, the style is so refreshing and unique that it is very identifiable.  The goal of our publication is not to hit percentages, but to publish good art.  For this teacher, all 55 of her students, covering grades 1-8, were accepted to be published.  Each piece was several grade levels above where they would normally be. 

For poetry, we have many schools that I can identify the teacher and the school by the students’ work.  One such school, in California, does not follow the normal conventions of formula poems where the students follow a pattern, but they each create original thought and style.   This school has had many Top Ten Winners over the years.  Another school in Northern Idaho is based on the classics and their entries are identified by the use of the old style pen that takes an ink cartridge.

Each thumbprint that a teacher creates through their students’ work makes us feel like we are meeting and judging the work of old friends.  Would we know them on the street?  No. But the quality of their students’ work makes them very well-known in our office.

Each year I have students who sit on the back row who I thought were just another student in the class.  I am a bit surprised when these students come forth asking for a letter of recommendation for graduate school.  Of all their teachers, I stood out.  I was not aware of my influence, but it was there. For every teacher, your thumbprint on your students may not be obvious, but we all influence in ways that are not always visible.  Keep up the good work.

For more information about our national art contests, go to www.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.

National Child Prodigy Thanks Us for Her Start

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I just got off the phone with a father thanking me for publishing his daughter several years ago.  We often have calls such as this, but this one was different.  He told the story that it was our contest and the recognition that it gave in making his daughter a published writer that really gave her the confidence to excel.  We also hear that often.  However, his daughter, 15 year old Meredith Graf, has gone beyond the normal high school accomplishments to national recognition.  To understand the prodigy that she is you can read more here.

In our art contest, due to her gift as an exceptional artist, Meredith has made an ethical decision to not enter.  However, her father related that she wants to give back to Creative Communication, the sister company to CelebratingArt.com, by designing a book cover for us.   The pictures below are Hall of Fame basketball player Bill Russell and a portrait of President Bush that is on display in his residence.
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We love it when we hear the stories behind the contest entry.  It humanizes the words and the art and helps us see the student who did the work.  One teacher, several years ago, offered our contest to his or her students.  The result was a confident young women who is changing her world and the world around her.  Thank you to that teacher for giving the students this opportunity.  Thank you Meredith for sharing your work.  We hope that more teachers will use our contests to give students the confidence to know that they can succeed.

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.