My Love of Cardboard

Note:  This was originally written in July 2014 while preparing for The Patch Art Exhibit…..

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I am preparing for an art exhibit to celebrate and honor the artists at The Patch.  It is an undertaking that has me on a creative high and emotional roller coaster at the same time.  Will the adults “get” how truly amazing these little tykes are? Will they appreciate that just a short time ago these little tykes were more like contained jelly fish who couldn’t do anything but cry and drool and poop? Their development over the past year has me astounded.  I remember all those days…..ALL THOSE DAYS…..when we were confined to a quilt and chew toys because all they could do was roll and chew and poop.  Those were some long boring and smelly days…..

We’ve spent the last six months exploring various animals and plants and art forms.  Our art was getting more and more technical and I just didn’t want to send it home with a smile and lose the opportunity to celebrate the beauty and accomplishment each piece represented. Sooooo…….

The idea to have an all out art exhibit was born…….and……I’m thrilled to pieces and a bit overwhelmed as I begin the actual process of building an art exhibit out of appliance boxes and adhesive hooks and lots of rope and tree stumps to secure the structures from wind gusts…..

Yesterday I cut open the first appliance box and unfolded it to its full length. That puppy is one big piece of cardboard! As I was securing it to the driveway wall, an overwhelming memory flooded over me and I had a dejavoo moment…..I was once again eight years old, on the screened-in porch just off of my bedroom…..

I’m a Daddy’s girl.  I make no bones about it and I celebrate it every chance I get.  He deserves it….he truly truly truly deserves it….

Every once in a while, my Dad would bring me a cardboard box home from the office.  They weren’t big like an appliance box, but they were tall enough to an eight year old to become pure magic.  He would cut them open for me so they would stretch out and stand on their own.  And then, the magic would begin.

I would make them into hide outs.  They were puppet theaters.  Sometimes they were space ships for me and my stuffed animals.  But more times than not, they were a chalkboard.  My Dad would bring me the chalk pieces that were too short for his big hands and I’d find an old sock to use as an eraser.

I asked my teacher, Mrs. Cathcart, for extra worksheets to take home to “practice with” and she would gladly supply them to me.  I’m almost positive I never told her that they were to teach my dolls and animals with, but, I’m pretty sure, she knew that anyway I used them, was indeed, practice even if I was just relaying information to my class of dolls and animals.

That screened in porch was such a magical place for me…..and the fun I had with cardboard boxes didn’t just stay in my childhood.  That joy and magic has made its way back into my adult life and into my preschool classroom in the past year…..polar bear dens, hideouts, tents, rolling around the play yard contraptions….loads of joy and magic…..

I wanted to be a teacher from a very early age.  I moved a lot as an Army Brat and my love for art and creativity was unfortunately quickly squelched by a variety of well-meaning art teachers who were working in too many schools to really focus on their quieter introverted students.

I knew what I wanted to create.  I had the end piece all in my head,  I just didn’t have the physical skills developed or the experience with tools to master the basic elements.

I was devastated every time my piece was chosen as the example of “what not to do” by various teachers.  I hated art……

I became a writer.

Letters can’t be judged or held up in a classroom as a negative example. I wrote in a journal beginning as an eight year old and still journal…..It’s the creative part of me yelling to be set free….So, for many years, I created with letters on paper…..

My sophomore English teacher gave lots of creative writing assignments.  I was thrilled. I still have two of the assignments…”What I Want to Be” and a poetry compilation that I illustrated.

I became a fluent writer in college all because of being placed in the class of a feared professor.  His reputation was fearless and fearful…. He only gave three A’s and he informed us of this on the very first day of class.

My first attempt landed me a D.  I was devastated.  He told me I was too cautious. He told me I took the easy way out so that all the spelling and grammar and punctuation would be correct….well, most of the time anyway…. He told me I needed to improve.  And then he looked at me.

I was once again that little girl having her work displayed as the “how not to” piece….

Something happened to both of us during our conference.  He took my paper and added a plus sign to the D.  He told me to write a new piece about anything that was important to me without any regard to spelling or grammar or punctuation.  It was due at the next class meeting.  He told me to write my thoughts and not worry about the “how to” rules.  For the first time in my life, I was inspired to try again with this professor that the student body feared….

I wrote.  I wrote and wrote and wrote.  I wrote some more.  It was freeing.  I turned it in and two days later it was returned to me, with a big fat juicy A on it.  In red pencil.  The only red pencil mark on it was the A. I was confused and inspired.

He gave me the next assignment: Now correct the spelling, grammar and punctuation and turn it back in to him.  I did. The editing process went back and forth between us until the paper was finally complete.  It represented my real thoughts and it was written with all corrections made.  I learned more about grammar and spelling and punctuation in two weeks than I had in twelve years.  I was rewarded with an A+ not just on that paper, but I was one of the three that earned one of his precious coveted A’s in the class.   I done good….. 🙂

These two experiences were life changing for me.  These two people gave me a precious gift: Time to explore and time to develop…..

And this brings us full circle to why I love cardboard boxes and why this art exhibit is so important to me.

I want these teeny tiny precious tykes to know that they are valued because they are unique.  Not because they are masters at a skill.  I want them to feel celebrated and to hopefully show their families the importance of continuing the celebration of their uniqueness when they have outgrown The Patch.

Threading ribbon through chicken wire isn’t the celebration.  The celebration is in the experience. The celebration is in the “A-Haa” moment when they finally understood they could place the ribbon anywhere and it could twist and curl if they wanted it to.

The celebration was in their being fully present and being fully joyful at just seeing what happened if they tried this or that…..It was about enjoying the process and not caring if others didn’t understand or appreciate or “get” the final outcome.

Process and  experience are what creates our life.  They are what add depth and width and richness to our life….the actual piece gets lost or ruined and then forgotten…..But what we learn about ourselves along the way is ours to keep for life….

This is what those art teachers forgot…..This is what I refuse to forget….. Everyone earns a big fat juicy delicious A+ at The Patch…..

Until next time,

Patty

Inspired by Color and Joy

I have had the most delicious summer with the tykes at The Patch!  We’ve explored so many wonderful art forms that there’s no way to get all their works and our journey penned on this blog.  I’m starting from our most recent exploration and then will back track to cover our first annual art exhibit in hopes of getting the blog all caught up…..  Fasten your seat belt, the next few blogs will be coming at you with lightening speed!!!

The past two weeks we have been exploring circles.  The younger tykes created a canvas using painted circles, milk caps, milk cap rings, and foam circles.  It is stunning and I’m proud to say that they can all identify the circle shape.

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My older tyke created a circle project on his own.  We used a delightful piece I saw at an art fair as our inspiration.  I bought two prints for us to explore: circles and triangles……  This was such a cool process for him.  He chose all the elements, colors, and cut all the pieces.  It took him two sessions, and the final result is more stunning than this photograph can ever relay:

Will's Circles

I’m sharing these beautiful masterpieces in hopes of inspiring you to find your passion as you teach and guide the tykes in your classroom or in your home daycare.  I have been on the most amazing journey since spring 2014, and I feel for the first time, I am finally in my “sweet spot” as a preschool teacher…… Art and nature…. My passion in just two words…..

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to “be” what I thought a preschool teacher was supposed to “be” and “look like”…..I’ve gone through the typical stages of “letter of the week” and other tried and true preschool curriculum styles. I just never felt like I was “doing” preschool “right”…..  I tended to burn out before we reach the middle letter of the alphabet and it was soooo frustrating and defeating……  I just never felt like the curriculum and I “fit” together…..I know now that I didn’t “fit” with the traditional curriculum…..

So, fifteen months ago, I began to explore the Reggio learning philosophy. It totally changed my focus, direction, and drive.  I have spent the past fifteen months redesigning my space, my supplies, and my day around a nature and art based philosophy that is tied together for a Reggio Inspired approach.  I am totally engulfed….. I cannot put into words how free I feel to explore with my tykes and how much more they are taking on in basic knowledge and in applying in their projects…. I have never been more satisfied or more energized than I have been since last spring…..

I’m sharing this because I want to encourage you if you are feeling out of sorts with your class and your teaching.  I want to encourage you to take some time, and I mean       T-I-M-E to reflect on who you are and why you are in education.

What drives you? What brings you joy as a teacher?  What “trips your trigger”?

These are all valid questions that only you can answer and once you pin point the answers you can begin to address how to bring the joy into your classroom.

Finding your passion will generate a cycle of passion that is passed onto your tykes.  It may still look like a traditional classroom.  It may look totally different.  But if you are finding yourself feeling “Blah” or out of sorts or out of steam, I am asking you to take some time to assess if you are where you want to be in your teaching career.  I’m asking you to think about how much joy you are experiencing on a regular basis and how much of this joy you are passing onto your tykes…..

Teachers give of themselves and their resources more than any other occupation.  We are a special breed.  We are relentless in our desire to make a difference.

We need to learn to take care of ourselves.  We need to find our “sweet spot” in order to not only teach, but teach with passion and drive……When we marry our passion to our profession, our occupation becomes joyful and fulfilling and satisfying…..

Here’s to finding your teaching “sweet spot” and your passion!  Let me know what you discover!

Until next time,

Patty