Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Pink Slip Experience

Artists Name: Bhavna G.

School: Detroit Country Day
Spring time is the season of flowers blooming and chicks hatching; unfortunately, it can also be a time where the pink slips are arriving for hundreds of educators. I came across a couple of teachers this past week who were both pink slipped and it prompted me to think about my own experience and offer some advice to those of you who have found yourself in this situation.

I have had the privilege of being pink slipped three times in the course of a year. My first reaction was of course disappointment at the situation, but I was also kind of surprised that the form is not pink nor is it really a slip. Instead, each was a neatly typed letter using technical language to tell me that I was no longer going to be employed and that if the situation changed, I would be called back (which thankfully I was, each time).

It was a dark time, but also a time where I gained a lot of strength and insight about who I was as a teacher and person. It is often said that true character is revealed in times of trial, and the stress of being pink slipped without knowing if you are going to be able to do what you love where you have established a home and career can be a very stressing moment in a person's life.

With that said, here is my advice to anyone who is facing a pink slip:

1. Chances are you will be called back. I know it is not comforting to hear, especially from someone who has not been pink slipped, but with the technical details of No Child Left Behind, the switch to full-day Kindergarten, graduation requirements for students, and the fact that other content teachers need their prep-time, an Art teacher is a needed thing for schools and they will have to find someone to fill the requirements (chances are that is you). You may have been pink slipped simply due to the nature of the seniority list, which was the case in my situation.

2. If you have multiple endorsements, make sure to make yourself open to teaching them. I am certified in both Visual Arts and English. My first teaching job was actually more English than it was Art. Visual Arts is my first love and I am incredibly thankful that I get to do it full time, but I am also thankful that I have an option. If you do not have a second endorsement, consider getting one as a part of your continuing education that is required per MDE certification renewal. You might even be able to use credits from your undergraduate degree to go towards this. Here is a list of what classes can be taught with each certification.

3. Update your Resume, Portfolio and website, and put yourself out there. Although you would like to think that the school you have taught at will call you back because there is no way they could go on without you, sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. Now that you have experience under your belt, you will be able to use that to help get your next job. In each case of being pink slipped, my principal and other administrators readily wrote great letters of recommendation. Make sure to ask for those letters, and who knows, they might also be able to give you a lead based on their connections with other districts in your county. This website helped me keep up to date on what was available when I was looking for a job in Michigan.

4. Realize that it is not about you as a teacher or person, it is about a budget. You cannot control this; you can not take it personal. It is not your fault and you can only move forward. Chances are you became a teacher because you have a passion for the subject you are teaching and a caring heart for kids. I never hear any teacher say they do it for the money; you would not be able to go in each day and do what is required of a teacher if the only motivation was that. What charges me up and motivates me are those moments when a student reflects on a work they have created as "The best thing they have ever made..." or the moment when they hoot and holler over an artist they are excited to study. If that kind of stuff gets you going then know that you are a good teacher and being pink slipped is not the end of things for you.

I know that this can be a tough time, but realize you are not alone. If you have advice or a success story to share from your own pink slip experience, please post it below - all advice and success stories are welcome!

Friday, May 11, 2012


what now

This is not so much a question or a theme, but a call to action from those presenters and participants at yesterday's TEDxGrandRapids event downtown and the Livestream for education at Forest Hills Fine Arts Center. The day was filled with thoughtful insight into ideas surrounding education, science, technology, social culture, and design. But more importantly within all of the speakers segments, it was really a discussion about the human condition and hopefulness for "being the change you want to see."

From highlighting contact lenses that offer the ability to transmit and receive data, to using game play as a way of discovering self, clothing made of the result of feasting bacteria, and how to love those around us, the speakers of TEDxGrandRapids offered the audience a chance to imagine the future and take part through initiatives like Community Xprize and TEDed.

One of the more emotional moments of the day included the story of Linda Ragsdale, a survivor of the 2008 attack in Mumbai. Although she was shot and witnessed the murder of friends around her, including a young girl she had promised to teach how to draw a dragon, Linda does not harbor hate for those who committed such acts; instead, she challenges all of us to come from a place of love and peace when encountering others. Her story of the dragon is one that looks to blast myths and misconceptions behind what it is; that the dragon is a symbol of peace, "whose spiky scales are revealed to show he is made of hearts; all hearts have a point, each point leads to a direction" and you have to be the one to answer "which way will you go?" She chooses the path of peace, and during her 3 days in Grand Rapids will have worked with over 11,000 students in a community art project called "The Peace Dragon Project" to encourage them to do the same. Linda is an incredible person who was warm and inviting to each person she spoke with during our breaks at the Fine Arts Center. She is a genuine example of peace personified.

There are plans to continue this Livestream for education next year and I encourage you to participate. There were quite a few Visual Arts Teachers there, and it was a great time to connect and talk with others outside of our discipline about collaborative projects. Have you ever been to a TED talk or have a favorite one to share? Please leave your insights and share your "what now" moment below.

Friday, May 4, 2012

MI doodle4google finalist

Please support Janae, the MI finalist for this year's doodle4google competition in the 6-7th grade category. She is  running to win the following prizess:
  • The National Winner will have his or her doodle featured on the U.S. homepage on May 18, 2012.
  • He or she will be awarded a $30,000 college scholarship to be used at the school of his or her choice,
  • a Google Chromebook computer,
  • a Wacom digital design tablet, and
  • a t-shirt printed with his or her doodle on it.
  • The winner's full time school (Navigator!) wins a $50,000 technology grant towards the establishment or improvement of a computer lab or technology programming.
  • Each of the other four National Finalists will win a $5,000 college scholarship to be used at the school of their choice, a trip to New York for the final event on May 17, 2012, a Wacom digital design tablet, and a t-shirt printed with their doodle on it.
How can you help:
  • May 2-10, 2012: The Public (YOU!) can vote online for Janae's doodle by visiting the Doodle 4 Google website here: Be sure to click on the Grades 6-7 age group, and then scroll to look for Janae's name and design, Pinckney, MI and then vote!
  • One vote per computer is accepted, but you can also vote using your phone, iPad, SMART Board, etc.
Congratulations to Pinckney Schools and Janae for this accomplishment! Good luck!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May Flowers

May is a time where not only flowers are blooming (although with this crazy weather some have been out since March); it is the time where students really are at their prime to show off what they have learned throughout the year and apply it to culminating projects and exhibitions.

If your district is anything like mine, you get to show off the year's worth of work through various shows in your building and at a district wide show in a central location. This is a great time for students, parents, and teachers to connect and really remark on the growths students have made throughout the year.

Theresa McGee showed off her annual exhibition in this great Animoto video, complete with movies and pictures of the event.

What made this show for me was the effective use of QR codes to link to the artists being studied in each project. This is a great way to create an interactive show, involving the viewer to take part in the show by learning even more. Here is how she explains the process of using QR codes in her classroom.

In a time where students are probably looking ahead to the summer break, take a moment and pull them back in to enjoy the hard work and lessons learned that has lead them to May. This last full month of school should be the time when students say "This is my best project," or "I never thought I could do something like this..." instead of checking out, already tuned in to whatever summer plans might bring. In the best case scenario, you will even have some saying, "I can't wait to come back next year, already!"