Category Archives: ETCW

geometric shapes with watercolor

ETCW 2020: Stay Home Edition

This blog was born as part of my Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship, where I got to blow $10k on writing workshops and a sweet new laptop (thanks, Lilly Endowment!), and one of my annual traditions is to update it during Teacher Camp, aka the Extending Teacher Creativity Workshop which is usually held at Indiana State University but this year–for obvious reasons–was held virtually.

Susan Powers, the woman who organizes the event each year is always an incredible powerhouse but this year, considering I got THREE shipments of workshop supplies and swag, and so did everybody else, she deserves a medal.

Sessions were held over Zoom, and while I certainly missed the delightful catering that characterizes most years’ workshops, and the random encounters with such a wide swath of my profession, it was great to still be able to see my “camp friends” and try out some new things. Each year after the first year teachers can choose a big workshop and a “mini” workshop; this year, I chose Made to Create (aka a watercolor workshop) for my major course and a bracelet-making workshop for my mini. That meant I got a box of watercolor supplies, a lightboard (!!), modeling clay and twine, a very sharp Exact-o knife, and a whole bunch of other treats (black masking tape! Very sharp scissors! A variety-pack of Sharpies! Yes, I am easy to please).

toddler watercoloring
The decoy paint station was a hit!

Our instructor for the watercolor workshop worked her tail off, too, making us TEN videos highlighting different skills, techniques, and projects. After setting up my work station, and then setting up a decoy station to distract my kids, I got to work, and…. managed to watch and paint along with three of the ten videos.

Don’t get me wrong – I still had an excellent time. And since the videos are still up for the time being, it’s possible that I might “catch up” later (not likely, mind you… but possible!). It was hard to carve out the time while I was still physically at home — when I go to Terre Haute, I’m gone, so it’s a lot easier to focus — but I still really enjoyed what I got to do.

It also let me be a student on a Zoom call and really experience the distractions, frustrations, and challenges of e-learning from the student side. There were some plusses (doing the videos when I wanted to, at my own pace) and some minuses (having to do videos instead of being in the room with others, to learn collaboratively or get immediate feedback). I already have a tendency to “go rogue” on things like this, and being in a room full of other people can help me stay focused and keep me from losing track of time (two opposite problems, both of which I have when it comes to art).

me and my toddler, who is brandishing a paintbrush
Two novice painters!

As usual, I finished ETCW grateful for the Lilly Foundation and its support of Indiana teachers, with some good ideas to steal and some reminders about what doesn’t work (definitely remind everybody who isn’t talking to stay on mute… yikes).

Now I’m going to go bust out my sewing machine and see if I can make my ETCW2020 t-shirt into an ETCW2020 face mask. Wish me luck!

Staying Home

Well, I was just thinking what a shame it was that I hadn’t updated my blog in so long that I had to go look up my login/password info, and I looked back to see that my last update was… right before ‘normal life’ crashed and burned thanks to Covid-19! So I suppose that explains why.

the front yard of a brightly-painted house with a verdant garden, sloppy grass, and a Black Lives Matter sign, on a sunny day
lots of home improvement projects, not so much with the blog updates

I got to try online-only teaching for the last quarter of the 2019-2020 school year, which was quite an experience – it felt like being a first-year teacher again, and not in a good way – and now I’m hovering in uncertainty with the rest of the world – planning for the worst, hoping for the best: I’m set to start school again (staff orientation) next Tuesday in person, but the board has pushed our start date back and put us on a hybrid model (50% of students in the building at a time, blended with e-Learning) so no matter what happens (hybrid? Virtual?) I’m sure 2020-2021 will be a heck of a learning experience.

I mean, if we didn’t understand before, we certainly know now why “May you live in interesting times” is a vicious curse.

Being used to “Dwell[ing] in possibility” like my good friend Emily Dickinson, that means I basically haven’t done any planning for the school year (yet), despite the fact that (once again) I have five preps and 2 of them are new (English 9 Honors, an all-new class, and English Lab, a remedial class that has to be planned anew each year to meet student needs (at least the way I do it)). Interesting times indeed!

So I’m going to try to figure it out as I go, as usual, and I’m going to do my annual “oh hey look a blog” posts any day now – ETCW was virtual this year, which was both better and worse, and I have another short story from the NYC Midnight competition to post – and maybe, just maybe, add some more teaching-related content… as soon as I wrap my head around online and/or hybrid teaching!

#etcw branded swag (bag, sticky notes, travel mug, t-shirt, notebook, writing utensils)

#ECTW2019 (Day 2)

Today I learned that I’m still capable of waking up, rolling out of bed, and getting out of the dorms in about 10 minutes. (I feel a little groggier than I remember feeling in college, but that’s probably because it’s fifteen years and two kids later.)

After spending some of yesterday’s writing time writing that last post, and the rest of it fighting updating WordPress and then fighting with that and Twitter about a Twitter widget, and then giving up on the Twitter widget and nuking it in favor of a link to my Twitter page (FANCY), about all I had energy for was to stuff myself full of dinner and go do some arts and crafts in the dorm lobby. So, uh. Not a lot of writing got done.

But look at these pretty alcohol-ink washers I made!

This morning I woke up to the calendar reminder that my pages are due today for IndyScribes (ten pages due, and I have written… none, whoops).

Luckily I’m in a writing workshop for most of the day! So I’ll get started on that… any minute now… I’m sure…

#ETCW2019 (Day 1)

So, it’s July, and I have the great pleasure of being (for the third time) at the Extending Teacher Creativity Workshop at Indiana State University in Terre Haute for the next three days!

One of the many benefits of winning a Lily Teacher Creativity Fellowship (besides the humungous grant – $10k when I won in 2015, and $14k now) is an annual invitation to what I think of as Teacher Camp – previous recipients gather in the ISU student union to do one Workshop and one Mini-Workshop, and they feed us generously and gift us lavishly and try to freeze us to death (whoops, no, that’s just the a/c).

Continue reading #ETCW2019 (Day 1)