Six Weeks Later…Am I Being Hazed?

I keep looking for Ashton Kutcher to jump out and say I am being punked in my classroom. The first six weeks have caused my journal of my journey to have quite a few notes added to it. Here are a few:

“Never ever ever teach Watercolors and collages on a Harvest Full Moon week. Ever.”

“How creative can I get in separating students with these long tables? Seating chart #4 rolled out.”

“OVERPLAN all lessons by at least 25 minutes.”

“Plan better when painting.”

However, even with all the classroom management challenges, we accomplished a lot together, too! We/I survived our first art show and it was fantastic!! Our turnout was fabulous and these kids connected with their families and the community through their artwork. Soul = Full. ❤️

First parent teacher conferences were a success. I am learning everyday so that is a success! I think the kids are, too. A new student was inspired by our lessons on the element of art that is line. She created a beautiful canvas using food coloring! It was gorgeous and reminded me how much I have to learn from my students as well. I immediately put it on the wall front and center and proudly displayed it to each class! They all loved it and I loved the idea that she felt comfortable enough to help with the lessons by creating an actual showpiece of the material we are studying. 

These kids are smart. They are creative. They share fascinating details through their artwork and behavior. Definitely a whole brain teaching subject. I am trying some of these techniques for both the students and I to put their minds and mouths to good use!

The joys of working with kids is plentiful, and I cannot Lysol fast enough! One of my awesome students gave me a lovely stomach bug that showed up yesterday morning and I am just now beginning to feel like I am a little bit alive again. Airborne and Vitamin C are my friends, along with GermX and soap. #teacherlife

First Full Week of School

One word…exhausting. Trying to figure out what is engaging to the students and what they are connecting to helps me learn how to style my teaching better. So many adjustments! Jeopardy idea was a bust, but the phones for inspiration was well received by most. Good participation. I should have done some things better. But there were breakthrough moments when I got to assist two boys understand how to draw a music idol of theirs into simple shapes, lines, forms and shading; and convinced them to just focus on the task ahead of them one step at a time. And all of a sudden, it was easy for me to instruct and the kids to respond and create. It was incredible. I have these two drawings up there and they mean so much to me. Because I saw how powerful and engaging art is and how amazing it is to share this gift with someone else.

So, my L crashed and burned and I have to find some other method to hold it up there, but it is filling up with kids who are finding their creative selves in art. They are responding well. My classroom management skills could be loads better. I am working on that and learning more hour by hour.

I attempted to introduce the elements and principles of art this week. They need reteaching, but the book takes care of that. We have chapters on each of them so individual focus is taught. It is sooo much fun. 

Feet are abnormally swollen and not happy with me. Sitting behind an office desk for over a decade and being sedentary a long time has taken its toll! Now, I barely have time to sit at all and I will probably go to a chiropractor and take care of myself because I want to be an authentic example these kids can look up to in some way. Lesson planning on a Saturday night… I am a wild girl. Watch out Monday, I am getting ready for you!

On the First Day of Teaching…

Today was the day I had been thinking about for months. First day of teaching ever. I had such good intentions… I have lived on Teachers Pay Teachers and watched countless lessons on YouTube. I made notes and highlighted almost every word in Wong’s First 100 Days of School. And this is what I learned today:

LNothing can prepare you for this. Nothing. (I am alternatively certified so an education degree would have helped me immensely!) It is improv with a plan.

Well, I take that back. Being a mother prepared me by giving me endless opportunities to learn patience and the power of an encouraging word to a child. It is visible how much it boosts their confidence. We need to notice our kids’ strengths and verbally recognize it sometimes. Makes such a difference! (Stepping off soapbox) Being a student in a Biblical Counseling program helped me gain emotional intelligence into difficult issues that no one wants to be in or deal with on any level. But it strengthened my compassion. Being a C.A.S.A. for several years taught me how to speak for children who don’t have a voice in the court system. It fueled my purpose for being a champion for kids. All kids. 

Today, I looked out at in my class and studied each student, trying to learn names quickly and something about each one. I saw someone’s son, daughter, granddaughter, grandson, and members of society that matter and have importsnt voices. This year, I will teach them how to channel that voice into art. Some may fall in love with art like I have. Others may want to be switching to something else! 😄 

 I saw kids who needed boundaries and some pushed them. All. Hour. Long. ❤️ 😄 And it was awesome. I looked them in the eye and let them know I cared about them. And if it takes reminding them everyday every time I see them that I am investing in them and their education; I happily accept this challenge. I want them to learn and explore and create. But most of all, I want them to feel inspired, encouraged, cared about and valued for who they are. 

Day 2. Bring it. 

Photo Credits:

Meet the Teacher

Tonight was my very first Meet the Teacher night on this side of the desk. Mistake #1. Wore heels. Very poor wardrobe choice. Very poor. (Will pay for it for a few days, probably)

I scrambled to finish all my Pinterest and Teacher Pay Teacher projects from creating a syllabus to having my beloved Howell Gallery letters fall off and break on the floor. Then, to valiantly execute a plan to completion and then to notice it was crooked. So I threw a frame on it and decided that was my new brand and went with it.

Mistakes are evident to me all over my room. I lettered everything freehand and not to my standards. But maybe I need to learn a lesson as well. What am I doing this for? 

Because I ultimately want an environment full of hospitality and creativity. I asked for one supply from each child. Unexpected waves of generosity from all over will make it possible to get supplies to make this an amazing year of art! We have a WONDERFUL school and everyone is so supportive and chips in. It is going to be an amazing year! 

I stressed and fretted over lesson plans and made business cards. (My corporate self will not die!) Then, it was 4:00 and it was on.

My silent goal was to make each student and as many parents as possible to smile. I stood in my doorway and I saw nervousness, uncertainty and hesitancy. I know that because I am on this side of the door feeling the same. But it all stopped with the first kid at 4:01. I saw my kids and I got to know them a little bit. So many wonderful personalities!!! I saw a lot of schedules and began to realize what I needed to do this year.

These kids’ schedules are unbelievable. Test after test. Some honors, some AP and activities that will make for long days for these kids. Sometimes, we adults forget that our children have long days, too. I have the incredible opportunity to teach art. An outlet. A classroom that could be a sacred space to retreat and create. That is what would benefit them the most from me. I can do all the planning in the world, but when I looked into my students’ eyes and saw a lot of heavy laden kids; I rearrange. I need to be more creative and make sure I am always encouraging and uplifting. I need to take them on an artistic journey each hour so that they can refresh and refuel a little bit. It is the least I can do. Hospitality and encouragement are my specialties. ❤️🎨

Thursday. We’re ready. 😄
Photo Credits:

A Great Responsibility

School starts in eleven days. My classroom is not ready. My procedures are not finished. Lessons plans are not completed and neither are my bulletin boards decorated. This may send some of you awesome, wonderful, and prepared teachers in a tizzy and clicking on another site right now. I completely understand. 😄 It’s just, I’m a little overwhelmed right now. (In a good way)

This is a great responsibility. It’s not one to take lightly.

Last year, I sent my precious little girl to pre-K. It was absolutely wonderful for her!  It was absolutely terrifying for me! 😄 Would she make friends? Would I make friends? Will I have done enough? Did I make sure she got all the tools so she will be successful? So many new worries to worry about. (Like I needed more things…) I was turning my daughter over to other people that were not me. This probably sounds ridiculous to some of you! But, I overanalyzed and over worried about my maternal skills plenty enough. I had to give up my primary role as teacher in her life, and temporarily give it to someone else. And that was hard. 

What happened? The woman that taught my daughter completely amazed me and solidified my calling to become a teacher. She went far and beyond her calling to a level that few teachers ever achieve. She made a statement the first time I met her at parents’ night. She said that this was her dream job and she was doing what she absolutely loved to do. That made me stop and think about my own life choices, seriously! And it was a pre-K parents’ night. That is how good of a motivator she is, lol! 😄

I remember thinking, “How cool is it that my daughter will get to be a part of this person’s dream for her life?!” I thought that was pretty remarkable. As a parent, I cannot tell you how much confidence was built and worry was evaporated at that conference. And it made me want to be living my dream job. 

So I would like to say:

Dear Parents of my Future Students:

You don’t know me. Yet, you are trusting me with what I hope is one of your most valuable treasures. Your child. You have spent years pouring yourself into him or her. You want the same quality or better from someone else to earn a place of trustworthiness in your child’s life. As well you should.

I want you to know that not only do I respect and understand that feeling, but I accept the responsibility with a vow from me to you and my future students.

I promise to you that I will never judge your child based on what she or he is able or unable to do. I accept him or her as an individual with rights and liberties and opinions. No preference on my part will divide my classroom in any way. My students are all equal and will be given the equal opportunities to succeed. No matter what subject I teach, I promise to inform with accuracy and fact. However, I will always encourage debates and challenges to the status quo so they will know when to become leaders in their own generations. I do not take this job lightly, but I do take it willingly. I promise that I will encourage your son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandson, granddaughter, or friend with sincerity and enthusiasm. I want to make your child think, smile, and be challenged everyday at his or her appropriate level. 

You can be assured that I am committed to learning about how to be a better teacher everyday. Whether I am listening to podcasts, attending a conference or reading books, it is because I want to be the best I can possibly be as a person. I know that I will need to be emotionally intelligent to handle situations in the classroom. My heart is with the children and with you, their family. I know what it is like to be a mom who is handing her kids off to be influenced outside my control. I am transparent in my position. I believe in being held accountable and open with commications. Some days will be better than others. This is my first year, and I ask for feedback and wisdom from you. Just thought you should know. My door is always open to you. 


Mrs. Howell

Dream job starts in 11 days. 😄

Photo Credits:

Nicky Howell (Vacation shots in Little Niagra, Sulphur & Davis, Oklahoma

Fourth Generation Classroom

I finished new teacher training! Hooray! Now I am dreaming about curriculum maps and smart boards. 😄 (Not panicking about how to hit all 16 points on my evaluation in each lesson…not at all.) I have officially caught new teacher classroom decorating fever. I have grand ideas of using palettes for a stage area to break up the room and practice painting sets; and took my first teacher trip to Hobby Lobby. Yea. Everything on the half off rack this week. Next week for the other half of my list that I refuse to buy this week.(They really have this marketing thing down.)

Most importantly, I got a beautiful lesson from four different generations of my family. 

It started this morning. I had a “second mom” growing up, who was and is one of my mom’s best friends that works at my school. Seeing her this morning in my classroom that seemed very large and I felt small was relieving. She came in and made me feel like everything was going to be okay. Just like when I would have to go to my mom’s classroom all these years ago and she was privy to some mom and daughter drama. Lol! She helped me set up my classroom and gave me so many ideas that were so perfect that I needed to hear. She is a brilliant educator and an even better as a friend/family member. She offered to bring some things she had that she thought I could use for my classroom. I was beyond grateful for her presence this morning.  

This afternoon, I went to my parents’ home to go up into the attic with my retired history teacher mama, so she could give me some things for my classroom from boxes she has collected and saved all these years. She has saved every note from her students. She said to keep all the notes your students make and give you, because there will be days you need to pull these out to remember why you are needed in the classroom. I suddenly realized something at that moment. Teaching is part of our DNA. It becomes a part of who we are, what we do and helps us remember to realize why we do it. To make a difference in a child’s life. We inspire, encourage, support, cheer, instruct, forgive, mentor and love. Retired teachers are eager to mentor new teachers. They know JUST what you need to hear when you need to hear it. They recognize a struggling teacher trying to establish a new classroom and feeling out of their realm completely while checking out items at my local crafts store. She was a kindergarten teacher for 12 years. Instant advice and wisdom. Again, exactly who I needed to meet and connect with.

This brought me to my evening. I took my teacher’s edition textbook that I am SO thrilled to receive from the wonderful high school art teacher in my district, and ate a beautiful meal with my Granny E. She is a retired art teacher. She gave me so much wisdom and ideas for projects that are perfect for my classroom. She taught me long ago to appreciate the world around me. She and I will notice every detail of decoration of any kind. We know the time and effort that goes into making each detail just right. My grandmother taught me to spot the beauty of Mother Earth, the same way her grandmother taught her. 

She then took me out to her art studio and taught me a way to make beautiful portfolios for pennies. The very same pattern was included in her aunt’s handwriting for my Granny. She kept these for me, she said. I get to be the third generation to share my great aunt’s portfolios. They are elegant and durable. I love hearing about Great Aunt Kiki. She was a Kappa Delta alum just like me and I had no idea she had pledged anything. 

“Kids today need to have someone teach them to look up from their phones and see what all they are missing!” – Granny E

I told you she was wise.😉  You know what hit me the most about this statement? What are my kids learning from my actions being glued to my phone, missing the world around me… But, most importantly, missing them. 

My classroom is an incredible tapestry of some of the most beautiful relationships I have been fortunate to make here on Earth. Each piece in it is inspired by someone who inspires me and has always believed in me and supported me. It is so much more than these four walls.

I cannot wait for my classroom to get set up and become a spotlight for thoughtful pieces that hold value beyond five generations. That sounds like a pretty amazing future to me. ❤️

Photo Credits:

Enthusiastic Encouragement

Today’s social media has given every user his or her own personal platform to stand on and have their unique voice heard by the global masses. We have never been so connected as a world civilization. It’s incredible to be able to Skype with my German brother overseas and keep up with various friends and family all over the globe via Facebook alone. And that is amazing! Which is why statistics like the following are staggering to comprehend:

“This statistic provides information about the perceived effect of social networking on the social and emotional well-being of U.S. teenagers between the ages 13 and 17. Some teens do see an effect of social networking on their social and emotional lives, and for them it is largely a positive one. For example, some teens say that using their main social networking site makes them feel less shy (29 percent) and more outgoing (28 percent), or helps them feel more confident (20 percent), more popular (19 percent), more sympathetic to others (19 percent), and better about themselves (15 percent).” –

Instead of using this incredible technology to bully someone else, what if we used it to deepen relationships through edifying words and encouragement?  Instead of scrolling past your annoying friend’s 35th political post, stop and hear what she’s really saying. She is in fear of the current state of chaos in our country. Security and her family are important to her. 

What if we used technology to remind ourselves of our fondness for old friends and the beautiful feeling of connection again after all these years! You don’t have to move back to where you’ve been to lose the people you got to know. They are simply a few clicks away. What if we could make our relationships stronger by trying to understand each other on a deeper level through what we each deem important enough to send to cyberspace attached to our names? 

Here are some practical Social Media Strategies for creating and sustaining relationships:

1. Take the time to tell your friends Happy Birthday. It takes seconds a day. Copy and paste if you have to. Happy Anniversary is simple to relay and shows you remembered them today. This can seriously make someone’s day. I have seen it happen.

2. Try to start a conversation with and keep that conversation going with someone you admired along the way in your journey of life. You never know what kind of possibilities can open up from a simple reconnection. I started a new career by simply thanking an old teacher who inspired me to teach years ago, and he helped me get my first teaching job. That is the power of connection. You have a unique story to tell that is all your own. People want to hear it, especially former mentors or persons of influence in your life. 

3. Pay close attention to your Friends’ Life Events and offer congratulations and/or encouragement. You never know what people are battling through on a daily basis. More than likely, if someone is sharing an update, it holds significant meaning to him or her in some way. A simple reply with a compliment takes seconds. It could mean the world to someone else.

Let’s not forget to tread softly and lightly in the social media circles. We KNOW you look fabulous and we care what you are eating, but also remember to share something authentic and genuine about yourself every now and then. Think twice before taking offense, instantly replying and any actions out of defense or frustration. Think first, is it KIND?

Kindness should never go out of style. We must teach it to the next generation on their learning mediums for better comprehension. Making it relevant to having an online presence helps teens to use practical advice easier when shown on their familiar formats. It is also an excellent teaching moment in business classes about the importance of public relations strategies for 21st century and beyond businesses. 

What if we really could change the world… One comment at a time?

Photo Credits:

Answering the Call

Limbo is a frustrating space to call home. When you feel called to do something great, but not told a destination or how long it is expected to take to arrive there. Believing you were made for more but not being able to understand the walls between you and your desired destination. So, you wait. And wait. Pass some tests. Study for different tests. Wait for results. Take another test. Wait. Sensing a pattern? Anticipation meets elongation. Then, you make an ultimatum and live by the outcome.

That’s what I did. My industry disappeared. I found a place that I was able to grow and learn in. Then, I had to make a choice. One I never knew the answer to since 1999 and I was completely overwhelmed with picking a major for the REST OF MY LIFE???

The Living you do in the space between the places where you want to be and where you currently are will usually determine how far you will end up to your goal. And how fast you will get there. 

Frustration is natural. Fear of not having enough or running out of what you’ll need when you arrive is real. But we have a choice. Well, we have a LOT of choices. But the ultimate direction in which we steer our life’s courses is not one to take lightly. Sometimes, if you are stubborn like me, you will need lots of convincing. No worries, you’ll know it when you find the one choice you keep trying to get rid of because the cons far outweigh the pros. But I encourage you to pick up that potential choice and answer a few questions from your soul (or your gut).

1. What is the main problem with this direction? 

2. Why am I talking myself out of it? Why have I unknowingly given it favor if I am arguing against it?

3. Is there something with this particular calling that fulfills a calling, self need or passion?

4. What will I be giving up to follow this choice?

Answering these questions were key for me to unlock my future…finally. 

I decided to take up arms and join the battlefield of education. Because I truly believe that teachers can influence future generations. There are things that we must pass on before traditions are lost in the waves of technology and change. I think that kids today need a champion to speak encouragement and guidance loudly in a place that is already filled with noise. I had to learn that my value and worth are not defined by numbers of any kind. And that is a lesson that I am still learning. It is scary the difference in pay for a business professional with an MBA and a Business Teacher. I panicked when I saw what I would be making with the biased filter of a prosperous oil and gas salaried experience to compare it to. The cons were too much using that particular filter. 

Then, I changed the filter.

What if success depended on making a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis? Seeing the instant gratification on a student’s face because you believed in them? Encouraging future generations to think wisely in picking their perspectives in life? These are all good things to teach.

But what about when they are modeled as well? It’s not enough to tell someone you care about them and value their relationships and educations. It’s enough when you remain committed to reassure each student on a consistent basis until they believe it themselves. Emotional intelligence is something the modern day workplace desperately needs. What if the future generations were trained in this beginning at the junior high age level and have the capability of even discovering more breakthroughs themselves? 

It begins with me. Which path? Law school and the safe path? (Except more student loan debt–ack) Or do I put my money where my mouth is and educate? I start tomorrow.

#nevertoolatetofollowyourdream #onelifetime #makeitcount

Photo Credits:

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?