Wreck This Journal: Rebel

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It’s funny how Wreck This Journal often reflects whatever is going on in my life.  I don’t write much about my day job as a teacher, mainly because I like to keep my writing life separate from my professional life.  Sometimes, however, it can’t be helped when inspiration and the daily grind combine.

I’ve always been a bit of an outsider among my colleagues because I don’t fit the mold of a typical teacher. My methods are a little outside the box, I have a quirky personality, and my appearance often gets me mistaken for a student instead of a teacher.  Say what they may, my odd approach works as my students can’t wait to come to my class every day and for some they never liked history until they walked through my classroom door.  Learning should be a disciplined process, but it should also be creative and fun.  The world needs people who can think for themselves and find solutions to problems and its my job to help students become those independent thinkers.  We owe it to our future.

As the economy worsens and public education continues to take financial hits, districts are scrambling to snag federal funding which is often based significantly on standardized test scores.  I’ve been teaching for eleven years and with each year I’ve watched my district become more and more obsessed with statistics and data and that unfortunately takes the focus off individualized learning and performance.  Education is increasingly veering from diversified learning to cookie cutter intelligence that pretty much eliminates all forms of creative thought and problem solving.  To say this concerns me is an understatement. My philosophy of teaching revolves around allowing students to individually process information and find creative ways to use that information.  Slowly, but surely, I’m finding myself further and further outside the boundaries of the system.

Recently, my school district has taken to implementing a new dress code for teachers.  I’m not opposed to a dress code, but the timing of it is what irks me.  We are in the middle of a financial crisis and clothing is where they’ve chosen to place their focus.  In my school alone, there are leaking ceilings, mouse/roach infested classrooms (mine is one of them), a shortage of desks, 40 kids in a class, and outdated laptops (mine is held together with tape).  I’m not usually one to complain, but I think the district has lost sight of what’s important here. I’m all for professionalism in the workplace, but at the moment I don’t feel much like a professional in surroundings that are falling apart.

From a personal standpoint, I dress rather casually because that’s who I am.  I’m not a slob by any means, but I’m also not a rayon blouse, heels wearing kind of girl.  One of the most important things I teach my students, (aside from curriculum), is the importance of being yourself.  When I started teaching, I wore nice slacks, dress shoes, etc., but my students saw right through the fine attire.  It wasn’t me and in effect they couldn’t trust someone who was lying to them.  By my third year, I started wearing jeans and my signature Converse sneakers.  For the first time, my clothes matched the atmosphere I created in my classroom.  I wasn’t lying anymore and my students responded as such.  Not only were they learning history, but they were learning by my example what it means to “own” who you are.

Sometimes life is about jumping outside those lines.  My Wreck This Journal reminded me of that with a page that dared me color outside the lines in a very visual and vindicating way.

Five years ago, I probably would have easily given into the “back to basics” movement that is sweeping public education, but now I’m sticking to my guns more than ever.  What I do in the classroom works and I stand by it 100%.  I’m holding steady and waiting for the “reforms” to take place, but I know I’m in for a fight.  And you know what? I’m ready.  I’m not afraid to color outside the lines.

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For previous Wreck This Journal posts, please see my sidebar of Recent Posts and tag cloud.

c.b. 2011

Mind the Gap (Part 3)

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This is the final installment in a series of vignettes inspired by travelers of the London Underground.

Somewhere Else

His round glasses slip down his nose and he pushes them back into place with one finger.  He turns the page in his battered copy of The Three Musketeers and plunges further into a world filled with more interesting characters than himself.

There’s a hole in the sleeve of his brown tweed jacket and his hair is thin on the crown of his head.  He can’t recall the last time he was noticed or regarded as anything more than a man who sits alone.  Athos, Aramis, and Porthos keep him company, but cannot save him.

His silence screams, but goes unheard.

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Me

I try to blend in, but I’m never sure if they know my home is much further than the train goes.  My touristy map is safely hidden in my purse and I page through the London Evening Standard with the same interest as everyone else.  As long as I don’t speak with my foreign accent, maybe they’ll assume I’m part of the club. The woman next to me shifts in her seat.  She glances at my sneakers and notices my hoodie.

My story is anyone’s guess.

c.b. 2011

The Bells Have Spoken

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At precisely 6:45 p.m. on November 12, 2011, the Christmas season officially arrived in my home. I heard the Hershey kisses bells ring in the season with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and I broke out into a huge grin. I love this commercial!! It’s so cute!  I look forward to it every year and I fully intend on seeing it at least fifty times before Christmas actually comes.

The timing couldn’t have been better.  Earlier that day, I did my first round of Christmas shopping. I’m keeping things pretty simple this year as I do most years.  I love the holidays, but hate the hoopla so I tend to buy a few small gifts for those I love.  Like most things in my life, the gifts I give have to mean something or it feels like a lost cause.  I’d rather spend $10 on a gift that speaks personally to someone than spend $100 on something that will be obsolete in five minutes.

My husband and I always host the family Christmas party at our house on Christmas Eve.  After the bells sang, we started planning the games and food.  It’s tradition to play Christmas Bingo combined with a gift swap, open Christmas poppers, and hide the Christmas pickle, but this year we decided to add holiday Mad Libs.  For food, I’m going to make fudge and Hershey kisses peanut butter blossoms (of course!) and my husband is going to make a couple batches of Shepherd’s pie for everyone.  He’s been perfecting his recipe all year! It’s far from a traditional feast, but we like to break the rules.

Starting next week, the Christmas playlist on my iPod is going to get overhauled with new music. Yes, I’m one of those people that loves Christmas music, but I am careful not to annoy other people with it.  Ah, the miracle of personal music players! I can’t wait for Burl Ives, Josh Groban, and Narada to wrap me in holiday bliss.

I don’t need a mall, sales, or shiny wrapping paper to get me in the mood.  Just some ringing chocolate bells and the warmth of the season fills me with cheer.

When do you embrace the holidays?  (Or are you a Grinch?  That’s okay, too!)

c.b. 2011

Project Art Journal: Page 3

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Art is often all about letting the moment dictate what ends up on the canvas.  The same is true when it comes to art journaling with a collage technique.  The finished product looks polished and well-planned, but truthfully, this page was created with nothing but whimsy and a willingness to go with the flow.

Supplies:

  • Various printed papers with text and patterns
  • black, beige, and white card stock
  • cotton string
  • silver DMC thread
  • silver eyelets
  • eyelet setter
  • silver accent hinge (most craft stores have these in the scrapbook aisle)
  • brown ink pad
  • hole punch
  • paper piercer
  • needle
  • marker
  • glue stick
  • double-stick tape

Layer 1: Black Frame

Cut a square out of black card stock that is slightly smaller than the paper bag journal page.  Set it aside.

Layer 2: Collage

Cut a square out of white or black card stock that is slightly smaller than Layer 1.  This will serve as the foundation for the collage.  Basically, all the pieces of of the collage will be stuck to this piece!

Find six or seven different printed papers that have text or images.  I used a combination of printed scrapbook papers and pages from old books (the discard pile at the library is a great place to find a damaged book that would otherwise be thrown away.  Why not use it for crafting?)  Rip the papers haphazardly and in all different sizes.  This part is the most fun!

Grab a glue stick and start glueing the torn pieces down in random places on the foundation square.  Make sure they overlap and cover the whole square.  It’s okay if they spill over the edge of the square.  Once the glueing is done, it’s easy enough to take a pair of scissors and trim the excess.

Layer 3: Stitching

Draw a few random curves across the collage.  Have fun and let the curves create themselves.  With a paper piercer poke holes along the lines spacing them as evenly as possible and about the size of a small stitch.  Thread a needle (I used a basic sewing needle) with silver thread and start stitching!  See Page 2 for directions on how to do a solid paper stitch.

Layer 4: Quote Block

Cut out a small black rectangle and a smaller beige rectangle.  Measure and cut a piece of patterned paper that’s a size smaller than the black, yet larger than the beige.  Play with the size until it’s just right for an accent piece.  Attach pattern paper to black rectangle.

On the beige rectangle, pencil in a quote and go over it with a marker.  Crumple the paper and smooth it out.  Lightly drag a brown ink pad over the top to give it an antique look.  Attach quote to the black rectangle.

Situate the quote block onto the collage, slightly off-center.  Lay the hinge on the left hand side and use a pencil to make dots to mark where the attachment holes are located.  Set the hinge aside and use a paper piercer to poke holes.  Re-situate the hinge and use small brads to attach the hardware. The quote block should swing open and closed if all went well!

Use a hole punch to create two small holes on the right hand side, just above and below the corners of the quote block.  Affix eyelets into the holes and secure. Thread cotton string through the eyelets and tie into a little bow.

Attach the completed collage square to Layer 1 using double-stick tape.  Then take the whole piece and attach it to the paper bag journal page using plenty of double-stick tape along the edges and extra support around eyelet holes and hinge attachment.

All done!  Enjoy yet another beautiful page!

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Next time, be ready for loads of embellishments and fancy fibers.  Stay inspired!

c.b. 2011

Wreck This Journal: David Foster Wallace

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This week’s Wreck This Journal is a little bit different from the rest.   Instead of destroying, ripping, or bending with my own independent spirit, I found myself paying homage to a writer who I greatly admire. I’ve written about David Foster Wallace before, but I don’t think I can ever properly convey how much he means to me as a wordsmith and a source of inspiration.  His essays, novels, and short stories capture the truth of humanity  with an unparalleled sense of humor, compassion, and honesty.

Shortly after his untimely death, a speech he gave at Kenyon College in 2005 was published as a small book called This Is Water.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve either read or listened to Wallace’s words concerning life, awareness, and the power of choice.  His philosophy is one I consider on an almost daily basis as it reminds me to see everything with relentless curiosity and wonder.

So, when Wreck This Journal gave instructions to doodle on the inside covers of my journal, I couldn’t help but scribble some of my favorite lines from “This Is Water”.  This entire process has been about making a choice to let go and see things from a new perspective, which is a main point in just about everything Wallace writes.  My journal just wouldn’t be complete without him.

Click on each image for a full-size view, (it makes it much easier to read!).

  

Words to live by as far as I’m concerned.

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For previous Wreck This Journal posts please visit my sidebar and tag cloud.

c.b. 2011