24 November 2017

Traveling Teacher: A Conversation with Doreenda Lumiqued . . .

It is rare to find people that share my love for unicorn culture. But in Qatar, I met Doreenda. She was teaching kindergarten and I was teaching art. And, although we never really hung out outside of school, I knew we would be in contact for life. Every once in again, she'll tag me on Instagram under something unicorn-y or send me something on Facebook messenger. And, I'll do the same. I even started making her a unicorn headband to wear around. It's actually finished now, but I haven't sent it to her yet. I think everyone and their mother knows that my life has been a bit hectic with the PhD situation. *But it's coming, Doreenda! And I expect pictures!!*

During the year that we were teaching together in Qatar, I was working on my thesis project for my MFA in Baltimore. And, taking notice of Doreenda's personality and adventurous spirit, I asked her to participate in some of the photoshoots.  My favorite was the image below, where I sort of arranged a wonderfully fun tea party for Doreenda and Shannon involving balloons, donuts, and lively spirits. We spent a good five hours together dressing up and playing with materials. I can't remember how long it took to braid Shannon's hair, but it was totally worth it!

It was the image below that I took of Doreenda that ended up being the signature image of my thesis. Somehow with the way that she and I collaborated with the fabrics and designed the silhouette, it turned into this sort of all-encompassing photograph. It felt like it hinted at something tribal, although there was nothing tribal about it, and it sort of felt like an apparition, although it is clearly a physical being. We were able to cover her entire body with only her hand peeking out, holding a maraca. Going into this photograph, my only goal was to use a hula hoop. But it turned into so much more! 

Doreenda has lived a very fascinating life so far. Her Instagram feed is part of the reason I have had such a hard time readjusting to coming back to the United States. Her Instagram feed is also what excites me about leaving the States again . . . She is a lovely and warm person, with a gracious heart and giant smile. She is an excellent teacher. And, although she doesn't teach art (which is my usual focus), I think she lives a very creative life, one filled with art and travel and excitement! So without further ado, I give you Doreenda Lumiqued in her own words.

What is your name and where do you teach? What do you teach? How long have you been teaching? Have you taught the same subjects throughout the entire time that you have been teaching?

Hello. :) My name is Doreenda Lumiqued and I am currently teaching multiple subjects to fifth graders at the International School of Latvia. This will be my seventh year teaching. Previously, I’ve taught third grade and kindergarten--please see a portrait of me below drawn by Mary, age 5. 

Where are you from? Where did you do your teacher training? Why did you decide to become a teacher? Is anyone else in your family a teacher? 

My family is originally from the Philippines. We’ve lived in Australia for a bit, too, but I grew up in the U.S., specifically in a small town called La Verne in California. 

I didn’t decide to become a teacher until my last year at the University of California, Irvine. I was on my way to becoming a child psychologist. In my last round of fieldwork, I was placed in Verano Preschool where I assisted the teachers there with the everyday ins and outs of teaching. It was there that my path slightly skewed. I knew I always wanted to work with children, but it was at that time and that place I discovered I wanted to work with them in a different capacity. 

It was only after I graduated with my Masters in Education that I realized that I’d come from a long history of educators. My grandpa, who unfortunately I’d never met, was a school principal in his day and my grandma’s sisters were all teachers. So I suppose the apple really doesn’t fall too far from the tree. 

I met you when I was working for a short time in Qatar. Have you always taught overseas? What has been your favorite post, and why? What was your most challenging post, and why? 

This is my seventh year teaching and my seventh year teaching abroad! After I graduated I packed my bags and took off. I had done a study abroad program during university and I’d always wanted to find a way back to traveling -- once that travel bug bites you, it’s hard to shake. 

I’ve taught in Beijing, China, Doha, Qatar, where we met, and now in Riga, Latvia. I think that with each post, there are challenges and there are amazing, wonderful experiences awaiting you. I’ve loved and hated each post in different ways and a lot of that comes from my outlook as a person and my previous experiences.

In Beijing, I was not a big fan of the pollution and my self-perceived, chaos of their cultural norms (i.e. no lines, no taking turns, fighting your way off the subway, etc.). I, however, loved being immersed in their historical landmarks, being able to camp on unrestored portions of the Great Wall or paddling a boat on a lake in the Summer Palace.

In Doha, I did not enjoy the very noticeable difference between the “Haves and Have Nots” nor did I enjoy always having to be aware of how I was dressed. I always made sure I “dressed to respect”, but even that was dictated by those who were overly conservative versus those who were trying to be more open to the influx of expats flooding Qatar’s population. That said, as an American in the Middle East and breaking my promise to my mother not to move anywhere she perceived as ‘dangerous’, I’m glad to have spent time there educating myself about the region and meeting and befriending people who taught me so much about the culture.

In my most current post in Riga, Latvia, I miss the sunshine during winter and the warm, friendly, and receptive smiles during every season. I do, however, feel that it was easiest to make local friends here. I have had many traditional experiences such as sauna rituals and the Midsummer Festival, Jani. I also enjoy that Riga is a European city with all the perks and less of the hassle of tourists and ridiculous prices. I am enjoying it so far.

What is/are your favorite subject/subjects to teach?
I enjoy teaching science and writing. I like researching experiments and drawing out interesting hypotheses from the students. Their reactions to the actual conclusions are fantastic. When it comes to writing, children’s imaginations produce magic.

How many students do you work with during a week's time?

This year I am co-teaching the fifth grade classes. There are 31 lovely, enthusiastic, and capable students that I get to know, work with, and help grow.

What do you think the chief difference is between education in the United States and education at an international school?

Something that I really admire about the international education is the prevalence of learning languages at an early age. I wished that I had learned earlier so that language acquisition later on would come more naturally.

International schools host such a variety and diverse group of learners. How do you find the ability to engage them all? How does language affect this? How does behavior affect this?

In any school, domestic or international, my plan is always to collect as much data on my students as possible. The more I know and learn about them, the more I can address their individual needs. Language factors in quite a bit. I find that students who struggle to engage end up having behavior issues. However, I try and empathize as much as I can. I may act or feel the same way if I were thrown into a class in Mandarin, Arabic, or Latvian -- no clue.

Tell me about your travels. You tend to be on the road/in the air a lot! What is your favorite thing about traveling? What is your least favorite thing about traveling?

My favorite thing about traveling is when the culmination of experiences, people, food, and scenery cause me to smile at where I’ve gotten myself. I love being taken out of my comfort zone and exposed to cultures that help me to grow as a person, as cheesy as that may sound. My least favorite thing about traveling are lines -- anywhere and everywhere!

What are five things you would never leave home without when going on vacation? 

Passport, phone (mostly for photography), headphones, anti-bacterial, and chapstick.

What are your top 5 vacation destinations?

That I’ve Been: Siem Riep, Cambodia; The Maldives (any island!); Petra, Jordan; Palawan, Philippines; Iceland (all over)

On My List: Norway; Copenhagen, Denmark; Machu Picchu, Peru; Australia; Bali, Indonesia

How do you think traveling enhances your teaching?

A huge part of my teaching involves my appealing to students to be more open-minded and to be risk-takers. I would feel a little bit like a fraud if I didn’t do that myself. Traveling not only teaches me how to fall in love with so many beautiful cultures and locations, but teaches me so much about myself as a person and as an educator.

What skills in you shift by working with young people? Please explain.

I have taught kindergarteners all the way up to fifth graders. I’ve learned many things, but the skills that stand out to me the most are being more patient (when students ultimately need more time), being incredibly flexible (when things don’t go as I’ve planned), and being empathetic to their many emotions, situations, and cultures (when they are who they are and I want to completely understand what makes them tick).

Do you host any large events that feature your students' projects so that the larger community can see what the students are doing? What about school specific events?

Since I am currently teaching fifth grade at an International Baccalaureate school, my students are at the end of their Primary Years Program. All schools that have this curriculum have a unit of study called “Exhibition” in which students showcase their knowledge of the curriculum through a self-created unit about something they are passionate about. The students reach out to the community for support throughout their project and then present their findings at an event where we invite their collaboraters and families to see what they’ve learned and changed in the 6 weeks. We also have a Back to School BBQ, Parent-Teacher Organization nights, International Day, Talent Show, and many other school-wide events to connect the community to the school.

How does collaboration fit into your teaching methods? What about personal choice? And imagination?

I am happy to be working in a school that promotes a program that encourages student inquiry. Collaboration is important with colleagues, but also with the students. Students who are passionate about what they are learning are more engaged and motivated. We give them as much choice as possible and try to guide rather than lead them through our units of study, which are actually termed “Units of Inquiry” in the program. It is amazing where a child’s imagination can lead.

Do you bring in people from the community to work with your students? Why or why not?

We try and have people from the community come in to speak with our students as much as possible. The parents are often a great source for some of our units and we encourage them to share their experiences to be real life examples of sometimes intangible concepts for students. It helps them to build empathy and relate to whatever we are learning about.

What are your top five favorite supplies to use with students, and why?

1. A blank A3 paper: the possibilities are endless.
2. Sharpies or smelly markers: tools to boldly express their imaginations.
3. A plastic folder: to keep them and their teacher organized.
4. Lined paper journal: gives me a sneak peek into their good, their bad, and their ugly.
5. Glitter: because GLITTER!!!

What is your most favorite part of teaching?

My favorite parts--because I can’t choose--of being a teacher are (1) that everyday is always new, different, and beautiful/real in its own way, (2) working with honest and open minds, (3) the possiblity for affecting change for the good, and, to be honest, (4) vacation! It is well deserved and much needed.

Do you have a favorite lesson plan that you could share with us?

One of my favorites was one I did with my kindergartners to start our unit on Imagination. I put a box in the middle of the classroom and asked them to draw what the box was. This activated their imaginations and also showed them how very different, yet equally amazing they were and are.

What is your favorite song that you are listening to right now?

There aren't any particular songs per se, but artists... I am enjoying Walk Off the Earth's original songs and covers using super creative items as instruments and also The Head and the Heart! Saw them over the summer in London and fell even more in love. Any song that makes me sing, dance, and/or smile is what you will find me listening to.

What is the absolute best thing that happened to you in the past week?

It didn't "happen" to me, but I spontaneously jumped into a salon and made the time to get my hair cut (20 inches of it) to donate to the organization, Locks of Love. I have had cancer make appearances and lasting impressions on myself and people that I love and care about, so every little bit I can do and control in an otherwise helpless situation brings me an iota of comfort.

Lastly, if we asked you when you were five what you wanted to be when you grew up, what would you say?

I was actually asked this and I said lawyer. Haha.

Inspiring, yes? Do you remember your teachers in elementary, middle, or high school? A college professor, perhaps? If so, what made that person memorable to you? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Up next: my last week teaching in Chengdu, some thoughts on PhD's, a much-needed Thanksgiving Break, and an interview with one of my besties: Wes Holloway

10 November 2017

Brookwood Art: Can You Believe it's Almost 2018?!

Happy belated Halloween and happy early Thanksgiving! We are in the thick of it now, folks! It's almost the end of the year 2017!!!

Did you guys have fun trick or treating?? 

Last year at this time, I was hanging out in St. Petersburg with friends and handing out candy in the coolest little neighborhood near downtown. But for this year's Halloween? I went to my Social Foundations doctoral seminar at Florida State University and then sat in my reading and writing perch (my bed) the whole night daydreaming about my beautiful elephant friend Wanalee in Thailand and playing with Snapchat filters (the next best thing to being in costume)! This is the only way I can stay sane in between all of the reading and writing I am doing for my doctoral classes coupled with all of the driving and planning and teaching happening at Brookwood. It's a lot, you guys! 

But just look at all of the fabulous Lower School faculty I get to see everyday at Brookwood!! I am sharing the photo below because I know my mom--a former school teacher--would love to see all of the people I work with . . . She totally gets into this stuff! Plus, I recently did an interview with her about all of her teaching experience that I will feature on this blog in December. So be on the look out for that very soon! It'll be fun! Anyhow, it's been awesome getting to know everyone at Brookwood over the past several months. Aren't we a rainbow-y bunch? 

But I digress . . . On to the big show! Er, SHOWS! Since last you saw, our wonderfully creative young people have participated in two mostly schoolwide art shows. 

Our first show was at the Deep South County Fair. In true fair spirit, I stopped by one evening to check out our students' work and take pictures during the event, and I got to enjoy a fabulous corndog! This is the first fair that I have been to in a long time where I didn't ride any of the rides. The last fair I went to was in Switzerland in 2015, and the rides had me grinning from ear to ear. Maybe next year there will be time for me to take a spin on the Ferris wheel! It was awesome to see my students' work being enjoyed by the fair-goers, though. We had quite a few honorarium winners. Congrats to all of our students for their hard work in putting on such a great show! Check out the winners below . . . 

Junior Kindergarten:
Julianne Richardson (Honorable Mention)

Ben Burrus (First Place)
Grant Green (Third Place)

Grade 1:
John Flowers (Honorable Mention)

Grade 2:
Colt Dunham (First Place)
Brennan White (Third Place)

Grade 3:
Reagan Burrus (First Place)

Grade 4:
Rhett Smith (Second Place)
Catherine Stewart (Third Place)

Grade 5:
Ben Watts (First Place in Mixed Media)
Hannah Faith Hawkins (First Place in Watercolor)
Pearson Taylor (Second Place)

We also had our yearly exhibition at the Thomasville Center for the Arts. Our theme this year centered around German and Russian Expressionism, and the Blue Rider artists, so we called our show The Blue Rider Art Show. The students looked at and responded to artwork created by Gabriele Münter, Franz Marc, Wassily Kandinsky, Alexej von Jawlensky, and more. The work looked wonderful and exciting in the gallery space. If you were not able to attend our awesome opening reception (complete with German food and students--one of them from Germany--in traditional dress), I have made a short video of the show for you to see! Isn't it a marvelous exhibition?!  

We are thinking about next year's exhibition to be inspired by Wayne Thiebaud!! Just imagine how wonderful that would be!! Cakes! Confections! Candy-colored goodness! Love, love! YES, PLEASE!!!

To learn more about The Blue Rider artist group, please see the video below. Fascinating!

And so here we are already prepping for Thanksgiving! My lovely kindergarteners and I went into a brief panic mode, everyone making the Home Alone face . . . 

But seriously, folks. We've got the Thanksgiving feast under control! I promise! Our first order of business is outfitting a giant pair of wings for families to take pictures in front of pre-and-post feast. The set of wings pictured below was created by Cassie Stephen's wonderful students in Nashville. 

But you can see how the feathers for our wings are starting to shape up, below. Each Lower School student designed and painted two feathers, one for the left and one for the right. I am putting the wings together now, and they are awesome! I can't wait for everyone to see them during our Thanksgiving feast on Friday! 

And here's a quick breakdown by grade level of how things have been going during art classes . . . 

Junior Kindergarten students analyzed concentric circles painted by Wassily Kandinsky before creating their own. Kandinsky (1866 - 1944) was a pioneer for abstract modern art. His paintings created an aesthetic experience that engaged the sight, sound, and emotions of the public. Junior Kindergarten students first drew circles in varying shapes and sizes with oil pastels. Then they filled in each of their circles with a different color of tempera paint. 

And we are still working on our rainbow people, y'all! We added green to our persons and even drew turtles to help us grasp this secondary color! Blue and yellow makes whaaaaaaaaaaaat?! GREEN!

The grades that I saw on October 30th and 31st worked on Halloween inspired projects, and Junior Kindergarten was one of those grades. Using the perfectly round end of a hot glue stick, the eraser ends of brand new pencils, and thinned out black paint, we created polka dotted pumpkins inspired by Yayoi Kusama. You can learn more about her obsession with dots, below. She's amazing!

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Kindergarten students studied a variety of floral still life artworks by Gabriele Münter, a female expressionist painter. Münter (1877 – 1962) was a German artist who was at the forefront of the Munich avant-garde in the early 20th century. A student of the painter Wassily Kandinsky, she was a founding member of the expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter. My kindergarten artists began their works by drawing out their piece with pencil and black Sharpie, then they blocked in their color with woodless colored pencils and paint, and they finished off their pieces by outlining their still life artworks with black oil pastel.

Kindergarten also got to participate in a Halloween-inspired project. Our Spooky Starry Nights were created with Van Gogh's Starry Night in mind. We watched this video to learn how to make swirly, bright backgrounds out of oil pastels and tempera cakes and silhouettes of ghosts, haunted houses, cats, and pumpkins out of paper!

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Grade 1 students analyzed several paintings by Franz Marc before designing their own blue horse. Marc (1880 - 1916) was a German painter and printmaker who is known for the intense mysticism of his paintings of animals. He was a founding member of Der Blaue Reiter (“The Blue Rider”), an association of German Expressionist artists. Grade 1 artists first drew out all of the parts and pieces of their horses with pencil and black Sharpie, then they blocked in color with watercolor and woodless colored pencils, and finally they cut and assembled their horses. 

To get into the fall spirit, Grade 1 students drew hayrides and worked *for days* on letters for our Thanksgiving feast. I think our letters spell out, Happy! and Thanks! and Love! We shall see for sure next Friday! These kiddos were the first ones to finish their feathers for our wings! We also have some magical owls hanging in the hallway for all to see!

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Grade 2 students followed in the footsteps of the great expressionist Alexej von Jawlensky, a Russian painter and member of The Blue Rider group. Jawlensky (1864-1941) was one of the important contributors to the expressionist movement in painting, to which he added a meditative component of unique power. Each Grade 2 class modeled their work after one of Jawlensky's paintings. On large brown paper, the students first drew out their portrait with a large black crayon, then blocked in color with woodless colored pencils and paint, and finished off their work by outlining the portrait in black oil pastel. 

We celebrated Halloween a bit early in the month, drawing Haunted Houses with Mr. Rob. And then I let Grade 2 choose their own adventure. My students love "Free Make" days. They can make anything they want using materials they can reach. Sometimes the students want to do drawing videos (like you see in the foreground of the image below), sometimes they work in groups to create something bigger (one group made a big plane out of a cardboard box), and sometimes they just want to draw and color and paint. It's their choice, which fully ignites their creative and critical thinking skills!

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Grade 3 students studied a variety of landscape artworks by Gabriele Münter, a female expressionist painter. Münter (1877 – 1962) was a German artist who was at the forefront of the Munich avant-garde in the early 20th century. A student of the painter Wassily Kandinsky, she was a founding member of the expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter. For this project, each Grade 3 class divided up sections of one landscape painting to collaborate on a larger finished work. They began their works by drawing out their individual piece with pencil, then they blocked in their color with woodless colored pencils and paint, they combined all of their paintings to assess the larger finished work, and then they finished off their pieces by outlining their landscape with black oil pastel before attaching the pieces as one large finished painting.

Grade 3 also did some magnificent peacock drawings to go with our owls in the hallway, just outside of my classroom. And, just wait until you see their little Thankful Hedgehog and Gratitude Squirrel banners that we will display for our Thanksgiving feast. Totally adorbs!

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Grade 4 students analyzed several paintings by Franz Marc before designing a collaborative blue horse sculpture. Marc (1880 - 1916) was a German painter and printmaker who is known for the intense mysticism of his paintings of animals. He was a founding member of Der Blaue Reiter (“The Blue Rider”), an association of German Expressionist artists. Built in collaboration with the Upper School art students, Grade 4 artists drew out a horse design with a partner before traveling over to the Upper School to add finishing touches to the large paper mache horses.

Needless to say, my lovely Grade 4's may have come home looking like members of the Blue Man Group after finishing this project. It was an exciting experience to say the least!

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Grade 5 students studied a variety of landscape artworks by Gabriele Münter, a female expressionist painter. Münter (1877 – 1962) was a German artist who was at the forefront of the Munich avant-garde in the early 20th century. A student of the painter Wassily Kandinsky, she was a founding member of the expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter. For this project, Grade 5 students deconstructed and enlarged one of her artworks and painted it in parts before installing it as a finished mural in the gallery.

Parents, teachers, humans on the planet: this was my favorite project displayed in the gallery. I know I probably shouldn't have favorites, but the conceptual and process-oriented nature of this piece just excited me right down to my bones! I can't wait to try another one of these deconstructed and puzzle-y type projects. Yeehaw!

I also received two personalized pieces for the classroom from my Grade 5's. Pearson made me a Declaration of Art for the classroom. It really is the best thing on the planet!! And Ms. Diya painted a dolphin picture and let me display it in the classroom for a short while. Isn't it wonderful??

To go with the peacocks and owls in the hallways, my lovely Grade 5's drew toucans. We watched lots and lots of toucan videos for inspiration!!

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Grade 6 students studied a variety of artworks by Gabriele Münter, a female expressionist painter. Münter (1877 – 1962) was a German artist who was at the forefront of the Munich avant-garde in the early 20th century. A student of the painter Wassily Kandinsky, she was a founding member of the expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter. For this project, Grade 6 students riffed on the word expressionism to think about contemporary forms of expression. Each student created a flat vase out of low fire clay featuring their emoji of choice. Emojis are any of various small images, symbols, or icons used in text fields in electronic communication (as in text messages, e-mail, and social media) to express the emotional attitude.

There has been a lot of work being done by my Grade 6 students over the past 6 or so weeks. Machines, I tell you! They thoroughly studied ancient armor and created inspired costuming in teams. I loved this project so much and was thrilled when the end result of their outfits looked more like the 80's movie version of Tron. 

We worked with our IT guru Mrs. Burrus and the green screen to create pictures of the students in their finished armor for them to digitally place in a background of their choosing. 

The students also showed their finished works to the Junior Kindergarten classrooms and spoke to them about their process.

Below are a few of the finished digital images. Aren't they awesome??

Since I only see Grade 6 students for three, 12-week rotations, our last day was filled with cookie cakes, ice cream, and playground time. Art party for the win!!

Then, almost magically, I got a whole new batch of Grade 6 students on October 31st. Our first day was filled with Halloween fun and mask making. And every day since then, they have been cranking out the work! I love these new students!

Their first assignment was to decorate the cover of their sketchbooks and create a double-page spread inside their sketchbook themed in identity. We watched two videos, like the one above, by my professor at FSU to wrap our heads around visual journaling. 

Then, they started on their self-portrait projects. They had to choose a movie to put themselves in. I am sharing two works-in-progress here: Yoda and Elliot from ET. These are really turning out amazingly. I can't wait to see them finished!!

They also made about 25 Native American Talking Sticks for our Thanksgiving feast. I am keeping these a surprise, as I am completely in love with them and can't wait for you to see them! You can learn more about Talking Sticks below.

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I also wanted to let everyone know that I will be moving to Thomasville in early December (insert crazy face emoji). I am very excited about this move!! I will have a studio space where I will be making art and sewing fun banners like the ones pictured here and below.

Sir Rigby is also very excited about this move as he is extremely tired of being woken up every morning at 5:15am so that I can get ready to make the hour-long drive to Thomasville. Regardless of the face he is making below, he is an extremely friendly cat and can't wait to meet you guys!! Stop over for a visit in the new year! 

Look for another update on our art class making in early February! In the meantime, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and winter holiday season! To a happy and joyous 2018!!