Professional Learning

Artify Your Summer

June 24, 2015

Filling your free time during the summer with art and creative activities is a great way to let go of the past year and move your heart and mind to a place that will nurture you as a teacher and as a human being.

May and June are always challenging months for me. I get a little anxious as the year winds down and summer is on the horizon. The end of the school year requires a lot of reflection on both your students' work and your own teaching. I have to remind myself to maintain perspective and be kind to myself in managing the stress and anxiety.

As both a teacher and an artist, one of the ways I do this is with art. I try to keep my sketchbook near me, watch films, read books that nurture my soul, and rev up my art practice over the summer months. Having a large art project keeps me sane by giving my busy mind something to focus on. It is also an opportunity to reach deeper and go to that place in your mind and soul that helps you transcend your routine and day-to-day worries.

So, whether you're traveling, teaching summer school, or doing a "staycation," here are a few things to help you go to that happy place without needing to buy pricey airline tickets.

Artify those To-Do Lists

I am a big fan of journaling and keeping sketchbooks. Art journals are a fun way to mix the written with the visual, and enhance the mundane worlds of shopping and to do-lists with a bit of visual panache. Don't feel like you have to be fantastic at drawing. Using different colors, different pencils, fanciful doodles, and creative lettering is perfectly fine, and will make the ordinary more interesting.

If you are feeling more ambitious, you may want to set up a simple still life or ask a friend or family member to sit for a portrait. When doing this activity, take note of how it changes your state of mind and thoughts -- and don't sweat the results. As most artists will tell you, art is largely about the process.

Photography Beyond Instagram

Photography is the easiest way to rediscover the visual world around you, as well as provide a way to look more closely at your surroundings while traveling and discovering new places. Starting with your bedroom, your backyard, or your neighborhood, photography is a way to look more closely at the familiar, make the familiar strange, and observe things that you may not have noticed.

I spent a summer taking long-exposure photos. These allow you to see the rotation of the earth in the visual streak of the stars, or write with light. I also like taking time-lapse images so that if you have a smart phone, the Instagram app is an easy way to start learning about photography. With this app, it's possible to take photos using various filters and effects without having to buy an actual camera. If you are feeling more ambitious, take the time to learn about the potential of a camera.

Write Poetry

Not a poet? Neither am I, but I have written enough to publish a few small books. I find poetry is a way to clarify the moment you might be experiencing, dream while awake, and play with the sound and musicality of words.

Read Poetry

A lot of us complain that we don't time to read a book, but can you handle a sonnet? (Only 14 lines!) Yes, reading a poem deeply takes multiple readings and slowing down, but starting with a fresh, quick read can be the beginning of a fun, life-affirming journey. Whether you start with a single poet or a single poem, it is a great way to let the mind and soul begin a journey without leaving your bathroom.

Memorize a Poem

If you have a favorite poem or poet already, wouldn't it be great to dedicate yourself to memorizing a poem? And if you really want to wow your students and are not a literature teacher, learn a poem that allows you to break though those difficult conversations and articulate an idea that is otherwise challenging to express. It is also a great way to elevate an ordinary moment to something extraordinary.

Learn a Craft

I have a long list of crafts that I wish to learn -- from woodworking and making metal jewelry to planning a garden. If you haven't had the time or means to sign up for the class you want, there are plenty of online classes and how-to videos that provide just enough knowledge to get you started. Learn to knit, sew, or other fun crafts.

Creativity is a great way to quickly transition into summer and begin to relax. I wish you luck as you begin your artistic summer.

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