Sunday, May 10, 2009

Projects Night at Lubec Consolidated School

(Photos above: student artwork for this year's Projects Night. To Donate to the art program, see info at bottom of this post.)

This past week ranks right up there with one of my busiest weeks ever. This always happens as the school year begins to wind down. We have five weeks before summer break and there doesn't seem a minute to catch my breath. That being said, this particular week is one of my favorite weeks in school.

Project's Night at Lubec Consolidated School is the first Thursday in May. The days preceding the event, students and teachers hustle and bustle about in the classroom, halls, and outside on the playground to prepare for parents, siblings, and townspeople to visit and view what they have been up to that particular year. I love seeing all the creative projects in the classrooms, kids' excitement, and feeling the energy as everyone works to meet the deadline. In kindergarten, you walk in and find life-size cut-outs of all the students sitting at desks with a sampling of the years' assignments in front of them. In fourth grade, Egyptian life-size drawings and handmade clay beads, and a wall of poetry written by our young writers. Third grade displayed dioramas of animals in their habitats, along with poetry and research papers about the animals. Fifth and sixth grades made science projects. The art room is full of artwork: masks, wire portraits, Japanese tea bowls, linocuts and collographs. Hallway bulletin boards are packed full of colorful displays. Great projects everywhere!

Being the art teacher, my job is to set up the art show. The task begins about two weeks prior to the actual exhibit. All students K-12 sort through their art portfolios to select their personal favorite piece of artwork. Then I spend hours mounting and adding names to the pieces. As the big day approaches, I begin creating the annual art newsletter that highlights some of the years events in art class, and this year also prepared informational handouts for donations. When Projects' Night arrives, the custodian scrambles to clean the cafeteria space after lunch so students may begin to deliver the mounted work and art portfolios. My husband shows up, as well as our friends Nicky and Judy, and their dog Shanti, to do a super speedy hanging of the show (all done in under three hours).

After a half hour at home to wash and dress-up, we head back to school and find that cars have filled the parking lot and lined the street. The school is bustling with activity - parents "oohing and aahing" at the great things their children have accomplished. The cafeteria is filled with people looking at the artwork, and sorting through art portfolios, amazed at how talented their children are. At 6:15 folks congregate on the stage for a chorus and band performance. The hour and a half whizzes by quickly.

As always, Projects Night was a huge success. We are all exhausted the next day, but proud of what everyone accomplished. The next five weeks of school will be equally busy - as we head out on field trips (Farnsworth Art Museum next week) and welcome theatrical enrichment programs into our school (Figures of Speech Bunraku Puppet Theatre in two weeks). Grades need to be done, records written and filed for next year's classes, inventories complete, senior discovery projects finalized, awards nights banquets, high school and junior high graduations, prom, and the packing up of classrooms for summer cleaning. All the while, teaching within the classroom continues. My head is spinning.

When I was a student in school, I had no idea what my teachers actually endured in their profession. To an outsider, it looks like a pretty simple job, done at 3:00, summers off. To an insider, the truth is far different. The hours are longer than any other job I have ever had, the pay per hour is pitiful, the retirement plan is shameful, the responsibilities are enormous. To survive the rigors of being a classroom teacher, it truly must be a calling.

As with all schools across the nation, there are harsh budget cuts that affect programs. The art department is seeing hundreds of dollars less for supplies for next year's budget. We are also trying to raise money to purchase a display cabinet for student sculptures. Displaying student work builds self-esteem and brings awareness of the arts. To help with art supply purchases, display cabinet, and enrichment programs, mail donations to:

Lubec Consolidated School
Attn: Shanna Wheelock, Art Teacher
44 South Street
Lubec, ME 04652

Make checks payable to:
Lubec Consolidated School
Please include on memo line "Art Fund", and include a note with check that states that funds are for the art program. Thank you!

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