Painted Umbrellas, Body Cast Sculptures & Pinatas

These last few weeks have been quite busy with the Art Foundations (Fdts) 11/12 students, and wrapping up the term with a group of Visual Arts General (VAG) 10 and starting with a new batch of VAG 10 students.
With VAG grade 10s, I focus primarily upon the elements & principles of art and do a lot of work in their sketchbooks, i.e., line, form, space, colour theory, art history and wrap up with painting and charcoal sketching.
With Art Fdts however, it extends over both terms.  We do a lot more art projects and the most recent two have drawn a lot of attention from fellow British Columbia teachers, other students and visitors to the school.  Just this past week, we had the principal from the biggest school in our system visit and I think he was trying to recruit me, much to the dismay of my own principal when I told him.
The painted umbrella project is by far the biggest "buzz" right now.  We strategically placed them in a narrow three storey section of the school where everyone must pass through in and out of the school grounds.
The body-cast sculpting project is just wrapping up with catwoman lurking from the third floor near a classroom wing, there are ballerinas, a girl reading, a one horned, multi-armed monster and a very awesome hanging upside down wrapped mummy with a realistic burial mask.
Now, for a little bit of Mexican culture we are building Pinatas.  It is my hope that I can connect with the elementary school and have some of their kids enjoy the fun of breaking the Pinatas to get at the treats inside.
I know I am far from being a great art teacher, but I sure love my job.  I just wish I had the opportunity for more classes specifically dedicated to being an art teacher and an artist, i.e., finish my PhD with an arts-mental health emphasis.


A Weekend to Forget

Went to up to Beijing with a friend who spends most weekends there so I could finally get to see and photograph the Great Walls of China.  I also need another pair of trousers as my used Dockers sprung a hole in sector 12.  Nothing worked.  Friends pawned me off on a total stranger who lead me to a strange sort of gallery where before I knew it I was several hundred dollars poorer :(
The stranger (Jackie) at least showed me how to get back to the South Beijing Railway Station to catch a train home.
Got in line and got my ticket still feeling uneasy about my stupid gullibility at that "art show" - how could I be so stupid!!  Anyway got my ticket and boarded a train and after a while began to notice it was taking a lot longer to get to Tanggu than usual.  Come to think of it, my train ticket was more than the 65 yuan or so as well.  Finally, confirmed that I was on the wrong train!!!.  Got off at a station and had to wait till 7pm (bout an hour) and catch a train back to Beijing getting off at Tianjin West Stn.  To add insult to insult they charge me over 141 yuan - but you see the mistake was not mine - the idiot (who I carefully and clearly spoke to) at the stn who sold me the ticket made the mistake - but I ended up paying anyway.  I got off at Tianjin West, just like it says on the ticket, however, this was the wrong stop, I was suppose to get off at the next station.  Thanks for telling me guys - the train staff who knew my situation made no gesture or motion to tell me to stay, the ticket read Tianjin West and that was the station I got off at.
Ended up taking a taxi, however, the fare was 600 yuan - I did not realise how far from home I was - at least 2.5 hours.  We drove through some pretty dark rural back roads and believe me the thought of mischief had crossed my mind, but the driver and his friend turned out to be okay despite the fact that I think they overcharged me!  Anyway they got me far enough to transfer to a local cab and then it was home ... around 12 midnite! Remember I left Beijing at 15:00hrs.
It was a very expensive weekend, I haven't slept much and have not eatten until this evening.  I had dinner with a wonderful amazing student councilor from our school who helped me beyond the call of duty with translation via the phone whilst I was in the lion's den - it is the least I can do for her - the one highlight of my weekend.
After dinner, she had to go back to school and since I still needed another pair of trousers, just found a shop I had used before and bought what seem to be ... what I hope will be comfortable to wear to work tomorrow.
I tell ya, if you don't know the language, you better have good friends you can ask for help.
On a different note processed a few rolls of film I managed to squeeze off Saturday morning (trouble started in the afternoon when I met the stranger who said he was an art student) and they turned out alright, except for one roll with a x-ray band across the top - nevertheless, since it is medium format (Mamiya 645 AF), lots of usable negative.  Every time you take a subway they have that stupid machine, so I had to show them my film to avoid the machine ... save for the film in the camera.  Who knows ... maybe there is a significant picture in the set.


A New Chapter

Well this week another teacher trickled into our midst.  He will be providing relief for a lot of us including myself.  He will be taking over one of my Visual Arts classes as of Monday (24 March 2014).
I still have a mountain of work and still have it pretty quiet up in the fourth floor wing, which I am use to and like at this point.
We began our umbrella painting project with the Art Fdts students and this is going well.  I love the buzz of activity with gesso and acrylics moving about the various circular surfaces.
With the visual arts students we started to look a bit at art history which will culminate with students reproducing a piece from their research that inspires them and interests their artistic acumen.
I spent today working at a foster care home for abandoned children and wish I had known more about the situation as I could have perhaps planned to bring some activities.
We built some paper aeroplanes and coloured them, which was fun while it lasted :)


Artist Profile

I have a bit of representation now (Artisan Direct), here is the piece to be featured in an upcoming publication with a show in New York City.
Art Expo, NY, 2014                                              
Artist Showcase Magazine, Spring, 2014


I Learned Something Today

We have to come up with an interim report for parents even though we have only been in session for about a month.
So I've been working on correcting assignments and entering grades & comment codes into the appropriate boxes.
By the way my classes have gotten bigger lately, so now I have over 120 students to teach, coach, encourage, tutor, and grade assignments for.  Thankfully I've got some group activities, which will help a little.
Anyway, I called up each student today to show them their current grade and I made it very clear that this mark is fluid, it can easily go up or down.
However, I am kind of apprehensive around grades, but have always dealt with it appropriately.  Nevertheless, today's experience wasn't uncomfortable at all, in fact I think it acted as a motivation to students.  It showed them what they are capable of and I made sure they realised that this mark can easily go down if behaviour, attitude and effort go down (not in those exact words), so it is important to pay attention in class and get all assignments completed on time.  In other words, sharing grades student-by-student was in some way a positive classroom management strategy that accomplished a couple of things for the students and for me.  It is a good day when I can learn something, especially when it applies to art :)


to be an ART Teacher

End of another week.
We were told however that at 4pm we all had to make our way into the new auditorium in our Sunday best to hear speeches in Chinese with forms of English translation.  Speeches of people patting themselves on the back for meeting student recruitment figures ahead of schedule.  It sounded to me like a corporate pep-rally of sorts.  I suppose it is important in an uncomfortable kinda way as this business does provide me with a job.  But I sometimes wonder about the distinction between for profit education and public education.  Just like I sometimes wonder about the Ministry of British Columbia Education mandating specific parametres for art education.  Maybe it is because I am still new to this, but I am just not sure how to understand the quantifying of artistic exploration, experimentation, growth and reflection.  On the other hand, they do provide a pedagogical road map that I do appreciate.
This week the 11 & 12s presented their flipbook animations while the grade 10s have several assignments related to the element of art called Line.
I think I made a potentially stupid mistake.  I asked the students if they were interested in a field trip.  You see I would like to help them realise the strength of Chinese artists in China and now reaching out to other venues around the world. Chinese artists are beginning to make a mark globally, so I would like to take them to the National Museum of China in Beijing actually quite near Tiananmen Square. Anyway, I probably should have waited until I talked with the principal first to see if it is possible.  I was just trying to see if they were interested, but maybe I should have waited.  I only realised later that it would not only mean missing our class at school, but classes of other teachers as well.  I tried to see the principal today, but no luck.
At lunch today, thanks to a nice student councillor - Cherry (Liu, Yu), she was able to call over the Chinese art teacher and translate something that has been on my mind for awhile.  Just as I am interested in making students aware of Chinese artists and the contributions they are making, I also want to start working a little more closely with the Chinese art teacher(s).  I think there is room for our B.C. art department (that's me) and their art department to start collaborating on projects and ideas.  Although the art teacher I met today did not speak English, I think we can manage as we should be able to find someone to translate.  Anyway, hoping to meet with her next week sometime.
I also got a nice order of supplies in - pretty quick turn-around ... I am impressed.  Just hope the Gesso doesn't take too long, I guess I am learning a few things here :)
Finally, I was thinking about a conversation I may typically have when back home in Victoria:
Me: ... I was teaching in China.  Other:  Oh ... an English teacher.  Me:  No. Other:  No!, what were you doing?  Me:  I'm an art teacher. ...
I like the sound of that.  I like being known as an art teacher.  I wonder if by the end of the semester I won't feel so undeserving of that title.


I beg your indulgence ...

I would like to briefly introduce myself to those few souls who I am grateful for taking some time out of their day to have a look at my blog postings.
Bob St. Cyr is who I am (and I don't like green eggs with ham).
I completed a BA in Archaeology/Anthropology at the University of Saskatchewan  (U of S), and was quite involved in some of the province's earliest occupation field excavations.  I have published articles in the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society newsletter as well as in their Journal of Archaeology.  I have even had the pleasure of giving a presentation at their annual meeting with a bunch of my professors in the audience - a little awkward for a 20 something student - but a great experience.
I also completed my B.Ed. degree at U of S after having taught English for several years in Japan.  I began English teaching in Japan without much of an education background and as a teacher over there I also had a chance to reflect upon my career and felt the need to better myself as a teacher, which has lead me down the road of life-long learning.  After completing my B.Ed. degree I was accepted into the Masters programmes at both the University of Victoria and the University of Calgary.  We chose Victoria, since they responded first and in the autumn of 2000 I received my M.Ed. degree from the University of Victoria (UVic).
My interest has been along the lines of integrating technology - primarily online teaching/learning.  However, because of my experience at UVic and the fact that I also practice as a fine-art photographer, I was given the opportunity to teach photography in the Art Education department of the Faculty of Education, which really began to change the way I viewed art.  With the help of iTunes U and sharing an office and workspace with other artists, I really began to appreciate art as a viable teaching option.  And not only that, it felt good in my soul to be apart of the artistic educational milieu at UVic and though my connections as a fine-art photographer.
Now as a high school art teacher my learning curve has really become dynamic.  A fellow large-format photographer friend from up island recently commented on my particular teaching situation by saying something like I will probably learn things as an art teacher that I would not be able to learn if not for my current situation; I agree.
Currently I am a high school art teacher at Maple Leaf International School located in TEDA-Tianjin Economic & Development Area, which is a satellite community of Tianjin city.  Tianjin is about 40 minutes by bullet train from Beijing - China's capital city.