Observe means to look at carefully and attentively.
Mindfulness is the ability to be focused yet relaxed at the same time. The ability to be present comes from attentive focus on your breath. Focusing on your breathing takes your mind off of your mind, and allows your mind to rest as your breathing takes over for a little while.
To mindfully observe means you are in the state of mindfulness while you are looking at something.
It is beneficial to “notice” as an activity to develop focus in mindfulness. One activity you can try is noticing the room around you.
Take a moment to center in with a few deep breaths. Set your intention for the activity to notice your environment. Notice the objects in the room, their colors, shapes, textures. Notice the tiniest details that you may have never noticed before. Spend about 5 minutes just noticing. Then come back to center with a few deep breaths.
This activity helps to train your brain to slow down and notice the present moment.
Another activity you can do to help strengthen your mind is to do mindful observing.
For this activity students were shown a video of multiple bubbles, different colors and sizes. Then students were prompted to only observe certain bubbles, all while all the bubbles were moving around the screen.
Spending time observing while other things are going on is a master skill that will have benefits way into the future. Being able to focus in even when there are distracts around is super important, especially in a world where digital realities consume our time, and attention.
Consider spending at least 5 mins a day doing some type of mindfulness activity, and share this with your children! We all benefit when we are mindful.
Cultural proficiency is the result of finding out what makes us feel valued. It is responsiveness. The ability to find out what someone needs… to feel valued, seen, and heard.
The ultimate goal of each of us is to feel valued and be appreciated for who we are. Being seen by others is a huge reason why we do things, and is a result of the things we do.
When we come into a situation with breath first, we are more open to being genuine and authentic. This is a culture of care, one that supports accountability and humility. Working to align our inner voice to our goals in order to support the work. The vision must be at the center of what we do each day.
What is the GOAL of our existence?
What is it that we do what we do for… what do we want to build, create, share, express, learn, experience?
I believe when we begin questioning ourselves in such ways, it leads to deep self reflection and self awareness. It leads to building community and creating innovative experiences for the good of all. When we being to spend time aligning ourselves with our vision, then we are able to connect to one another on a deeper level.
I was invited to the Maryland Cultural Proficiency Conference in October, at Morgan State University. It was my first time at the conference and visiting Morgan State. The conference theme was A Reckoning: Equity, Consciousness, & Healing.
The presentations that I attended and speakers I saw were fantastic. There was a diversity that reiterated what the conference is about equity, diversity, and inclusion, and social emotional learning.
Climate of Mutual Respect
When Dr. Amer F. Ahmed spoke he shared his journey and the experiences that lead him to arrive on our stage. He shared that we must create climates of mutual respect that consists of self-awareness, empathy, tolerance for ambiguity, flexibility in thoughts and behaviors, patience, curiosity, and active listening.
This reminded me of the Seven Teachings of our Anishinaabe grandfathers; Love, Trust, Humility, Honesty, Bravery, Courage, & Wisdom.
Culturally Responsive Curriculum
This presentation was on ways we can incorporate more culturally relevant articles, materials, and learning into our curriculum. Attending this presentation opened my eyes up to new ways to incorporate different cultures into my art classroom. Simple things like teaching my students something about my culture, such as how to say hello in Anishinaabe. We need to normalize multiple perspectives!
Positive Schools Center
The presentation by the Positive Schools Center was perfect. We participated in practices we are being asked to use with our students. We sat in a circle and started with a welcoming ritual. Then we shared something we needed. This presentation was so inspiring and helpful in getting a handle on how I can implement more meaningful interactions with my students.
Lead with vision, integrity and passion says Dr. Gregory C. Hutchens Jr. He shared with us highlights from his book, Getting into Good Trouble at School. Six things we can do to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion in the classroom:
Know your history
Commit to racial equity
Eliminate de-facto segrigation
Differentiation, discipline vs. policy.
Engaging in strategic thinking and planning
Display courageous bold leadership.
During the conference, we were treated to mindful moments, chair massage, reflexology, great food, and time to socialize. This is vital during any professional development as it assists with practicing what we are preaching. How do we want and deserve to be treated, and how do our students?
Choice-Based Art Education is student centered and based around teaching through the use of the Studio Habits of Mind.
The Studio Habits of Mind are ways in which we process our experiences, here is a great project example. They are very similar to the Scientific Method, or the Mathematical Practices.
Teachers in the Mid-Atlantic area came together the first weekend in August for a retreat, to reignite the flame before school begins. When Pam Ehrenreich asked if I knew of a place to host a retreat for teachers in our area I was THRILLED to offer my studio space.
When everyone arrived we started the weekend with appetizers and a TASK party! It was a nice way to get into the weekend… start to make art and open ourselves up new ideas.
Silk Screening TAB SHIRTS
Tracy Skeels shared her method of silk screening. We created stencils from paper and worked together to print our designs.
We shared different projects and resources with each other, creating examples for our students. Julie Dimino shared all of her amazing resources with us!
There were presentations on Cold Finishes on Clay, Gelli Printing, Weaving, and Cyanotypes. Each presentation was so insightful and inspiring.
Cold Finishes for Fired Clay
Jen Byrne shared a few awesome tips for cold finishing clay! Mixing metallic acrylic paint with water in buckets for a quick dip in the shimmer bath!
Tracy Skeels presented on gelli printing, and we were able to explore and create to our hearts content.
Kate Heuston presented on cyanotype, and her experimentation with the process as an artist. We tried new techniques like drawing on acetate, and using transparencies to create different layers of prints.
April Pink presented weaving, and we learned quick and easy ways for our students to be able to weave on cardboard looms.
We also shared the many resource for how we structure our classrooms. The reflection and discussion time were super valuable.
Aside from all the learning, it was great to meet like minded individuals and also have time to create art of our own.
Painting Flow and Glow Party
On Saturday evening we had an intuitive painting party. Each teacher created their own work of art, and then we discussed how we could use this in our classrooms.
The weekend was so amazing. 10 art educators coming together to share and create!
If you missed out on this years, keep an eye out for next! It will be the first weekend in August 2023.
In March I applied for a Connected Arts Network (CAN) Teacher Leader position, and was accepted into the program. I will be part of a virtual, nationwide Professional Learning Community (PLC). Over the course of five years, I will learn and collaborate with other visual arts educators, gaining resources to positively impact your students.
Arts educators are expected to increase their self-efficacy in and use of practices that incorporate equity, diversity, and inclusion; social-emotional learning; and leadership in their standards-based arts instruction. For students, this will lead to improvement in their expression of their identities, cultural backgrounds, and beliefs; understanding of their peers’ artworks and processes; and knowledge of the societal, historical, and cultural context of artworks.
What is CAN?
CAN stands for Connected Arts Network.
The National Art Education Association (NAEA), in partnership with the Educational Theater Association (EdTA), the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), and the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) is launching Connected Arts Networks (CAN), a five-year grant initiative to create nationwide virtual Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) with educators in visual arts, music, theater, dance and media arts. The overarching vision for CAN is to build a sustainable model of professional learning for arts educators to strengthen their pedagogy, instruction and leadership skills in order to better serve students. This project is modeled after the successful structure of the PLC program in New York City, initiated by the Office of Arts and Special Projects (OASP), another partnering organization.
As a Teacher Leader I will receive specialized virtual training to build my capacity to address Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion and Social-Emotional Learning within arts education. After year two, I will facilitate my own virtual PLC of arts educators of my same art discipline and student grade levels.
I am very excited about this opportunity and feel this is the beginning to something big.
Overall goals of the project
To develop highly effective arts educators, building their capacity to address ED&I and SEL in their standards-based arts instruction through sustained, intensive, and job-embedded blended professional learning.
To develop a local and national cadre of Teacher Leaders in the arts by building their content knowledge and leadership skills in order to expand the impact of arts learning for students and their communities.
To develop accessible arts-based instructional materials, strategies, and toolkits to disseminate to arts educators nationwide, including synchronous and asynchronous professional development programs and digital resources.
Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
Diversity is where everyone is invited to the art studio
Inclusion means that everyone gets to contribute to the artwork
Equity means that everyone has the opportunity to explore
These there aspects of the human journey are great to consider when collaborating and co-creating. To me they are no brainers, to create a world we all desire… we must encourage all people to find their self expression and support their journey to that the best way we can. For the Connected Arts Network teachers, we will be supporting through resources, workshops and sharing our stories.
Social Emotional Learning
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success.
Creativity is the number one way to assist in developing self-awareness and self-actualization. Interpersonal skills are developed through creative expression as well. When a person shares their stories with another, they are learning about themselves through a new perspective while teaching the other person something new as well.
I am so excited to be apart of the Connected Arts Network, and to be able to have a platform to share my stories, ideas and experiences so that others might come to a place where they feel safe to fully express themselves.
So far we have had one meeting with each arts network: Visual Arts, Music, Dance and Theater. It was so inspiring to be with such amazing art educators!
Art educator and artist Raine Valentine joins the Creativity Department on this episode. Raine talks about her Chippewa heritage and how it inspires her. Hear how indigenous philosophies have informed her creativity as she discusses her belief in the importance of expressing yourself. Self-expression is a powerful tool that will inspire others (students) to feel comfortable to do the same! Listen in to understand how tying this altogether creates connection between us all.
Today is a day of remembrance for those who were affected by residential indian boarding schools. A day to give love to those little children taken from their families, some lost and some wounded for what seemed like forever. But today in a sea of orange, there is hope… as we call back to mind each of those beautiful souls, those who have suffered because of their differences, we can hold them in love and light, and let them shine their beautiful light to the world through us. Through our awareness, we can acknowledge and then take action in a new direction. In the direction we desire to see in the world.
Orange = Self Expression
When we hold space and bring awareness to a story, we have the opportunity to change the ending… to heal the past and create a beautiful future by sending the love now.
Growing up as a native american in Maryland I felt out of place because my bone structure was different from everyone else’s. My mom always told me that it was because I was native. I didn’t like it very much. My name was also different… Raine… I got made fun of often…. “Raine Raine go away and don’t come back.” My name was very native, or hippy. I didn’t always like it.
Going back to the reservation in North Dakota and visiting my cousins… life was so different for them then it was for me. We would usually visit during the summer for a week or so before driving back to Maryland. I would run in fields of wild grass, sweet grass and sage… never realizing how sacred it was. I would see life for the people on the reservation and feel many things, as they lived differently then I did. Living on the reservation wasn’t something I desired to do.
There was always one thing that stuck with me though… the sacred spiritual knowledge that I felt in my bones, deep down within my being….calling out to me to remember. I felt it when i danced in pow-wows.
When I was 12 I was honored with a naming ceremony….See my parents, even though they believed in religious teachings, always had an underlying connection to spirit in their lives. During my naming ceremony, our medicine woman shared that it was uncommon to be given the same name in ceremony that your parents named you. And that the creator told my mom to name me Raine Dawn because that was who I am… so my Anishinaabe name is Raining in the Dawn Woman.
After that experience, I began on a deep journey into spirituality (unknown to myself at the time, but looking back that is where it started) through Baptist, and Pentecostal religions… along with a deep connection to the holy spirit and feeling called to work with the youth, I started to really align who I was with who I am. Through attending a christian college to be a youth pastor, to going to Towson University to be an Art educator…. uncovering that deep connection to spirit that I felt within.
The path is so magickal and I feel so honored to be given the opportunity to be me, and share what I know and see with the world.
And all of this beautiful life because my grandmother and her grandmother and her grandmother made choices and took actions in ways that allowed me to flourish and become who I am today. Because my mother had a vision, to love her children and give them a life she never had… I am who I am today. I am grateful for the journey… as it reminds us we are all connected. <3
Since quarantine, teaching has changed so much. As a public school educator, I used to be in a classroom full of students and buzzing creative energy. When we went virtual, all of that energy was displaced and we had to learn how to channel it in a new way. Learning Zoom, figuring out Google, making dynamic presentations, creating new activities to increase engagement, and figuring out what to do when technology doesn’t do what we expect it to.
Teaching in a new era
During quarantine I had an opportunity to really think about and plan the many ways I desired to teach creativity. To generate a creative energy in others, so that they might learn more about themselves through creative expression. I believe this is the way of the future, the way to heal, share, and communicate with one another. Art has always been a driving energy. It records history, shares stories, documents ideas, communicates emotions, and connects us to nature, ourselves and a divine God source energy.
Aside from teaching in public school, I have developed art lessons for children and adults on the evenings and weekends. This has been a great time for private lessons, with quarantine restrictions being lifted. The lessons range from realistic drawing, material exploration, and creative thinking to using new digital art technology!
One of my most recent art lessons, and most favorite, is to have the artist come up with a narrative based on objects of their choice. This can be adaptable to any age, we can go deep into a situation to uncover how we feel about something, or we can let our imagination take us away!
I really enjoy creating a sacred space for all to feel safe to express themselves through the creative arts! Here are few images from lessons I have recently had in person and via zoom.
Creative Balance Studios is in the process of setting up our art studio space to hold creative classes for kids and adults this summer!! Contact me if you are interested!
One of my favorite art lessons to do with my 8th grade is the Art Expo!
Art Expo Lesson Plan
For this lesson I began by talking to the students about art supply businesses and the NAEA convention!
We observed videos I took during the NAEA expo hall experience, discussed what it means to be a vendor, and created theatrical characters that students performed as in the final day of the unit!
Students loved researching and becoming the expert of materials, and then sharing what they learned through acting and presenting! We invited other teachers, administration and parents to our final Art expo day.
Each student was tasked with creating a character that was an expert on an art material. Students completed a character development worksheet, that identified their characters name, birthday, education, and work experience with the art material.
The first year I did this with my gifted and talented students and I allowed them to select which materials they wanted from a list of materials I premade. I did not want students to use things like colored pencils and markers since they have so much experience with them already. When I retaught this lesson to my academic art class, I allowed them to choose more typical art supplies.
Students had to create a table set up that included history, techniques, and types of the material. They also had to show 2 examples of art using the material, and have a 5 minute activity that visitors could do to explore the materials.
The students LOVED this project, and so did the Admin! Its student centered to the core.
It has begun! Students and teachers are together again! I have missed my students a lot. Seeing them in the classroom, creating and smiling. Its been too long since we had this type of interaction. There is nothing like creating art together with other people.
Over the past year I have taught students art virtually. In doing so, I have learned so much about myself, teaching, and digital space. Learning what I love and what I can let go of. Seeing what I have to offer my students, even without being in their presence. Realizing that our energies can still influence each other, even if we are miles apart.
We can create as a community. We get to gather and share. We get to feel that energy flowing through the classroom. Even though we are missing a few of our fellow artists in person, we have been able to nicely integrate both in person and digital work space!