Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Stitch in Time....

2014 Challenge - Illuminated Letters 
Yesterday I spent the day navigating my way to the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza (PNQE) show in Oaks, PA.   This is an annual pilgrimage, as a result of my having met Amy
on a quilting listserv online seventeen years ago.  Long story short, she flew from Texas that first year, and has come back every year, sans one, since, to view our quilt challenge exhibit that evolved from our first meeting.  We met as quilters.  We connected as creative people who don't do nearly enough quilting because we are interested in -- or distracted by -- so many other things in this world.  Suffice it to say, that I pick Amy's brain the entire time she "vacations" here, claiming that living my life as an educator is so much more fascinating than hers as an electrical engineer.  I drag her into my classroom to inspire my students -- at first it was to tout the wonders of female engineers, but most recently to explore the wonders of homemade journals and journaling.  The kids flocked in to visit -- some for 10 minutes, some for two full periods.  (The AP Studio Art teacher stopped by at the end of the visit and was kicking herself for not exploring the visitor earlier.  She and Amy are now facebook friends, and Amy will be repeating her journaling adventure with the Drawing and Painting I kids on Monday in Nichole's room before she jumps on a plane and returns to whatever is considered "real life" for Amy.)
 So imagine my delight, when I realized that today's Te@chthought #reflectiveteacher blog challenge was: 

Day 21

Do you have other hobbies/interests that you bring into your classroom teaching? Explain.

 I've been a quilter/sewer  (read that as sew-er, not the dwelling place of Ninja Turtles) for most of my life.  I'm one of those weird people that cut big fabric up into tiny little pieces only to sew them back together into a big piece of fabric.  Quilting eased its way into my repertoire of teaching illustrations early on.  The first use was an entire Vacation Bible School designed around quilt blocks based upon bible stories.  The kids colored preprinted blocks using heat transfer crayons, and the sewing guild of the church ironed them onto muslin and created quilts for the homeless.    When I began teaching gifted in the middle school, I collaborated with two colleagues and wrote a grant that bought us two sewing machines, a bunch of fabric and supplies, and five Q-snap quilting frames.  It was the era of Hidden in Plain View which had been hyped by Oprah Winfrey on her show, so everybody bought into the possibility.  The kids designed their own blocks with secret messages and imagined the escaping slaves on the underground railroad.  (For the record, I think this is hoo ha, but it did present quilting to kids, and Project Based Learning in the classroom.)

An African American student became fascinated with quilting as a means of "voice" for an often illiterate people and started working on her own Dear Jane quilt.  I've used my experiences viewing the exhibit of the story of the Quilts of Gee's Bend to chat with students about voting rights, political change, poverty, and defining "What is Art?"

Often, quilts that I've made for our annual Stretching Art and Tradition challenge are inspired by my students personal fascinations -  especially last year's quilt for the prompt, "Who Am I?" entitled Don't Mind My Mind: Always Churning

The reality is, my hobby of quilting inspires my teaching, and my teaching often inspires my quilting.  I've made a pillowcases for the sock monkey loving student headed off to college, Eagle Scout pillowcases as the gift for that prestigious honor (until they discontinued the fabric!),  and once, for an exceptionally amazing Teacher Assistant, an entire quilt -- simply because the fabric was so incredibly HIM, that I had no choice.  It called me, and I needed to answer the call to make that quilt for that amazing kid for graduation.

I have many students who deserve a quilt, or a pillowcase,  or a box full of wool to inspire them to explore new depths.  Igniting passion for learning, in whatever fascinates us, is the responsibility we have as educators for our students, and for ourselves.

So today, I might overcome my fear of journaling and open that virginal blank book and risk hating my artwork or handwriting.  (Or, more likely, I'll dig out that flannel and make those baby blankets that I owe to my ever-reproducing colleagues for their new babies.)  I'll do it because I love fabric, I love people, and I need to try new things....

P.S.- After 21 consecutive days, I feel like I should also mention that I have this new hobby.  Blogging.
Coming to a classroom near me very soon!


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