Celebrate Diversity-Make Art!

The ice and snow will soon melt away. Wishful thinking maybe, but March 20th is officially the first day of spring! It is time for K.T. Murphy students to move into an exciting phase of the school year in their classrooms and in art class.  This is the time of year when students put all their practice and learning to the test.  It is also time for students to show their amazing strengths working with different art mediums and big ideas!  All the drawings, collages, paintings and clay modeling they have done will culminate in making artwork for a transformative and celebratory school-wide art show!

Since I began teaching eleven years ago, it was always a goal for my teaching practice to be about more than just helping children learn how to make things.  Having an art show in the spring was the first step towards advocacy for the learning and growth that happens for children throughout a school year. The type of learning that isn’t measured on tests.  The K.T. Murphy art show has evolved and changed over the years including interactive art stations, an outdoor chalk mural, student museum docents, QR codes about the artwork and a variety of special exhibits.  Every year is an opportunity to try something new. There are an infinite number of possibilities when it comes to how to display the artwork, how to curate the artwork that is displayed and what the theme of the art show will be.

At K.T. Murphy School we are lucky to have a diverse school community representing cultures from all over the world.  Diversity is a huge strength that we can draw upon as a chance for all of us to learn about each other and grow more connected.  When we learn about how we are different, we also learn to appreciate those differences more, and we discover how we are alike. Our school PTO hosts an enormously successful multicultural fair which has grown over the years including more cultures than each previous year.  Students and their families make beautiful displays, there are different foods to try and amazing dance performances with beautiful costumes to see. Our February All School Meeting even celebrated diversity with students sharing about their cultures. Some students even dressed in traditional clothing worn in the countries they are from. They worked hard on all of this with their teachers to prepare for the sharing they did in front of their peers and the whole school community. It seems like just the right time to tie all of these experiences together with our art show theme “Celebrate Diversity-Make Art!”.

The art show will include artwork by students in pre-K through Grade 5 and will represent connections made to art styles and cultural celebrations throughout the world.  A special exhibit this year is planned to reveal the “K.T. Murphy Diversity Quilt”. We are hoping all of our K.T. Murphy families will participate in creating a quilt square at home as a family project. Please keep an eye out for a letter about this special project that will be sent home with students soon!

When spring arrives, it is an exciting and extremely busy time for everyone.  If you would be able to volunteer even just 1 hour of your time it will make a big impact. There are many ways that you can help.  Parents, teachers, staff and students are all welcome to volunteer. Please contact Ms. Ramsey at cramsey@stamfordct.gov or leave a message at our school office (203)- 977-4516.

“Celebrate Diversity-Make Art!” 

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Ten Lessons the Arts Teach

School is life.

“What is the purpose of school?”

“How will we make school mirror the world in a way that prepares students to live a fulfilling life?”

When we think about why art is an essential piece of educating the whole child we have to take into consideration a holistic view of the lessons that are learned through the arts.

We can not allow our understanding of the importance of arts education to be about drawing pictures or crafting interesting objects.

Ten Lessons the Arts Teach, by the late world-renowned Stanford professor of Art and Education, Elliot Eisner, expresses the depth of learning that can be achieved through an education that includes the arts.  An education in the arts that is supported with the resources, time and the value that children deserve will hit all ten of the lessons on this list.

It should remind all of us of why it is so important to have the arts in our lives, and why it makes us human.


Testing the Waters in School

The famous Bruce Lee spoke eloquently on life and learning.  Here is one of his most famous quotes on being like water:

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There are several layers to uncover in the meaning of this seemingly simple metaphor.

“Empty your mind.”

We can only clear our minds if we let go of our thoughts, feelings and habits. This is an extremely difficult notion to take on especially at the beginning of a new school year.

“Be formless. Shapeless. Like water.”

In order to be formless we must let go of our preconceived ideas, our emotions and our false perceptions of what is happening. The only way to adapt to anything is to be open to anything and be completely present. Our students need this from us.

“You put water into a cup.  It becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle. It becomes the bottle. You put water into a teapot. It becomes the teapot.”

Our expectations will give a definite form to everything that happens in our classrooms. They will shape how we respond to everything. Most importantly our students. Those who come in excited to be in school to those who are tired, hungry and not ready for our expectations.  We have to set high expectations for all students but remember that they will need to take on many different forms.

“Water can flow or it can crash.” 

Think about the impact we have as teachers on our students. We can help students build a learning environment in school that flows over any obstacles. We can help them break down barriers to their learning with a force as powerful as a wave crashing over a rocky coastline. We can adapt to the many differing needs of our students.

The wise Bruce Lee has a lot to offer as we get ready to begin a new school year. I wonder how being honest with ourselves influences our ability to do what he is proposing. We all know that entering the new school year begins with a period of testing the water.

We feel our way through the first couple of days and our students are doing the same. We are not always going to be able to make a perfect decision to become what our students need us to be every moment of every day.

“Be water, my friend.”   

There are days we might dive in, others when we will float and some when we may race to the finish. We will make mistakes.  We might get stuck in our old habits, freeze and turn to ice.

Even during those moments we have to realize our ability to change. Water takes on many forms but unlike water we choose which one to be and when.  Most importantly we need to teach our students that they have this choice too.

Heres to a happy and healthy new school year!


Teaching Creativity and Failure

Do we really need to teach children how to be creative?  Couldn’t teachers just give their students several options to represent their learning and then say “Go ahead, today you can be CREATIVE!”

If you have tried this approach you are a brave soul.  Students and teachers alike who have ever tried to just “be creative” may have met an unexpected friend in the process.  Failure.  Failure is a friend that tells you like it is.  Failure comes right out and lets you know exactly what you don’t know! Who needs a friend like that?  Everyone.

We have to teach kids that creativity and failure are best friends.  Sometimes they don’t get along and other times they compliment each other to achieve the amazing.

Without failure, there is no creativity and without creativity, there is no failure.

Here are two short stories I made using iMovie and my iPad to use as discussion starters with students on these two best friends.

Super “C” a short story about creativity. 


I in the Sky a short story about failure.