Grace on October 20th, 2014

8/16/14 – 12pm Greenwich Mean Time

We’re on the train to Hexham, bound for Hadrian’s Wall. I’ve had this line from W.H. Auden rolling about in my mind since I saw it in York: “And down by the brimming river, I heard a lover sing; under an arch of the railway: Love has no ending.” I guess the trains keep it fresh in my memory. If I have any money left when I get home (doubtful), I want to buy Auden’s ‘Age of Anxiety’ with intro and annotations by Alan Jacobs.

The landscape is fantastic. And varied. Right now there are hugely tall pine trees looming over the fields, and horses with oversized feet grazing the hillside. And now there are ancient oaks and slender aspens with ferns going crazy below. There are hills green with grass and fields yellow with wheat. Several kinds of purple flowers- some with long rush-like fronds and some with small round petals and white centres- follow the track. And when we pass a village there are always brick houses (with the inevitable white window frames) and a church spire looking extremely historic, but the details of which I’ll never know. Incredible, the surplus of history that is packed into this island. And the surplus of blackberries is also ridiculous. =D

Hadrian's Wall

Grace on October 17th, 2014

8/11/14 – 9:43pm Greenwich Mean Time

With extreme skill at research and bus-schedule-memory, Dad saw to it that the bus which took us to Blenheim Palace today also made it possible to visit Tolkien’s house and grave. We did a lot of hopping on and off buses today. =) I sang ‘Into the West’ at Tolkien’s grave, which simply felt like the right thing to do.

Blenheim P was huge. Not just the palace, but the grounds! We didn’t even see everything. It was very impressive. The room where Churchill was born was less ostentatious than the State Rooms, but its significance made up for the lack of grandeur. “Here’s where the 20th Century was saved,” said Dad.

Back in Oxford, we spent some more time in Blackwell’s, ate dinner (steak, ale, and mushroom pie) at The King’s Arms pub, and did some more wandering around Oxford. I’m growing more and more fond of this city. Its streets form a labyrinth of treasures waiting for me to stumble upon them.

the high

Grace on October 14th, 2014

8/2/14 – 6:25pm Greenwich Mean Time

I am living the London experience to the hilt right now. We took the Tube from Covent Garden Market (so crowded!!) to Tower Bridge, and I’m sitting on a ledge right on the Thames with the bridge on my right, to the East, and the Tower of London across the river. (Okay, but a security guard with an Indian accent just told me to get down, so now I am standing once again on aching feet.)

It was supposed to rain today, but it never did. It’s been mostly overcast, but now the sky is open, with grandiose flat-bottomed clouds meandering slowly. It’s lovely out here over the water. I much prefer this to the constricted city streets. I guess I’ve been living in the country for so long that it’s hard to acclimate to city life.

Tower Bridge is so beautiful in this early evening sun! It was funny; as we were walking here, we were discussing whether we were going the right way. This British man walking by heard us say Tower Bridge and said, “That way! Definitely that way!” as he rushed past us. The people here are fun.

tower bridge

BethM on October 3rd, 2014

Since beginning this art-teacher adventure of mine, I’ve done a fair bit of searching for good art teacher reference blogs. Turns out there’s plenty of good ones out there, but very few that translate well to my overseas situation. (If you know of any overseas art teacher blogs, let me know!) In the meantime, however, I figured I can throw my own two cents into the blogosphere. Maybe next time someone comes around Google searching “overseas Africa elementary art teacher blog,” there will be at least one relevant post…with more to come.

Today’s P2 (1st grade) adventure: mixed media!

This is the first class period I’ve rearranged my classroom. At EEVPS, we have these horribly skinny desks that make for very little work space for the kids. Functional, yes; conducive to creativity and exploration, nope. So my one-hour period began ticking away as I encouraged the kids to help me move every two desks together and place a bench along both sides, creating one normal-sized table surface. With 25 kids in each P2 section, I decided to create five work tables and placed five kids at each one. (It sounds so simple. Yeah, no. Even with my encouragement and my assistant’s translation, there was all sorts of table-hopping before we finally had five students sitting at each table.)

Takeaway #1 from my mixed media lesson: time runs. Set-up (and settle down) took us a good 10 minutes, after which I gave a quick introduction to the definition of mixed media. I explained to the kids how I’d set up our classroom for the lesson, and produced five different “mediums” to put at each table: oil pastels, watercolor paints, construction paper with scissors and glue, crayons, and some extra craft supplies for fun accents.

Of course a couple of these stood out as the “favorites.” I gave each of the kids a paper and told them they would have five minutes to work at their first station, creating whatever picture they chose, before rotating to the next station.

Takeaway #2: Before asking 25 kids to move to the next station, it’s useful to be very clear in explaining exactly where the next station is! We had a few moments of uncontrolled chaos as twenty kids made a beeline for the watercolor paints, but things quickly got reined in and set back in order.

Aside from the time limitations at each station and the requirement to add something using each medium, this lesson was very open and not at all teaching intensive. If given more time (or if the lesson were split across two periods), I think it would be a great addition to show more examples of famous mixed media works—Paul Klee, perhaps? In my classrooms, this is difficult due the lack of resources and technology, but there might be ways around that.

So in spite of our one-hour period being conducted for a large part under controlled chaos, the kids had a blast creating—and in the crazy chaotic moments, that’s a definite bright spot! I loved seeing the finished products, with all the variety and personality in each one.

This is definitely a project I’ll use again in the future, though probably with some modification. Mixed media: success!

BethM on September 25th, 2014

Once a week, I have a special time set aside for a special young friend. She arrives at my house, we hug, exchange greetings, and find a place to sit down. Sometimes we settle at the dining room table, sometimes the couch, sometimes a mat spread outside under the big tree. Some days there’s plenty of chatting and laughter; other days are more quiet. My friend has an artist’s mind, and so we usually meet over a particular project, be it a bag of markers and a piece of paper or a messy introduction to paper mache. She creates. And as I sit and supervise and offer suggestions and sometimes join in, I open my Bible.

We have a small study, copied out on a sheet of paper. It is called “My Father God.” Each week, we focus on a truth about our heavenly Father that specifically addresses a common misconception about his character. It’s very straightforward and very basic. But I know it is simultaneously weighty. My friend sometimes struggles with the idea of fatherhood. Her story is hers alone, and sometimes redeeming that story seems like a monumental undertaking.

She is needy.

I know that word has negative implications. I don’t think it should, really. Because what my friend needs is nothing more or less than what the rest of her peers need—what her biological relatives need—what her New Hope family needs—what I need.

Over and over, I am reminded that her need is not for me. Thank God, I am not the answer to her questions or her struggles. I am not the happy ending to her story. I am such a small piece of her journey.

And yet once a week, I have the incredibly overwhelming opportunity to be a vehicle of Truth. Most days, I feel completely inadequate. I know the right things to say, usually—but when we are there, face to face, two eternal souls, sometimes I don’t know where to begin.

So we are both of us needy, and our journeys are not independent of one another. We are both in need of the same Truth, the same Savior. And once a week, my need drives me with increased awareness to my Source, in the hope of walking with my friend to the very same place.

In the official wording, I am her mentor. In reality, we are both blessed to walk together to the feet of a very great Savior—the one who gathers the needy to himself.

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

1 Timothy 1:15-17