If you have ever done printmaking with any age, you understand the mess! Inky fingers, wet prints everywhere, brayers and tubes of ink cluttering up the tables and counters, not to mention all that newspaper all over the room! How in the world do you get the kids to clean up in 10 minutes, keep their prints clean, and keep the students (and yourself) calm through it all? 

The following list of tips have helped me to manage the chaos of printmaking with middle schoolers; if you are looking for elementary tips, there are extra resources at the bottom of this post...

Tip #1: KEEP IT SIMPLE! Start with the messy supplies sloooowly and keep the objectives very, very basic. The first day of printing, I had a few  students at a time pull a test print, taking turns at the counter while the rest of the students painted with watercolor at their tables. (I wanted them to prepare interesting backgrounds for their prints with the paint, and it allowed them an opportunity to experiment with the paint without any pressure of an official learning objective. I adored the beautiful images they made, too!)

Here is one printing station set up for test prints. Only a few students at a time printed, which allowed me a better opportunity to re-teach and supervise. The rest of the class painted with watercolor at the tables:

All the kids left the tables just like this at the end of class. It helped tremendously for me to be able to say, "Look at your tables - this is what they need to look like when the bell rings!" 

Tip #2: USE VIDEOS - these visual aids are wonderful to show the kids goals for clean up as well as to re-teach (see tip #5 below for an instructional video). Below is a video I shot before school to show all my classes what the room SHOULD look like before dismissal...I used it as a bell-ringer:

This is how the central counter in my classroom looks during the middle of class: most of the inking tiles are out on the tables, the inks are scattered, there are printing plates and used paper towels everywhere. Messy, messy messy! 

And this is how one student decided to organize it at the end of class! Neat and tidy! I always ask an art aide to help me organize the counter, lining up brayers and inking tiles neatly. This kid was amazing! 

Tip #Three: DON'T WASH ANYTHING AT THE END OF CLASS....the kids just return all the tools to the counter! To save time, I just lightly spritz with water at the end of each class and the next class uses most of the same colors. (During class, the kids have to check with me before washing off an inking tile, in order to save the ink, and they can wash their brayers if needed. I let them pick their own colors but encourage them to try to use up what is there, first.) All the inking tiles are out on the tables during class, and they all have to be returned to the counter at the end of class. The kids have to clean off the tables at the end of each class, too. This results in a lot of trashed newspapers! There are at least 6 - 8 full bags of trash at the end of the day when we do printmaking. 

Tip #Four: USE STUDENT AIDS...The students take turns every week helping with classroom duties, and I ask these "Art Aides" individually to pick up certain items, like all of the brayers or all of the inking tiles. I have to stand by the counter to oversee where they all end up if it is a younger group. More mature groups require very little coaching, but most of my classes have to be watched closely during clean-up. Even though I am watching them, they still try to get away with mischief! It never ceases to amaze me. I was looking right at two 6th graders who decided to smack each other with newspapers. Maybe they thought that because they were all the way on the other side of the room that I wouldn't notice? Hmmmm. 

Tip #Five: PRINT ON MAGAZINES OR TELEPHONE BOOKS...Seriously, this tip was so stupidly simple it never occured to me until I was reading art education blogs online a few years ago. The kids turn to a fresh page every time they add ink onto the printing plate or when they print. This means they have an INK FREE surface to print on, which means the print will (hopefully) be CLEAN! Thank you to all those art education bloggers for brilliant ideas! 

The video on the left is one of my students using a magazine to keep her prints clean...she paid very close attention to the instructions!
The video on the right is the instructional video - all the directions I gave the kids on how to print are here. (A 7th grader shot the video - she did a great job!) 

Tip #Six: DON'T DISMISS ANYONE UNTIL EVERYTHING IS CLEAN...Make them clean to YOUR expectations before they leave! I will walk around the room with either a laser pointer or a yardstick to point out items the kids missed. There is always a bit of trash, paper, or ink left out. I don't say a word, I just stand there and point. This year, I even made a sign that I taped to the end of a yardstick that said, "No one leaves until all trash and materials are picked up." I walk around with that sign (holding it like I am holding a flag) and point, and the kids think it is really funny. They know I am not being mean, that I expect them to do a good job. I really don't let them leave until EVERYTHING is put away, and they know it! I tell them to help each other out, and I warn them not to "be the one who holds everybody back!" 

Tip #7: USE SARAN WRAP TO SAVE YOUR INK...if there is still a lot of ink left on the inking tiles after the last class, I line all of them up on the counter in a row and cover them with Saran wrap plastic.  There's no sense wasting all that expensive ink! 

Tip #8: STUDENTS WASH ALL THE TOOLS AT THE END OF THE DAY...they love to help wash all those brayers and inking tiles! This is actually a pretty fun chore, not like washing the dishes at home, lol. 

I have done printmaking many times in the past, and I think I have a pretty good plan....even if it is the end of the year, with distracted, wild, kids!

......Most of my 187 middle school students had never done any kind of printmaking before: they had never even heard of the technique. They loved it, though! It was messy, it was chaotic, but it sure was fun! The theme for the unit was "Beauty," and the kids had some pretty interesting ideas for images! 

Here is a link to the introductory lesson on my classroom blog, and here is another link to an article about the results. (If you would like to see what we did each day, scroll down to the bottom of the post.) This unit was one of the best units we have done all year; every single student was pleased with their prints, no matter how "talented" they believed themselves to be. Success! 

What are your best tips for staying sane during printmaking? 


Community Maps, 5th Grade Printmaking, Mrs. Knight's Smartest Artists

Troubleshooting Printmaking In the Elementary Artroom,  Cassie Stephens, Youtube

Printed Cityscape Collages With Third Grade, Cassie Stephens

Kindergarten Students Flipping Their Own Instruction For Printmaking, Mini Matisse, by Nic Hahn

Collection of Articles, from theartofed

5 Secrets For Managing the Mess of Printmaking, by Heather Crockett, theartofed

How To Make Printmaking Easy For Even Your Most Rambunctious Class, by Alecia Eggers, theartofed

Albrecht Durer and Printmaking (On the Cheap), artfulartsyamy, by Amy Zschaber

Easy-Peasy Screenprinting Activity, by Phyllis Levine Brown, There's a Dragon In My Art Room

If you would like to know the day by day breakdown of activities, here is what we did each day of the printmaking unit: 

Day 1: An Introduction to Printmaking; Students Think of An Idea Based on the Theme of "Beauty"

Days 2, 3: Creating a Relief Printing Plate

Day 4: Students Revise and Edit Their Designs On the Printing Plates (Working on the Design, Reviewing Vocabulary, and Writing About Beauty)

Day 5: Printmaking Video Clips (I had to be out this day)

Day 6: Getting Ready To Print: Vocabulary Quiz and Painted Papers

Days 7-13: Printing a Limited Edition of Fine Art Prints
  • Day 7: Printing the Proof 
  • Days 8 & 9: Printing an Edition of Black and White Prints
  • Days 10 - 12: Printing an Edition of Colored Prints
  • Day 13: Students complete a self-evaluation, a written reflection, and begin working on their cards for teachers
Days 14 - 16: Students Make Cards Out of Their Prints In Honor of Teacher Appreciation Week 

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols

Below is an inking tile that a 7th grader "messed up:" she didn't like the colors so she just smooshed the brayer through all the colors to see what would happen: 



This past week, I printed with all 6 classes just about every day. Can we say, "Management Nightmare" with 187 middle school students? How do you get them to clean up in 10 minutes? Where do they put all their prints? How will they keep their prints clean? How do you keep them from giving in to the temptation to smear ink all over each other? 

You have to be just a little bit crazy to be a middle school art teacher. Honestly. You also have to be nuts to do printmaking the same week as your art show. I think I worked almost 70 hours last week!

There is only one of me in the class, and there are 34 kids. Middle school kids can be destructive, many care more about what their friends think than the teacher, and they LOVE to play. They play bumper cars with the brayers, they swirl their fingers around in the ink and waste it. They smack each other in the head with wadded up newspapers, they bang on their printing plates instead of treating them gently, and when they think the teacher isn't looking they use the water spritzer bottles as water guns (remind me to lock those up next year!) I didn't even realize that some of the kids in one class were beating on their printing plates until I saw the video clip later that day. I really do wonder just how much gets by me when I am so tired! 

You have to have a strong, positive energy to maintain a disciplined environment in middle school. Somehow, the kids can sense when I am weak and there are always those who will push boundaries. Was I 100% consistent this week? Ummmm, no. I was too tired to catch everything and too tired to say all that needed to be said to proactively guard against little mischief makers. 

Clean up happened every class period; some classes did a better job than others. At the end of one day I spent a good 45 minutes cleaning up the mess. One of my best classes lost all decorum another day and a kid got smacked upside the head with a wad of inky newspaper, resulting in a smear of beautiful blue ink across his hair. The kids were a little on the wild side, so the next day they had "Silent Art" and the wildest ones had to do the alternative assignment in the book, writing about printmaking instead of participating. 

Sometimes it seems that 99% of misbehavior happens during clean-up, when the kids are buzzing all over the room trying to put things where they belong. The younger kids especially are easily distracted and will make poor choices. It helps to have half the class get up first, then the other half, but I still always wind up with everyone milling about. It also helps to go over clean-up procedures verbally with the kids so they are reminded of what I expect. I probably skipped that step once or twice, due to myself being so distracted! 

At the art show one of our office aides (not one of my art students) was chatting with me and she told me that EVERY classroom is crazy right now, not only mine; except mine is the only classroom where there is a bunch of printing ink out! 

However I survived this week, and the artwork that emerged from all the chaos was stunning. 

The printmaking unit ended up being one of the best units we have done all year. Even students with the lowest skills and the worst behavior were able to come up with stunning images and innovative ideas - one student figured out how to offset the image with multiple prints, creating a triple image. Another student used multiple colors on his brayer to mimic the colors of a sunset with his landscape print. I don't think any of the kids were ready for the printmaking to stop! 

The truth is, I really didn't keep order - I relied on my classroom management plan and enforced consequences wherever necessary. Also, I couldn't have maintained any kind of order without the help of the students! Many of the kids pitched in - the picture of all those brayers and inking tiles neatly lined up was a result of one student who just wanted to arrange them like that. He likes the class, and he likes me, and he wanted to do something nice. The very next group of students left a watery mess at the counter (too much water spritzing) which I had to hustle to clean up - I didn't notice it before dismissal. But then, my last class daily made a herculean effort to clean. I love that class! 

Here is an interesting quote: 
"Classes that use disciplinary interventions will have their good days and bad days as will classes that don't. However the average number of disruptions in classes that use disciplinary interventions effectively is substantially fewer than in classes that don't. Over a year's time, this decrease in disruptive behavior results in a significantly different atmosphere in the two types of classes. Over a year's time, classes that employ disciplinary interventions will have about 980 disruptions, whereas classes that do not will have about 1800." Classroom Management That Works, Robert J. Marzano, Jana S. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering, 2003

Sometimes, what we do is simply impossible. There is no way we can be 100% effective under stressful circumstances, and there is so much going on that our good teaching skills get lost in the shuffle. "Best Practices" or not, the show must go on! We pretend that we know what we are doing and just put one foot in front of the other and hope that all that hard work will pay off. After all, nobody can really control what other people decide to do, especially children! 

In situations like what I went through last week, there is a LOT of grace involved. My husband, son, and I have our morning meetings with God to pray over the day! God is in control. Not me. 

This is the organized counter at the end of one class. The student didn't just line up everything neatly, he put the brayers in color wheel order. He said, "I don't know why I just did that," as he was walking out the door. 

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols





photo credit: Facebook.com
My dad posted this meme on Facebook not too long ago and I can't stop thinking about it. He just got home from the hospital yesterday after having spent several days there. We were all very worried about him and we're glad he's home now. 

Life sometimes hits you hard! 

Yesterday, one of my largest classes was happily and busily  printmaking with colored inks and there were a lot of kids at the sink, washing the color off their printing plates so they could try another. The sink backed up, causing the pipes to back up, and water came gushing out into the hallway. We had to stop everything, turn off the water, get out the mop, and I had to clean up all those printing plates, inking tiles, and brayers later that day when I could send kids with buckets to the restroom for water. 

The classroom was a mess (and stayed that way for hours) and I had to think of an alternative assignment for the rest of the day. But, it didn't really upset me. Middle school is always chaotic so you just go with the flow (no pun intended!)

However, I had to deal with an angry parent last week, and an angry student yesterday. I am an extremely empathetic person, so I tend to be affected by other people's emotions in an intense way. There is an awful lot of negative energy swirling around when people are upset, yelling, and throwing out accusations. I can handle all manner of chaos at school and in the classroom, but it just ruins my day when someone gets upset with me, even though I know (intellectually), that it has nothing to do with me. 

When I was in graduate school I worked as a barista at Starbucks. (I can still make a mean coffee drink and smoothie!) One life lesson I learned while there was this; however other people treat me has absolutely nothing to do with who I am. They behave however they choose, and the only person I can control is ME. I still remember standing behind that coffee counter and being thunderstruck by the realization. 

I am responsible for me, and only me. If someone else is rude to me, only I control how I respond. I could choose to be rude, or I could choose to be kind. I really have no way of knowing what the rude person is going through, do I? 

Everyone goes through life's problems differently. Some of us have extra supports, such as great parents and supportive colleagues and administration (like I have). Other people have zero support, health issues, and a lot of stress in their lives - the catastrophe with the hallway flood may have ruined another art teacher's day, but not mine. 

The angry student who pitched a fit, however, really got to me. Though I was upset, I went out to the hallway (where I sent the child to calm down) and made a concentrated effort to see things from the child's point of view. We talked, a better choice was made by the child, and the situation deescalated (for the time being.) For the rest of the day, though, I felt drained. It seemed as if all my energy went into the mental and emotional work of dealing with that one student. My patience with the rest of my classes was shortened, to say the least! 

It turns out that the angry parent was extremely upset with other teachers at the school and happened to mix up the art teacher with the stories the child told. All the things I was accused of didn't really have anything to do with me or my class at all, and we got everything sorted out. Relationships with that family have improved greatly, thanks to a willingness to listen and understand. 

There are plans being made to teach Steven Covey's "Seven Habits" next year at the middle school where I teach. One of these is, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." I am absolutely thrilled about this; I have wanted my school to incorporate this philosophy ever since I read that book. 

It all boils down to the Golden Rule, actually. Everyone is different. All I can do is try really hard to see from another's point of view and understand, and hope that they will do the same for me. 

Who am I to judge? 


  • Click here for more information about how to deal with disrespectful students.

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols



8th grade portrait
I teach middle school and my students are very, very social. Chattiness abounds in my classroom! I will admit that I adore being around people who talk a lot - I am naturally a very quiet person, so I enjoy people who have the gift of gab! However, if my students talk while I am talking I consider that to be extremely rude. The number one rule in my classroom is to "Be Respectful," and I do correct students who insist on interrupting a lesson. Sometimes it is not enough to simply wait for them to get quiet! Some kids talk out without even thinking, and a simple reminder to be respectful is all they need. Other kids do it on purpose, just to get their friends to laugh. THAT will result in a consequence, almost every time! I write names on the board, and will even ask a kid to go to the hallway if they keep it up. Separation from the group usually gets the message across, but I also have been known to call a parent right then and there (after I finish teaching, of course!) Middle school students need to know that we "mean business" - some behavior is simply not okay. Interrupting a lesson degrades the learning environment and sabotages everyone's right to a quality education. 

Now, if you are an elementary art teacher, the words "sabotage" and "rude" may not apply; there is a lot less impulse control with younger students so the strategies a teacher chooses will look different in a first grade classroom vs. an 8th grade one. 

Middle and high school teachers, if you know that  you treat your students with respect, kindness, and consistency, the students understand your rules, and you have great repoire and engaging lessons, there is absolutely no excuse for them to disrupt. Period. 

Below is a listing of ways various teachers deal with rude students who talk while the teacher is talking - yes, when a middle or high school student interrupts your lesson it is RUDE! Don't put up with it for one single second! 

But first, here is a little comic relief: 
Principal Gerry Brooks speaks about one technique for elementary school teachers: (I have done this in my middle school classroom as well!)


Principal Gerry Brooks, Behavior Management Lesson 1; Youtube

Here are a few more resources for elementary teachers from Michael Linsin, educator and author of www.smartclassroommanagement.com:

editor's note: Katherine Braun says, "I teach at a k-6 bilingual campus (Spanish, but other languages represented by our students) and one lesson I had to learn the hard way was to pause and let fellow students translate for the very low English ELL's. They were trying to be helpful to their friends by translating my directions, but it just looked like they were talking while I was talking. I had to learn to build in that transition time, and still use lots of visuals just in case."

smile emoticon


Hallie Koenig says, "Every time I'm interrupted I start over from the top. I explain I don't know who missed what. They get on board pretty quickly. I teach 7th grade - they seem to get it!"

Rachel Wintemberg, The Helpful Art Teacher, says, "Print instructions on worksheets and create video demonstrations on Youtube. Basically, you can create theater in your classroom to wow them into paying attention. I also time lapse (speed up) my demos and run them on a constant silent loop in the classroom so kids can just refer to them as they are working. Or I will put on one of my video demos and say, 'It's 3:08 minutes long. Anybody can be quiet for three minutes.'" 

In my classroom, I will write names on the board or on a post-it note if they talk while I am teaching. This is only necessary if the class is being purposefully obnoxious and disruptive. They will immediately get quiet if they see me writing names! However, if the class is really interested, their comments are not disruptive, and they don't interrupt the lesson, I don't mind the chatting. Follow this link to my classroom blog to see a video clip of one of my lessons (right in the middle of Spring Fever ... April 13, 2016) of an informal introduction to relief printmaking. I am surrounded by 7th grade students - over 30 of them! They are engaged and excited about the technique, and a bit noisy at intervals. You can hear them shushing each other! I don't correct them, though, because the behavior is not really rude. Any time I am talking they are polite and they get quiet. I don't have to wait long at all for their attention; the intermittent noise just tells me they are interested. 

Chatty Kids In Middle School, Part I, Part II - these articles describe in detail exactly how I handle kids who won't stop their rude talking. 


J. Love Gironda says, "I have this image ready at all times...my high school kids laugh quietly but they get it.. and we move on. I either project it or I have printed versions stashed. I'll run over and grab one and put it by my face. I do a mean Kevin Hart, ya'll. he is my spirit animal. I have a Grumpy Cat meme I made that I put on my door when kids are tardy! It's the signal to go to the office and get a pass. He is so funny...cracks me up!" 

photo credit: J Love Gironda, Art Teachers Facebook Group

photo credit: J Love Gironda, Art Teachers Facebook Group

Tam Kadlec says, "I do the 'be quiet and stare' thing, though it doesn't always work fast enough for me. Sometimes I will follow it up with, 'X, would you like to come up and do the presentation for me?' That usually gets a 'No, sorry,' and they shut up. Once I did get a kid who said yes, and he came up and did a half way decent presentation. When he reached the parts he didn't know, he sat down and paid attention. It was great, and everyone applauded his effort."

Christine McLaughlin O'Malley says, "Before I begin I say, 'Phones away, everything out of your hands, conversations paused, all eyes up here.' Every time. Then I pinpoint with warnings and then issue detentions. Every time. Works for me."

Hilary Laurel says, "Just stop and stare towards the noise with a neutral expression. Gradually it will quiet down and you can then identify the remaining voices. And yes, there are those days when they are all super chatty, so in a sing song not-at-all-crabby voice I get their attention. As SOON as I hear a voice, I stop MID WORD and stare. It really is effective and you don't have to be stern. Kind of serious silly, like, 'shut up and I love you.'" 

more general advice for high school teachers ......

Ask them to stop; if they continue talking, they go to the hallway where they are again asked to be respectful, then another consequence goes into place if the behavior continues, such as detention.

Talk to the offender about respect and being on the same team, in private, in the hallway. This helps with some students who disrupt on purpose just to gain power over the teacher (trying to win popularity points with their friends). Publicly reprimanding these students will backfire. 

Grade their behavior during the lesson/demonstration - are they "on-task," listening and respectful without having side conversations?

Shoot a video of your lesson or demonstration and play that during class, or have the kids view it with their digital devices. That way, you can watch the class and spot the side conversations more easily.

Teacher proximity is extremely effective - walking around the room while you teach encourages all the kids to pay attention.

Writing names on the board can be effective, but be careful. Some school districts frown on this - they see it as "public shaming" (I disagree!) When I was student teaching at a local high school I was called down to the principal's office for writing students' names on the board. Now, as a middle school teacher, this strategy is one that I use often. 

Karla Caraway says, "I also will not proceed when students are talking. I wait, I talk softly and try to remain calm and avoid sounding irritated. If it seems to continue, I pause briefly to calmly and silently take notes. If anyone asks, I tell them I'm making notations to discuss behaviors with students later, when everyone doesn't have to sit and wait. And then I do that. You will be documenting problems, and if certain names keep popping up, you know you have a problem that needs to be handled with a parent phone call and possibly some after school working detention. When they come after school to help, they get to see you as a human who works hard, without their usual audience." 

Eric Gibbons says, "I stop mid sentence, stare, they get it. Also, for bad situations, I write down the minutes wasted on their seating chart. I don't yell, and when they are quiet, I tell them that when we reach 30 minutes of wasted time, we'll have class after school to make it up. Even quiet kids, by their behavior, can discourage talkers. Ignore them, look at me, and they'll get the point. Who talks without an audience? If you're not the problem, BE part of the solution!" (Eric Gibbons is the author at artedguru.com.)

How to Stop Side Conversations, Tim Bogatz, theartofed.com

photo credit; Facebook.com 

If anything in this article helped you in your practice, please let us know! Also, if you have a technique that is effective in your classroom, share it! We need all the advice we can get!

Editor's note: Managing student behavior involves far more than discipline techniques. In order to create an environment for student success, the teacher needs to provide quality instruction as well as appropriate motivation. Most importantly, the teacher needs to have the right attitude for leadership in the classroom. Finally, having a solid classroom management plan with rules and procedures set up from the beginning of the year is also extremely important - students need to be very clear about what the teacher's expectations are.

disclaimer: These are a set of ideas about being proactive in teaching based on classroom experience as well as various education authors. Many times there are circumstances in the classroom that are beyond any teacher's control, especially when serving at-risk populations or in environments where those in administration fail to provide effective leadership in a school. Sometimes, regardless of the prevailing theories about teacher responsibility, the teacher is not to be blamed for out of control students. Finally, we do NOT recommend that you put any of these strategies into practice if your administration disagrees with them. 

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols



photo courtesy of Becky Guinn

Last week, Mrs. Becky Guinn was gracious enough to answer a few of my questions in "Interview With Becky Guinn; Part I." She is an amazing person, still teaching and advocating for art even though she lost her arms and legs due to an allergic reaction to a blood thinner in 2002. Here is the rest of her story:

Could you tell us some of your thought processes as you dove right back into teaching after the amputations? How did the students respond to you? 

After returning to teach, I used taped demos and that worked well. This was a great concern...how I was going to be able to demonstrate techniques. The state provided an artist for my classroom aide. We spoke the same language...it was a positive collaboration for my classes. Another concern was how the students would react to me. Should I just go in & do my thing or should I explain what happened & why I looked as I do. I realized that in every class there were several students who had no clue. So, I began each semester explaining what had happened. Often my humor kicked in & I would tell the kids they were going to have to help (the aide wouldn't be there) me...I was a little short handed! The term, 'Give me a hand...' took on a new dimension! 

I never knew if it was good or not to show students how to do an assignment or whether it was better to let them discover through the process. As a student, I would have wanted a demo - the more examples, the better. As a teacher, I found if I used my personal samples, I had more kids saying, 'I cannot do that.' Before I lost the use of my hands, I found my former students' projects made great examples...age appropriate & if another student could do it, my students were more apt to try.  Another thing that worked for some, was a 'peer tutor'...students would try for another student more readily than for me using my examples. 

Finally, I was concerned about the paper work teachers must do...being able to fill out a discipline report fast enough to not lose the rest of the class's attention. Bus duty, parking lot duty, cafeteria duty, working ballgames...I was unsure how I could accomplish some of those tasks with the speed & precision necessary. This is where my administration & co-workers were such a great support."

How did you come to realize that you could still paint?

This is one of the first paintings Mrs. Guinn created after the amputations. (beckyguinn.org)
"The very 1st thing I painted was with a blow-marker. Rehab tried to configure something for me to use. The 1st thing I wrote was: 'Love, Mom,' on my daughter's birthday card...6 days after the amputations. I told myself, 'Letters are symbols; draw the letters.' The pen was held by velcro on a fiberglass strap on my elbow and I used my 'art brain' to draw my signature. That was the 1st glimmer of hope that I might have art in my future.
The 2nd & 3rd things I painted were acrylics 5 months after amputations. One for each daughter...they asked & we all agreed that I wouldn't know if I could until I made a concerted effort. Both paintings were landscapes done with a cable clamp tightened on my forearm that had a paintbrush duct-taped to it. My palette needed to be light & fit in my lap, so a paper plate worked well. What a sense of accomplishment!"

How does the mechanism work in your prosethetic hand? Is it a shoulder movement that causes the hooks to close?

"My hooks default closed. There is a wire attached to each of the hooks that follows up my arm, around my shoulder to my back where the opposite end attaches to a ring at the center of the harness. When I extend either arm or flex my bicep enough, the hooks open. Both hooks can be moved/twisted manually. My right hook has three positions. Flexed the most, allows me to write, paint, eat, etc. Straight is the position I use for driving, typing, lifting heavy objects, etc. The tightness of my grip is controlled by rubber bands...the more bands, the tighter the grip." 

What gave you the idea to start the "Hooked On Art" program?

"The idea for the 'Hooked on Art Program' evolved from wanting to do something after retiring.  My retired friend and science teacher, Becky Cairns, was willing to travel and help with the program. We knew there were many connections between art and science.  Our motto became Art + Science = Becky 2 (Becky squared).  We had played around with several names, but returning from the 2008 NAEA Convention, a light bulb came on through Betsy Logan.  Betsy, Becky and I were riding back from the airport and Betsy said, 'Hooked on Art!'  It fit and we all knew that was what the program should be called.  After receiving a grant from the AL State Council on the Arts and the AAEA added the program to its budget, we were able to officially launch the program, which reached approximately 2000 students and teachers each year for 6 years."

How did you get involved with the Alabama Art Education Association?

"I had been an art education major 25 years before becoming an art teacher.  My high school had no art program.  I had to take mechanical and architectural drawing in a boys drafting class to have any art lessons. After college we moved to St. Petersburg, FL where art teachers were 'a dime a dozen.' I went into real estate advertising and marketing because I needed a job. After that, we moved to MS, AL, TX.  I did not ever even apply for teacher certification until we returned to AL in 1992. When I was hired as the only art teacher in Chambers County Schools, I was the 1st art teacher in 10 years. I had never been a student in a high school art class.  It had been 25 years since I had been in college art classes.  I was told to choose my curriculum.  I decided I needed to go somewhere for help.  I signed up to attend the NAEA Convention that was being held in New Orleans in 1996.  I went and learned all I could.  I was overwhelmed.  I attended the next one in Chicago.  Still like a fish out of water! I went to the '97 AAEA convention that year by myself...didn't know a soul. Met others who were there alone.  Met wonderful people who were friendly.  They couldn't call my name, but they were accessible to everyone. You could just tell; the workshops were as good as NAEA. I learned so much and felt welcome.  At the fall conference in '98, I had a co-worker with me.  The last night at a banquet, I met Andy Meadows.  He said the conference would be in Montgomery the next fall and maybe we could help and get involved. Because Valley is on Eastern time, we would leave school at 4 our time and get to Montgomery by 4:30 even though it was 90 miles away.

 I continued after the conference to attend workshops by the Central AL Art Educators. They became my mentors; they taught me how to teach art! Having been a member of AAEA since 1996, I have to say it has supported my career, forged friendships, strengthened me as an art educator, given me guidelines, professionalism, leadership and a veritable life-line that I desperately needed."

What could you tell us about God and about how He has supported you through the experience of having your limbs amputated?

"God did it all! He allowed me to live when 5 of 6 people with cases of Heparin Induced Thrombosis as bad as mine, died. He kept us positive and showed us the way forward.  We set goals and took steps to achieve those goals; so we did our part, but the blessings, the lack of resentment, and the results all point to God opening doors and He gets all the glory. The fact that I almost lost the ability to create works of art has produced an urgency in me to create...just to see if I can.  My methods, media, and techniques have changed since my amputations.  With age, I am realizing even more limitations, but every day is a gift from God.  Every prompting from nature's beauty stirs in me a desire to capture it. Not because I can improve God's creation, but because He has put this desire within and maybe the viewer will respond in kind."

 photo courtesy of Becky Guinn
How can art teachers best advocate for visual art in the state of Alabama? 

"Art Educators need to 'sell' the program whether it is in private or public schools. Use every opportunity to get your photo in the local newspaper.  If not your photo, then your kids, your class.  Draw outside and invite the newspaper to come by and get a shot.  If you receive a grant - publicize it.  Ask freelance writers to do an article on a special project your students are working on.  Meet for volunteer activities after school-invite a reporter.  Take field trips, make pics and send them to the newspaper.  Put community wide and school wide events in community calendars. Get on local TV stations with student exhibits.  Be creative; think outside the box.  The public has to know your name and your program to be sad to see it go...make yourself known to your superintendent and school board members; get to know the mayor. When you have a special unit, invite the mayor, city councilperson, education partner, superintendent and/or school board members to a brunch, lunch, reception, banquet...they probably won't come, but they'll remember you invited them! Make an artists' recipe book; a calendar of local sites drawn by
students, photographed by students...collaborate with the drama teacher, foreign language teacher, music dept., phys ed to present a special program for the whole school or selected grades. Publicize, publicize, publicize...newspaper, TV, radio, churches, flyers, letters to parents and public figures, even local businesses...they'll be hiring some of your students one day. If all AAEA members did  this, we might even attract some new members into AAEA; then if our increased numbers publicized the arts we would finally get the word out about the best professional organization in the state! I cannot imagine NOT being a member...my teaching career would have floundered and suffered had it not been for AAEA.

What advice do you have for an art teacher just starting out? 

"My advice for an art teacher just starting out would be: 
Look through your students records...they are eye-opening.
Respect the human being even if you abhor their behavior.
Guard your sense of humor...laugh out loud sometimes; it can break tension.
Avoid being backed into a corner verbally or physically.
Be consistent with discipline...follow through on promises...watch out for ultimatums.
Allow students' choices on projects, even if it's small ones like the number of colors to use, or the kind of paper.
Hold fast to the school rules so you do not create issues in the next teacher's class (cell phones, hats, gum) - be a 'team player.'

Don't sweat the small stuff."

Becky and her husband, photo courtesy of Becky Guinn

We will be forever grateful to Mrs. Guinn for her transparency. My favorite video is this one, Walking By Faith:CBS 19 Newswhere she describes God surrounding her with his presence, almost like a cocoon. She could have kept all of this to herself and not said a word, but she continues to tell her story, living courageously. She is an example for all the rest of us in endurance, strength, and patience. Mrs. Guinn typed out this entire interview herself, using her "hooks!" She says,

"Thank you, Anna...just putting one foot in front of the other, daily, with my heart & hand in God's."

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols