Friday, October 30, 2009

Update to the Update

Yesterday I talked about how busy I've been with my Swap-Bot group, paper People Art Dolls, but I have been even busier in my real life! If you read my post two days ago you heard that I was switched (I'm making myself passive in this move!) to the other elementary school in our district a week before school started this year, and was assigned to a new position. Although this move was an involuntary move on my part, I have grown to like the job most of the time, and am enjoying the interactions with the children I am teaching.

Our school district has been experiencing a great deal of upheaval the past couple of years. Our enrollment has declined considerably necessitating a reduction in force for two years running. This, coupled with an inability to come to terms with the board of education on a contract for certified staff, has also created some divisiveness between the teaching staff and the administration. The way all this affects me is that due to the reduction in force, teachers who were riffed left positions open that had to be filled from within and many people were shifted to different jobs and buildings. The job I am now doing was to have been done by a veteran, 34 year teacher. She was assigned to a different building, and rather than moving for her last year of teaching, she decided to retire thereby leaving a vacancy which was filled by me. I really don't know why I was chosen, other than the fact that it is a reading position and I do hold a reading endorsement. There were however, several other people who really wanted the position, and had expressed no interest in it or desire to move again since I had just moved from that building two years previously.

But I guess sometimes we need a little prodding to break out of the ruts we have grooved ourselves into, and I am no exception to that axiom. I was pretty upset about the move at first because at the end of May I had packed up my fifth grade classroom as ordered. Every. Last. Bit. Of. It! From the floor to the ceiling, my fifth grade classroom was packed awaiting orders to see if I would be moved. Everyone in our building had done the same because we knew there were being cuts and there would be many moves made. But in July I received a letter telling me my assignment was to remain the same with the exception that I would also be adding fifth grade Social Studies to my teaching duties. That was fine with me; I love social studies. So, I thought I was set to go. Since I had so much to unpack (I own some books!), I began unpacking and getting my room ready about the first week of August. It took me about two weeks, to get everything unpacked and put away, and to get my posters hung back up and to decorate my bulletin boards, do copying for the beginning of the year, and to get things ready for the students. I also wanted to be ready ahead of schedule so I could take the week before school started to enjoy family things and get things done around the house. Finally, because I was ready ahead of schedule, I began overhauling all my filing cabinets at school and reorganizing everything in them. By this time it was August 13th, and school started on August 24th.

Well, on the afternoon of the thirteenth when I was on my way home, my friend called to tell me that the superintendent of out district was asking for my cell phone number! Now that was a new one for me! I immediately became nervous. The Sup't. does NOT just call you up on your cell! Anyway, as soon as I got home I checked the answering machine to see if he had called our home phone. Whew, I thought to myself. No messages from him! Well, a little later, as I sat on the deck talking to our neighbor, my cell rang, and guess who it was! The superintendent. And guess what his message was. When he asked me why I wasn't saying anything after his message, I told him I was pretty much dumbstruck, but I wish I'd asked him some questions. Like why me? How long had my name been tossed around for the job? But I didn't, so now those questions will remain unasked and unanswered. But again, sometimes we just have to be shaken out of our complacency and get handed something new, which is where I am at this point.

So, do I like my new job? Yes, I do, on most days that is. It is very different than what I had been doing, and I am having to relearn many things from my undergrad days in college regarding early literacy. That is a good thing, though, because I really enjoy research and learning. Is it easy? No, because nothing about teaching Kindergarten, first, and second grade children can be assumed or taken for granted. It is very touchy-feely and hands on, and having been accustomed for so long to fifth and sixth graders who are more independent, I am having to make some major adjustments to the way I speak, think, and teach, among other things. Some days I feel as if I am mothering more than I am teaching, and some days I go home wondering how Kindergarten teachers ever make it to retirement! On the other hand, it has made me much more humble about my abilities because now I can really see the hard work and dedication put forth by our primary teachers! In my former life I often wondered why children arrived in fifth grade missing some piece or other of what I considered essential knowledge, and now I marvel that they arrived there with as much as they did have!

How long will I be in this position? I don't know, but I think the move has a been a positive one for me if for no other reasons than the ones I wrote of in the preceding paragraph. Change has a way of opening our eyes to a new perspective and that, for me, is a good thing.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Paper People Art Dolls

That's the name of my Swap-bot group that has been consuming huge chunks of my time lately. The reason it has been consuming so much time? We've grown! (

This is a group that is dedicated to making paper dolls, so the focus of what we do is pretty narrow. This was reflected in my group's membership. Up until recently there were about thirty of us in the group, and we weren't very active. I'd create a swap here and there and three or four members would sign on to swap, but to tell the truth, it was getting to be pretty boring! I was even thinking about getting out of Swap-bot altogether until I made a fabulous new online friend. RyeRye invited me to join a group she founded on the "Bot," we began chatting, and the rest, as they say, is history.

So, here I am complaining to RyeRye about the small membership of the group and wishing I had more members to entice into swapping dolls with me. She immediately does what I should have done long ago - INVITE new members. Some group founder I am. Didn't even know I could do that! Does she invite one or two? Oh heck no - she invites bunches, tons, GOBS of new members. And so our membership for PPAD grew from thirty-two paper dolls lovers to 105 members within just a couple of weeks. That girl is nuts, I tell you! Anyway, with our ranks pumped up by this amazing friend of mine, our group is experiencing a renewed vigor and is practically brimming with talented artists ready to swap some gorgeous, original pieces of artwork.

Our group has a gallery on Flickr now where we can post pictures of our dolls for everyone to ooh and aah over. If your curiosity is piqued, you can roll on over to our photostream ( Even if you think paper dolls are for kids, I bet you will still get a kick out of the unique interpretations created by the artists posting here.

I'm very excited about a couple of the swaps we have going on right now, too. One swap is to make a Marie Antoinette paper doll, and while that concept itself is not new, we're taking it to a new level by creating a backdrop, or display stage for her. The most exciting and fun swap I've created for this group, however, is The Huge Traveling Self Doll Round Robin swap. This swap was taken from Lisa Vollrath's site, Go Make Something. (

She originated this Self Doll and put the pattern up, so I can't take credit for the doll or the idea, but I am taking credit for making it into a round robin doll swap. The people who signed up for the swap are making a "Self Doll." That is, the doll has your own face or your self on it. Then, we are sending our dolls off on a round robin journey so each person in the swap can make something for the doll before sending it on to the next person in the circle. We've also made the swap more fun by creating an identity, or theme, for ourselves. My alter ego? I am going to be a Wild West dance hall gal. My inspiration for this came from an anniversary card my mom sent to my husband and me years ago. It shows a dance hall gal and a cowboy at the bar. She's hanging off him with one arm draped around his neck and her other hand in his back pocket. I think that about sums up my personality, folks! We've also got an Audrey Hepburn (hey cpbunch!), a hippie chick, and a fairy princess, to name just a few of the multiple personalities floating around in this swap.

I'm loving the play of ideas and creativity we're bouncing off each other. It's refreshing to the soul to be a part of a dynamic group having fun together. And the best part is we don't have to travel far or invest a lot of money in it. It is happening within our own homes and at our convenience. We set the parameters for how much time we devote to it, and how involved we become with the group.

I bet at this point you're asking, "But what in the heck do you do with paper dolls?" Well, I don't actually do much with them except look at them and display them in my personal, private areas. I don't inflict them on my husband, much, because, well, he's just not that into them. But I guess because I made them as a young child and because I like girly things, I just like them. They're fun to make. So there's the reason I like paper dolls - pretty much a no reason type of reason. So if you find yourself bored with nothing much to do, check out Paper People Art Dolls on Swap-Bot. You may just find yourself elbow deep in glue and paper fashioning a new persona for yourself!