Thursday, March 16, 2017

Interview with art teacher Kati Giese

Interview and Classroom Tour
Silver Creek High School Art Teacher
Longmont, CO

"I'm probably a little unconventional. I'm okay with that."

What did you want to be when you were a child?
When I was 4, I knew I wanted to be an artist. 
I knew that's where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. My parents always encouraged me, they never said you can't do it. In 6th grade I had some family troubles and I decided that I wasn't going to do art anymore. So I stopped and I didn't access that. I returned back to it in high school and remembered that I liked doing art. Even though I'm an artist and I'm extremely creative and I fall on that spectrum of the crazy art person, I also have a nice balance in that I have to have things planned out kind of ready to go at least in my head. 
Around that time I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do as a career and I didn't want to be an artist anymore because I don't do well with people telling me what to do and I figured the only way I could make a living would be as a commercial artist. I do better telling other people what to do, so I realized being an art teacher would be awesome because then I could be the boss of everybody. In 10th or 11th grade I interned with one of the middle school art teachers. He let me come in to teach a lesson. I appreciated that he gave me his time, and that is what I wanted to...teach middle school art. So I went to school and that's exactly what I got my degree in. 

Where do you come up with art lessons for your students?
That's going to be a big question.
We, at Silver Creek, have moved away from art lessons. 
We don't teach art lessons, we teach kids how to think like artists.
Rather than saying 'this is how you do it' and everyone makes the same project, we say 'here are some skills, here is how you build upon an idea, and this is how you make your own art.'
We're only in our 3rd year of doing this, so we don't have it all figured out and we're still playing with it. But we're progressive in the state. We're not asking kids to follow and do what we say, we're asking them to take risks and make mistakes and figure out who they are artistically.
We might see a kid for only one semester throughout their high school career. But the thought is...
Can I get a kid to accept that failure is okay? That taking a risk is okay? That creativity doesn't have to look like somebody else's idea of creativity.

I was going to ask another question about how you teach creative courage to kids, but your method sounds like it could work really well to enable the courage already inside of them.
Traditional art classes, up until about this point, have been lesson oriented. You might have had a few rogue people, doing what we're doing, but most are traditional. With traditional classes, kids walk out and they're comparing themselves to everyone else because everyone else did the exact same thing. So you have kids that are not as skilled or artistic and they walk out thinking that they're a failure because they're not as good as the person next to them. 
We didn't want that anymore and decided to set up an environment where kids could try something and access their own ideas. By high school they don't know how to do that anymore. 
When you're about 5 or 6 you're about as creative as you're going to be, and then we teach kids not to be creative. We teach them to answer the test, follow these rules, here is how you do it. We don't allow kids the freedom to come up with their ideas. 
So I always tell the kids that this is teacher supported, so I'm here at the bottom and I'm holding you and whatever you need I'm going to be here. Rather than teacher directed, where the teacher is telling them 'you will do this.'
So we've tried to flip the model.
Everybody needs art, you may just not notice it.
Some kids want to increase the number of art classes that can take, but we're already at capacity. My classes have about 35-40 students in them. So we're jam packed and there is no money to hire extra teachers. So we can't increase credits and we can't increase access because there is no funding for it. 

One thing about teaching art the way we do here is that you are not getting art that is considered "beautiful." So you don't get a lot of realism or you don't get a lot of pieces that everyone would consider acceptable and want to hang. 
If you teach art in the traditional way, you'll get a lot of pieces that are aesthetically pleasing to most people and you get it framed. 
What I'm asking the kids to do is to take big risks. And it might not work out.

We try to put the emphasis on the process, rather than the final outcome. In my class we've done away with grading. I still have to put grades in, but I allow the kids to self-access. I say to them, "Why in the world would I give you a grade? It is your process, it is your progress. You tell me what you deserve on this." I have them go through a self-review on the process, so they need to talk about their invention and about their creativity and their technique. They have to write a small essay about their work, the essay accompanies the work, and then they have a look back about the things they've learned and processed. So, rather than assigning a grade that makes them feel as if someone is telling them if they've done okay or not in their own art, we're allowing them to sort it out for themselves and be responsible for themselves. 

When you said that you don't give grades, I had a little relief. As if I could just come in and be myself and it'll be okay. 
Exactly. I'm not going to tell you what grade you get. If you want an A, have an A, I really don't care. What is important to me is your process and your learning and what you grew through and what struggles you had.
Releasing the pressure of striving for a grade, it frees them up to take risks and make mistakes. 

I tell them often...What if life was about learning from mistakes, rather than suffering from mistakes?

This class doesn't have penalties for screwing up. This class actually rewards you for screwing up and trying something and then writing about it. I love it when something doesn't work out! Let's talk about it. Why didn't that work out? What did you learn? Hopefully they can carry that on into their life, that things don't have to be so right or wrong. There is always something to learn.

How has teaching art affected your own art?
I don't do art.
I think that happens to a lot of art teachers. You get a little lost because so much of your time and energy is spent helping others develop their ideas and their artistic style. When you get home that is the last thing you want to do. Also, I have a 4 year old and another one on the way. So when I come home it is time do do mom stuff.
The other day we were going to make Valentines (because I'm an artistic mom we are going to make them not buy them). They turned out lovely and it was fun, but I ended up teaching. Still teaching. 
So I think, "Why would I want to do my own thing?" I feel bad about that because I'm not modeling for my daughter. I'm not at home working on a project. Even if we're doing it together, the attention span of a 4 year old is not enough time to do my own thing. 
Part of my issue, the first time I was so set on getting out of college. I wanted to get my life started. I bullied my way through it and was taking 21 credit hours a semester and didn't pay much attention to creating my own artistic style. So when I graduated with my degree in teaching art, that's what I was going to do, but I never really developed it for myself. 
A couple of years ago (when my daughter was 2) I decided to go back to college and get my masters in art and design. It was an online program designed for teachers and in-person meetings during the summer. Instead of focusing on my classroom, I decided that I wanted to focus on my own art. So I took about 2 years to focus on my art and figure out who I was. 
That was my thesis...Who am I as an artist and why do I do this thing where I start something and don't finish?
I did a year study into my own artistic practice. What I determined that I do get bored easily. After I've looked at something and understood it, I don't want to revisit it. The word for it is autotelic. An autotelic personality is someone who needs a peak challenge at all times. They needs something to keep them at a high level. This made sense for me, because with art, if I'm not challenged I'm not enjoying it. I also discovered that my projects could not go on for more than a week or I'd loose interest. So I needed to set time limits for myself.
I'm interested in fiber arts. I invented a way of dying fabric and then layering it to create a diary. I have small pieces that I work on and add to every three or four days. I add something that happened to me or something I experienced. Then, at the end of the month, I have a fabric diary of my time. 
That way I don't get so bogged down with a big art piece that I'll loose interest in.
Now I have a method that I know works for me. I probably would not have figured this out if it hadn't been for my graduate program. And forcing myself to do it. I entered the student art show for my college and two of my pieces were chosen, so I must be on to something here.

Do you have a favorite quote or saying that inspires you to do what you love?
A quote for me:
"Leave everything in its utmost simplicity and clarity will arise itself. It is only by doing nothing that you will do everything that there is to be done." (Buddhist saying)

I feel that in our world we get so complicated by piling stuff on. Maybe, if you pulled it back and leave it in its utmost simplicity it will come to you, and it will be okay. It is okay not to move on it. Which I think is important for sanity. 
However, I don't think that helps me get anything done. 

A quote for the classroom:
One of the things someone sees if they walk into my classroom is that everyone is engaged and are doing something. Which is unlike when you walk into other classrooms and kids are disengaged or on their phones. 

In moments of self doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
I don't really have a lot of self doubt. When I was trying to figure out who I was artistically, I didn't really worry about it. I assumed I would just make lots of mistakes and find out what is going on and not judge myself. 
The adversity or self doubt of not knowing who I was as an artist was more of a challenge rather than feeling I couldn't do it.

Set it up as a challenge and ask yourself a big question. That's what I tell the kids to do is ask a question. So, rather than stating, "I'm bad at this." or "This doesn't look right." or "I don't know who I am as an artist." 
Ask a question instead. If you ask a question, you have steps to get somewhere, rather than being bogged down with your statement.
For example:"Who am I as an artist?" is better than, "I don't know who I am as an artist."
Another example, if a kid is working on a project and the face doesn't look right I help them re-frame their remarks from "I'm terrible at drawing faces." to "Why does this face not meet my standards?"
When you have the question, you can take small steps to get to the answer.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to enter your field?
I probably average two kids every other year who want to become an art teacher. I can see the results of what I do here in the classroom. 

- Don't expect that everybody loves art. 
- Relationships are the most important part of being a teacher.
- You will spend a large amount of time talking to kids and counseling kids. 

PS: Kati has been participating in The Uniform Project this year! This black dress is the mainstay of her work wardrobe. She is demonstrating to her students that it doesn't matter what they wear to be loved and accepted. 
Be who you love, take chances, makes mistakes, and continuously reflect. 

Contact Sunshine Revival

Monday, March 6, 2017

Interview with Nichole Jones

Nichole Jones, LPC


Longmont, CO

Counseling services: Individual counseling at Circle of Health
FREE group counseling: Parents of Infants group, Parents of Toddlers group, and Monarch Mamas (a postpartum support group), all at Family Garden
Yoga Classes: Yoga for Stress Relief, and Postpartum Mama "mini" Retreat, both at Family Garden

Above photo credit: Melissa Rich Photography

The following images contain source links. 
If you're the curious type, click on a picture.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

I wanted to write books. I would make books, I would write stories about my stuffed animals. I always thought I'd be an author, and maybe someday I will be.

Where were you when you had the idea to start your own business?

I was working at Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in Denver. I worked as a care manager, and so I would do outreach to people who are at risk of being hospitalized (or who had already been hospitalized) but they had some emotional stuff going on. So they had been flagged and referred to us. The goal was to keep them out of higher levels of care. So I called people and would chat with them and connect them with resources. I'd make sure they were seeing their psychiatrist and taking their meds. That is when it came to me, that I was doing this work over the phone and why not do it from Longmont and open a practice.

I went from being a full time stay at home mom for 6 years to commuting to Denver and being gone 10 hours a day. It was not an easy transition for me or my family. 

I actually had the intention of getting out of therapy all together. I went to work at Anthem because I graduated with my masters in business administration a few months prior, and I thought I was getting out of therapy. Then I found myself really enjoying talking with people on the phone and I found myself on this team where there was people with postpartum issues and I got additional training in prenatal mood and anxiety disorders. It was as if I had forgotten this is what I had wanted to do after I got out of my own situation following my daughter's birth. I had my first panic attacks when I was pregnant with her and I remember thinking that someday I was going to support women who are experiencing this. 

I had forgotten about that and went and got my MBA and ended up at Anthem because it was a "business job" and I'll be able to move up the ladder with my MBA. But I think I'm supposed to do this work. People I'd talk with on the phone would tell me that I'm really good at this and they like talking with me about their problems. So part of it was that remembering and part of it was the pure torture of experiencing a full time job with two kids and commuting. This is not the kind of life I want to create for myself. So I did it, I quit. I had to quit, I was gone 10 hours a day, I couldn't have started my business and market and do all the things I needed to with being gone that long Monday-Friday. It was hard at first, financially, but it is working out now, 3 years later. I don't think I would've thought I'd go into private practice before that. I don't know if I'd have the courage to do it.

What called you to this work?
Being able to create the life I want to live.
Really it was my kids, to be there for my kids. I want to be the one to pick them up from school. I want to be off of the days when they're off.

I really love supporting new moms. This is something I'm coming into more and more: Mothering the mother. I love it, I really love it.
I also have people who are not mothers and I think it is amazing to see them grow and that is something I love to see.

As I'm creating my life, I love to see other people creating theirs. It is just so cool to see people blossom, it is one of my favorite things.

Do you have a favorite quote or saying that inspires you to do what you love?

"Then one day, she decided to create the life of her dreams...while her child watched her every move." - Anonymous 

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." - Steve Jobs, from the 2005 Stanford University commencement speech.

I want my children to know that they can create their life. Don't be afraid to ask for whatever you want. Be wild and big and beautiful and daring. I want them to see they don't have to live a life of drudgery.

In moments of self doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
Well, that happens. I therapise myself a little bit. Such as, "these are just old patterns you have of not feeling like you're good enough and that you don't have these gifts to offer"...then I just recognize that. That it is just a thought, and not the truth. It is not a reason to stop.

Practicing self compassion and not expecting myself to be perfect, which has taken a long time. Because I don't want to model that need to be perfect when I'm mothering the mother. To know that we don't have to be perfect. It is okay to have some ease and softness about ourselves.

I do try to meditate or do yoga nidra. Sometimes I need to do yoga, sometimes I need to go for a walk, sometimes I need to sit and watch mindless TV. Just take some space.

When ideas for your business arise, how do you keep them safe until you can work on them?
For me its not a matter of keeping them safe, it is a matter of remembering what they are! I need to have a notebook, but I don't.
I don't feel like I need to keep them safe. I notice that they will repeat themselves. They will come back over and over and over again until I do it. So I don't necessarily keep them safe anywhere, but someone is somewhere. Someone will continuously remind me.

Do you have an example of that?
I have something that I haven't acted on yet, but keeps coming back to me. I have an idea for a monthly mudras YouTube video, where I would teach a mudra and teach a guided meditation. But with all of the logistics of putting this together, I just haven't done it yet. Also, my daughter and I are talking about working on her making a yoga nidra audio recording for children with her voice. Then the other night we were out to dinner and we met this guy who just moved to Longmont and has a recording studio!
That sort of stuff happens. I don't do anything to keep the idea safe, it just keeps coming to me.
Its really about me, the timing, and the courage to do it.

How does your courage come?
I never in my life would have considered myself a courageous person, but when I look back on the things that I've done I'm more courageous than I realize. Courage comes as a bubbling, like a geyser. There are bubbles and spurts. I'm the kind of person who will dive in and see what happens.

What tool, object, or ritual could you not live without in your workday?
My breath. Sometimes I'm running around like crazy, and it comes down to being in my car and just breathing. That and I use a lot of mudras. The adi mudra is my go-to mudra.

I can do it and my hands just become one. I have a mantra too, that my teacher gave me when I did my first yoga teacher training, that has gotten me through so daughter's home birth, my son's emergency appendectomy, when I can't sleep, when I'm nervous, when I'm scared, when I'm sad. My kids sing it, and they know it is what they can say or sing when they are nervous or scared or can't sleep.
Om Namaha Shivaya - I bow to my inner self

What advice do you have for someone who would like to enter your field (or merge disciplines as you have done)?
The first thing that comes to mind is that you need to do your work. I was going to therapy school, and I had been in a lot of therapy in my life, but I didn't really do my work.
What do you mean?
It is as if I went to a therapist for advice, not to come up with solutions and not connecting with the source within me that has all the answers. My next round of therapy, when I was much older, was more of me doing my work. Really looking at myself, acknowledging and holding who I am with all my stuff (the good and the bad stuff). You're just a better therapist when you know your stuff, you just are.
Brainspotting, which is one of the interventions I use, is such a beautiful intervention because you can just be in the moment with your client. It takes off so much pressure to be the expert, because when I'm the expert I don't feel comfortable. I feel really afraid. I think I knew intuitively that I can't be. It is their story, and they are really the expert and their stuff is inside. Until I realized it for myself, I couldn't do that for people.
So do your work.
I think all therapists in training should be in therapy, good therapy.
To blend psychotherapy and yoga, it is a big work. What I found is that when you start to train in what you love, it all starts to fall into place. I love yoga, I'm passionate and enthusiastic about yoga and Brainspotting and then it works beautifully. I've seen them both work in different and beautiful ways.
If you're going to integrate, you do what you love. It will help people then. If it comes from your love and your passion and your relationships, it will work. People will buy into it. Don't piece things together that you think you should do. Do what you love and then let things evolve. It is kind of amazing what will open up to you and you realize what you are supposed to integrate into your work.

Can you suggest some books that nourish or inspire you?
All the books by Stephen Cope (a yogi at Kripalu).
I've been reading this book for 12 years. The cover is tattered and I read it over and over. It is his story of leaving a psychotherapy practice and live at Kripalu and be a yogi and work on the land. There is an abundance of knowledge and insight in that book.

These two books by Deepak Chopra. The 7 laws are the same in each book, but the second book is about how to introduce these habits to your children.

The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity, which is about how to invite prosperity and abundance into your life. That is really our right as beings on this earth, to be abundant. I grew up thinking that wealthy people were mean or greedy and I didn't deserve that. This book really shifted the way I think and I use a lot of her practices to manifest my life, along with Deepak Chopra's writings.

Women's Bodies Women's Wisdom changed my life. Way back when I was 25, and I had some health problems, and I felt like the way I was being treated was just not right. And I was right! This book lead me down the path of alternative medicine and mindfulness. I think this is a book that all women should have and reference throughout their lives.

Connect with Nichole Jones, LPC

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Thank you for reading, please click the link to learn more about this series of interviews/studio tours!