Saturday, April 15, 2017

Budget Abroad

You must be flexible when working abroad! It is wise to keep this in mind, when you face a new position. In the interview, Representatives, Principals, will assure you, they support the arts. What does this mean? Ask about furniture, equipment, and supplies, but be prepared for anything. You will never know until you get there. You will not just be teaching Art, but perhaps providing support services to the Parent group, Murals in the school, initiating Art workshop for school decorating of events, committees, dances, festivals, oh yes and Drama and Music class stage productions. Some or all. It’s a lot of fun, learning, tiring, and the support of Admin. and teachers and a smooth supply purchase is helpful.

I hope some of my experiences will help you understand what flexibility is, and remind you of the good days, when a project is delivered successfully. 

How can you teach art without paint, or paper, or brushes? Art is not just drawing and painting. However, I have arrived at a school that had NO paper, NO newsprint for drawing, or painting.

A few months into the job at one school, I suggested and inquired from the VP about the neglect or budget constraints which left the Art equipment and supplies old and spotty. He confirmed it was a bit of both neglect and budget restraint. This didn't change anything, but I was able to speak freely. The school had a kiln, however, the kiln furniture was not complete, which made it impossible to fill effectively (the shelves that withstand the kiln temperatures). The manual for the Czech built and speaking Kiln, was also missing (I was not familiar with kiln running). After many searches online and over a few months, it was downloaded. There were no glazes in storage, and we had 25 kg, or so, of clay. 

In my first year abroad, the school had two walls of clay and NO Kiln. The Art storage room had a lot of air-brush supplies, and no printmaking supplies. The new display boards in boxes at the back of the room, though, the VP wanted them used right away, and you (I) find this out in your evaluation, too late. 

At one school, I followed the process and procedures to purchase furniture, equipment, and supplies, and waited a year for my supplies, when the Principal bought a good amount of equipment for an after school activity. The Department, Teacher(s) were thrilled. A furniture order was made for another Grade, which was brought to my attention later in the year by the Director, yet, he saw me painting my old misfit shelving at the beginning of the year. If you ever find yourself in this position, carefully decide whether or not to speak up, as the response could be negative. But, it does give you an indication of things. Later, it was claimed I did not submit my supply list for the next year, or did not submit it in the right format, either way it WAS my mistake, and I needed to buy my supplies as I went once again. Which, really wasn't a bother, as I had done it before. This is the 'tricky' part of budgets, spending, and getting to know administration.

The need for exhibit display boards was a challenge at another International school. For more display options, I made 5 hanging banners with material donated by my family. The school's existing display boards were heavy to move around and difficult to hang anything on. We covered them with cloth and used straight pins to hold art work to the cloth. I made the new banners at my own expense. The following year, and a New Director, mistakenly saw them as school 'furniture', as they were empty between art displays. He was inspired to replace the cloth with photo banners. I needed to tell him otherwise. At the time, I also told him he could rent the banners from me. That didn't happen. I retrieved the cloth and made new dowels for hanging them again. He cost me money and time.

Upon first arrival, you will check out your classroom equipment, furniture, and supplies. Does the department have a paper cutter (guillotine), brushes, block printing press and printmaking tools, kiln, clay wheel, silk screens, etc.  I've been in four schools, and one storage room had a good amount of consumable supplies. If supplies are not in stock, I've had to purchase as I went, and was later reimbursed for them. I've ordered through the Admin. Assistant, or Purchasing person as well.

Usually, equipment, furniture, and supplies are ordered in bulk once a year, ie. delivered from State side and/or local sources. The previous Art Teacher may not have put in an order. Stand alone equipment can be purchased at any point of the year as can supplies.

Instead of waiting for Kiln and Clay supplies to arrive, the Admin. Assistant and I arranged to take the Secondary classes to a local ceramic studio. I was assured this would be ok, since it was done in previous years, and within walking distance from the school. This seemed to be the perfect way to provide clay experience for students that year. The Principal was not pleased. It was, as explained to me, the equivalent cost for 5 field-trips per student. Lesson: Ask permission first.

By the 2nd term, again with help from the Admin. Assistant, I ordered kiln furniture, glazes, and clay for all classes. Approved. The Pottery/clay program was up and running.

Printmaking was undertaken without the use of the Speed-ball press in the class room. The press roller needed a good cleaning, it was used for flattening play dough during summer camps. The bed plate was missing, presumed lost, as well as one of the handles used to adjust roller pressure. For younger ages, Styrofoam and eraser block was used and an inexpensive material. Bond and construction paper was the most inexpensive to use, as well, rather than expensive printmaking paper. Lino tools from previous years and the purchase of Lino material and more new ink allowed secondary students to experience printmaking in the first year. We used our hands for burnishing, and in the meantime I found inexpensive replacements for the bed of the press. I also worked towards buying plates, dry point pens, and paper for dry point printing. 

We had Carving tools, like Lino cutters, in our art class when I arrived and hook benches, but the materials to Carve from were needed, made, or purchased. We carved from Soap first, then made plaster blocks, and in year 3 we tried out an inexpensive Talc stone. It was a success. In my 3rd year there, I was sourcing and purchasing inexpensive tools specifically for wood cutting. I just needed to figure out the best wood and projects to begin. I was reimbursed for the purchases I submitted.

The 6 Silk screens in storage were used, damaged, ripped and/or clogged with masking fluid. There wasn't any screen cleaner though. In the mean time, secondary students attended a silk screen workshop at the Mumok museum, in Vienna, and toured the current exhibit which involved the process. This was covered by the school, by reimbursement. The special cleaning liquid needed to get the masking fluid off the screens, was unavailable where I was, and could not be shipped due to non-transport of liquids of the School shipment from America, and annual bulk supply order. I purchased the cleaning liquid in Canada and transported it myself when I returned abroad from summer break. Squeegees and inks were available locally, and purchased. 3 screens were eventually purchased, and inks, and in Year 4, silk screening was finally offered.

I also purchased wooden looms for weaving, instead of using cardboard as I did in the first year with Elementary students. I submitted 4 for reimbursement and kept the rest, for my future placements. When I was in Venice on holiday, I purchased a dozen or more plastic molds for mask making projects. Bead Art, melted by hot iron, works well with the transient International School community as an inexpensive way to cover mosaics. I also accumulated a growing Elementary and Secondary art library. In Elementary classes we read and create from story ideas. The Secondary books are mostly reference and inspiration-instruction books. Recently, I purchased two more 3D pens, now I have 3 different models for students to compare. Gr.11 & 12 students get to experience and experiment with them, and integrate the material & technology into their art projects. These are all now part of my growing repertoire.

This is what I, as an International Art Teacher, have undertaken. The Art Teacher provides the school with a program and, I eventually decided, must grow his/her own tool/equipment resources; grow your Teaching abilities and respond to any situation.