Martha Slack

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Location: Dallas, Texas

College: University of North Texas for her BFA; Currently working on her Master’s Degree at the same place.

Currently Teaching: Pretty much everything. Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Design, Adaptive Art, etc., etc.

Twitter: @SlackMartha

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/marthaslack/

Her classroom in a sentence: Art is life; everything else is just details.

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Can you tell me a little bit about what you teach, and maybe what made you want to become a teacher?

I currently teach Art 1 and this is my first year teaching Partners in Art. Partners in Art is a special ed class that pairs students in our life skills classes with regular ed students. In the past, I have taught AP Drawing, 2D Design, 3D Design, Sculpture, Art 2 and Art 1.
I really enjoy teaching art 1 classes because it give me the opportunity to expose kids to art for the first time. The best part is seeing students discover a talent they never knew they had and to see them excited about something they never thought the could create.
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I decided to teach art for a variety of reasons. I have a very restless personality and I knew that I would never be bored as an art teacher. I grew up with 5 brothers and 2 sisters so an art room environment, with the controlled chaos and noise, would feel like home. Most importantly, art has always been one of the most important things in my life and I wanted to share that with kids.
What are your strengths as an artist? What role does your personal art making play in both your classroom teaching and in your own life?
My strengths as an artist are my creativity and use of design.  My artwork influences my classroom because I think I subconsciously create lessons for projects that I want to make. I have noticed that by the end of the year my students are definitely not afraid of bold colors.
I have been using a lot of my creative energy this year to create lessons for my Partners in Art class. Everyday has been a serious creative challenge to develop lessons that are developmentally appropriate and in the end artistically successful. My artwork influences my life because making art makes me feel normal. The act of creating gives me control and peace of mind.
What do you do outside of school to keep yourself happy and healthy and avoid getting overwhelmed or dealing with burnout? 
Outside of school I love to travel. My husband and I try to take several trips every year because we both love a good adventure. My husband has a very demanding career as well and vacations allow us both to forget about our jobs and relax. I also make it a point to never bring work home.
Last year, I was experiencing serious burn out after only 5 years of teaching. I learned a lot about myself and had to make serious changes. I found a new job and started saying no to people.  I am still learning how to be healthy and happy while teaching.
I live in Dallas and I love being near a big city with so many places to see art. Dallas has a huge arts district and we are 40 minutes away from Fort Worth which also has many wonderful art museums. I also love the heat and Texas is a great place when you love 100 degree weather.
What things do you do to continue to grow as a teacher? How much do you change yourself, your teaching style, or your lessons each year? Where do you think you will be as a teacher in 5 years?
To grow as a teacher I try to keep learning. I have started my masters, take art classes at the community college, read a lot and I try to constantly learn from other art teachers. Twitter has been an amazing opportunity for growth because I can see what other teacher around the U.S. are doing. Each year I create new lessons. I very rarely repeat lessons because I am constantly finding new ideas that I want to try in the classroom. Teaching has become a creative outlet.
In 5 years I have no idea what I will be doing except that I know I will still be teaching. I very rarely know where I am going until I get there. I am not a planner and generally rely on impulsive decision making to dictate most of my life decisions.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I am inspired by art that I see. I try to frequent all the art museums in DFW and museums when we travel for ideas. I have also found that my students have great ideas and they are often a source of inspiration. The Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, Fort Worth Modern and the Dallas Contemporary Museum are all wonderful places for inspiration.
Also, this is a site with local Denton artists that are inspiring to our students and to me as well. http://artdenton.com/
Tell me about your classroom. What are you trying to accomplish with the way you set up your room?
My classroom is organized. I have a small room with minimal storage and that forces me to be really organized. This environment forces my students to be organized as well.  I like to think that one of the skills I am teaching is how to clean up after yourself which will be very useful to them when they get married or have college roommates.
My walls are covered in student work. Someone once walked by and said that it looked like art had exploded all over my classroom. I don’t have any cool bulletin boards or nice posters mainly because my strength has never been crafty instructional creations. However, the best of every single project will be displayed in some way around my room. Displaying my students work has created a little friendly competition in my classroom and students get really excited when their work goes up on the wall. I make it a point to display the work of every student at some point in the year. I think it is a big motivation factor for my students.
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What are your strengths as a teacher? What do you do best? On the flip side, what are you trying to do better?
My strength as a teacher is that I like to have fun, I hate being bored, I need change and I have ADD. My students never really know what to expect when they walk into my classroom. We are constantly changing things up, trying new things, moving around and making a mess. We have a lot of discussions and I think my students feel that I listen and adjust to their concerns. I try to give my students 100% everyday and I try to be 100% mentally present for my students everyday. I think this is the reason I have very few discipline problems.
I am trying to be better at handling the few discipline problems that I do have. I am working on being more consistent with discipline and more strict at enforcing schools rules. I tend to get caught up in whatever we are working on and not notice dress code, tardies and other minor offenses.
What do you want students to take away from your class? 
My only goal is that every student leave my class with an appreciation for art and a memorable experience. I want them to develop creativity and not be fearful of different ideas. I hope they will learn to have discussions and learn to respect other students point of view.  I also want them to take away a portfolio of work that they are proud of.
At the end of the year, I am confident that my students have learned to talk about art, to think a little more creatively and to hopefully think for themselves.
What traits/habits/skills do you value most in your students? Why?
I value hard work and fearlessness. I am more concerned with the effort put into a project and risk taking than I am with the final project. Art is a process and the ability to readjust after failure is one of the skills I hope to teach my students. To be successful, in my class and in life, they must take risks, fail, readjust and try again.
And with something that I say often… “Stop thinking and make some art!”
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