Classroom Decor Fantasy

In my fantasy teacherlife, there's a decor fairy that comes around every September 1st and delivers a special little monetary allowance for everyone to make their classrooms magical.

I'd spend it in a jiff and cover the walls with these treasures:

Nina Simone by HogArt Design // Let's Color America by Allison Kerek // T.S. Eliot & Coffee by ObviousState // "Science" Chart by Gritty City Goods

Also: Typography Posters For The Classroom

Pretty City // Washington Square


I think my favorite thing about this city is its creative energy.

It's visible everywhere. In signs. In businesses. The historic sites. In the architecture. The colors. The homes. The people and the things they've made.

I can't get enough.

Recently at Good Karma Cafe I enjoyed an almond milk latte, a few hours of uninterrupted curriculum planning, and then a walk around the few neighboring blocks.

Eyes open. Take in the details.



Design Shout-Out // The Philly 10K

Just a few days ago I said out loud, "I like running, I just kind of hate races."

I ran the Philly 10K this morning, and I totally retract that statement. Selfishly, it combined so many things from which I derive pleasure and appreciation. 

These things are partially running-related.

They are mostly design-related.

Beginning with that lovely logo.

THE COURSE. An urban course is my favorite. I can ride my bike to the start, and enjoy a short ride home afterward. The streets shut down for the morning and I get to experience familiar neighborhoods in a new way. There's so much to look at, people come out to cheer, and it's perfectly suited for my semi-ADD brain.

I especially love the website's course map, featuring beautiful images of the city blocks that are covered on race day.

THE BEFORE & AFTER. Instead of an overblown race expo, there was a Bibs and Beers Pickup Party in Headhouse Square, featuring delicious food trucks and really excellent swag. It was like a completely chilled out running farmer's market. After the race, too, there was a beer garden, some Shake Shack custard, some free Saxby's coffee, and other treats that I actually wanted. People were hanging out on South Street enjoying a terrific summer Sunday.

THE SWAG. I never buy event merchandise, and often end up giving away the stiff, ill-fitting free t-shirts that come with most race registrations. I blurted out a good "Heck yeah!," then, when I saw all of these terrific designs printed on soft, nicely-fitting shirts. 

And I bought one (guess which), and am cheerfully wearing it right now.

Also, instead of medals, runners received this absolutely beautiful hand-drawn, hand-screened map of the course, which I plan to hang up in my classroom.

It was made by the talented folks at Eyes Habit.

What a delightful way to close out the summer running season. I'm already excited for next year and planning to peer pressure all of my friends into joining me.

Collaboration and Leadership and Comfort Zones

I work in an environment that is incredibly collaborative. Leadership is shared because everyone plays a role -- or eight different roles -- in making our school work.

Collaboration is the air we breathe, and leadership is distributed.

And it is both the most challenging and the most rewarding aspect of my work here.

It's what's best, I know -- for all of us, for our students, for the bigger picture. It also pushes my comfort zones.

I only now realized this. That collaboration and leadership challenge me.

I'm surprised because an environment like this is what I always wanted, so desperately, in my teaching career. And I know that it is at the center of what's making me grow and learn more than I ever have before.

Not but.
It's definitely an adjustment.

I also know that teaching doesn't necessarily operate this way. That in too many places, teachers stay in their classrooms, with their students, following the directives from above, carrying out the lessons and curriculum they planned mostly by themselves.

At SLA, though, I almost never work alone. Every day, I am surrounded by second sets of eyes. And sounding boards. And teammates.

And truly, teammates. We're all on the same side.

It's all part of the design. We work the same way we want our students to learn.

And they do.

And slowly, I'm encouraged and invited to lead. To step out of my comfort zone. With the help and input of my colleagues, to expand my own role.

It's been a curve, for sure. I'm learning so much from the educators around me. They are my mentors and my leaders.  They inspire me to be a better teacher every day.

My students do that, too.

I'm learning about myself, too. About what control means to me and what my own insecurities are. How they come out when I didn't even know they were in there. My tendencies and traits. And how I affect the dynamics of a group.

I'll be better for all of it.

It's a push that's essential to growth.

You can only go so far toting only your own perspective.

I imagine a lof of this extends for other adults in other professions.

Although I've never been a different professional.

The other day my friends were talking about workplaces and the layouts of their offices. And I thought, "Huh. I share my office with hundreds of teenagers who think it's actually their office. How funny."

Heart Eyes // Ayah Bdeir

Pretty regularly I learn about someone whom I admire from afar and want to tell everyone about. 

Ayah Bdeir wants to solve problems. 
She is the founder and CEO of littleBits, which are little electronic modules that snap together using magnets. Like Legos. Engineering circuit blocks.

Watch her Ted Talk for a better overview.

The pieces are modular. And buildable. With endless possible outcomes.

Which means. Well, it means a lot of big things.

Too often complex tools are unattainable. Or just out of reach.
Because learning curves are real. And overwhelmingly steep.

littleBits makes electronic programming accessible.

Bdeir's objective remains to use her tools to encourage creativity. And play.

To put her tools in the hands of anyone who wants to make.
Engineers. Non-engineers. Designers. Students. Children. Anyone.

She gets it.

It's not just that there aren't a ton of women in engineering. Or that entrepreneurs are creating startups that provide interesting solutions.

It's the big picture. littleBits is open source, meaning anyone can download the information and build upon it. Anyone can access the tools. And collaboration is encouraged.

It's about democratizing the space. And reimagining the technical landscape.

She's an inventor empowering other inventors. An architect. An engineer. A maker. An artist. A designer. A teacher.

She believes in being thoughtful and deliberate. In breaking down boundaries. In the potential for innovation and collaboration. In changing things by working together.

All of that, I respect. And look up to.
I'll be excited for where she goes next.

Process // Right Field Farm

When I was approached about creating a logo for Right Field Farm, I was completely charmed. A young flower farm run by a beautiful family? Is that a dreamy graphic design project or what?

I started by sharing some emails and questionnaires with the client so that I could get a feel for their background and goals. As a budding business, Right Field Farm is in the process of updating their website and developing their brand. I knew they wanted a simple logo that could be easily printed and replicated from home, so we decided to stick to black-and-white graphics.

In the initial concepts stage, I like to provide a variety of ideas that the client can pick apart to help refine the direction of the overall piece. When we determine which graphics, letters, shapes, sizes, images, colors, etc. stand out, we can move forward with a tighter selection.

I thought I'd show you some of my favorite rejects from the initial concepts:

Right Field Farm wanted an updated and polished look that also highlighted the fact that they are a small, family farm in a small town near Annapolis, Maryland. The logo design should reflect the local and homegrown feel while still being sophisticated and have some room to grow with the business.

Here is the final logo. We love the cow; she's whimsical and spunky and farmy-but-not-too-farmy.

This was truly a fun project to work on, and it was a delight going through the design process with such an awesome client. I can't wait to see what grows on Right Field Farm!

In My Brain // 08

I'm struggling to lift the sun-filled haze that is Summer Brain and return to healthy routines and adult responsibility. The school year is upon us, friends! These pieces of the Internet might inspire some normalcy.

Noisli // An app that generates background noise for focus or relaxation. Yes.

Pep Talk Generator // There will be a lot of Monday mornings ahead.

Mean Girls Pencils // For the high-school mindset, obvi.

LunchBots // I can't rock the PB&J anymore. These bento boxes make me fantasize about grown-up school lunch.