Wake Up Call #1
It’s hard when you realize how naive you actually are about some things.
It’s hard when you realize your students are surrounded by so much violence, in their movies and video games, but especially in their neighborhoods.
It’s hard watching 8 year olds try to act so tough and “hyphy,” instead of showing their true intelligent, kid-like sides.
Last weeks classes went really well. The students helped me make more armbands, and they all made African and Brazilian inspired headdresses. I had some white fabric left over from the skirts I am making, and one of my students found a triangular shaped piece that he wanted to make into a bandanna. When any of them gets the idea to make anything on their own, I almost always say yes, just to get them to do something. This kid in particular did not want to do costume design that day, so I let him make his bandanna.
This is where I start to feel stupid. I saw that he had tied it around his head, so that it covered his mouth and nose, but it didn’t fully click in until one of my aid’s walked in and screamed at him to take it off his face.
Then I saw that he had drawn, in red, a number and a gun.
This little kid thought he was so cool representing a gang at the ripe young age of 8 years old. He probably sees those guys everyday, and the way he was wearing that bandanna, with such pride, you have to wonder how much he’s actually seen.
The worst part is, he had inspired others to make their own bandannas and wear them on their faces, too. My youngest, most innocent student wanted to make one after she saw him wearing his. Granted, she only drew her name and a picture on hers, but she wore it the same way.
When I asked her not to wear it, she couldn’t fully understand why. I found myself explaining what a gang banger is to this child, who was way too young for a conversation like that, that they are bad men who wear these things this way, and that they are not the type of men to copy or joke about.
I realized instantly how important my job is. Instead of getting mad at this kid for not wanting to do costume design, I need to encourage him to do anything else that doesn’t involve gangs and violence. Any hours spent away from the things he is hearing and seeing will help. Any exposure, however little, to art and education will help. I was starting to feel like my job was just to babysit, but I realize how much more it is than that now.
I can’t forget my ultimate goal here: to one day start an art education non-profit that benefits inner city youth. I can’t forget that this is not the time to babysit but to take every second with these kids seriously, because every second in a positive environment counts. If I’m going to truly believe that art education will help these children survive their lives, then I need to follow through and commit. No wishing the day was over already. No getting angry at them for disobeying. I need to remember that every second counts, that I am saving lives, not babysitting them.
Around the World in 8 Weeks
The teachers and administrators at The AAACC have all begun to dive into preparations for the final showcase on Thursday, August 5th. The classes will collaborate creatively to show what they learned throughout the summer while showcasing their amazing skills and talents.
The theme is “Around the World in 8 Weeks,” and the children have been learning all about different cultures from the farthest corners of the Earth. Acts will include DJ’s scratching, Afro Cuban inspired dancing, graphic arts, folkloric Brazilian inspired costumes, and graffiti to name a few.
The dance teacher was going the Afro Cuban Brazilian route so I just took her lead and added a little Puerto Rico to the mix. My classes have been making fabric and sewing African inspired armbands and headbands, and I have begun to make the folkloric skirts which are key to the dances.
I haven’t written my lesson plan yet for this week, and I am feeling a little stressed about that. I feel like however many activities I plan it’s never enough, as someone always gets bored and starts whining.
I think we will continue to make armbands and legbands, but each class will also make a giant Brazilian inspired headdress. They get tired of sewing armbands but the fact is we just have so many to do. We need to make about 60, so doing them every class really is not a bad idea. That just means just bracing myself to fight boredom and get them to work for this final play. This should be very interesting…
Sew Sew Good
It’s hard to believe that there are only 2 weeks left in this program at the AAACC. I was on such a learning curve, I feel like I’ve barely had a chance to figure out what I really need to do in class to make it better.Once I do figure out a way, it’s hard to apply it when I need to move on in the curriculum because my time with the kids is so short.
Last week I brought fabric and sewing supplies, and had my classes make little pouches complete with button closures. When they were done with their pouch, they moved onto sewing arm and headbands for the final showcase.
I was nervous about how my older class would take the sewing project, but to my surprise it was the quietest class I’ve ever had. I put on my iTunes and they quietly enjoyed Al Green while they sewed. Naturally, the younger kids fought me a little bit on the sewing, but eventually everyone got into it in their own little way.
On Friday I decided to bring Pixie Stix to try out rewarding them with snacks. I realize that Pixie Stix is not nutritious at all, and they only make them hyper and crazy, but it was my only option that morning before work. Well.. it worked wonders. With most of them anyways. The older kids were so good I didn’t have to bait them with the candy, I just gave them away at the end, which gave my other kids incentive to be good once they were in my class.
Most of them anyway. A couple of the kids wanted to get the candy without doing any work or cleanup, and without really pleasing me. They didn’t care whether or not they ended up with candy. Or they knew I would give it to them anyway… I’m having a hard time only giving the well behaved kids snacks. I end up feeling bad.
The majority of my classes surprised the crap out of me. Paul did everything I asked of him and more. One kid even made me show him how the sewing machine works, which got some of the other involved and curious. They all wanted to press the pedal while I sewed their pouches.
I think next time will be even better as we will have more show projects to work on to keep them busy the whole period. I’ve been having issues making the projects last the whole time. I’m also going to bring fruit snacks, which are slightly healthier and will make me feel less guilty.
Metal Woman Part 2
It’s usually downhill after lunch break, when I have 8-10 year olds. They can get crazy sometimes, but in a different way than the older kids. They are still willing to let me win once in a while, whereas the pre-teens are raging with hormones and looking to defy me every chance they get.
Today ended with very little yelling, actually, none at all by the time 5 pm rolled around. It’s the 4th of July weekend so the headcount was low and by 4:45 I was down to one student.
I spent some time talking to my 8 year olds today, rather than lecturing or worrying about how much work they were producing. I figured it’s Friday, let’s just play some music, paint, and talk. Easier said than done for a lot of kids, but most of mine accomplished this task today.
I spent good quality time with 3 of my best students for the last hour and a half, which more than makes up for the lackluster first period. These kids are my favorite type of student: quiet (or semi-quiet), obedient, smart, and respectful. The easiest to get along with, probably because they remind me of myself as a student. I always listened to the teacher.
The lesson of today is: don’t ever let one bad class get you down, or make you feel like you’re not making a difference. You have to be as strong as a metal woman, never letting them see you break, if not for yourself, than for the next class who needs your fullest attention and unbiased guidance.
(The kids are teaching me already)
She reminds me to be strong, to be a metal woman.
A metal statue of a woman dancing at the Hayes Valley park I eat lunch at. Her hair is made out of chains, with big metal hooks at the ends, so that it looks like she has braids that curl. She is so beautiful, especially against the bright blue San Francisco summer sky.
I am sitting at Patricia’s Green in Hayes Valley, down the street from work, getting my sanity back. I am on my much needed lunch break after my first class, the 10-12 year olds, did not go as well as I wanted. Friday’s are funky, it’s the end of the week, and no one wants to work. And I mean NO ONE. So I struggled this morning. Which is OK!
No day at the AAACC is easy. At least one of my classes a day gives me a hard time but it is definitely to be expected and a wonderful learning experience. I am an inner city Art Teacher in training.. soon to be inner city non-profit Director.
Note: Paul didn’t come to class today and I was supposed to talk to him about why he is so troubled.
Color Inside the Lines
If you give them the outline, they can fill it in well, but they can’t necessarily start from scratch to achieve the final goal. In my case, a drawing of a human figure, dressed in some type of costume.
But today i tried a different approach and drew them some figures to fill in with paint. My most rambunctious kids sat still for an hour and a half for this (all the while making someone cry, of course.) Some exhibited an eye for shading and the ability to copy whatever my hand does, a gift most take for granted.
But Paul regressed today. He sat with his head on the table not to mention an awful look on his face, and refused to do anything. Finally, with 10 minutes left in class, he drew a disturbing picture. I’m not going to go into details, but it made me consider telling my supervisor. I’m going to try and talk to him first, as I have reason to believe he’s doing these things just to get attention.
Which brings me to the guilt factor of teaching. Even though I have wonderful aids, I can’t get to everyone to have a one on one drawing lesson. Especially when 50% of the kids aren’t cooperating anyway. Which is why I’m glad this is a summer program, and not real school. I have a new found admiration for teachers who teach ALL day, over and over, with the same crazy kids coming to class. They are truly inspiring and amazing, and it’s criminal that this state wants to cut their pay and worse yet, lay them off.
It’s tough because my teaching days are back to back, Thursdays and Fridays. So whatever the lesson was on Thrusday is still fresh in their minds for Friday. You would think this is a good thing, but they just get bored. When they get bored, they disobey. I’m going to try and make Fridays more interesting and different, so we’ll see!