Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Creativity and Compassion

Working on some cool stuff with the kids at work. I’m kind of doing a trial-by-fire thing here at the beginning of the year where the kids are creating a sculpture with little to no formal instruction on creating a sculpture. I’m kind of using it as a ‘What can you do?’ measuring tool. They’re getting a test grade for their finished project, but I’m looking more at their work ethic, their attention to detail and, most importantly, their creative flow and how willing they are to open it up.

I don’t expect kids who have never had any art instruction at all to be fully operational in the creativity department, but I do expect them to be open to suggestion and at least make an attempt. I tell the kids over and over that I wouldn’t expect them to come in to French class on the first day and already know how to speak French. By those same standards, I don’t expect them to come into Art class already knowing how to draw or sculpt or create in any mature way. That’s why I’m paid the big bucks (ha!)—to teach them how to do it. It’s always interesting to see which ones are willing and able to open that flow up and use it. It’s also nice to watch the latent bloomers finally ‘get’ something and get all excited about it.

I enjoy my job because for some of these kids, I and my co-workers are the only positive influence they ever see. It’s a big responsibility, being an example for people. There are plenty of times I want to just cuss a kid out for their flagrant disobedience and disrespect. But the fact is, I’m always the adult. Always. If I see that kid at Target a month later, I’m not going to tell them I think they’re an idiot, even if I kind of feel that way. Fact is, they probably get told that at home, if not by a sibling, perhaps by a parent. Fact is, they probably already tell themselves that they’re an idiot every day. Fact is, they probably acted up in my class because they wanted to a) impress their friends with how much trouble they could get into, b) they probably didn’t care, or c) they probably didn’t know any better. Meeting some of these kids’ parents clarifies behavior patterns in ways you would not believe.

I don’t have any lofty aspirations about being ‘the teacher that made me change my life around,’ or ‘the teacher who inspired my work that received a Nobel Peace Prize.’ I know I’m probably never going to win any kind of Teacher of the Year award. I’m ok with that. It means more to me to see students I had last year, the year before or several years hence. When they come up and give me a hug, tells me what’s going on in their lives and they are not in jail, on drugs or out to shoot me, I figure I have succeeded on some level.

I always say that I’m not at the school to be the kids’ friend—they have plenty of friends their own age and they need me to be an adult and not another person on whom to dump their personal baggage. But the truth is, while I’m still the Adult and while I still maintain the level of discipline needed (or at least try to), I am interested in their lives, I do want to see them succeed and I do look forward to seeing them. I guess in some way, that does make us friends.

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