Thursday morning, not too long before I woke up, I had a teaching dream even though it’s been more than six years now since I entered a classroom. In my dream, I couldn’t find my class. I was frantic. I was late.
Yesterday morning I had my second art “class” with the kids. I was amazed I could have a teaching stress dream before THAT.
The plan for the day was we’d play the Drawing Game and then make a book to hold our Art Cards and the papers where we would write about the painting we’d chosen. The book was going to be two pieces of construction paper with pockets from a third piece of construction paper inside and everything stapled together. It was a pretty simple project, I thought. I remembered doing this in second grade when we’d struggled with the very tricky life skill of folding paper length and width wise. I truly remember LEARNING this. I figured since the kids make paper airplanes, this would be OK.
The first thing they wanted to do was play The Drawing Game — a game my dad made up where a group of people take turns saying what everyone will draw — and we have to make a coherent picture out of all these random drawings. Mine’s below. I’d have stolen the kids’, but they weren’t letting go. 🙂 It was the little girl’s turn first, and she wanted to draw Bear.
It’s important to note that I have no training in teaching kids. I taught college and university. I have no training in teaching art. I taught writing. I didn’t even HAVE kids, I’ve just been a kid magnet my whole life but no one knows why. I sure don’t.
I thought the best way to approach this project was to do it WITH THEM so I made one, too. The little boy followed along, made his book, had tremendous curiosity about the art cards that were turned upside down on our table. The little girl? I watched her very patiently fold five sheets of construction paper WRONG. She could SEE they had been folded wrong but couldn’t figure out WHY. She never got upset. She didn’t express any frustration. She just tried again.
I helped her see how to do it right, and showed her mine so she could see what we were trying to make. After another try, she folded the paper in the right direction but could not match up the edges.
Meanwhile my stapler wouldn’t work. The little boy set about fixing it, and succeeded.
Finally, the little girl got her book built. She began to write about her Art Card, one of Monet’s water lily paintings, and I helped her understand how to do this. I watched her write. It was extraordinarily difficult for her, not just spelling and reading, but the ACT of writing.
The little boy had finished his project, and I told him to find the country where the artist came from. I had flat maps and he wanted to know where Belgium was relative to Colorado. I said, “Dude, we need a globe.”
There was one on our table. He showed me all the countries he wanted to visit and how to play the “Globe Game” where you spin it and point at a country. His dream is a trip to Egypt to see the pyramids.
Meanwhile I’ve helped the little girl see that the name of the painting she’d chosen is Water Lilies, not Water Ladies. We learned to spell bushes.
When I left, besides all the stuff in my folder, I had a zip lock bag of Parmesan cheese because I’d told the little girl that Parmesan cheese was Bear’s favorite food. It was for Bear’s dinner. I promised to take a picture
The little girl is a year older than the little boy. I was stunned. I know these kids pretty well. The little girl is intelligent, but??? She has a physical malfunction that makes things difficult to do with the small muscles. and it affects her perception of spatial relationships. The simple task we were working on challenged everything.
I texted her mom when I got home saying I hoped it was OK that I challenged the little girl so intensely, that she seemed to have some serious problems with spatial relationships. Here’s what I got back:
How could anyone watch that and call it laziness or, as I suspected also could happen, “Not trying”?
I spent the rest of the day humbled, awakened to my great good fortune in the gifts with which I was born. When I walked Bear later that day, the kids were waiting with the drawing tablet I’d left behind. Bear sat so the little girl — who is only a little taller than Bear when Bear sits — could wrap her arms around Bear’s neck. You just wish you could freeze these moments of beauty, these perfect ephemeral moments.