Monday, October 08, 2007

An Open Letter To Teachers On Behalf Of The Token Artistic Kid(s) In Your Class

It's getting to be that time of the year and two things have more than likely occurred:

1.) Your budget for schoolroom decorations has not gone as far as it should have and the stuff you bought earlier to hang on the walls and bulletin boards seems a little skimpy.

2.) You now know which kids in your class can draw or paint fairly well.

It is probably very tempting to see Number Two on the list as a solution to the problem presented by Number One. This would also be a good time to realize that resisting temptation is not just the right thing to do, it will possibly firm up those upper arms and give you strong nails and a glossy, bouncy hair. Okay, I'm lying about the last part; but really, try not to turn the need for a pretty bulletin board into an Americanized version of the in-betweener sweatshops in Asia that draw all those animation cells for The Simpsons.

Of course, you're probably thinking that this can't possibly apply to you. Oh no! That snooty Ms Reese down the hall should take a gander at this, but you? No no no no no no no. Hmmm. Let's take a look at some of the myths associated with The Classroom Artist.

1.) They LOVE doing this! What they love is doing this when they know it will lead to a good grade, something they can take home to Mom or Dad and the rush that comes from normal classroom competition that they can win. When they're trying to do what you asked and you are standing behind them, framing their work in your fingers like a Spielberg manque and muttering that you're just not feeling it; keep in mind that they aren't either, and the next thing they will be drawing is a cartoon of you being eaten by a velociraptor while they and their friends cheer.

2.) They love making something that other kids will see and enjoy now and in years to come. I'm going to speak from personal experience. Here's the situation: We've all had fun making the really great collages that you've asked us to make. In fact, everyone was anxious to take them home so their parents could see them. Everyone but me. Was I ashamed of my collage? Are my parents the type of people who would make fun of my creative efforts? Did I neglect to finish my collage? No, no and no. My collage was whisked from my desk and sent to the lamination shop. A day later, it reappeared in the glass showcase in the front hallway of the school, where it would languish for a month until the Thanksgiving decorations went up. I would visit it the way some of my classmates would later visit their boyfriends in the county lockup. For weeks I asked my teacher when I could have my collage. She finally snapped that she laminated it so it was hers now and to quit asking about it. The next collage I made was a depiction of my teacher being eaten by Idi Amin while my friends and I cheered.

And the ugliest myth of all...

3.) Making art for the class creates a sense of accomplishment and gives that withdrawn little mouse with a Marks-A-Lot some social capital. Face it, I'm doing them a favor. Where do I start with this one? Here's the thing: You are not doing that student a favor. You are asking for a personal favor. You're asking them to expend their time, talent and more often than not their own supplies to help you on a professional level. Do you work for free? Okay then. As for social capital, most of us already have that. We mousy types are communal voiders who hang with other mousy types when you're not torturing us in an effort to get us to exhibit some self esteem in class. Push us to create dioramas of the pilgrims laying the groundwork for genocide and the next thing we will create will be a picture of you being eaten by Ron Jeremy while my friends and I giggle like fiends.

The bottom line? Be nice about it. Ask, don't demand. Don't loan us out to other teachers like we're equipment that you own. For goodness' sake, don't throw a pair of dull, right-handed childrens' scissors, a black chisel-tip marker and two pieces of dented, dirty poster board in the hallway floor and expect Guernica by the time the bell rings. On second thought, Guernica is probably exactly what you will get. You've been warned.

copyright 2007 Jas Faulkner