Throwing Myself In The Den

Our schools art teacher has a very impressive resume. He has been teaching art techniques and Art History for over 30 years. His students range from Elementary School, High School, College age to inmates in prison. He claims to have worked with them all but, he told me, a particular group brings him to the conclusion that "Life is too short" and he's thinking of retiring. This particular group? The middle school kids at our school.


Now, I know I'm harping on a theme here. But it's my daily life and I'm hoping, by throwing out my concern and aggrevation, that someone will share some tools to help deal with these kids that are so lost and seem to be heading down a very bad path.

I decided to volunteer for this class. I wanted to be there and see how it was getting so out of hand. I’ve heard stories of all paint being taken from the 8th graders because they would load up their brushes and flick them at each other. I've heard of a student so defiant about not wanting to draw that she stood nose-to-nose with the teacher and threatened him with bodily harm. (And this is the public school that everyone in my area is trying to get into?!? This is the school where people use false addresses to claim they live in the district?!?)

Yesterday was my first day in this art class. It actually went well. It's my daughter’s 6th grade class and I feel they were typical ‘tweens. Some were louder than others but, work was being done and the teacher was able to get his point across. But I could feel his disconnect. I can’t explain it.

When the day was over he said “If you really want to get into it, come back Friday”. (I came in to that class two weeks ago to drop something off and that’s what’s started my eye opening experience of this school getting out-of-hand.) The teacher said “When I get home on Friday I tell my wife not to talk to me, and I go sit somewhere quiet. It’s brutal.”

Gulp. Well, I do want to know what’s going on. I care a lot about these kids. I want them to care about themselves. I think I’ll hang out on Friday afternoon. Wish me luck.

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  1. I work with this age of kids every summer. I run a camp program where we take the middle- schoolers to do community service projects. Most of the times they are signed up for this program because they need to fulfill hours for school, their parents did it for them or they had nowhere else to go for the summer and we were the last option. It's fun but it takes a lot of heartache and all my energy sometimes to convince them that they really want to do sweaty manual labor on their summer vacation!

    So I'm not an expert by any means but I feel your pain and some of the things that have worked for me are:

    CONSTANTLY keeping them busy. Leaving them to their own devices is 90% of the time, a recipe for disaster. Sitting at each table and asking them about what they're drawing, why they're drawing it etc.

    Positive reinforcement. I found out that if I go out of my way to 'shout out' the GOOD things they do in front of the group, the rest of the kids will hear that and want to be recognized too. "OH MY GOODNESS GUYS did you see how AWESOME Brian is doing with his collage project? He is really rocking this assignment!"

    Competition! Friendly competition or a nice challenge works wonders in getting them excited about the project. "Which table is going to clean up all their brushes the fastest? Winning group gets to pick their paints first next class!"

    Whew sorry this is so long but I hope it helps!! I'm sure you'll do great and it's really awesome of you to help the poor art teacher out. Have fun!

  2. How awesome are you????

    That sounds wonderful.
    You won't need any luck, you'll be great!

  3. Good luck! I can't wait to hear how it goes. Maybe all those hormones makes thier brains revert back to Kindergarten mentality. Yikes!

  4. Man! I wish the students could see how lucky they are with an experienced art teacher and a school that still has an art teacher. Too bad the kids can't all be kids who WANT to be there! I'm really not looking forward to Delaney being in middle school, we've got 2 more years after this. She's already thinking she wants to go to one of Beaverton's option schools, they are much smaller and you get to specialize in some of your subjects...but you have to be in a lottery to get in, so that's the bad part. Good luck! Personally, I'll be scooping ice cream tomorrow for Valentine sundaes in Delaney's class. I bet the drink will be a good one for VGNO....you'll be needing it! That teacher sitting alone in the quiet reminds me of when I used to be an escrow officer, I sat in the dark in silence with my bottle of wine after work.....

  5. I was an art major and volunteered with 7th graders to help teach an art class...I completely understand where he is coming from. It's brutal. Not so much the girls, but the guys are completely terrible. I am not sure how I survived 7th and 8th grade...I don't even remember it!! Good luck!


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