Sunday, October 31, 2010
Art in the trash
Sigh, I have a continuing problem in my art room that makes me want to cry and question if my school should even have an art program.
When I was hired at my current school some major information was not disclosed. Things like:
I would be teaching two nursing life skills classes each week
Five classes are taught exclusively in Spanish to primarily native Spanish speakers
That there was no art room
That the school had not had an art program in over 20 years
I've adapted to most of these challenges, I've figured out how to teach life skills students, I learned basic Spanish to ease translation, I talked my way into a "classroom" that used to be the book storage room and was storage for the school. Which brings us to undisclosed fact #4 no art program for 20 years.
I was told the year before I started that a teacher had split his time between teaching dance and art. Turns out he taught dance 3 weeks a month and put out crayons and paper once a month to teach art. It took me months at my new school to find out this info.
I was baffled to why students could not hold a paintbrush and anything having to do with painting sent some kids into tears and/or fits of rage. Projects were ripped up, tables were flipped, things were thrown and oh where there tears...it was a nightmare. I did not want to admit that I was struggling so much in this new school so it took till mid October for me to start asking around if these behavior occurred the year before.
Turns out the kids were acting out in a mix of fear, nerves and new experiences. We spent a whole year just trying out different art materials and getting used to them. Over the years the tantrums have decreased as students have become comfortable with the art materials and techniques. I can now get the kids to try new things and push themselves.
The one thing I can NOT do is get them to keep their art!
Aside from a few kids here and there, almost every child over 2nd grade throws away their art... inside the school. I have made a rule that NO art is allowed to be thrown away inside my classroom. That didn't work. The kids were throwing away their art in their classrooms. The teachers said art had to go in backpack and go home. I started finding art in the hallway trash cans and dumped outside the school. I tried holding the kids art and sending it home in bundles twice a year. In the trash. I have laid out tables full of their art at conferences for the parents to pick up...the parents want it...right, right?! WRONG!!! I have these twice yearly battles were I beg and plead the families to take the art home. After 3 years some families now take the art to shut me up and then dump everything in the large hallway trashcans. I can honestly say 15% of the parents seem happy to get their kids art and take it home. At back to school night I burst into tears when one 6th girls mom told me she had framed some of her daughters artwork.
What is going on? I can say most of the kids seem to enjoy making the art, they are happy to come to art class but they don't want to keep it. From clay projects to paintings. I can't believe 85% of the students and parents are not engaged in ANY lesson we do.
This feels like such a waste of time and materials. I think I find it particularly challenging since I buy the majority of our art supplies with my own money.
I know there is extreme value in the kids simply having the experience of making the art, and the knowledge they gain from making it. But I just don't understand...why do they, and their families not want their art!? How do I change a school and community culture. How many years can I fight using thousands of dollars of my own money!! Each time I find a project shoved in a trash can a little piece of my desire to teach art dies.
Has anyone else had this problem and have a solution?