My older students can be a lot of work. So I spoke with one of the directors of the school to get advice on how to gain better control of my class. She told me that in an urban school african american students respond better to firm demands, and strict rules. That sometimes I have to yell and reprimanded them, because they will walk all over a soft voice that they can’t take seriously. And I should tell them that I will wait till they all finish talking and they have settled down. That Art is the one thing I am giving them so to threaten to take it away and make them sit in silence for an hour. Or at least say I will do so.
This is a whole new practice for me since my student teaching where I saw the same group of students every day for 90 minutes at a time for several months in a row. I now barely get 60 minutes once a week. I do put a lot of heart into my lessons and I hope that my students will sense my hard work to encourage them to work. So I set up three tables with chairs and one table with all of my supplies. I had all of the chairs facing where I was standing and my lap top with my power point ready to go. My assistant brought my students up at 3:30 where they ran into the room and went hiding. This is a game they play every week, and now that it’s January I am really disappointed in myself that they don’t know to sit down and we can start. My older group can range in ager 8 all the way up to 17. This is a HUGE age gap, however it’s rare my high schools come, and my older kids are usually 8-12 and one or two are 16. And while this is still a good distance in age, ability and cognitive reasoning. I have hopes that they will all experience their own levels of learning. In anticipation of students who arrive to the program late in the hour, I didn’t run around trying to get them to listen. I told them to sit down, I told them I would wait, I told them we would spend the entire hour sitting in silence. This did work. They started to get mad at each other, “Guys she’s waiting.” “You are being rude, I don’t want to sit here for a whole hour doing nothing.” These were the general words being said. I suddenly felt in charge. But this is not with out consequence. As I was trying to get them to stop talking, the three students who ran to hide ended up running out of the room with my assistant who reprimanded them enough for them to come back acting like angels and apologizing to me and the rest of the classroom. And while I really appreciate that, it still took away time from me and the lesson and from what they were learning. Nonetheless, I was able to get through the entire powerpoint with very positive results. They learned about the artist, his history, we went over his influences of other artists which we’d already studied. We talked about his work and what we saw and how he did it. I told them we would be crating a collage today too and I had placed the materials on the table for them to take from. I explained the entire project to them, how it was to be done and then told them the first set of materials they were to take. This is where I lost them. I told them to take, one large sheet of paper, one or two pieces of colored paper and a pair of scissors. They fell into a trance of their own world and started taking magazines, and colored pencils. So I had to tell them not to and re-instruct them on what to take, and what to do. When they all sat down with the right materials I told them to create buildings from simple shapes. I made them repeat what I said “simple shapes”. I reminded them of their composition and to create meaningful pieces. We were making some head way. Some of my students cut up buildings, squares for windows, rectangles for doors and started building. For the ones going a long well I let them take a glue stick and start adhering their work for less mess. I let some move on to the magazines. I use ones that me and my fiance had left over. These consist of Marie-Claire, Rolling Stone, Runners World and the ABA Journal. I had gone through them all to make sure there wasn’t anything in appropriate in them, but had over looked a picture of John Lennon in his last interview in one of the Rolling Stones. A famous image of him and Yoko Ono nude with the title “Virgins” was found by one of my boys, who exclaimed that he’d found porn. The entire class was in an uproar when this appeared. I explained to my students that this was an expression of love in the 60’s and that it was natural and not pornographic. But my words didn’t really stick. Once the magazines were out I stated to lose control of my classroom. My students started looking at pictures, articles, anything more interesting then art. They totally lost focus on the task and before I knew it I had ten minutes left and it was time to clean up and leave. So I gave them their 10 minute warning and told them they had to clean up. “Caps on your glue sticks, scissors away, magazines back where you found them, colored pencils in the box, papers stacked in a pile on the table up front, and all of the scrap paper and garbage on the tables, chairs and floor must be cleaned up.” I said, “I want you to leave this room cleaner then you found it.” But then my students came back at me with “But that’s not my mess!” and of course I said “I don’t care, you need to clean up, everyone MUST pitch in and do their part.” But that didn’t stick. They started running around, and this room doubles at the dance studio and theater room, it is very large with a LOT of space for them to run around. NOT a room meant to keep students contained in. I kept yelling “Clean up it’s time to leave!” I said to them individually, it’s time to clean, it’s time to go. But it only got worse. I no longer had any thing to take away from them. Art was over, they had nothing to lose. I threatened to call the father of 3 siblings who were chasing each other, I told them they needed to leave and that this was the end. But it wasn’t until I was screaming at them in a stern voice that I didn’t even know I had in me to clean up, that they listened. I had put the fear of god into them and said that they will clean up the floor, I wanted every single student cleaning the garbage off the floor and no one was allowed to say a word. And once they did that I expected them line up and go down stairs. I was beside myself in shock of how angry I sounded. It’s not me, it’s not how I am and it’s not the way I want to conduct my class. I just want to teach art, show them how to create and how much fun it can be. I truly hope that I can learn a better way to control my class instead of yelling all the time. I don’t want that to be the only way they are willing to follow a direction.
Needless to say I was disappointed with the results. They all had gotten out of control with the magazines, and didn’t get the point of cutting up parts of faces and making a new one. Or to make the collage with words, colors and pictures to help with their work. I think that in a school setting where grades count, and I can give a quiz. I would spend one period on learning about the artist, doing a worksheet on him and then having them sketch out their idea on the bak of the paper to show me their ultimate goal. This would give me a definitive grade to give them on part of the project, and a direction for them to take. I would probably create a whole unit plan on this including lessons prior to this one on Picasso and Barque, Bearden’s influences, for a few weeks. I like the flow of these three artists, and it would be my goal through this unit plan to teach my students about cubism, collages and recreation of something old into something new.