Friday, June 2, 2017

"I love what I do, whether it's good or it's bad."

Ah, it's time for some reflection. The title of this blog post is a quote that stood out during an interview of actor Christopher Plummer. It really seems to sum up my philosophy about art making and about my profession as a teacher.

This year was kind of a tricky one for me. There was a lot of friction between students that I tried very hard to end, with only moderate success. Usually, I'm an excellent smoother. I can take a class, and turn it into a family. I can build empathy and connection. I had considerable "buy in" from many students, but there were a few children who were not really willing or able to be responsive to their peers. Hopefully, they will be ready next year. The inward looking will eventually shift to outward looking. It was an outstanding group of kids, and it hurt to see the possibility of a solid union, but to be denied.

Several weeks ago, I had a meeting with some concerned parents. The mom kept repeating the phrase, "But, I know my kid." I had also heard this sentence earlier in the year. The implication was that because I'm just a teacher, I don't know her kid. This really gave me food for thought. I've been gnawing on it all week. In reality, I really understand kids, too. I see how they behave around peers. I see how they perform under stress and pressure. I monitor their thinking. I watch how they play. I hear their ideas. I note their humor. I read their journals, and essays. I talk to them at recess daily. In fact, I try to use all of this sensitive information, in order to maximize their learning experience. As an educator, I believe that I have an unusual window into the minds and hearts of children. So, I'm feeling confident that I know her kid well, too. I've seen and noticed a lot, despite having 30 students in my room. I feel like I have very personal relationships with each student in my classroom. And, when I give feedback, it is heartfelt and well-meant.

I'm good at my job. I really care. So, I have to be satisfied that I tried my best. Although I wasn't able to make much headway in regards to building community, there were many very rewarding victories with individual students. Kids are fantastic. Today, I was able to visit with some previous students, and it made me realize how much I value these relationships. It's a treat to feel connected to so many kind and talented children.

Now, on to a season of art making. My summer mixed media sculpture class will be starting soon. And, then there's all of the creating that is involved for Open Studios. There is a lot of potential to make some meaningful ceramic sculpture...

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