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RE: AEN hs rant (pond scum)

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From: Larry Seiler (lseiler_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun Feb 29 2004 - 06:03:43 PST


>I must say I am disturbed by the statement
>> ...they are lazy lazy lazy kids. "Minimal mundane mediocrity" is their
>> middle name.

hahaha...well, that makes two of us Patty. Disturbs the heck out of me too!
I think in particular this describes our kids here more in this district to
some degree. For example...one of our schools in the conference is a
powerhouse when it comes to basketball. Our kids "enjoy" sports, and
perhaps for the status among their friends and community. If it were a
larger high school and there was such a thing as try outs...many probably
wouldn't go out. The embarrassment of not making the team would be too
difficult to bear, but secondly the cost of having to play more during the
off season and maybe attend summer basketball camps would be asking too
much!

This is the secret with this other school in the conference.

I was referring 5th and 6th grade basketball tourneys just two weekends ago,
and kids from this school at the 5th grade level already were calling out
offensive plays, knew their place on the courts, anticipated where the ball
would roll off the rim so where they should be for rebounds. Were looking
down the floor for the right call to play while dribbling and not looking
down at the ball to help them dribble.

This phraseology is one I made...but "lazy" is what I am hearing constantly
from the other teachers as well. From everything such as the kids would
rather steal our pens and thereafter pocket them than bring their own...to
you name it. In fact, at locker check...its not uncommon to find 2 dozen
pens thrown around.

I shared last year it was here that I had one painting group that determined
that stink'ism was okay. One started out saying....I really "s__k!"...and
another would turn around with surprise and say, "You too? I thought I
did!" and soon one student after another fell victim to stink'ism.

Some said and felt that out of frustration...but I know too that a number of
students understood that the price for developing was focus, effort,
learning, and a stretching of themselves and had pre-decided that it would
not be worth it. They aimed for a passing grade...from a C or a D....that
is, as long as they did not fail. So...to be LIKE EVERYONE ELSE set a
liveable relative standard, and it was momentarily a great relief to s__k!

Teachers are hearing often..."what's a passing grade for this assignment?"
and then...that's the minimal they aim for.

so...it well might describe this area, or be unique to this area. It is
also sometimes that which defines a group or grade. See, here in a smaller
K-12 district...the kids start out n kindergarten together and the same kids
for the most part will be who they graduate with. Each group/age takes on a
trait or reputation which sadly or redemptively bears itself out.

>>If we come to the classroom with this kind of preconception
>>then of course we only get scum.

Actually...it is the kids coming to class with this preconception. In my
room, they experience a sort of culture shock....because I demand what they
think is too much. I often get protests until they realize protests raise
my expectations.

I can tell they are responding to my expectations when they begin to
enlightenment me that none of them are going to become artists anyway, so
what's the point! Art is suppose to be fun! (disgruntled facial
expressions with their self-righteous disapproval ratings written all over
them to follow).

>>But how did they get to minimal and mundane?

I don't know if we want to go there....my answers are more spiritual in
nature,
however...it I'll sum up the malady here which has to do with hope, and
love.

Many of the parents are 24-38 years of age going on 17...resentful of
responsibility, of kids. Abusive...with addictive behaviors. Kids are
neglected, very little time with adults. Stay up late. Do what they want.
Receive very little discipline.

In fact...many teachers get into the "yelling" behavior to get their
students motivated, and we've concluded that kids have been groomed by
parents with yelling. Evidently...it requires getting yelled at about 3 or
4 times before they know you are serious, and that is probably because
parents do not act upon the first time they yell at home!

Its a lack of kids discovering their worth at home, so they bring a belly
full of resentment and problems to school for us to fix.

It is hard to emphasize the value of art to a students whose mother is in
the hospital due to her stepfather coming home drunk the night before and
beating her up. Hard to emphasize the value of a late English assignment,
math or anything.

and...kids often feel growing up in a logging community, that their
resources are limited and chances are all they will ever do in life is get
behind a chain saw or drive a logging truck. They have the "old man" as the
example of that at home, and adults that are quick to point out that's what
happened to them, and their parents before them.

A good number determine by their junior year they do not want to live here
when they are older...and become driven for decent grades as a hope to go on
to school.

There are usually always out of a class group half the students I'd say this
describes which threatens to taint everyone. There are also the other
students that enjoy outdoor activities, ice fishing, snowmobiling and such
with parents that are concerned and limit their fun activities to how they
are doing in school.

Its sorta the half full or half empty glass of water.

I am an anomoly because as an artist and performing musician most come to
the conclusion to find it very strange for me to be here. Last night...I
ran into a stranger at a restaurant and pulled out my handheld to show him a
slideshow of some of my paintings. His response? "Where are you living?"
with a tone of disbelief and disapproval.

Thus...I am not just a crusader for art....I am a crusader for the idea that
there is value in life. That life is a celebration. My work ethic is an
indictment against the right to feel sorry for yourself...but rather an
example of one that makes a decision to find life unique and interesting. I
work very very hard fighting notions, set ideas and so forth.

With the right attitude, the right spirit....I think that's what many of us
are in the arts for kids, for other adults...that which suggests life should
be filled with hope, enthusiasm, expectation, joy, celebration, fire in our
bosom. I know that many staff faculty don't quite know how to take me. I
know many of you can relate to that! We are fighting for life itself. That
people might live.....

>> So how do we combat the minimal mundane?

One...let people see in you what living means. Live life to the full.
People will in time want what you have. It will bring at first resentment,
but I know that many are wishing they had your zeal. They won't understand
it. People might even be aloof and keep at distance because you make them
nervous.

If you saw my art room...you'd know I am trying to suggest more exists in
life that sitting home watching television, eating and sleeping, sad
relationships. My current project is painting a huge wall mural reinacting
the attack on Pearl Harbor. I have rallied a half dozen students that are
going to come in with me for several nights and we are going to make 1/48
scale model planes to suspend from the ceiling. A chance to talk about
history. How artists react and make people think about history...and even
about the here and the now. Check out this link-
http://tinyurl.com/2vef4

My superintendent let me know he understands the time I put in at school.
He said, "I appreciate that you give me a full day!" with emphasis on full.

Me? I'm witnessing...and some will understand deeper meaning to that. I am
about projecting value in life and living it.

Other teachers want to fly out the door precisely at 3:30pm....that is, most
of them. They fight for every minute of prep time as their right, and
complain as a matter of habit. I'm often at the school till 5-6pm every
night. Often I'm there one day during a weekend. I've intiated some after
school programs. I teach guitar lessons on Monday night...and now, here is
the kicker.

Of all the people on staff that have more to lose spending more time at
school than is necessary, it is myself. Folks here know I am an award
winning artist. I have a showing coming up at the National Arts Building in
New York next year. I have an article I have to write and finish very soon
here for a plein air painter's magazine. I have opportunities to play out
as a performing coffeehouse style musician where I get paid. I could easily
slip into the mentality that I teach for the benefits but the school seems
little to appreciate it, and allow such sentiment to begin to mold my
thinking.

I have made a decision not to think in this way. Even the custodians shake
their heads at the things I do in the school. AS people talk....and talk
they will, some will think you are brown nosing. Some fighting to create
value in a time of cuts, and being your position is an elective one are
trying to make yourself too valuable to cut. Some...knowing your potential
to be elsewhere and do better for yourself will see an affection you have
for students, for the school. Some WILL figure it out. LIFE......live it.
Celebrate it. Let people see your active celebration...

Larry

My websites-
http://www.artlandishconcepts.org
http://www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/l/lseiler/

Member of NAPPAP- "National Academy of Professional Plein Air Painters"
http://nappap.org

"Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do!"
Edgar Degas

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