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Working along with the kids (warning - long)

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From: Judy Decker (jdecker_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Mon Jul 21 2003 - 12:14:14 PDT


My oh my....thanks for asking (smile)... I love the way you are helping me
to remember the good..... Yes I had lots of ideas - but you have to weed
through a lot to find that part.

> Judy, You mentioned that you did the project along with your students.
How did that work? Did you set yourself to approx their pace? did you do
the demos each day to keep up with them? Did you have lots of ideas and
share with them? How did youkeep them from copying? How did you help them
with problems they might have?

My former high school coworker would actually DO paintings in the class
while his students worked - not interact with the kids much. I could never
do that because I had to be involved in what my students were doing and give
feedback to their work. My kids came to me from a program where the teacher
(or her parent volunteers) did much of the work for them (sad to say - so
many of them lacked confidence). The first time through a project for me I
would always have one sample finished so I personally went through all of
the processes I wanted the kids to do - and could anticipate the problems
they might have (and YES Marvin, I did find ways to make the hard parts
easy....we had to "cheat" from time to time - more on that later). Yes, I
would show them that finished sample and go over how it met my expectations
on how I used the P's and E's. Then while they were working, I'd demonstrate
how to get started and show them enough to get going the first day..... Then
that day after school, I would do a little of the next step.....the next day
in class I would show them what I had done - review the first step a little
for the stragglers - and demonstrate the next step.....Then that day after
school do more....and so forth. I will have to admit - when I didn't have my
own sample to demonstrate something on...I DID touch the students' work -
but always said "It is easier for me to SHOW what I want than to tell you.
Do you mind if I show you on your work?" (AND YES 80% to 90% of the time
that is exactly what they did want.....I always made it an OK thing and
would even say something fun like be sure to stop when you are getting it
because I might be having too much fun. I would have everyone at that table
watch who didn't understand - it was like a repeat demonstration). And in
the kids eyes if I didn't show them on their project, then I wasn't helping
them - that was their definition of "help") Once technology came along and I
had all of this extra work to do, I no longer had time to do the projects
right along with the kids and often would start them with the idea - do the
demos for the steps - but not complete the project myself. I also found
myself with technology - repeating some of the same lessons (which I never
used to do) - but changing it to fit the big idea I wanted to get
across....and then there were just some lessons and units that needed
repeating every year. A lot of time when it was a drawing project - I would
work on my sample moving from table to table (especailly when they all had a
grasp on what to do). That way I could listen into their conversations and
find out what was on their mind. I learned a LOT about how not to teach by
listening to what their other teachers did (smile). I would always ask them
"Do you complain about me like this to your other teachers?" -- "No Mrs.
Decker - you are cool" I would also say "Mrs./Mr. so and so is a great
teacher and I don't think you should complain about all he or she does for
you" Give them the "We teachers stick together"-- and we would often talk
about how to "fix" the problems they were having. Clay was a good project
for doing this too - going around talking with the kids....and demonstrating
how to make this or that at their tables. Kids rarely (never?) copied my
work - I had idea page after idea page at their table to help spark an
idea - No one needed to copy what I had done. Middle school age is such a
good age to get to know your students and learn what they want and need.

It never failed though - the time I did the projects myself were the times I
was "happiest" with the quality of the kids work (I never let on to the kids
though that the projects were "better" the time before - or that the project
didn't turn out as good as I had hoped).....After I was called a
"work-aholic" for loving my job, spending so much time at it, and compared
literally to an alcoholic ("needing just one more drink").... I just
couldn't get myself to stay at school long enough to get my projects
completed when I was spending so much other time doing what I knew the kids
needed more (the parent calls - the getting supplies ready -- the displays
and so forth -- and then of course there was the administration stuff that
needed attention, too ---The web stuff I had to do at home - I did all of my
technology stuff at home after that). I always did my art projects at school
because I had room to spread out and all of my supplies were there. My
school was driven by technology - yet that is the one thing I did well and
they did not value it at all....I just kept on doing it because it was my
professional development target. My advice to all of you....Let me help you
with your technology - your web resources during the school year - so you
can have more time to do what the kids need more. Yes my kids needed the
technology, too and they had to see that I had fun with it (which I did).
But....my kids learned best when they could SEE my thought processes in
action. I am just speaking from my own experience. I am so thrilled to hear
of folks who can motivate the kids to work without showing them what they
expect. My kids were just "show me" kids.

Now what I did isn't going to sound so bad when you hear this horror story
(from my subbing days at this district). I went into the other art teacher's
room to ask her a question about something. She was sitting at her desk
ERASING the faces her students drew on Eskimos and drawing them in herself
moaning "Oh, I told them not to draw the faces. They just don't follow
directions"....I know NONE of you would ever think of anything so horrible
(she left the district so that was a good thing). I couldn't do the plans
the regular teacher left for me that year (every lesson started by tracing a
pattern) - so I came up with my own....No one complained.

Rambling....rambling....I sure am glad it is summer.... Now, I am off to the
store to find the perfect soap dispenser and closet hook (Wal-Mart didn't
have any I liked). Now I have an answer to give off list if this topic comes
up during the year.

Judy

----- Original Message -----
From: "Hillmer, Jan" <hillmjan@Berkeleyprep.org>
To: "ArtsEdNet Talk" <artsednet@lists.pub.getty.edu>
Sent: Monday, July 21, 2003 1:33 PM
Subject: RE: Sometimes ya have to have "Just Do it" art

> Judy, You mentioned that you did the project along with your students.
How did that work? Did you set yourself to approx their pace? did you do
the demos each day to keep up with them? Did you have lots of ideas and
share with them? How did youkeep them from copying? How did you help them
with problems they might have?
> jan
> My student work always turned out the best when I was
> doing the project right along with them....

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