I begin my quarter with teachings on left brain, right brain....and how talking/laughing is a tension release which the left brain engages to escape its discomfort with right brained activity. They learn from a few exercises how the right brain is better equipped to work with shapes, color, form, drawing, etc., and that the left brain has to be lulled off to sleep.
Of course...a couple days later they conveniently forget the lesson...afterall it is more my priority they produce well and shew their best potential than theirs. However, the precedence has been set "why" I want a focused quieter environment, therefore I remove myself legitimately as the "mean evil one." From there, I conveniently build 50% of their grade as work ethic, which is further defined as "participation/effort." The students understand that my evaluation of that is observing how much of their time is sent working versus talking or horseplay. As such, a student that spends their class time focusing on their project and objectives regardless of the end product will be
rewarded for their effort and self-discipline. My argumentive premise is that art ability development is accumulative and progressive, and that the process is as important as the product. That is... the art "activity" is important.
It's not fool proof by any means, because many students don't really care about grades anyway. What is nice though, is that if parents want an accounting as to why "Shelly" only got a "C" in art...the precedence is all set. Art is not an automatic "A." Sounds easy when I tell the parent that getting an "A" in art is not that difficult if the student simply spends their classtime working. It puts the sole responsibility on the student. It also removes some of the subjectivity that many feel grading art as good or bad carries by placing emphasis on classroom self-management.
With my elem classes I use the "marble" system for rewarding and earning a free day for an art video and pail of ice cream. Often peer pressure then gets me the atmosphere I want, though...I have a 5th grade class that has yet to earn any marbles. You simply get some classes like that, and it may be that the homeroom they come from gets little supportive disciplinary control there either. My intention is each year I'm here, to get a bit harder and harder with my grading as each subsequent class is more and more exposed to my expectations. Trying to supplant the notion that art making is the "fun" we are after when they say "art is fun!" is a definite effort isn't it!
Unfortunately, it begins at home...and the generations are long passed where that firm rigged hand and values existed. Our work is definitely cut out for us. I find the greatest challenge is going home as an artist at the end of the day where sometimes the behavior and attitude of those you've been around all day have done their best to belittle the value of qualitative art making. You find yourself asking if you are the only person in the world that cares about things outside of base existence? Then, for me the work of art and music becomes all that more essential so as to not allow myself to become absorbed into the messed up values of the world. I recover my sense of myself,
then go face another day. Life certainly takes on the mode of being a mission, a crusade. I raise a glass and toast you my fellow crusaders! -Larry