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[teacherartexchange] professional development


From: Jean Womack (jeaneger_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Wed Nov 01 2006 - 08:24:56 PST

I will have to write more regional differences later, since I will be
traveling to the east coast for my dad's memorial service tomorrow.
However, a short for-example--a significant art lesson for the San Francisco
Bay Area would be adhering sea creatures such as starfish and coral to rocks
as a ceramics project, but you would not expect to find that in the midwest,
where they don't have water. They would be making something else that would
be important to them in that location. If you study art of the Americas,
you find that some items such as arrowheads made of a certain material,
probably obsidian, were found by archeologists far away from the location
where that particular rock is located. So that's how they knew there was
communication between the two cultures. I'll have to look at my college
notes to give you a more accurate report.

I just wanted to say, while I was thinking about it, that I went to work at
Balboa High School with high hopes for a teaching career in art, but I was
very disillusioned by the time I left there. It could have been worse, but
I had published a small newspaper next to a refinery for ten years, so I had
really been through a lot of trials and tribulations before I started
teaching. I wasn't like a little chick just hatching out of a shell.

Around the time of 911, one teacher there asked me if I knew anything about
bombs. That remark really startled me because that was the farthest thing
from my mind at that point in time. If you hang out at a bar two blocks
from a giant refinery for 20 years, you would think you might learn
something about bombs, but what really happened was that I heard more about
the bomb squad dog than anything else. I wish I could remember those jokes
about the bomb squad dog, but I guess I had had a couple of drinks by the
time they started telling those jokes, so I don't remember them.

The reason I mention this is because I had given my sculpture class an
assignment to make a rainstick. We made it out of a carboard tube and paper
mache. Well, it never occurred to me that someone could possibly think that
was a bomb until some teacher started asking about bombs. You know the old
saying that the play bombed on opening night. The rainstick project was
really a fizzle. I guess maybe that's what they meant. I could not get
those kids to put any projections on that rainstick. They wanted to make it
exactly the same way I had made the example I gave them. And that's a big
JROTC program there too. I told that teacher that I had heard of a car
bomb, because that had happened to someone in England shortly after WWII
when the IRA were fighting the British, and that when we were little kids,
my dad used to tell us to stand back, while he went to put his key in the
ignition of the car. And sometimes we had to wait a few feet away when he
went to open the door to the apartment.

Well, I found out what the bomb thing was all about. The kids had stink
bombs and smoke bombs. So when they called in a bomb threat, that's what
they were talking about. I don't know why they did that to me. I guess
they must have done it to other teachers too.

Fast forward four years later, and I have been subbing all over that
district and it's the last day of school in 2005. I was at a middle school
that I had been to many times before, right next door to that high school I
had taught art at. I had been substituting for security guards from time to
time, and I was starting to get worried about whether they were accepting
me, because when I went to try to tell them something, they would walk away
from me. They didn't want to talk to me.

So I expressed my concern to the school secretary but then the principal
started getting mad at me and I said OK, I would do it again. Because I
liked going out on the yard first thing in the morning and greeting each kid
with a cheerful good morning, and you are looking very good today. Then I
was assigned to work with the chief of security there. I saw some workmen
enter the school and I pointed out to him that they had not signed in. He
said that was all right because he knew them. Then I realized that I had
not signed in, either, because they had closed the window to the hallway and
I had not gone over to the book to sign in because I was too busy fretting
about whether I was being accepted by the other security workers. The
secretary pointed to the book and I signed in late. I thought, well, this
is not presidential security, after all, where, if you are not on the list,
you don't get in at the last minute even if you are the Queen of England.
It's just a middle school in the heart of San Francisco. And the chief of
security said that there were a lot of things he didn't want to do either,
and that he was working there because he didn't want to measure pipes in a
refinery in Saudi Arabia.

Those pipes do cause concern, but mostly if there are gasoline vapors which
are flammable. So when you pull up to a gas station in your car and get out
to pump gas, please put your cigarette out before you get out of the car.
We do not throw lighted cigarettes out the window in California like they do
in the east. That's because it does not rain here from April until
November. The tall grasses which grow almost everywhere in California get
very yellow and dry. So you just don't do it--you just don't throw a
lighted cigarette out the window of a car. It's very easy to see when an
easterner has been driving through CA because of the black ashes from a
grass fire along the side of the road. In fact, just about everyone in CA
has quit smoking by now.

I really think that a rain stick is the last thing that those Balboa
teachers have to worry about and that they were creating an atmosphere of
fear and distrust because they wanted someone else to be the art teacher,
not the person whom the district had hired, which was me. Sometimes you
might find a charter school and that is a place where they want to have
their own rules and hire their own people, but they still are accountable to
the State of CA as to whether or not they have credentials. They have an
attitude problem.

I will write more about regional differences when I get back from New
Jersey. Thanks for allowing me to express my thoughts. I am hoping that
the people in the east will allow me to say something nice about my dad,
because I think they had him up there as their sacrificial lamb and we were
being made to remember everything bad he ever said or did.

But they are not big on talking back there. They mostly like silence. Last
time I was there they had my dad so doped up that he could hardly say hello.
That's probably because they had substandard living conditions and it
probably got so cold there that he could not afford the heating bills and
caught pneumonia and they are now trying to cover it up, what they did to
him to make him so sick. And the sidewalks around that old folks home that
are buckled, so an old person could not walk around that place without

I am sure they also have a lot of nice things there and he did not want to
leave there the last time I saw him which was only a few weeks ago. So it
was quite a shock to learn that he had died, although he was 92 and they
don't live forever. However, I have seen people who were nearly dead and
they were not walking around and feeding themselves. That man, Hall
Templeton, was lying peacefully on a bed in the hospital, very frail and
thin before he died, many years ago.

Jean Womack

> I'm not sure what you are saying here. Can you expand on your thoughts?
> ~Michal
>> Thanks, Michal, for your report on the Kansas conference. I guess there
>> is not much danger of too much homogeneity in art education in the U.S.
>> We are preserving regional differences by writing our own curricula.
>> Jean Womack

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