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These may be the most difficult teachers to work with, but they are
slowly won over through osmosis. The kids will benefit from your
interaction with them, nonetheless, in spite of what the teacher
tries to do to undermine your efforts. Remember that change is slow,
especially in entrenched adults, and that addage from transpersonal
psychology that you may not be able to change the other person
but you can change your response to their behavior. The other one
that comes to mind is "You catch flies with honey, not vinegar."
I have had a few teachers like this over the years that I've worked
with as an artist-in-residence. What always amazed me was how the
kids later would quote to me what I said to them, in spite of the
efforts of the regular classroom teacher to control, condemn, and
cruxify. Remember, you're having an impact even if you can't always
visibly see it. I've found that going at an issue like this sideways
is always the most effective in the long run. Do some coalition
building with other teachers and the principal. Ask questions of the
teacher in charge to make your point instead of telling her what
she's doing. I've found that asking questions in the Socratic style
is the most effective because it forces people to come to the
conclusion without you telling it to them directly. "Why is it
important to you that everyone do it this way?" "Were you ever in a
situation where you wanted to do an assignment differently than the
teacher gave directions for." "If this was your child, what would
your response be?" etc.
Hitting people like this over the head on is only going to polarize
the attitudes and behaviors. A good primer on perhaps rethinking how
to approach her is the work of Arnold Mindell, especially, "Sitting in the
Fire." It's his position that it is these most difficult, conflict
spots that we must face if we are really going to create change in
So, as the Japanese say, "Gombatte" - more strong fight! Don't give up your
efforts, they're for the kids, not the teacher.
Boy am I glad I have a place to vent!
(Memory refresher: I am the artist teaching art to first graders who
originally posted this issue to ArtsEdNet.)
I just got back from picking up my son from school. He was "stealing" his
mosaic from class because the teacher told him it was not a real mosaic
because he didn't want to fill up the background with color. He mosaiced
the lion that he drew himself, (instead of using a template provided for
tracing, he was the only one inthe class who drew his own!). My son was on
the verge of tears because he thought his teacher was mad at him. He wanted
to take the tiles home to finish his mosaic at home, in private.
Well, thanks to all the responses from all of you I was prepared for the
conversation with the teacher that followed.
I went into the class (my son was to scared and waited outside). I told her
what was going on. She said that if we wanted to take tiles home that that
was ok but then all the kids should be able to take them home and then they
can't bring them back for their portfolios. (???) I didn't understand why
it was a bad thing for them to take them home to finish them.
I mentioned the incident with the child she accused of doing mosaics
"wrong", and she denied ever having said that.
I told her that my intent for the class was to show slides, talk about art,
and do a related art project. I did not want to have it be so rigid that
there was no room for creative freedom. She said ok, well then, the
projects should not be carried over into regular class time. (The mosaic
project carried over because she cut my usual one hour class to a half hour
because they were doing Halloween busy-work that they had to
finish....sorry all you teachers out there.) grrrrr!
Then she was suggesting that we not do the art projects at all, that we
just show slides and talk about them. She thought that was what the kids
liked best as they talked about them a lot. I told her i'd still like to do
the art projects but let them have more creative freedom. Expose them to
new materials, but let them explore. She said ok to that, but I felt like
she was having a definite problem letting go of control here. She went on
about how she is the teacher and will not let up on what she is working on
with individual kids. I told her how I respected that and had no intention
of interfering, just that I didn't want the kids to feel this "right and
wrong" when it comes to art.
My next lesson is about portraits. I think I came up with a good idea when
I asked her to be the one who poses for the class. The kids will be able to
do her portrait and she will have to leave everyone alone for a little bit.
I tell you, I am so frustrated right now. I could scream! I am volunteering
my time to do this, and i'm purchasing the slides and some of the materials
myself so this can happen for my son's class. I keep telling everyone how
this is the best and most fun thing I have done in a long long time, but
the way I feel right now is to just say forget it.
I have to say I was scared to go in and talk to her myself. She is a
control freak. She admitted to me that she does not treat her own kids this
way, but that she "has" to treat them this way in order to teach them. I
just don't get it. Am I missing something here? Where is the respect?
Help! I am just an artist trying to give something back to these beautiful
children. I could cry right now. Imagine how the kids feel.
Thanks for listening.