When I first switched from teaching library to art, students were
reluctant to believe that I knew ANYTHING about art. If you have any of
your own work, I suggest that you bring it in and have a show and tell
day. Let them know your background in art, talk about your
work-students love stories. Middle Schoolers especially need "proof"
that they should respect a new "authority". Once you show them your
work, I would be surprised if you still have as much disrespect (though
if they really loved the previous teacher, you will still have some
reluctance-possibly for the rest of the year). But I can guarantee that
next year will be exceedingly rewarding! Hang in there.
Saint George's School
From: ARTNSOUL12@aol.com [mailto:ARTNSOUL12@aol.com]
Sent: Sunday, September 12, 2004 2:16 PM
To: ArtsEdNet Talk
Subject: Ready to Quit after One Week! Please Help.(Long response)
In a message dated 09/12/2004 1:30:03 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
I gave up my high-paying job of 17 years to teach art at my
son's private school (a decision I made after much praying). I was very
excited and really wanted to do this. I spent my entire summer planning
lessons for grades preK through 12. I was not prepared for disrespect
and lack of interest in art that I encountered--especially from my 8th
graders. They are definately my most challenging class
I have some advice, although I teach K-5 for the past 13 years, I did
begin with middle school before that. I'm sure the more current middle
school teachers who have it down to a science with those 8th grade boys
can jump in also with their expertise.
I'm going to address suggestions for the behavior part first, since the
tone of the class is very vital to the sucess of the art. The art you
get from them is contingient on the expectations you set- and the
behavioral ones are crucial!
You mention private school, so those parents of these "little angels"
are paying BIG BUCKS for their rude and disrespectful brats to attend.
They are vested in their child's education and probably think they are
doing what's "best" for their child, having chosen private school over
public, they want "the best" for their child. This will work to your
advantage- so advice #1: GET THE PARENT ON BOARD! First thing in every
class, as soon as the students enter, announce that you are: 1.
Recording anyone's inappropriate behavior. 2. Writing down in detail
what is said and done by the child. 3. Calling each and every student's
parent(s) to report and discuss this right after school that same day.
Then proceed to do exactly this! Be consistant- don't threaten-just do
this in a matter -of-fact way.
I have another tactic- in really desperate cases, and I have NEVER seen
it fail....Arm yourself with the phone # of everyone in the class
(parents' work # , if necessary), then...GET OUT YOUR CELL PHONE! When
the student misbehaves, pull out your phone and call right then and
there. You can hear a pin drop when you do this...explain that "little
Johnny" is in your class right now doing_________ and
saying___________.Then put "little Johnny" on the phone to explain it
himself to his parent.
Plan #2: Make a conference with both the child and parent together to
meet with you. Always begin the conversation with something positive
about the child. Then say that you know that both you and the parent
have the same goals for the child- to assure that their child is as
successful as possible. Then elicit ideas from the child and parent of
how the child can help himself and ideas from the parent (or insights
for you about their child) to help you help the child be successful.)
Notice, this is all said in a very positive vein!
#3 BE COOL, CALM, and COLLECTED- even and especially when you don't feel
it. Never let those 13yr.olds think that they have the upper hand, or
the better of you. And, NEVER let them think you are not "all knowing",
or that they know more than you do. If they see you are upset, you are
taking responsibility for their behavior. So, carry out the above
advice in a matter-of-fact manner!
Now, for the projects: For that age how about a project which utilizes
their names? Or, how about doing one with a sports theme-it's what 8th
grade boys like. They can find their sports and/or Olympic heroes in
sports magazines and base a art project around that. Or, if you have
plastercraft or paper mache- how about making an action figure (sports)
of their favorite sport or action hobby? They begin by creating an
armature with pipe cleaners and cover with aluminum foil. Staple to
8"x8" plywood bases. Add the plastercraft or newspaper mache for final
layer. Paint, add clothes- very engaging!...and, believe me, all the
kids will want to do this-no time to mis-behave!
I've invested a lot of time with my suggestions because my heart goes
out to you. Please, let us know how things are improving. And trust
me..contact with parents and very engaging projects...and you'll see an