Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Happens When You Share

Earlier this month, Titus shared with us an interesting art project she had "borrowed" from another blogger. I say borrowed because readers had been invited to share their creativity in this drawing exercise. You really need to go have a look and see what Titus and her Terrific Twins did.

The premise was simple. What belongs at the end of this string?

Now that seems like a simple concept, but the kids I work with in the afternoon aren't your "average" group, even in the low income neighborhood where we're located. Over half of them come from disadvantaged homes where "absentee parents" can often mean Mom and/or Dad is in the other room, but not interested. Sadly, I've met too many parents who believe "giving birth" was the last responsibility they had to that child. The crime rate continues to climb and gangs are invading our territory, offering to be the caring family a kid may not have at home. So anything I can to do let them know they're worth something and that childhood is suppose to be FUN every now and then, we try. So we took on Titus' art project.

A psychologist would have a field day with the results. Me? I just saw the usual personalities emerging, with an occasional new fact sneaking through.

Now to be fair there were 6 drawings in total. My scanner had a bad day and ate 3/4 of two of the drawings. What you missed was both "common" and "scary". The 11 year old girl who has a good family drew the typical hot air balloon, with lots of flowers, trees and bright colors. The little girl in Kindergarten, with the really rough mother I've met, made me somewhere between sad and shaken. She'd drawn a tree, a stump with a squirrel sitting on it and a colorful rocket in the air. She'd even drawn another smaller Granny. When I asked her what Granny was holding, she said cheerfully, "Oh, that's a gun." Before I could comment, she pointed at the smaller Granny and said, "So if she doesn't behave, the lady will shoot her." I think I'm even more scared of her mother now. This kid just turned six.

Thankfully, the majority were less horrifying versions. This was done by a boy who is 9. The rest of the kids gave him a hard time for doing something "easy". Part of that was because he found out I had additional coloring pages and he loves to color.

Before I could suggest they work on their own pictures, he said to me. "You know last week I didn't have enough air to blow up a balloon. You know how that feels, don't you?" He has asthma and once he found out I'd been recently diagnosed with the same, we compare notes. He says that if he ever has an attack coming on he'll tell me because he won't have to explain. He then added that he was worried that my recent cold would make me have an asthma attack. I thanked him for thinking of me, then handed him the next coloring sheet.

This drawing was done by his 6 year old sister. She tried to draw an arrow going through the balloon, then decided not to finish it because that would let all the air out. The * are suppose to be stars. Although her brother complained, all of the girls insisted on making the grass at the bottom stretch across the entire page.

With the older kids, the creativity kicked into a higher gear. This girl is 10 and we lovingly refer to her as our "Drama Queen". Yes, to her face. Now when she turns on those crocodile tears to get her way and we just look at her, she dramatically wipes them away before grinning and saying, "I know. I'm such a Drama Queen".

But she also listens. When I was explaining about this project I mentioned that Titus had twin sons who'd also finished this drawing. So she not only added to the picture, it had a story to go with it. This is a picture of Granny and her twin. The twin is stuck in a hot air balloon so BOTH of them are trying to burst the balloon with matching pins. I was impressed that she drew another lady and dressed her the same as the first. When one of the boys pointed out they weren't the same because their hair color was different, she rolled her eyes and huffed, "If I gave her dark hair it would clash with the balloon colors. Hello!"

The one which surprised me the most was our 11 year old boy who has no attention span and is way to old for his age. The kids are always hugging me, but they know the rule is "Hug and let go". This kid, who's almost taller than me, likes to hug and try to um...stay clamped against you longer than necessary. He was expelled last year...for dropping his pants at recess to, as he put it, "Show the ladies my stuff". Sigh. The parents at least had him home schooled so he wouldn't be left behind, but they still leave him watching way too much pay-per-view t.v. for his age.

And yet we've been working on his patience as much as his school work. The week before we did this art project, he and I had a heart-to-heart talk. He thinks he's stupid. I assured him he wasn't stupid, he just didn't understand math. I told him my own humiliating 4th grade math story and he laughed. Then he brightened when he realized I had managed to figure it out because I was helping him...with math. I just explained that everyone is different and goes at their own pace. I remember adding that the world would be a boring place if we were all alike. Which may be why he was the only one who didn't draw UP.....

No, his Granny went fishing and from the looks of it, things are going to add up great.


steven said...

hello hope - thanks from the teacher and parent in me for this fascinating sharing of story and picture. i'm thinking as i looka t this that my own class would have a field day and perhaps i could post their efforts here as well..... steven

Susan at Stony River said...

I LOOOOVE this post!! What an amazing thing to see how all the kids did. The one with the granny-gun well, there's the next generation's Stephen King if we're lucky.

The girl who drew the twin granny inside a balloon, she did so well at figure drawing. But my favourite is the asthma boy; to everyone else it was 'easy', but to him that balloon was something much more significant that they didn't see. And you know how *I* feel about him now, with the kids I've got at home.

Thanks for taking that project into work and taking the time to scan it for the rest of us! I really enjoyed that and it was fascinating.

Titus said...

hope, that was so interesting and such an insight into what you do!

I really did love them all (that's the beauty of Artsparker's genius concept - what comes out can't help but be about you) but my favourite, and not for the obvious reasons, is the twin granny one. Seeing the rope as a pin was just inspired! And sometimes boys are duh? when in comes to clashing colours.
Also adored the fishing one. Imaginative boy. Oh, I just love them all! Children, all children, the lucky, the unlucky, the damaged, the gifted, hold such potential and the tragedy is that not all of them get the opportunities to realise it. So good to read about you helping some of them find out what they can do, not what they can't.

enchantedoak said...

This was beautiful. I don't work with children, but raised one, and even I can see the plethora of imaginations at work. Thank you for visiting my Flash 55 about Hope. I wrote about it again today. May I add you to my blogroll?
Chris Alba

Janie B said...

What a great idea! I must borrow it for my art classes. I think I'll try it soon. Can't wait!

Peggy said...

This post was so interesting...I loved the story behind each child and their drawings.
The story of the 9 year old little boy with Asthma that feels so safe with you was so heartwarming.
The district where you work is so lucky to have someone like you influencing their children.
Great post!

...and next time someone is mean to you and doesn't value you like they should from your work, I want their phone number. :)
Great post Hope!

Brighid said...

Hope, you are a blessing to all of us, and your students are so lucky to have a teacher like you. Know that you are appreciated in so many ways. Your passing it forward BIG time.

Akelamalu said...

What an interesting post and project. It's scary though some of the things these kids are thinking and illustrating. :(

hope said...

steven...what a great idea! I love getting a glimpse into kids' minds.

Susan, you're welcome. :) It is amazing what they can come up with...even though the kid with gun's Mama scares me even more.

Titus I owe you a big thanks for giving me something to give them to do on a day when all they wanted to do was share Rap songs....which is sad because they know enough to censor the bad language. I feel sorry for them that they won't grow up able to sing music like we did without skipping words. But thanks for a fun project!

enchantedoak, thanks for the kind words and I'd be honored to be added to your blogroll. I look forward to more 55s.

Janie B., do report back as to what your one day famous artists came up with.

Thanks Peggy. Somedays the kids are the only things that get me through the day. Oh don't tempt me with the phone number. :)

Brighid, I wish I was a proper "teacher". I have the degree but they didn't have the jobs. So I'm using that knowledge now, years later, in an after school program. Hopefully for the good. :)

Akelamalu, you're right. I just hope we can offer some sense of balance. The neat thing is that I'm the only "white" person there but the kids don't see color either.

Dan. said...

Some sweet, some sad stories there Hope.

Made me think what I'd have put on the end of that string when I was at that age. Probably a zombie or a ninja (obsessions start at a young age)

Loved the imaginations in play there. Wonder what age we all start to lose it?

hope said...

Dan, you and I haven't lost that imaginative's why we write. :)

Just today I told Susan at stony river farms that you were her expert source for zombie info. ;)

Bill ~ {The Old Fart} said...

This was a moving post Hope, each kid had their own story to tell. I hope the Kid with the Grannie with the Gun only has a Vivid Imagination and not some deeper issue.

Thank you for sharing.

Oh, you only missed one, the rest of your answers were correct. Your answer for 7 should have been 14.

Bill ~ {The Old Fart} said...

Hope there is something waiting for you at the Blog. You can always spot the Teachers in the crowd, they are the Honest Ones.

hope said...

Bill, I never win ANYTHING. So now I approach with baited breath. ;)

Dr.John said...

I love those kids. I just drew a kite. They were so much more creative.