Tag Archives: masks

Teachers Wear Masks…Remember “Miss Nelson Is Missing”???

17 Mar


Everyone has professional development days. Those days where every school in the state has professional development, and while the kids yell “We have no school on Tuesday!!” the teachers groan and mutter to each other that this professional development better be more interesting than the last one, where we learned about a great online curriculum…except our classrooms don’t have computers. See, unfortunately, because our school is not a public school, we’re usually left out in the cold when it comes to professional development. Usually, the principal tries to bring in someone interesting, and if no one is available, we come up with something “important” ourselves, which usually turns into a complaint session with no solutions. After sitting through countless numbers of these sessions, I asked the principal if I could have a few hours during the next session to do a little art lesson with the teachers. I explained that it would be a good way to get everyone to open up a little, have fun, and at the same time see how art (and the art teacher!) can be used for so much more than making pretty bulletin boards.

So I prepared a mask lesson that would require each teacher to make an animal mask embodying characteristics that also applied to themselves. I wheeled out a cart that was loaded with supplies, and after completing a short brainstorm session, everybody got to work. It was really enlightening to teach my co-workers, and even more so to see how clearly their personalities and styles came out in their mask. One teacher finished in about ten minutes, even though he knew he had 45. He quickly cut, added some pipe cleaner whiskers, and called it a fox. At the other end of the spectrum, another teacher used every material available in every possible color, and created the most imaginative, beautiful creature that never existed. If anyone was paying attention, it was utterly obvious through the expression of these masks what it would be like to sit in each teacher’s classroom for a day and be taught by them.

The best part of the activity was the wrap-up. I had everyone view each mask, and write on a piece of paper adjectives and descriptive phrases that they felt it conveyed. When everyone read the descriptions of their own mask, they were surprised how other people’s interpretations were different than what they originally intended to express. What does this say about the messages they’re sending to their students without even knowing it? They say teachers have to wear many different hats, but I think it might be the “masks” that we wear when we’re teaching that have the biggest effect on our students.

Get the full lesson plan here!!
Get the worksheet here!!

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Don’t Be All Up In My Grill

11 Mar

Everyone who’s ever watched Seinfeld knows what a close-talker is. I, personally, have about a three-foot personal space bubble. When someone I don’t know that well bursts my bubble, it’s uncomfortable. Not only does it make me uncomfortable but it puts me in the awkward situation of trying to back up without insulting the person. Sometimes, the person is so imperceptive that they don’t pick up on my body language and they move into my bubble all over again. Interestingly enough though, personal space isn’t the same for everybody, and it varies greatly from culture to culture. In Asian cultures, particularly China, the concept of personal space is nearly nonexistent. Strangers regularly touch bodies when waiting in line, while people in Scandinavian countries, for example, need more personal space than we do. And anyone who’s ever taught kids with emotional or behavioral challenges knows that their personal space can be infinite. “Don’t touch me,” and “Back up” are phrases I hear in the hallways all the time.

Looking deeper at my streetwise students, I realized how much of their confrontational vocabulary and actions centered not only around their personal space, but more specifically around their face. Allow me to provide examples:

1. Knocking off someone’s hat: Not recommended, unless you are looking to start a fight. If you are, this would be an excellent way to do it.

2. “In your face” (exclamation): something you would shout after you just beat someone badly in anything competitive, for example if you just dunked on them on the basketball court.

3. In your face (verb): To be in someone’s face in not a good thing, and it will be requested of you to “Get OUT of my face.” You’re too pushy, you’re too close, you’re asking too much.

4. Mush: If you find that you got in someone’s face, you might get mushed. That’s the act of placing one’s hand on another person’s face and pushing the person backwards. If you see someone get mushed, sh**’s about to go down.

5. Grill: Can be used in 2 ways. You can grill someone, which means to stare them down. Will probably be met with “Why you grillin me,” unless it’s a member of the opposite sex, in which case it might be a compliment. OR, you can be “up in someone’s grill,” also bad. Similar to getting in their face.

6. Save face: Finally, what you might do if you realize you’ve made a mistake and now you need to cover it up. May or may not work.

This isn’t rocket science. Everyone knows not to touch someone else’s face unless you’re invited to do so. But it really got me thinking about our faces as this sort of portal into ourselves, the front door to letting someone in. So what do we do in our next art class? We make masks. On each others faces. Risky? Yes. Worth it? Definitely.

I offered them an out. If they felt really uncomfortable, they could use a plastic face mold instead of another person. But most of them paired up and got to work. We called them “Emotion Masks,” because after they created the mask on their classmates face, they later added details to show a certain emotion of their choice. We got some amazing results and I couldn’t believe how well they worked together. Smearing Vaseline and plaster strips on someone else’s face was taking a big risk for some of these kids, and yet they worked together and didn’t even get mad when plaster water dripped down their necks. I’m not naive…if their partner had been up in their grill the next day, all bets would have been off. But for 45 minutes, to be in their face was finally ok.

Get the full lesson plan here!