Tag Archives: Sculpture

DCF Can Provide, But Only You Can Provide For Your Heart.

18 Mar

One of my kids is a father. Jarell is 18, and has a one year old son. Jarell’s also a DCF kid. He lives in a group home and gets money from DCF. They will help him out until he’s 21…as long as he stays in school and lives up to his end of the deal: no trouble with the law, get passing grades in school, go to school, etc. etc. At first, these sound like simple requests…but some of these things are harder for Jarell than you might think. Most of the kids at my school can walk there, no problem. If they miss the bus, no big deal, school is a ten minute walk away. But Jarell, because he lives in a group home, lives in the next town over. And on the other side of it. That was the only placement they could give him. So the school tells him they can’t provide him transportation, so he’ll need to take the city bus. Both ways. And pay for it. That went on for a few months until someone finally questioned why his attendance was so poor. Could his commute possibly be the reason? Now a van goes and picks him up. But it’s too late for his grades, because he’s already missed too much class to make up the work. Was it his fault? When DCF comes and looks at his grades and attendance and tells him that he’s not holding up his end of the deal, is it wrong of him to get upset and walk out? I don’t know about you, but when I was 18, I had friends whose parents bought them nice little cars to drive around as they pleased. And those friends came and picked me up for school in the morning and dropped me off at the end of the day. And if they couldn’t, the worst case scenario was that I might have to take the school bus. Until I graduated and went off to the college that I was already accepted to that my parents were going to pay for, no worries. Kind of a different world, right?

So on the days that this kid makes it to school, he comes and sees me. There’s no time in his schedule for an art class, he’s got enough academic classes that he needs to squeeze in. But on occasion my classes will be doing a project that he loves, and he asks if he can make one too. Then, if he’s in a class and finishes his work for the day, he asks to come down to the art room to work on his project. The last, and most memorable one that he completed was a 3-D sculpture project. The assignment was to turn someone’s initials into a 3-D tribute. So Jarell chose his son. For the past three months, Jarell has worked diligently (well, as diligently as possible given the circumstances) on a project that would normally take a week or two. It is the most successful example of the project that I’ve seen…it’s better than the example I made to show the class. I never would have thought that this kid, with everything else going on in his life, would think that my little 3-D project was so important. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him stick with anything for so long in the three years that I’ve known him. But I know that every time I assign this project again, I’ll always be thinking of Jarell: up to his elbows in paper mache and masking tape, wanting to honor his son in any way he can. And I got to be a part of that.

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8 Ways Not to Start a Class

9 Mar

I wrote this lesson with a friend of mine when we were going to school to get our certifications. While we were learning about the lesson plan writing process, a lot of time was spent discussing the “Initiation” of a lesson, or rather, what were you as a teacher going to do to get your students interested in learning for the period? What was your “hook?” We were told that if you came prepared with a great initiation, then the rest of your lesson would be successful. So, I thought for a few minutes about how my teachers used to initiate lessons when I was in school, and whether or not they succeeded in capturing my attention. Here’s what I came up with:

1. “Take out your books and open to page 65.”
(Wait, what? What page did she say? I turn to my neighbor and ask them, but they didn’t hear either. Shoot. I’ll just pretend like I’m following along.)

2. “Does anyone remember what we learned yesterday?”
(Do you? Aren’t you the teacher? I don’t think I should be held accountable if you’re not going to be.)

3. “Well, the photocopier was broken this morning, so why don’t you just go ahead and read the next chapter on your own.”
(Yes! I love it when the copier is broken. Now, I can open my book and pretend to read while I write a note to my friend. Probably about boys.)

4. “I have half a muffin left…does anyone want it?”
(I do!! I LOVE history class!!)

5.”We’re watching a movie today. No talking.”
(Ha! He didn’t say no passing notes. And he ALSO didn’t say we had to take notes, even better!!)

6. “Amy, you’re late. Where were you? We were going to start our lesson but now you’ve interrupted the whole class.”
(I forgot my book in my locker. Plus, I’m pretty sure YOU just interrupted the whole class.)

7. “Raise your hand if you are still confused about yesterday’s lesson.”
(Yeah, right. I’ve been confused since 2 weeks ago, I’m sure as hell not gonna raise my hand now so that the whole class can laugh at me.)

8. “When I call your name, say yes or no if you did your homework. Hold it up so I can see it!”
(Hmm. This homework from last week sort of looks like last night’s homework. I’ll hold this up instead and see what happens.)

Well. Seems like I spent most of the time trying not to get in trouble, and much less time actually learning anything. Since initiations really did seem important, my friend and I spent a lot of time coming up with ours. Our lesson was on negative space, and found object sculpture. Instead of stating the topic and handing out an informative packet, here’s what we did instead:

Students enter the classroom. Right inside the door, there is a clothesline strung up. Hanging from it, are plastic monkeys from a Barrel of Monkeys. One per kid, and attached to each is a slip of paper with each kids name on it (enabling you to take attendance without actually calling out names). Students are instructed to find their monkey and have a seat. “Today you will be building a habitat for your monkey. Under this sheet (spread out on table with found objects, or junk, underneath) you will find everything you need to create your habitat. When building your monkey a home, think about how he will use his surroundings. He will need to climb, sleep, etc, but he will also need enough room around each feature to be able to interact with his environment. This is your negative space. Take both the positive and negative space into consideration when building your habitat. At the end, display your monkey in his environment. Ready, set, go!” The sheet is then whisked away, and the students dive right in to find the “best” pieces of junk for their sculpture.

Of course, this lesson might not be for you. Maybe you don’t feel like building with found objects. That’s ok. But this lesson has always been wildly popular, and I believe it’s because of the initiation. The odd act of being given a monkey when you walk into class. The suspense of wondering what’s under the sheet. If you have a desire to get your students involved in learning instead of chowing down on muffins, I’d recommend putting some thought into your initiation. First impressions are everything, and a little plastic monkey would have made a big impression on me.

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