I’m soo enthusiastic about art and about teaching art. In fact, when I look at my facebook posts, nearly 90% are about art or teaching art. I’ve never (NEVER) had an issue with engagement before. . .But, I’m having some challenging situations with it this year. I have quite a few kids in every class that just refuse to engage.
I’ve tried positive incentives, consequences, modified projects etc. etc. But, these hard-to-engage kiddos mostly are peeved they can’t sit with their friends (because they prove over and over when allowed that they don’t work and/or don’t behave when allowed to do so). When I ask what sorts of projects they want to do it is always “Graffiti.” Which, I’m not against at all (Banksy is one of my favorite artists and I subscribe to Juxtapoz Magazine), but this is an, at-risk kid environment. And, every. single. time. I’ve ever taught graffiti at least one kid has gone out and committed a crime because of what s/he was inspired by in the art room. I KNOW these kids would follow suit; in fact, they admit to wanting to learn how to tag stuff it in class!
I know now that a lot of the engagement struggle has to do with supplies. My school had no Art teacher last year, and the teachers readily admit that they “fleeced” the art room of supplies. My supply orders for this year have yet to be placed, which means my primary art tools are: crayons (only the original 8 pack of crayola colors), paper, and. . . . ? In fact, I went and purchased 30 pairs of scissors just so I would have some in class. There is paint, in random colors, but the only brushes I’ve found are the plastic ones with the plastic bristles that come free in a watercolor set.
This week, we painted. . .crappy brushes and all. . .And, like, WOW! What a difference it made in engagement for those kids who seem to struggle with being on task. They were just so. . .happy. I was and am thrilled. I was beginning to think it was all me, and it is frustrating when you feel so helpless to fix a negative situation.
But, THEN, today this happened. An 8th grade student (definitely the group with the largest number of hard-to-engage kids) said: “Are you the one doing the Art Club?” I replied, “Yes.” To which she responded: “Oh, then I’m sure not doing Art Club!”
Sigh. That just made me deflate inside. That she would consider Art Club and then NOT do it because of me just makes me feel like a failure. To be fair, this student struggles with her behavior at times and may have just been saying to “get my goat.” But, you know, it is hard to avoid feeling as if you -meaning me- are the problem.
Sometimes, it feels like it is touch and go, no? I wish these kids could understand how much time I spend thinking about the projects they do, and how excited I am to see what they do. . .I always try to praise and remark on the positive things about their work. I hang work etc. etc. Next week we are doing “Day of the Dead” inspired projects and I *really* hope my hard-to-engage kiddos are inspired.
And, I hope my little negative Nancy decides to take Art Club anyway.
P.S. I will say that one of my male students who got into A LOT of trouble in Art a few weeks ago was really inspired by our project this week. Turns out, he loves painting. He made one of the best works of the week, and I made sure to lay on the praise and show off his work. He just preened like a little rooster. And, me? I’m so happy I get to see this side of him and I’m sooooo thrilled that he and I could turn around our negative student/teacher relationship!