Winding Down/Ramping Up

704728_4555554240465_227917832_oYesterday my class was filled with art-making much of the day. The students in my Advanced Reader Intensive used the elements of music to convey the mood and events of a scene from The Haunting of Hill House. Despite my limited selection of percussion instruments and thumb pianos they created complex and interesting little pieces and performed them. One young man who is socially isolated a borderline autistic did an amazing rap about Eleanor’s sad fate. He received a hearty ovation from kids who typically ignore him, and immediately he asked if he could share his piece at the next school wide meeting.

My 8th grade Humanities classes were run by graduate teaching interns from MICA this week. I met with them a few times and we talked about the current social studies work we’ve been doing around organizations, governance, change, and rights–and they created an arts-integrated series of lessons to deepen the kids’ understanding and help them express their knowledge. They had the students choose a right from a Constitutional Amendment, then create a symbol to represent that right. Next they taught the kids applique and embroidery so they could make a quilt square. The interns are going to sew the squares into a quilt the students can show off at Culminating Event, alongside a Student Bill of Rights they are drafting.

Watching eager young artists/teachers and helping them through this process and giving them feedback has been invaluable for me. I was in a major funk, I was depressed, I was burnt-out, and I felt as though my capacities were not up to my responsibilities. Working with these interns and guiding them has allowed me to regain my footing, to feel professional, and to take a step back and see how much I’ve grown since I was an intern 6 years ago.

It’s also been great to watch the kids sewing, how excited they get to realize they could do it, how fun it is for them, how industrious the class feels, and how calm and warm artmaking always makes a classroom feel. I’ve been helping a lot of the kids with their sewing one-on-one, and it’s a lot more fun than working on writing conventions or topic sentences or timelines! But I do not envy art teachers their materials management logistics planning…

There are only two more academic weeks until Culminating Event. In a sense the trimester is winding down and wrapping up, but in another it is ramping up, because there will be a lot of difficult work ahead, prepping for student-led conferences at the Event itself, doing assessment and writing report cards, finishing the revising/editing process for Bills of Rights, getting kids to make up missing work, etc. And the days are shorter and shorter…

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