Aren’t kids funny. I mean, aren’t they just hilarious.
When you’re old like me (not 60 yet), and working with kids, or even I think if you’re just a few years older than the kids you are teaching, I think it’s common to feel that you are in a tricky balancing act. We need, it seems, to be a little hip, a little relevant, in order to for the kids to relate to us. We also need, more importantly, to keep a separation between us and the kids, to maintain our role as authority figure and in charge.
The secret that I think all successful teachers figure out, some sooner, some later, is that we don’t have to stay hip at all. If you treat your students with respect and expect them to treat you the same, the classroom with be a pleasant place, kids will like you, and just by being around them, you’ll stay more hip that most adults your age. But not so hip the kids won’t laugh at you attempts to be cool. And not so hip that the kids won’t overestimate your age, on purpose or as a joke, by about 20 years.
You don’t have to be down with the street for your high school kids to want to make you a birthday card. You feel me? Boyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!
This artist was pretty proud of this one, as he should be. It’s a pretty sweet rendering of a cartoon squirrel having the life squeezed out of him. I don’t remember which me of us decided this piece was a good metaphor for my classroom. Seems like it would have been him. This piece hung on my wall for years. I’m not sure what the artist is up too these days. Hopefully still sketching a bit.
This amazing Spiderman I received in recent years. It was done by a kid I didn’t get to know very well until he was a senior. He was for a time most well know at school for nearly dieing. The cause of his and another student’s near death experience is a common one among high school students–stupidity. The artist and another student were walking across a barely frozen lake when, as they neared its center, the ice gave out from under them. They tried to pull themselves back up onto the ice, but every time they did, the ice would break. They slowly worked their way toward shore, breaking ice and swimming for their lives. Their cloths heavy with ice water and their fingers worn bloody, they were about to surrender to the their apparent fate when someone driving through the park on a cold winter’s day saw their plight and called for help. Had it not been for that bit of luck, it likely would have been a terrible school year for everyone. Eventually safe and sound, these two were yelled at and scolded by family, friends, and acquaintances. If this story has a moral, it’s not for teenagers to not do stupid things, as I believe trying to make that happen is a losing battle. Rather, it’s enjoy the knuckleheads in your life. Put their art on the wall. Listen to their jokes. And hope for the best.
I can tell you one thing. This kid never wrote this eloquently on any of the essays I assigned him. I have no idea what this kid, or his two accomplishes are currently doing with their lives. I hope they have given up the criminal life, have stopped gluing pennies to things, and are using their skills to make the world a better place.
This is by the same artist who did the portrait of me when things get awkward. I mentioned that post that this girl would knock these drawings out in class and then just leave them behind. Then I, and at least one other student I know of, would quietly pick them up and keep them. The other student that did that, by the way, is the creator of Toast Mobile from last week. Last I heard this artist was living downtown, enjoying that whole vibe, and trying to figure out how to be an artist of one kind or another. I look for her to amazing things. You’ll see more of her stuff on The Real Matt Show in the weeks to come. Boop.
I was going to title this Angry Face. Then as I was examine the piece, I saw that the artist had given it a name on the back–ALIEN DEMON! (with a little heart at the bottom of the exclamation point, really).
What I love about this piece is that at some point the artist realized that a regular piece of notebook paper just wasn’t going to cut it. She needed another half-inch or inch on the top and right side. Her vision for her alien demon included all of the menacing eyebrows and hypnotizing eyes.
As you can see from the greasy sticky-tac mark, I put this on my wall. I figure someone makes art for you, you hang it up. I realize, or at least my theory is, that if Alien Demon had been drawn in another class, it would have been inscribed with that teacher’s name on it instead of mine. So while it’s cool that this artist shared this piece with me, I get that it wasn’t necessarily made with me in mind. However, I also know that there are teachers out there that would not be presented with Alien Demon or Toaster-Mobile or Field of Heart Flowers for a variety of reasons. And so I’m just squishy enough on the inside that it makes me feel a little good when a student finishes drawing an alien demon with horrible sharp teeth, burning eyes and my nose, and they think, “I’m going to give this to Sears.”
You know what you do when you’re starting to draw an awesome truck and it doesn’t come out quite right and instead starts to look more like a toaster? You roll with it. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be an awesome truck. Maybe it was meant to be a Toast-Mobile–a Toast-Mobile that roams the world’s most dangerous wooden bridges, strung between treacherous mountain peeks. This Toast-Mobile plays by his own rules. He’s a bad-ass toaster with a spoiler and no fear, and when he wants to, he turns bread into toast.
Which brings me to the artist. He’s another kid who didn’t have it great at home. He didn’t have it great at school either. When he was in junior high he was one of those kids that people wanted to strangle (I may have been one of those people) because he literally would not stop talking. Of course he matured as he moved from junior high to high school. He learned to shut up, occasionally. Unfortunately many in his class, mostly the girls, and this was a class with a lot mean girls, continued to treat him with disdain. Obviously this said more about the mean girls than it did this kid. But it was awful to witness this on a fairly regular basis. What was great about witnessing this on a fairly regular basis was seeing the grace with which this kid handled the ugliness. He continued to treat people well, something he had done since junior high. He didn’t strike back at his abusers (much). Somehow he seemed to understand that dogs are going to bark, but it doesn’t mean anything. He mostly spent time with those who treated him well. He occasionally came to me for a good vent, but those didn’t last long. I’m really proud of the young man he turned in to, not that I had anything to do with it.
He’s currently in the navy and seems to be doing well. Here’s hoping that when he’s on shore leave, and he and his buddies stumble into the local tatoo parlor (you know how navy guys are), that he stumbles out with Toast-Mobile proudly driving across his chest.
(He’s not my kid so I can wish stuff like that.)
This amazing beaded piece came to me from an actual Native American princess from the Cherokee tribe. It’s a holder for a ballpoint pen. Princess was one of my favorites. School really wasn’t her priority, so many of our discussions involved me checking up on her grades and encouraging her get her school work done. But I also had time to have her teach me and the rest of the study hall some of the Cherokee language (I retained none of it, but I could count to five there for a while), and to talk to us about Cherokee stuff. She didn’t talk about her personal life much. She was one of those kids who had a lot of crap in her life that a kid shouldn’t have to deal with. Sometimes a teacher just wants to give parents a good shake. But she almost always had a positive attitude, and her smile was contagious. She pops up on facebook occasionally, still smiling. Last I knew she was back in Oklahoma with the love of her life. I hope she’s doing well.
Unlike the rest of her family, my daughter is able to draw things the way that they look. This is one of her early works before she was quite there. This drawing shows her at about the point that she reached the level of her father in drawing things the way they look.
I’ve said before that my son doesn’t have what you’d call traditional art skills. By that I mean his drawings don’t always look like what he wants them to look like. And while I know I’m biased, I’ve always liked what they look like. I think he’s got his own style. (And to be fair, this drawing is from a few years ago.) Now I’m not saying anyone who can’t draw, can draw like Ralph Steadman. I’m just saying when you have a style, go with it. My boy would tell you that he can’t draw which I think is sort of too bad. Isn’t there a difference between not being able to draw and not drawing things to look like they look like. I’m curious how many of our most famous artists could draw things like they look like. Probably a lot of them.