Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Tall Girl Teaches: What's the Matter?

When teaching moments are learning moments:

I'm linking up with Emily's Imperfect Prose today.

His head is down on his desk again, and I know if he lifts it up he will be crying. I sigh inwardly and head toward his desk.

"Just do it!" I want to scream. But that's not my job, so I hold it in and ask, "What's the matter?"

"I can't do it perfectly."

"Can you do it imperfectly?" I ask. I divide the faces into quadrants. I explain the features as shapes. I even encourage abstractionism, to no avail.

"I just can't do it", and the head goes back down on the desk.

Welcome to Grade Three Art. The pressure's on.

The worksheet is about being able to recognize facial expressions - draw the face on the corresponding situation, at least drawing a face that is looking in the right direction. 

Some kids rush through and I suggest using erasers - "Let's pay attention to the details, please, no owl-people!" Others work away and finished the task nicely, and a few, going painstakingly slow, have homework.

Then there's this boy. The boy who won't even try. He just looks at the page and cries.  

I'm upbeat and encouraging - I give out stickers for good behaviour and no one fails as long as they try (it's art, we all have our "personal style"), but this kid won't have any of it. Art class anxiety. Who would have thought? It's art class: It's supposed to be fun! We listen to music! We experiment with colour! We talk about our feelings! There are no exams!

I could brush it off - not everyone likes every class. But... what's the matter with this kid?

It strikes me he's afraid he's not good enough to try. Afraid of making mistakes.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever not done something simply because you thought you wouldn't be able to do it well enough?

For me it was gym class. I can't really say if I was good at sports as a child, I was sure I wouldn't be, so afraid to be bad at the game, that I did as little as possible until my ninth grade gym teacher convinced me that effort and intention would lead to desired outcomes, in this case being active and having fun, not going pro.

And I wish I could say it started and ended with gym, my not-doing, but of course it doesn't. Not joining a committee because I am not a math-genius. Not helping at a function because I am not the casserole queen. Not talking to the new person because I am awkward at small talk.

So I thank God for the reminder to get my head off the desk, to get back in the game. And I pray I can be an example to that student, to help focus his effort and intentions in the right direction. To try. 

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