Today was another shortened day as classes were delayed until 10:30am. Because the students still went to all of their classes, they were all reduced in order to make up the two hour difference. This meant that we had two days in a row with shortened class periods that made it difficult to get the students to work. With such little time in the day, they felt like they didn’t need to work. I’m not sure how a teacher might combat this. Today was a workday for the students, so perhaps making it an instruction day may be more beneficial. Work days can be difficult to get students to actually work and when they’re cut short, it’s even more difficult.
Lately, my school has been short on substitute teachers. Because of this, my cooperating teacher has been pulled out of the room to substitute for another teacher several times in the last two weeks. Today she was called out of 2nd and 3rd periods, so I was left in charge of the classes. Because it was just a work day, it was simple, but it was still a challenge to get the students to work. It was especially difficult for 3rd Block as students were unmotivated and rowdy. I tried my best to assist students and manage the class, constantly reminding the class that their new assignment is due tomorrow and that they have no time to waste.
During 4th Block, something happened that astonished me. Yesterday, an incredibly skilled student had painted a photo-realistic bird on a large piece of paper and I was discussing the background with him. He was convinced that he wanted to crop the paper, which would not meet the criteria standards and I thought would hurt the piece. I was talking with him about background options, but he wasn’t liking any of them. Finally I convinced him to try some kind of background and if he really didn’t like it, then we could crop the picture and paint the background white again. I tried to explain that once he cropped it, that’d be it and he couldn’t go back, but with trying a background, he could always paint over it. After class yesterday I saw his painting on the drying rack with a gorgeous array of colors. I was thrilled with the background he had added and thought that it really enhanced the piece.
Today, my teacher found the student painting over the entire background with white paint at the start of the class. She had also liked the colored background and began freaking out when she saw what he was doing. “What are you doing?! Don’t do that!” she cried. She called for me to come over, and I also pleaded that he stop and think about what he was doing. The student explained that he didn’t like the background and that he just wanted to paint it all white and crop it down. I talked with the student for a bit to figure out what to do. The white wasn’t thick yet, so some of the colors were still coming through. I thought that it looked interesting and added a unique texture, so I offered he continue that around the entire background. I also suggested he only use dark, cool colors when he explained that he hadn’t liked the bright yellow colors in the background. He decided to paint the background white and then figure out what to do after that.
The student continued painting over the background when suddenly my teacher came and grabbed the painting from him. “Nope, you’re done,” she said.
“Nope. I said you’re done. You’re not ruining this any more than you already have.”
“But Ms. Deatherage,” I began, “the damage is already done.” I tried to stop my cooperating teacher because he hadn’t even finished painting over the background. Now it looked incredibly unfinished. If he at least painted the whole thing white, it would look more unified.
“Nope. You can have it back after we grade it.”
“Well, isn’t it going to get a really low grade for not being finished?!” the student pleaded.
“I don’t know,” explained my cooperating teacher. “Miss Brooks will be grading this. What grade would this get?” she asked me.
I suddenly felt put on the spot. “Well, it’s obviously unfinished. Half of the background hasn’t even been painted…”
“You can get it back after we grade it,” my teacher concluded as she tacked the painting to the wall where students are required to place finished work.
“But it’s still wet!” the student called out.
The student wasn’t very upset, but I still felt odd. I would never take a painting away from a student like that unless they were throwing it in the trash. If a student is working on a painting, then it’s not finished and shouldn’t be turned in. Although the original background was better, there wasn’t anything we could do at the point where half of it was already painted over. The student should have at least been able to paint over the whole thing and then try out a new background or do whatever he was thinking to improve the piece. This situation may have also hurt the student’s ego, security, or even how he feels about his skills and decision-making. I was just very taken aback by the whole ordeal.
Throughout Student Teaching, I have definitely learned that students will hate their artwork more often than they will like it. I have amassed an enormous collection of artwork from students who didn’t want to keep their artwork or even threw away their artwork. I have been salvaging all of the artwork I can. I believe that when students have more control over the assignments and what they are creating that they will come to like their artwork more. I feel that students should have more freedom in this regard. I’m really sick of seeing artwork in the trash or hearing of students wanting to paint over the whole thing. Hopefully this won’t be as big of an issue in my class.