Why do I spend three hours preparing for a batik activity with students? Why do I haul boxes of art supplies around in my van from one school site to the next? Why do I find my hands covered in wheat paste goo? Because I’m the mess fairy! I get a kick out of seeing kids faces light up with excitement because of the materials I have brought them to explore and experiment with in the art studio.
One of my first teaching jobs after I graduated from college was teaching ceramics to elementary students during a summer school program back in 1980. And yet somehow I ended up in a regular elementary classroom because that seemed the most expeditious way to get a teaching position and a paycheck. If I could go back in time, I would have stuck with teaching art. Time travel not as yet being possible, I sure am glad that I ended up via a somewhat twisty route where I began: in the art room.
On Thursday I demonstrated how to make an armature with tin foil and then cover it with papier mache to my morning kindergarten students. Usually when I have a special activity, a few kids want to try it, but the rest have their own agenda to pursue in the art studio. Little did I expect that all 12 students would want to dive into papier mache right off the bat. I figured what the heck, and got everyone going. Soon I was like a pin ball careening from one student to the next assisting, answering questions, and redemonstrating techniques. As students finished and moved onto other projects, I breathed a sigh of relief, and yet even when I was being clamored for, I was having fun helping to slather wheat paste goo onto tinfoil snakes, magic wands, people, and animals. And I think my enthusiasm got a few kids over the “Eww! It’s cold and wet!” phase and into the papier mache action.
A smarter, wiser Frances limited the papier mache center to no more than six kids at a time in the afternoon. I could still slather wheat paste goo, demonstrate tin foil techniques, and encourage kids to envision their finished sculptures….but at a more relaxed pace! Each day I am in the classroom, I am learning from my students, and with my students. Each day their creations awe and inspire me, and stimulate ideas for my own artistic endeavors. I feel as if I am the luckiest person in the world, because I am with wonderful short people (as my art teacher friend Joyce calls them) that make me happy! Each day I am teaching and playing with materials to create objects that are outward expressions of inner visions, and for me there is nothing more wonderful!