Saturday, January 23, 2010

8th graders

The extremes of youth.

Yesterday was my last day of subbing for a fellow art teacher's 6-8th grade elective. It was really fun. The 6th and 7th graders were right up my ally. I replied to their maturity level when confronted with drawing a canon and canon balls ("Balls! Har har!") jokingly. I described a tricky shape to draw with "curvy bottom" (::snort:: "Curvy bottom!" ::snort::). They responded well to personal praise.

This group's class personality split between 7th and 8th grade. Whereas the younger students were a mix of Abbot and Costello comedy, the 8th graders leaned more towards Kill Bill comedy. The 8th graders were darker, gloomier, and more desperate for approval.

At least they both responded to comedy. I love teaching students with a good sense of humor.

One thing I learned was the different way they viewed approval. Shallow, verbal "good jobs" didn't do much except make them distrustful of me. Not even when I pointed out the well done things specifically, one-on-one. However, when I shared certain tips, suggested that they made this line longer or place those items closer, they listened. They responded positively. They made their art better, even if they didn't take my suggestions.

They had to draw a pirate with a tatoo. I showed them several Chinese characters popular among tatooees (tatooists?). They started asking me all sorts of questions:

Students: Can you speak Chinese?

Me: Yes. "Love" in Chinese is ai. "Peace" is huo or wo, depending on the dialect. (I pointed to each character in turn)

Students: Did you go to school in China?

Me: Yes. (I did. Preschool. But I didn't tell them that.)

Students: Did you get in trouble?

Me: Yes. (I didn't say WHERE I got in trouble. Neither did they ask where.)

Students: What happened when you got in trouble?

Me: Well, schools in China have hall monitors. If you got in trouble for cutting class or talking back, they sometimes make you stand in the middle of the playground for hours. Sometimes you had to hold a big bucket filled with water in each hand. Often times, they would hit you with rulers or Chinese feather dusters, which are basically large sticks with chicken feathers attached to one end. And you got hit with the non-feather end. (I didn't say these things ACTUALLY happened to me. Because they didn't. But I know from good authority that these things are absolutely done somewhere in China.)

Students: (reverently) Rough.

As a general rule, I am totally not a proponent for hitting children. Although some occasions and some children's personalities call for a spanking. The silence that occurred as I was telling my story, and the way the 8th graders behaved afterwards, told me it really struck a chord with them. Pain is universal, even for the wildly hormonal and emo beast that is the 8th grade student - the type of child I sometimes find difficulty in teaching.

No comments: