Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chickens And Eggs

Which came first: the chicken or the egg?

Well, in the case of my remarkable art students, the answer is clear.

These energetic egg drawings, made today in our study of shading and shadows, definitely came as a result of three marvelous mother hens who watch over these budding young artists and help me manage this class.

It's worth explaining that the school where I teach is a very unusual kind of school. Although it's part of a public school district, this is a parent partnership program that supports parents who choose to teach their own kids. The K-12 system works like a college - a list of available course offerings is posted each semester and students work with their parents to build an individualized schedule and learning plan. Parents - mostly mommies - come on campus with their students to supervise their behavior and help them make productive use of their time in between classes. The best of the bunch get actively involved in learning opportunities and support their students in countless ways that make a big difference.

And that is where my art moms come into play. Over the years, there have been many parents who have stepped up to support me in this class; but for the past few years, these three have consistently come through. Interestingly, each one plays a unique role and the four of us have become an effective team:

Tiffany | The Thinker

Organized, meticulous, scrupulously on top of her logistical game, Tiffany is the person who reminds me of upcoming school breaks, locates the optimal classroom, and leads the fundraising efforts to support our supply budget. While she would modestly deny it, she is a forward-thinking problem-solver who sees the potholes in the road ahead, and paves them over so I don't fall in. 

She is mommy to two darling, black-haired girls who have inherited her quiet determination and insightful attention to detail. This threesome has been part of my art class for seven years now, and I can't imagine our class without their calm, happy, thoughtful presence.

Jean | The Dreamer

If Jean were a circus performer, she would be the plate spinner. With four little ones, the youngest just three years old, she is usually seen simultaneously wiping a nose, fetching a snack, reminding her older kids to get to class, and jiggling a tired babe. Yet throughout this madness, she will be enthusiastically advocating for a trip to an art museum, suggesting a new proposal for class, or describing a sculpture project going on at home.

With a background in visual and musical arts, Jean overflows with ideas and suggestions for new activities and skill sets for our class, and I often use her feedback to push the kids in new directions. Like their mom, Jean's four kids are bundles of passionate energy, driven with an intense desire to make art. The whole family is a creative tornado that blows into my classroom each week, and they inspire me to keep up with them.

Laura | The Lover

Quite simply, Laura is the gentle spirit who infuses our classroom with peace and loving calm. While most of the moms are busy with other tasks during our class time, Laura sits quietly by, ready to help me with an overly emotional artist, a spilled cup of paint, or any other traumatic event that threatens to disturb our creative energies. She is gentle, caring, and absolutely unflappable with all the children, readily anticipating their needs.

Laura's two younger daughters are members of the class who mirror their mother's good nature. Ever sensitive to others' needs, they watch out for the younger children, praise their peers' work, and enthusiastically help with classroom chores. As a family, their warmth and care for others bring a special nurturing energy to the group that creates the emotional safety required for true artistic expression.

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So there you have it. Three mama birds who support me in vital ways as I teach art to their little ones. They are indeed the chickens who came before projects like today's beautifully drawn eggs, and I am thankful for all that they do.

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For more stories about my talented and adorable art students, read:

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