Thursday, October 18, 2007

I've Created a Monster

I've created a monster.

I made this senior boy a deal. He's in my art one class, but he was in the architecture cluster and has learned all the skills that are taught in this class. He's cutting metal and is liking it. He's got a good eye for detail.
Well, here's the deal. All the freshmen see Lennyn sitting over in the corner doing something cool. They KNOW it's cool what he's doing.
Alex, who is beautiful and bright and talented finishes the current project a day early. He's done a stunning job. Usually if a kid gets through early (Alex always gets through early) I ask them to work in their composition book (cheap version of sketchbook) or on their portfolio (big envelope to keep their work in). He's been doing that and he's real sweet about it, but I can see his eyes cutting over to the cool senior guy in the corner. He says, "so what do I do now?" I don't believe in a single idle moment in my class. Ever. I tell him he can work in his composition book or on his portfolio (eyes flick to the corner)((am I going to regret this?)) or he can cut metal.

VERY Quickly he says "I want to cut metal"

(I'm really surprised---NOT)
I give him the assignment. Design a pierced medallion that incorporates positive and negative space. We haven't even got to positive and negative space yet. This kid is 14. He comes back in ten minutes with a design better than what a lot of the jewelry kids are doing. I set him up next to Lennyn with a bench pin and c-clamp and a sawframe and a piece of copper. This kid is a freaking wizard. He cuts the whole thing out (angles and all) and then he gets worried about the interior space. I show him about drilling holes and he's real fast on the uptake. He gets done in about 20 minutes overall. I show him about filing the edges. He gets all done but for the polishing. About 3 days ahead of what the kids in the jewelry class have done.
Well, then, Saul comes up. He works like a Trojan all the time. He's not as gifted as many but he works real hard. He helped with our door decoration and took on extra work to help. Saul has finished his project, it's not as pretty, but he worked really hard on it. He's leaning on the corner table watching Lennyn and Alex. "What do I do now miss?" he says. I ask him if he wants to cut metal and he's all over it. I tell him he has to have a design. He comes back in five minutes ready to roll. It's the shape of the state of Texas inside a circle. That's okay. I'm not going to worry these kids about design at all. They're freaking art beginners.
Lennyn gets through cutting his out, so I move him down to start filing. I turn around and Alex is showing Saul how to put the sawblade on and check the tension.

Kimberly comes up. I've had her go back and "fix" her project about five times. She finally gets a nice result. She says, "what do I do now, Miss?" She looks at the boys in the corner.

Anyway, I end up with about half the class done with the project ON TIME and well. I tell them that I can't really turn the class into a jewelry class, BUT, IF they finish their projects in a timely manner and have time left over that I may let them work on some jewelry projects.
30 kids said they want to take jewelry next year. 10 said they wanted to just switch over now. I told them that they had to pass art one first.
I set up three "sawing" stations. I put out minimal resources. Alex cut all of his out and gave me back the intact sawblade. I think at least six or seven kids got to cut and we maybe went through 9 sawblades. Holy cow.
I told Lennyn that if he was heavy handed that he was going to have to buy his own sawblades. He said "Where do I get them?"

Saul asked "Where can I get a sawframe and blades?" I told him where, he wrote it down and THEN he asked "How can I turn the metal different colors?" I asked him what color and he said "purple" and I told him I'd have to look up a recipe and he said "Miss, I've got a computer, what do I google?" I told him to google "copper patinas" and he said "No prob" THEN he came back and said, "If I want to color brass, do I look up brass patinas?"

HOLY COW. I'm going to be peeling these kids off the wall all year. I think I have some major leverage. I told them that if they hurried through assignments and did poor jobs that I'd make them do them over (which would take longer). I think I've found a really good carrot to dangle and I think I can make them be really good to keep the privilege.
I've never done any real jewelry stuff with art one. It's NOT part of the curriculum, but this project we're working on. . . It usually takes 5 class days for everyone to finish. Today was day 2 and half the class finished.
I'm starting one point perspective on Monday. I'll give them two days. You should have seen those kids laying lead down today (drawing) I've NEVER had an art one class go into such overdrive.
That's the terribly sweet part.

The bittersweet still comes. I often have flashes of brilliance that come out of intense personal emotion. I have been in such a state. My young cousin, Charles Edward Anderson age 27, chose to end his own life Tuesday afternoon. I've spent my time at home on the phone talking to distraught relations around the country. Chuck's mother is the one whose stepfather was killed last year by that crazy guy who went into the gay bar in MA with a hatchet. I found out about 11pm last night that he'd already been cremated and that the services were at 11 this morning.

Like I can even get there. . .

I couldn't. I just couldn't take it. I fell at work last Thursday banging the crap out of my knee (which is many pretty colors) and snapping my neck (which is swollen) and since then have picked up the unspecified leaping Chinese crud going around the school and I feel like SHIT.

I'm running on adrenaline. I really shouldn't have gone today, but I did, and I created a monster. I'm alternating between chills and hot flashes (no comments on my age please) I've blown my nose about 200 times today. The only reason I went was because I had Book Club after school at Chili's. I'm the one charged with organizing the darn thing and this was our first meeting to talk about a book we'd all read (Kite Runner) and I dragged my ass up to school because of it. I also dragged my ass to Chili's for two frozen margaritas while we talked about the book.
I feel like crap, I'm mourning a personal tragedy, but TODAY was a good day. I saw something beautiful happen with young artists. I think this monster is going to be wonderful.