John Post on sat 23 apr 11
I have taught in the same school district for the last 10 years. I
have been at one school for nine of those years, but have been at 8
different second schools during that time. Usually around this time
of year some kid at the new school asks "Are you going to be our art
teacher next year?"
This year I had to answer that question differently than in the past.
I told them that when my son was in third grade, he would sometimes
get in the car after school and ask me to explain some of the mean
things kids were saying to each other. I told my students that my
policy with my own kid has always been to tell him the truth. So I
explained what the swear words meant and the next day he had knowledge
on his side and knew how to respond.
Then I told my students that next year there may be no art, gym,
music, or media center. That even though the state education fund has
a 600 million dollar surplus, that money plus another 500 million
dollars is going to be taken from K-12 schools.
From where I sit it won't be the fear or danger of ceramics that
brings about the death of art in the public schools in Michigan. It
is going to be the victim of budget cuts.
I told my students that the reason our school district has not
announced the cuts for next year yet is that they are hoping parents
and community members get active and voice their concerns about
eduction cuts with their legislators.
I had a 10 minute discussion with the older students I teach (grades
4-6) and some kids were shocked. They had no idea that what is
happening in Lansing is going to affect them. These were the art
kids, the right brainers who when they see me in the hallway in the
morning they blurt out "I'll see you later Mr. Post, it's art day!"
Many kids were downright mad at hearing this news. I asked them at
the end our discussion to answer a simple question by show of hands.
"How many of you would have preferred to be in the dark and not know
about what might happen next year, and how many of you preferred
hearing the truth."
Every kid in the 16 sections of upper elementary that I teach raised
their hand for hearing the truth. Kids are smarter than many adults
give them credit for.
I had two 6th grade girls, Larissa and Alysa, come up with this saying
"If you take the word Earth and remove the word "art" from the middle
of it, it's just eh. "Get it Mr. Post, the Earth without art is just
eh, and who wants to live in an eh world?" Now I just have to get
these two sixth graders elected to office.
I teach another kid named Kyle. His right arm stops at his elbow. On
the first day of school I told him that if he ever needs any help,
call me over and I'll assist him. He never calls.
Kyle just made an awesome shark a few weeks ago and I have seen him
rolling coils and spheres on the end of his shorter arm. He's worked
it all out. One day he came into class wearing a prosthetic arm. He
said, "Hey Mr. Post, how do you like my new arm?" I told him it was
nice. Then a week or two later I noticed he wasn't wearing it so I
said, "Kyle where's your arm?". He told me he forgot it and when I
asked how he could forget his arm, he said "It was next to his bed and
he just walked out without it."
These are the kinds of kids I am going to miss if something doesn't
get worked out regarding Michigan's education budget for next fall.
The thinkers, the makers, the improvisors. The ones who already get
the shaft because the only thing that counts at schools nowadays is
how you fill in a bubble on a standardized test. If you learn with
your hands, (or without one) and have found your passion in the 47
minute art class you get each week well you don't count because we
can't measure that and turn it into a number.
It's a strange world that we live. Most of things I value can't be
quantified with a number. Right at the top of that list would be
children. Artists too. That's why the list of top 10 potters never
appeals to me. It's like slapping a left brain hierarchy on a right
brain list. I'll take my potters and my sunsets the way I get them,
one at a time.
Sterling Heights, Michigan
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