We have fun-days in math each week. Usually they’re Fridays — because of the alliteration and the opportunity to wrap up the week with some small groups. But sometimes — when Friday Funday doesn’t work out, we start the next week with Monday Funday! Love the rhyming and joy it brings.
Our Fundays — be they Fridays or Mondays — do many things. They:
allow my mighty mathematicians to engage with numbers and mathematical concepts and processes through play. This helps them grow in competence and confidence as they grow their math muscle and mindsets. (And remember, Play is Fun and Powerful!)
provide opportunities for practicing things we are working on — +1, -1, counting, greater than and less than, partner numbers, counting on, shapes, patterns, and much more — by playing games.
give choice and agency to the Kindergarten mathematicians. Sometimes they choose from a curated list of possibilities, other times the entire math center is fair game.
give me the opportunity to work with small groups while the rest of the mathematicians are engaged in productive play.
Early in the year I added two types of paper to the math center. One has dots, the other has a grid of squares. I believe the squares are 1/2 inch squares and the dots are 1/2 inches away from each other. When I added the paper, I wasn’t sure what the Kindergarten mathematicians would do with it. I was purposeful in my choices — grids and dots of this size allow for many mathematical possibilities — but I didn’t have one specific thing that I wanted them to do. Instead I gave them something that might lead them towards mathematical play and exploration. For a while, no one used the papers. Then a few used the square grid paper to create patterns.
The Friday before our winter break this happened.
They used the dots to create patterns, and they used the grid to write numbers! Oh.my.gosh! ON THEIR OWN!!! I was super excited to see this. They were practicing writing and counting. They were noticing patterns, helping one another, using their current and prior knowledge to solve new problems, and teaching me more about what they know and don’t yet know. I gathered these papers and took the picture — at these two tables, with my feet in the photo — with intention! I wanted to document their work and emphasize their curiosity. And, I wanted to emphasize my own curiosity and interest in their work, thinking, understanding, and problem solving.
These mathematicians were psyched by the work they did, and the large numbers they were able to write. The one triumphantly reported that she had written to 1000! The other wanted to write more, but wasn’t sure how to write the numbers past 109. In both instances I acknowledged their amazing work and then entered into mathematical discourse with them.
We talked a bit about what they wrote, and how they decided to write it they way they did. We wondered if it were possible that 1000 would come so soon after 100. We noticed how the numbers preceding 110 were written. We talked about what made sense and why it made sense. We worked together to figure out the conventional way to write the numerals greater than 109. We ended the way we began — celebrating our thinking and work, acknowledging our big beautiful brains and awesome hearts, honoring our courage, might, and joy as mathematicians.
Leaves hold an amazing amount of intrigue for my Kindergarten artists — and for me! I love collecting leaves as I hike, especially knowing I’m going to share them with my artists. I purposefully look for leaves that have a lovely color, an interesting shape, or an exaggerated size (large or small).
When I come in with my stash of leaves, I am always greeted with a plethora of questions and comments.
Ooooh! Where’d you get those?
They’re so BIG (or small).
What are you going to do with them ?
Can I touch them?
Can I have this one?
More questions, comments, oohs and aahhs, and claiming of leaves, come as I explain, “We’re going to paint them.”
The intrigue gets to a fever pitch as I pull out our antique paper press.
The circle of Kindergartners tighten in around me and the press. Their curiosity is peaked, and they have more questions.
Ooooh! What’s that?
What are you going to do with that?
Why are you doing that?
Can I do it?
I tell them it’s a press, and we’re going to use it to press the leaves so that they will dry flat instead of curled and wrinkly. I explain a few safety issues, and let everyone take a turn loading leaves and paper towels, and cranking the press tight. The burning question becomes: “Can we paint them NOW?” I respond: “Nope, they need to stay in the press until tomorrow.”
“This is going to be an exercise in patience.” I say only to myself.
Finally tomorrow arrives. We open the press and extract the leaves. The Kindergartners are mesmerized by the intense flatness of each leaf. The gently sort through the leaves and choose their favorites.
We paint the leaves using paint markers. The markers allow the artists to more easily add detail. I join them at the table with my own favorite leaf. Sometimes they are very talkative — admiring each others work. At other moments they are silent, eyes, mind, and hands intent on creating the perfect piece of leaf art. The structure of the leaf sometimes guides their design, at other times, they approach the leaf as more of a blank canvas. Always, the uniqueness of painting a leaf — versus a piece of paper — grabs their attention and interest.
I’m fascinated by the way photos — intentionally taken — remove the smallness of the Kindergartners. Instead their hands could the the hands of any aged artist. I love that.
I decided to take photos that highlighted their leaf art. I processed the photos to remove the saturation and color from the background leaving their leaves as the stars, while still including a bit of information about each artist.
When you have leaves available to you, give this a try. It’s a fun activity that is filled with opportunity for exploration, learning, trying, collaborating, creating, and growing as artists and a community. Oh! And if you ever have the change to pick up an old paper press on the cheap –grab it! The possibilities in the classroom are endless.
It’s a regular occurrence to find magnets on top of our classroom’s trash can. Sometimes they are arranged in rainbow order, sometimes they are grouped at various points on the lid. I often have to stop kind visitors who want to help by returning the magnets to the whiteboard.
“The Kindergartners put them there.” I comment. “When I need them, I take them, but for now, I let the Kindergartners store them on the trash can lid.”
Let me explain. The Kindergartners are exploring many things by having the magnets on the trash can lid rather than in their place on the whiteboard.
PHYSICS and ENGINEERING – How many magnets do you need to raise the lid without touching the lid or the foot pedal? Where is the best spot on the lid to put the magnets? What if you have a group that works and you separate the group into two smaller groups?
COLOR – What is the rainbow order? Where do the various shades fit in?
MAGNETIC POLES and PROPERTIES – Why don’t these two magnets stick together? Can I get the magnets to attract one another through my finger? Through all my fingers? What exactly are poles of a magnet?
COLLABORATION, SHARING, and PROBLEM SOLVING – “We need more magnets, Miss James!” they say. “That’s all we have right now. The others are holding up your math work.” A little while later, several Kindergartners are gathered around the whiteboard, gently moving magnets so that papers share the magnets thereby freeing some for their use!
I have no idea what new ideas and exploration may happen after winter break, but I’m excited to find out. I have other small magnetic bits, I may add them to the mix. We shall see.
I’ve taken a few moments to paint this weekend — which has been wonderful. I did these while hiking. The leaves are from a couple weeks back. The sky was a quick ten minutes paint as the sun went down yesterday.
It’s interesting how different the sky watercolor looks now that it is dry, and being viewed with normal light instead of the setting sun light. The colors — even those I didn’t plan on being light — appear remarkably lighter now.
I’m pleased with the look for what it is and am going to resist any edits. However, I do want to remember just how much pigment is needed to have the watercolor dry a deeply saturated color. As I look at the leaves I’m recalling the amount of paint I loaded onto my brush to get those rich black shadows.
It’s so good to have pieces to look at and compare. It’s one of the things I like about my hiking watercolor journal.
This is a piece I started working on next to my Kindergartner artists. I used a combination of crayon and watercolor. It’s too bad I didn’t think to take a photo of the image before I added any color. It would be interesting to see how I react to it in comparison to the colored image and the black and white. I find both images satisfying. And, interestingly enough, I like the same parts in both images. It would seem that what I’m enjoying is the saturation as well as the actual color. I wouldn’t have guessed that before looking at them side by side. But, looking at them now, it makes perfect sense.
A while back I wrote about adopting a practice of writing a haiku poem each day, I haven’t written one poem a day. Some days I haven’t written any, and some days I’ve written more than one. I’m embracing my practice as it is so that I can find joy in it and continue.
I love the process of writing the poems. I’m not following all the rules of haiku, but I am maintaining the 5-7-5 beats for each poem or stanza in my poem. Finding words to fit the form is getting easier, but occasionally I still struggle to express myself in the form. At those times I head to thesaurus. Searching for a new word that has the needed number of syllables and the right meaning and feeling is enjoyable — I may even be enlarging my vocabulary!
As I write I’m working to be true to what I’m experiencing and noticing, but also to be positive and optimistic. I’m happy to report that I find great joy and encouragement as I reread the poems. I’m remind of happenings, pleasantly surprised by the rhythm, and encouraged by the meaning.
A few readers have asked me to share some of my poems and the poems my Kindergartners create. I haven’t introduced haiku to my Kindergartners yet. I think in the next few weeks, It might make sense to bring it into some of our work and thinking together. Once I do, I’ll share their work. For now, here are a few of mine — seven, actually, simply because I like the number.
RAIN (written in the depth of our drought) What’s that? Is it rain? Window thrown open, I melt in the lusciousness of rain.
MORNING PAUSE Wake, sit, breathe, and pray. Mind and body run away. Gently call them back
Hands on heart, I breathe. Inhale, exhale, up and down. Cultivating peace.
Repeat as needed. Notice, accept, and breathe on. Held in prayers and peace.
AMAZING THINGS Believe it, it’s true. Amazing things will happen. Make room, lots of room.
MORNING Drat the pencil’s dull Shavings accidentally Fall upon the floor
REPROGRAM I am courageous I am peaceful. I am loved. I am safe and well.
Reprogram your brain. Create new neural pathways. We have the power.
PHEW, YAY! Worked out yesterday Feeling it today Celebrate new strength
THEY’RE HERE My spot’s invaded by giggles, joy, and chatter, My Kinders are here.
It’s amazing how difficult it can be to write sometimes. It’s been feeling super tough to write as the summer comes to an end and the school year starts up again. I was shocked when I looked at my blog and realized I haven’t posted in over a month!
It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, instead, I often have too much to say. With so many thoughts swirling in my brain and competing to get to my fingers as I write or type, I end up getting a bit discombobulated. I wonder how to fit everything together. My brain becomes a bird distracted by all the shiny things around me and I end up running off after a new idea. I lose the train of thought that brought me to writing.
This morning I had an epiphany. Perhaps I’m not giving myself the opportunity to say what I have to say. I haven’t developed a practice that allows me to get my thoughts out of my brain and onto the page with any regularity. It reminds me of the feeling I have when I see a friend I haven’t seen in ages and I seem to lose the ability to finish sentences. Instead I speak in fragments as my thoughts trip over each other in their rush to leave my brain and be birthed into our time together.
I need to write more often. Might it be possible for me to establish a practice of daily reflection?
I feel myself begin to break into a sweat. How will I put one more thing into my day? Eeee GADS! Now you want to be a writer and write EVERY DAY!?!?!?!
Yes, I am having a moment of panic.
But, taking a deep breath, I remind myself I AM a writer. I have things to say. I have things I want and need to say. Not every writing needs to be profound. It just needs to capture whatever has captured me in that day or moment.
I like that. I like the connection to joy and beauty and awe. I think this practice will bear fruit in many ways in my life.
Now to let it happen.
And, in the spirit of having a plethora of ideas. I’m wondering where might I carve time out of our K day for me and my Kindergartners to take a moment and just write — as fellow writers!
I recently read about starting a daily haiku writing practice. I offer my gratitude to the person who suggested it because it’s a fab idea. And, since I cannot remember who they are or where I read it, I also offer my apologies. Hopefully they’re feeling a cosmic ripple of gratitude and happiness right now.
It seems many people have adopted a daily haiku practice for various amounts of time. I enjoyed this post by Daryl Chen and this TEDx talk by Zezan Tam. Their witnesses about their haiku writing practice were inspiring and encouraging, and removed any doubt about whether or not I should embark on this journey of a daily haiku.
I’m imagining a few moments of haiku play each day. Perhaps it will happen first thing, but I’m not going to force it. I chose a notebook small enough to carry with me so I’m free to find moments — wherever they may be in my day — that best serve joy, reflection, observation, word play, writing, peace, breath, and me.
I’m on my second year of my daily affirmation and art journaling, and want to continue that. I envision the haiku play as a complimentary practice. I’m hopeful the haiku will be a way to notice the good, and express gratitude. Zezan Tam said his haiku practice also helped him grow in courage and humility. I’ve been thinking a good bit about those two things as well. I’m excited to see how the haiku practice might help me be open to increased courage, learning, and growth.
I’ve done two haiku poems since my Daily Haiku poem. Lest you think my process as I play and write is a rather direct line from idea to poem, I share this image.
My process is, instead, quite circuitous — filled with pause and mental fermentation. This morning, I got up before the rest of my family, grabbed my notebook, pencil and pen, and headed downstairs. I put on some water for tea, and did a bit of stretching, breathing, and praying. As I moved, I felt my spine adjust and my muscles warm and soften. It was a moment I wanted to remember with gratitude, so I sat to write. I jotted some phrases — counting syllables as I went. No poem yet. I got up, cut vegetables and began to cook them. New possibilities came to me, so back to the notebook I went. I was up and down a few more times as I fashioned the mix of words, beats, rhythm, meaning, and feeling that made me say “Yeah, that’s it.”
After much writing, thinking, counting, and speaking. I settled on the haiku poem you see above. Funny, as I type it today, I’m not as pleased with the passive voice ending. So, here I share Day Begins #2.
Day Begins #2 In. Out. Up and down. Body and breath move as one. Peace and ease emerge.
I love this practice and play for me, but I also think it could be amazing for my Kindergartners as well. Earlier this summer, I read Shifting the Balance: 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into a Balanced Literacy Classroom by Jan Burkins and Kari Yates. (A great book, by the way.) A haiku practice seems to fit right in with some of their ideas.
Just like me, my Kindergartners don’t have to write profound haiku poems — they just need to explore, play, and write. The 5-7-5 pattern gives them the opportunity to do a great deal of thinking, persevering and creating. Just imagine them playing with words! They will have ideas, count beats, think of new words and new ideas, rephrase, ask for help, give help, count again, and write!
As I thought of my Kindergartners playing with Haiku, I thought they might simply repeat words. They could use any words — as long as they follow the 5-7-5 pattern and enjoy the process. I came up with this as an example.
Then I listened to Zezan Tam’s TEDx talk and laughed out loud. He shared this poem as he explained the basic pattern of the Japanese haiku poem.
Haiku five, five, five, five, five se-ven, se-ven, se-ven, se- five, five, five, five five
How fantabulous is that? Perfect for Kindergartners!
What if they just use their names? The Kindergartners know and love their names. This might make it easier to find, count, and write the Haiku beats. How awesome to use your own name to practice phonemic awareness, orthographic mapping, and poetry. To help them out, I might make up three lines of Elkonin-like boxes — big enough to write in – following the 5-7-5 pattern.
My most recent thought?
“OH! We can have a classroom Haiku Board!!!!”
Me Molly, Molly, Mol James, James, James, James, James, James, James Molly, Molly, Mol
Kindergarten Haiku K poets unite! Count and own your words and beats Haiku soon you’ll share.
I found myself in an unusual emotional space at the end of this school year. I had the same bittersweet feelings about my students and I leaving one another. But, I also had rather strong feelings of angst, frustration, stress, and honestly, just overall ick. Top it all off with the perception that I couldn’t shake the ick, but instead was somehow stuck in that grey, disgusting, frustrating, depressing, putrid space.
How’s that for an image?
So, what’s an educator to do when she finds herself in that spot? Choose a new story.
Kindra Hall says “In life, the most important stories are the ones we tell ourselves.”
If I were in the audience when she said it, I might have jumped up and yelled “Preach it, sister!”
Ah, but how to do that? It seemed the story I was telling myself was quite true. It certainly felt true. And, in some very real way, it was true. But was it the whole story? Was it the only story? Was it the story I wanted to choose to tell myself about the year, or me, or teaching, or the world? No, no, no, and no, it certainly was not.
Well then, what was that story? What was the truth I was overlooking, or not highlighting as the star of my story? What is the story I want to tell myself about this year, and perhaps about every year?
It is a story filled with love, triumph, learning, and inspiration. Listen as I tell myself (and you) the truest stories about this year.
One night this spring, I just broke down. Crying, I said “I don’t know what the matter is.” My brother paused and softly said “It’s been a hard two years.” It has indeed. I did cancer treatment – during a pandemic. I didn’t teach or coach for what seemed like forever. I felt awful more than I felt good during my six months of treatment. I taught Kindergarten virtually after spring break – that’s a remarkable new level of exhaustion. I took a 200 hour yoga, SEL, and mindfulness course as I recouped over the summer. I returned to the classroom in person this school year with a compromised immune system, no antibodies, masks, seating charts, tons of new tech, and tons of new teaching load. For sure it’s been a hard two years.
And yet, at the same time, and for many of the same reasons it’s been a year of triumph, grace, gift, and amazing strength, love, and overall fantabulousness. Let me explain.
I did cancer treatment, during a pandemic, with drugs that compromised my immune system more than it already was. I did it! Not by myself, mind you. I did it with the help of the amazing docs, nurses, and researchers. I did it with the love and support of family and friends. We did it! Me, and my tribe, did cancer treatment during the pandemic, and lived to tell about it with smiles and deep gratitude to God.
I taught Kindergarten — virtually! Not by myself. I did it with the help of many beautiful, kind people who helped me, encouraged me, affirmed me, and sometimes sat with me while I cried. And I didn’t just do it. I did it well. I proved that distance is not a deterrent to learning or to relationship. It’s an opportunity to rethink, to collaborate, and to figure out ways to make it amazing.
Fall of 2021, I returned to my Kindergarten classroom with a compromised immune system, no antibodies, masks, seating charts, tons of new tech, and tons of new teaching load, in a year that was difficult, exhausting, and taxing to the best of us. I returned. I struggled. I ideated and iterated. I breathed through a lot. I imagined possibility and I worked to bring it to pass. I entered into relationships with my Kindergartners and their parents. Together we created a year of learning, joy, discovery, and creativity. Together we created and lived a year of triumph!
At times this year was fraught with stress and anxiety. Unwilling to have that be our experience of the year, we worked together to fill the year with joy, peace, affirmations, breath, and mindfulness. As those dear sweet Kindergartners wept — missing their parents, unsure of what their friends where feeling — we breathed together. Sometimes I held their hands, and did the affirmation and breath practice while they simply stayed with me. I trusted that their mirror neurons would do their job and calm them by simply observing my practice of self-regulation. At other times the Kindergartners were the ones reminding me to breathe and practice mindfulness of doors, or helping their friends with affirming thoughts and suggestions of ways to proceed. They embraced their classroom jobs of peace person and positivity proclaimer and daily led their peers through mindful, beautiful moments of breath, affirmation, and peace. They even asked if they could increase their having a holiday job to include leading their friends in two yoga poses each morning. They also took their practice home and shared it with their families and friends. I know, because parents regularly shared their amazement and gratitude with me.
As I gathered my thoughts for this post I went through the notes from this year, as well as ones I’ve saved from years past. These add weight and validity to my stories. They strengthen the positive neural pathways in my brain.
Thank you for creating a warm, peaceful, exciting, artistic, free thinking and child driven classroom.
You are a warrior queen — determined and victorious!
Remember what an inspiration you are to so many.
You encouraged her to try new things no matter how scary they seemed. You taught her to not be afraid to ask questions.
We appreciate your fantabulousity.
I’m not the only educator who had a difficult year of triumphant teaching and learning. I’m not the only creative one. I’m not the only amazing one. There are so many others. I hope each educator that reads this post, takes the time to carefully choose the story you are telling yourself. Make it about your triumphs, your discoveries, the lives you’ve changed, the relationships you’ve forged, the difficulties you have overcome. Make it the best and truest story about yourself, who you are, and what you do.
With gratitude to God and all the amazing people who encourage me to be me, and who help make what I do possible, I say, “I am capable, and strong. I have a big beautiful brain and am always learning. I am kind. I am brave. I can do hard things — and regularly do. I have an awesome heart. I make a difference. I inspire others. I am deeply loved. I am, and always will be, fantabulous. My year was not easy, but it was amazing.”
Post Script: If you’re anything like me, it may feel a bit uncomfortable to say all these things in such a public way. It may even seem somehow improper to do so.
But, the truth is it is completely proper, and absolutely necessary!
We must treat ourselves as we would a good friend or colleague. We acknowledge their foibles and the times they have fallen short, but we champion their fantabulousness and all their victories, and gains. We tell them the stories that help them understand who we know them to be. We tell others those same stories and more — because they are valuable stories — to tell and to hear.
Please tell your amazing stories! I’m happy to listen if you want to share them in the comments. But feel no pressure. Just tell them to yourself and at least one other.
Gosh it’s been a long time since I posted anything. I’ve crafted several posts in my mind, saved photos that I wanted to blog about, and sat down at the computer. But, my brain was mush attending to the plethora of items on my end of school year to do list. Finally I have a moment where I feel I can write. I think it might be because my topic makes my heart, mind, and eyes, brim over, and I need to let it out in words and witness.
It was time to make my end of the year gifts. Actually it was almost past time to do them in order to give them to my students before they left. I headed out to the store with my brother to buy photo paper, picked up some cute triangular sheets of paper that I thought might make nice cards, and hurried home to start the process. The gifts are ABC affirmation cards — 26 letters in the alphabet plus two cover cards means 28 cards per Kindergartner. 23 Kindergartners means I had to cut out 644 cards. It was Sunday night. I was giving the gifts on Wednesday morning. Can you say, “Oh my gosh?!?!?!” Perhaps you already have.
As I waited for my brother to print the cards, I thought how cool it would be to make an origami box that would fit the cards perfectly. Surely someone had figured out how to do that. They had. Here’s the video I used — with gratitude to the creator! And how cool is it that it involves using the math? (Yes, yes, I carry my math-loving-nerd card with great pride.) Thankfully, I had paper at home that would work for the project. Now I wasn’t silly enough to make a top and a bottom. I would never have slept if I did that. Instead I made a bottom, and then used the triangular sheet of paper to craft a sleeve that went around the box and served as my card as well.
My Kindergartners listened intently as I told them about the gift. They accepted the gift as though accepting something very special. I loved that, and was struck by how carefully they opened them. They flipped through every card. Some read them on their own, some with a friend, and others asked me to read them to them. When they finished reading them, they looked at me and asked “Can we make some?”
Make some? You want to make some?!?! I didn’t say that out loud. Instead I said “Of course you can!” Their next question was “Where can we get this paper?” referring to the photo paper I used. “Oh,” I replied. “I don’t have any of that here. But I have white index cards, and I have these colored post-it notes.” They gathered up their supplies and started writing and drawing. They made cards for their parents, siblings, friends, and themselves. One worked on many cards. “What can I write for D? I am …. Hmmmm… What’s something for D, Miss James?” I thought a moment and said “Delightful!” She liked the suggestion, and worked on. She took some post-it notes home to finish her deck.
The next day she came in, and handed me this.
She said, with a smile, “Here you go, Miss James. It’s for you” I opened it to find this. An deck of affirmation cards — one for each letter of the alphabet — made and gifted to me by one of my fantabulous Kindergartners.
How remarkable, right? I gift them. They are inspired and feel empowered to do their own work, to create their own cards, to affirm people in their lives. And then, they gift me right back. It’s all a gift — the opportunity to be together this year, choosing to gift them, experiencing their reactions, living our relationships, feeling their power, and receiving the sweet gift of these Kindergarten handmade cards from A-Z.
I had a parent teach conference the other day. As we talked about the many ways the Kindergartner had grown and blossomed, the mom said “Her handwriting is the one thing I think can still use work.” I chuckled, agreed, and then said “But — and I mean this in the best possible way — I think her handwriting hasn’t improved because she doesn’t care about it. She isn’t invested in it.” Now it was the mom’s turn to chuckle. “Oh yeah, you’re absolutely right. She just wants to get it done so she can move on to something else.”
As I went about my day that stayed on my mind. I recalled this post of mine — Teach for Delight. How might I infuse our handwriting work with a bit more delight? Even saying it sounds funny, but I’m sure there is a way. Here are some of my first thoughts: practicing words they love, writing to people they love, writing sentences and phrases they love, writing jokes, making name tags, decorating their cubbies and the room. The possibilities are endless. I just need to embrace the idea that interest and delight are important and possible — even with handwriting — and then set to making it happen.
I thought about teaching for delight again last week as I prepared for art. My curriculum has many fantabulous inspiration artists, coupled with processes and products that are Kindergarten friendly and appropriate. The Kindergartners enjoy art, and their products are beautiful. But, I was sensing that there was just too much structure for them at the moment. They needed the freedom to simply and completely play. They needed an assignment that allowed them to embrace the process and product with the smallest amount of outside interference possible.
I thought and thought. What artist might we use? How can we do it in the time allotted? How might I structure it so that their process and product would be enjoyable and satisfying? I quickly landed on finger painting as the process. But, how to elevate it a bit to show them, and others, that their work is indeed art? That was a sticking point for a bit of time. Finally, I decided I could help by taping a boarder on their paper, and by trusting them as artists.
With a good bit more thinking, I had the process and rules in place. * Each artist could choose up to 4 colors. * Each artist must do at least one practice piece, but could do a total of three. * Each artist would be kind to themselves and others by: not touching their face or hair, not touching their friends, walk with clasped hands when walking around the room. * I will prepare a tray, paper, and a paint holder/plate for each artist.
When I announced the project, there were audible gasps and expressions of delight. They listened intently as I explained the process and rules. They were patient, but clearly wanted to get started right away. I told them I would let them know when we were nearly half way through the class so that they could know they should begin working on their final piece. They all agreed that they understood, and had no questions, so I began handing out supplies.
Each artist placed their tray — lined with construction paper — at their spot. They placed one 9X12 inch practice sheet on top of the tray, and one underneath the tray. If they wanted to keep their practice sheets they placed their initials on the back. If they wanted to donate it to the maker trolley for everyone to use, they left the page blank. Then, they picked up their paper plate and stood in line for paint. Their choices were deliberate and purposeful. Each artist was clear about the colors they wanted to work with for this project. Once they received their colors they began creating.
It was interesting to watch the various ways they chose to interact with the paint. Some worked with one color at a time. Others worked with a few at a time. Some worked with one finger. Others worked with both hands, covering the paper — and their hands — with color. On some pieces the colors were distinct, on others the colors melded into one.
I wandered around the room, stopping at each artist’s work to comment on what I noticed. I frequently said “Oh! That is lovely! What a great idea. I never thought of doing that!” I also asked “Are you finished?” Most of the time, the artists responded to my question with a definite “No.” I was committed to allowing this to be a moment when I taught for delight, and to respecting the fact that this was their piece of art and delight, not mine, so each time I responded, “Okay.”
Sometimes that’s a difficult place for us to stand as educators. But, it truly doesn’t matter if I think it’s beautiful. It matters that the artist thinks it’s beautiful, and it matters that I respect that. The only time I intervened was if I thought the paint was so thick that it might crack off the page, or if artist’s hands were dripping wet after washing and were likely to destroy their paper or process.
The results — in both process and product — were remarkably varied and beautiful.
The delight they experienced helped them to be more invested in the process. Being invested in the process helped them stay on task. Seeing, experiencing, and supporting their delight helped me to breathe a bit more, which allowed for there to be increased relaxation and ease in our learning space. All in all, it was lovely, and served to reinforce my believe that teaching for delight is essential.