When you leave a job, for retirement, or a new career, or a move to a new locale, you'll be leaving behind a room that you spent a lot of time in and put your own 'stamp' on. Keep in mind that the next person who takes the job will only have what you left behind as a reflection of your teaching, your personality, your character. So this post may be kind of ugly. I'm sorry but I think it's important.
In my previous post, I showed you my new bulletin boards in my shiny classroom. But today I spent the day in my school but not in my room. Instead I was helping the new art teacher. My district hired her hired yesterday to teach art 7-12, and since we are the only two art teachers in the district, and our whole district is in one building, I'll be her mentor. But even if I wasn't assigned that 'job', I would have offered her my help anyhow.
Now I don't think there's a chance of the former art teacher reading this blog, but if she does, there's nothing I'll say here that isn't true. But it will be harsh. It certainly made me think about how I want to leave things when I go.
Here's what we found:
- a clay room with we think 5 potter's wheels, a kiln, and giant containers/bins/pails of clay, all open, all dried out. No way to get through the room, or access the utility sink. Don't know if there is a drop of useable clay, or a glaze anywhere that is not left open and dried out.
An area with the supplies she ordered, all still in boxes. There were 10 boxes of plaster, 25 lbs each. Also 6 cartons of plaster bandage, each probably at least 20 lbs. What could she have planned? There were boxes of pre-stretched canvases, gessoed black, a strange choice. There were 15 mini-glue guns. There were boxes of metallic markers, silver Sharpies; and wax, and fabric dyes kit. Other odds and ends of stuff too, but a pretty unusual assortment. We wish we knew what she had planned.
- We looked to see what materials were already in place. The room has a large cabinet with pull-out bins for supplies. Several bins each contained a mixture of: colored pencils, crayons, chalk pastels, oils pastels, dried markers with no caps, paintbrushes hardened with acrylic paints, an occasional razor blade, Exacto knives, and massive blackish-gray chalk dust covering everything. Totally filthy, gross, useless, and dangerous. Other bins contained dirty-looking fabric, yarn with hair in it, a box filled with loose (unstacked) staples mixed with screws, nails, and assorted metal pieces of non-descript stuff. Bins of dirty kiddie stickers, scraps of mangled paper, etc. The new art teacher tried to sort, but I told her to dump, dump, dump.
- We found an old dresser drawer with sections of cardboard mailing tubes glued inside.
- We found unclaimed artwork that was all a pitiful mess, unclaimed I assume because the craftsmanship was so poor nobody would want it.
- We found graffiti and schlocky paintings on pretty much every wall, cabinet, and table top.
- We found dust and dirt everywhere.
- We found about a dozen balloons that had been covered with plaster bandage and paint (props for a play) that had been left behind for trash.
- We found open 1/2 gal. bottles of acrylic paint, dried out.
- A paper-cutter, covered with dirt and dried paints.
- Two ramshackle file cabinets, with not a single file inside but instead filled with strange odds and ends of materials etc.
- A pile of random hard cover books, covered with paint and glitter, with pictures cut and pasted, and scribbles drawn inside, totally messy and unacceptable as high school art (if you regularly have read my blog, you know I'm not opposed to altered books, but this was ridiculous).
What we didn't find:
- A white board, a blackboard, or a white surface to use as a screen.
- A bulletin board.
- An Elmo or Smart Board or any projection system.
- A teacher desk.
- Useable clay or glazes (it didn't appear any had been ordered).
- A lesson plan book or any sort of register.
- Any sort of record of what had been taught in the past (if indeed ANYTHING had been taught at all...)
- A single piece of student art worth saving.
- The mat cutter that should have been there.
- 4 or 5 cameras that should have been there, for the digital photo classes the new teacher will be teaching.
- Any attempt at order for arranging the materials in the ample casework.
Please note: this school of mine, this art room, is only 10 years old, and the room looks like a dump. SO SAD.
I am so sad. First of all, I'm sad for the brand-new eager young teacher who has less than two weeks to put the room in order and establish some plans for beginning the school year. I'm sad that she will encounter resistance from kids who are not used to being given parameters, and expectations.
I'm also sad for the students, who in my elementary art room were allowed to be creative, but still learned craftsmanship, responsibility, and limits. I expected my kiddos to take care of materials, to clean up their messes, to recycle paper, to wash brushes. I expected them to be proud of their work and want to take it home. For a number of years now, the high school art teacher has been a friend to all the kids, but not a teacher. Kids were free to eat, horse around, throw clay, check their facebook accounts. There were no expectations for craftsmanship. High school artwork was not entered in area juried shows, even though there were students who are quite capable. The kids have not been given the art curriculum they deserve.
And I'm sad for the district, that has put up with this for so long.
I'm very happy for the district, to have someone willing to take the job. And for the kids, who hopefully will have opportunity and education previously denied them. And even for me, who will have a colleague who seems to actually care. But it will be a very difficult, challenging year. We spent about 6 hours working today, opening boxes, dumping bins and trays of trash. Every drawer, cabinet, tabletop, bin, etc will need to be cleaned before being refilled. So today was only a start of the work ahead. And unfortunately, I can't always be available to help, as I have my own work to do. But I'll do what I can, so she doesn't change her mind about accepting the job. We want her to want to be at our school!
Anyhow, thanks for taking the time to read this, fellow blogger-art teacher-friends. You definitely care about what you do -Thank you!!