Monday, February 27, 2012

lamp doodles and waiting for superman

Yesterday, I went to Riverside-Salem United Church of Christ's environmental chapel, where we watched "Waiting for Superman" and ate popcorn. I was eagerly anticipating seeing this movie as I had seen clips from it on evening news programs. What I was hoping for was that the movie would offer new and better ideas of how to make education an exciting process for students, their parents, and teachers. I was hoping that the movie would offer solutions to a broken system, in which some kids are left behind, while others get nonstop encouragement.
The movie brought back memories of my own days in school. Although I never went to schools that could be described as failing, I never really thrived in a school setting. Apparently, I had been "tracked." This was a process that was described in the movie. Some kids, who do well on standardized tests, are placed in a higher track. These are the kids who are eligible for "enrichment." Teachers put time and effort into creative teaching techniques to further the development of these kids' intellects. The rest of us get put on lower tracks. We just sort of go through school but we feel disconnected from the process. We may get some wonderful, inspiring teachers who encourage us but the system is not set up for inspiration if we aren't on the highest track. And now, the system is not set up for inspiration but for more and more standardized tests. No child left behind means no child left untested, again and again and again.
Anyway, in school, I was placed in various art classes, which I enjoyed. I enjoyed music and drama, as well.  But, when I was in tenth grade, I abruptly gave up art, believing that I wasn't good enough at it. I went to college and to graduate school and floundered about in the work world. I took voice lessons and piano lessons and enjoyed music but always felt that something was missing from my world. Eventually, I realized that it was art that was missing from my world. I needed color and form to complement song and story, and I needed to create. A friend, whose gift was art, got me to start drawing and painting again. She encouraged me and she acted as a mentor for me. At some point, I decided to go back to art classes because it's never too late to learn. I am so happy that I have discovered this outlet for creativity.
I would encourage you to find your own outlet for creativity. No matter what the form is... sewing, quilting, jewelry making, building model trains, etc.... if it's something that gives you a opportunity to express yourself, go for it.
When I was watching the movie, to keep me from polishing off every bit of popcorn that existed, I drew a picture of a lamp in the room. Then I drew it again and again and again, on the same page. Over and over again, I drew the same lamp. I chose the lamp as my image because I liked the idea of drawing something that shines light. By shining light on problems, we can see them more clearly and we can fix them. Shining light exposes beauty as well as flaws. The movie barely touched upon the beauty that might be found in the educational system, but it is there. For sure, there are problems, and those were enumerated in the movie. For me, the weaknesses in the educational system resulted in my belief for years that I was not very smart. But I also discovered that I could take learning in my own hands. Learning does not end when your school days are over.
After I went home, I wanted to keep enjoying that light. So I worked more with my lamps. I added color and doodles and embellished upon the picture. Here it is:
lamps everywhere, done in colored pencil, brush markers, water soluble wax pastels, and correction fluid.
 So, anyway, the movie ended, and I felt grateful that I had found my own way back into the world of color and form. I discovered the art and music within me. I am indeed fortunate that I could reconnect with these good things.
As for education, I'm not a teacher or an administrator. I don't know how to fix the educational system. All I could do is say to you, the reader, encourage kids. Or encourage adults if you observe that they have not discovered their gifts. Let them know that they are creative and smart. Be a mentor. Who knows what can happen?

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