What Did I Do?

Creative, nonconforming souls. We all have them in our rooms. How do we inspire and encourage without breaking that soul and keeping ours intact!? They can be difficult children to teach. They can be difficult children to reach. But they are so worth the effort. I have one this year. The creative, artistic talent I’ve seen only once before. It’s deep, it’s real, it’s raw. And it can take your breath away with its beauty and the emotions it reveals.

The art teacher and I confer about this child often. Quite often. While we admire the artistic abilities, we also worry. We worry about the inner thoughts this art work may be revealing. We also worry that this child may be holding a view that she is better than others because of this talent. The young naiveness this child had earlier in the year has been replaced with a bold conceit. Never a good thing for any soul. At the same time this child has stopped working. No reading, no writing, no math, no discussing, no paying attention…nothing except nonstop doodling. This is also very concerning and upsetting for all in the classroom. Again, we worry.

I’ve listened over the past few weeks as this child has boldly bragged to classmates that her art is the best. Even to the point of informing others that their work isn’t really art at all. The words have been hurtful and arrogant. We as a class were talking about college the other day. We do that a lot. Aspirations are good to discuss. Striving for more than a high school degree is something we all try to nurture. Like the fanning of burning embers to produce a brilliant flame, we encourage. This child boldly pronounced that she was going to get a scholarship to a good art school. Art colleges are all going to want her. It stopped the conversation dead in its track. Without even thinking of the consequences of my words I informed this child that no college would ever give her a scholarship no matter how talented she was if she continued to not do her school work. Whether a gifted football player, a talented musician or artist, grades matter. You could see the air deflate from her puffed up chest. Silence filled the room and I wondered what on Earth I just did. But her words were so hurtful and so wrong, I felt I couldn’t let them linger in the ears of everyone else and be the last words of this conversation. Yet, I felt my words were no better. I couldn’t sleep that night and decided I would apologize the next day.

The next morning came and this child sat down and did the morning seatwork. Hum. Then I looked up and saw furious writing. “What are you writing?” I asked. A long overdue reading summary was being written. Hum. Reading occurred with incredible focus and concentration, followed by the writing of a thoughtful response. Hum. I decided not to apologize and thought that maybe this child got the message. More than anything, I truly hope it continues. While an apology didn’t happen yet, a private conversation will occur when the timing seems right and appropriate. It will be interesting to see what thoughts she has. I truly wish her the best and hope to see her art work in the classrooms of an art school someday.

Sometimes honesty is worth the risk?

Mary

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