Well, it's the beginning of a new school year, i.e. "real job" (thanks to Deb Eck for that terminology) which has, of course, gotten me thinking about lessons. My great hope has always been that somehow I'll be able to teach my students something that they'll take with them, just one little thing that might benefit them for the rest of their lives. I'm not talking so much about academics as I am about how to live - how to become the person they truly want to be. It may be a pretty tall order, but it seems to be what they need more than anything.
Unfortunately, there were always some who repeated their mistakes on both sides of the paper. I tried not to give out extra paper at all, but two pieces was the absolute limit. Of course, this became Lesson # 2: Don't Waste Paper, Because We Do Not Have an Endless Supply of Trees.
One day, a little boy who made a regular habit of this came and asked me for another piece of paper- again. I'm not sure if it was his first or second piece, but in my exasperation, I told him he couldn't have one. "Think about it," I said. "You can probably figure out a way to fix it if you try."
I'm not saying that this one experience changed his whole life, but it's possible that some little spark of a concept had entered his consciousness (or subconscious), and that in the future, instead of immediately giving up, he might be more inclined to look for other, more creative solutions.
This takes me to Lesson # 4: Don't Give Up! This is the hardest lesson for my students to learn, because I don't teach art now, I teach kids with learning and behavior disorders. My students are failed learners; it's a prerequisite for qualifying for Special Education. For the most part, they have already given up. And so I ask myself, How can I convince them to keep trying? Why should they believe me when I say they have to persevere, if they have never seen the evidence?
They don't have enough experience to realize that everyone is good at some things, and bad at others. They don't understand that most people who are good at something got that way mainly because they practiced - a lot.
All they can see is that for them, every day is a struggle, and everywhere they look are people who are more successful at school than they are, without trying nearly as hard. It's difficult for me to explain to them that everything we do in life has a learning curve, when their curve is so much larger than most. And how do I tell them that although they may someday get to do something they're really good at, they have to first make it through school? And that whatever that something is, they're probably not going to be good at it at first, but that they may indeed fail many times before that happens.
I'm pretty sure my students don't know who most of these people are, but it makes a case for perseverance, doesn't it?
It is. Really.