I supposed it seemed difficult, as he had been absent the first day of the project so he missed the part about how to set up the loom. I had made a loom for him and gathered his string the previous class period, so actually it should've been easy to pick it up and move the third one from the empty slot over and over and over again until it was long enough to become a bracelet. The hard part was done, all that was left was actually implementing the braiding and repeating the process, using perseverance.
When I first handed him his loom, he exclaimed that he was going to make his into a cat toy.....which meant that he was going to take all that yarn off of the loom and do something else with the it and ignore the new skill that I wanted him to try that day.
As an art teacher, this was one of those really, really, really hard moments.
On the one hand, he had a creative idea and he was excited to make something. On the other hand, the room was set up for bracelet making, the supplies were ready for him to try a new skill and he was refusing.
This is a student that frequently refuses things that seem hard. If he doesn't think he will be able to accomplish the task, he says what he would rather do. He also argues about why his idea is better and questions why he can't do what he wants to do.
I struggled in this moment because he DID have a creative idea....and maybe it would've turned out great. But I had a plan for the day and I was frustrated that he wasn't as excited as I was to try something new.
This was one of those moments where I thought a lot about a TAB art room. For this particular student, a TAB room would be the best thing ever. He would be free to choose his material and his subject every time and not be forced make what everyone else was making.
I have dabbled with TAB a couple of times since I moved to the middle school, but my classroom just isn't designed to store that many different kinds of projects, or set up that many different materials at the same time.
As an art teacher, I can totally see the benefits of a TAB curriculum, so I try to implement that way of creating at least once a semester. Since I only have my students half the year, I felt like I was opening a new station every week, and then closing everything and starting over in January....just when we were getting going, it was time to start over. Also, my 6th graders did not take it seriously. They just wanted to play every time and never got into what they were making and it was discouraging. 5th graders definitely thrive in a TAB environment.
In a TAB or Choice Based studio, students are encouraged to use their own creativity. I have read many articles about how the public education system has squelched creativity in students. I even wrote my Master's thesis on this topic.
In that moment with that student, I felt like I was squelching his creativity.
We sort of went round and round.
I told him that I wanted him to try a new skill.
He told me that he would rather be taking the MAP test.
I told him that this activity would be good for his finger muscles and his hand eye coordination and might even be relaxing.
He told me the hated art and music and only liked P.E.
I asked him if he could do whatever he wanted in the gym, or did he have to participate in the game they had set up for the day (bad mitten, mat ball, basketball)?
He said that this week, they could choose between two games and my class was stupid and the project was stupid.
Obviously, we were getting nowhere.
Now, we just have a few weeks left.
I know he will push back against some of the things we have planned.
I'm sharing this story as I think about the benefits of a choice-based curriculum verses a tradition art classroom where the teacher plans every aspect of the project.
I like to think that I give my students tons of choice on each project....they can choose their own yarn colors, they can select an animal, they can pick what color of paper, they can draw whatever design they want in the background....but the truth is, maybe that isn't enough for them to buy in anymore.
Students today are given very little options in their educational decisions.....everyone studies the same thing at the same time, regardless of their individual interests. Sure it is easier for the teacher, but do the students truly connect or make lasting memories.
Even with all that freedom, I still had students who walked out the door with nothing.....one boy was in tears because his creation didn't work out and he wadded it up and threw it away.
I try to give my students LOTS of different types of things throughout the semester. Sometimes we use yarn, sometimes we use paper to make collages, sometimes we paint. My hope is that they will find something that they enjoy, but they might not like every single thing we do...and that is okay.