I did nothing

I got some very kind replies on Twitter about this ‘golden moment’ so I thought I’d expand and tell the full(er) story.

Quick background: Our class (well … group) is in the middle of (re)designing our room. We have come up with a design, we’ve found and from today already have a large, lovely second-hand corner couch in the class, we have changed desks around so we can easily shift them around or put them away to suit what people are doing, we are creating murals for the walls to transform a boring off-white wall to something that is ours and pleasing to see and (importantly) maintain and more. I’m directing traffic a little, the rest is done by my students. More on the project and the pictures another time.

‘Steve’ (not his real name) is the quietest, most reserved and shy member of our group of nine. Confidence to do things at school had been shot well and truly in the past of his schooling and much meets the resistance and reluctance to give things a go.

A couple of days ago, he started sketching a drawing. Soon, a sketch became a lovely picture of the Road Runner against a landscape. He decided he wanted the whole thing as a class mural … big! This by a kid who’d rather hide and fly under the radar most of the times, suddenly expressing himself.

We found some large boards and he sketched the painting in pencil. Today, he started painting it. Patiently, slowly, precisely, totally immersed even at the recess break. This plus we know that the finished mural is going to look awesome.

Today, a couple of kids from our class were hanging around Steve before lunch. I asked Steve if he would like them to help him with the painting. “If they want to!” was a curt reply.

“OK …” I backed off, issuing no instructions just stepping back a few steps.

Next thing, the two boys, now joined by another, quietly picked up the brushes and started talking to Steve how he wanted things done. Steve directed them with a couple of purposeful instructions and away they went, all painting, creating, helping Steve and each other with no fuss.

mural crew
Magic !

Small thing? Yeah, it may look and sound like to a remote observer who’d probably miss the intrinsic value of all this, particularly if not knowing the kids in question.

Our deputy principal walked past and could not believe her eyes how these four boys and another one from our class also working on his mural, worked well, perfectly content and happy to be there, purposefully helping Steve and one another. This for a class of, *ahm*, notorious for ‘behaviour problems’ (and they do have their moments and sometimes entire days, trust me 🙂 ).

I don’t know exactly how Steve felt today, but this shy, barely ‘literate’ and so often ‘good for nothing’ 14 year old kid got an important lesson, so to speak, of the hidden curriculum at our school – you matter, others can and DO care.

None of this will see the light of day on school report cards, league tables, NAPLAN, pollie and other pundit speeches, performance reviews, ‘merit pay’ and the likes. But it was spine tingling to see, a moment to savour and just enjoy for its beauty.

It reminded me strongly of Evaluate that! And I mean it too …

And what did I, a teacher, do in all this? I did nothing. The kids did it all themselves.

Update:

Well, today we finished the job with the help of a few talented artists from a couple of neighbouring classes. Take a look of the whole process …

And going back to ‘Steve’ – he asked me today: “Will we be able to take these home at the end of the year?” He is PROUD of his effort, something he had thought of, planned and saw it to a great conclusion while including others too.

And that my friends, in the parlance of a popular ad:

Materials … $150

Artists … 7

Days … 2

Feeling of confidence in one’s efforts … priceless

14 comments

  1. Hajnalka

    I disagree with “I did nothing”. You created an atmosphere and culture that allowed it to happen. You also encouraged and valued what he suggested. Your attitude towards them and their efforts allowed them to blossom. Those of us who have worked with “tricky” kids know how precious these moments are.

  2. Hajnalka

    I disagree with “I did nothing”. You created an atmosphere and culture that allowed it to happen. You also encouraged and valued what he suggested. Your attitude towards them and their efforts allowed them to blossom. Those of us who have worked with “tricky” kids know how precious these moments are.

  3. Malyn

    Technically, I am a remote observer but one who sees the intrinsic value in these things.

    A teacher who draws out students and facilitate connections is not doing nothing (sorry for the double negation)

    An artist generally doesn’t want to be interrupted when in the ‘flow’ or zone of creativity which probably explain the curtness rather than a ‘leave me alone’ stance

    A good education isallows people to grow as individuals and as communities.

    Down with apathy. Do care. Go Steve! Go Tomaz!

    p.s.
    Don’t you just love how art is used (again) for self-expression and to reach out and connect?

  4. Malyn

    Technically, I am a remote observer but one who sees the intrinsic value in these things.

    A teacher who draws out students and facilitate connections is not doing nothing (sorry for the double negation)

    An artist generally doesn’t want to be interrupted when in the ‘flow’ or zone of creativity which probably explain the curtness rather than a ‘leave me alone’ stance

    A good education isallows people to grow as individuals and as communities.

    Down with apathy. Do care. Go Steve! Go Tomaz!

    p.s.
    Don’t you just love how art is used (again) for self-expression and to reach out and connect?

  5. Tony Searl

    I’d love to already know the forward story, of both the painting and Steve. We know these moments have lifetime impacts, so lets capture and curate the full evidence hey? Just for a generation until the compelling story is too big (picture) for policy mavens to ignore.

    Improved Health and Happiness Quotients: Priceless.
    Feeding Feelgoods Forward: Priceless
    Employment, interpersonal and life skills: Priceless.
    Reduced welfare dependency: Priceless

    It’s a no brainer Tomaz. Lets keep those videos and forward stories and when they say, evaluate that, we have. Priceless. My shout.

  6. Tony Searl

    I’d love to already know the forward story, of both the painting and Steve. We know these moments have lifetime impacts, so lets capture and curate the full evidence hey? Just for a generation until the compelling story is too big (picture) for policy mavens to ignore.

    Improved Health and Happiness Quotients: Priceless.
    Feeding Feelgoods Forward: Priceless
    Employment, interpersonal and life skills: Priceless.
    Reduced welfare dependency: Priceless

    It’s a no brainer Tomaz. Lets keep those videos and forward stories and when they say, evaluate that, we have. Priceless. My shout.

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