Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Brownies and Infriging on the Art Teacher

I have my wildest, most ill-behaved class as the last period of the day on Wednesdays and Fridays. The teacher sends this class to me with their backpacks all ready to be dismissed to the buses as soon as art is over. The problem -which is not her fault at all- is that the kids, having gathered up backpacks etc., are now in "school-is-over-for-the-day" mode and want to treat my art class like summer camp or an after school funtime activity. As such, we've had some big time issues all year long and these kids have missed out on doing some more intense activities because their behavior prevents these activities from happening.

So. Today, when their teacher drops them off for art she tries to hand me a large tupperware container and says: "Today is so-and-so's birthday. His mom sent in these brownies and wanted all of the children to have two brownies each. I [the other teacher] thought that was too much for lunch and have promised them they could have the other brownie during art class!" I must have looked a little shocked because she continued: "Well, as long as their isn't too much going on in art today and there isn't going to be too much out."

With very eager little faces looking at me the following thoughts ran through my head: "I have to hand back four artworks today, photograph each child for the yearly portfolio with their favorite artwork, get the kids started on their portfolio reviews, have them work in the their Grant Wood artpieces, AND give them a brownie all in the space of the next 30 minutes? Hells no. I do not. No way am I giving these wild at-the-end-of-the-day kids sugary brownies just cause she doesn't want it to be her problem. She had multiple other solutions and she should have notified me about this brownie madness. Why didn't she give them the other brownie on her time? Lunch was at 11:30, and it is now 2:30, she had PLENTY of time. And, really, do you have NO respect for what I do at all."

Ahem. So I raised an eyebrow and said: "Ohhh, too bad. We have a lot going on in art class today. I'm not going to be able to hand out brownies."

These teachers never expect anyway to say "no" to them when they have these totally bizarro requests. I guess they catch people off guard, or maybe it is a simple nature issue (the more dominant people dominate the weak?). Anyway, she looked totally startled and then very pained. She sighed deeply as if to calm herself down and said very tersely to the students: "Ok. Well, when art class is over, everyone needs to come by my classroom on your way to carpool holding and I will give you a brownie to eat."

Not a single kid batted an eye. For real. They almost didn't seem to care.

Wow. Like, why wasn't that the solution all along? Or, better yet? Why not just tell the mom "no" to the extra brownie. Or, why not just not say anything to the mom and only give the kids one brownie? Or, why not save the brownies for tomorrow for lunch? Wow. It seems to me there were tons of solutions to this issue -her issue- that don't involve me or wasting my class time. Or, better yet, taking advantage of me.

Boundaries people.

I feel as if art teachers get asked so many favors a day. We are the tape/staple/sticky stuff depot. We are the patch-this-up repair shop, we are the one-stop-poster-place, we are the set designers, we are the contest judgers, we are the interdisciplinarians. Yet, you don't often hear of an art teacher infringing on anyone else in that way. What would this teacher think if I sent the kids back to her with paint all on them, having to go the the bathroom, and in an emotional state because of some social madness that I didn't deal with during art time? But, that happens to me all the time. Kids come into my classroom dirty from lunch/pe, they ALWAYS have to go the bathroom (frequently the teacher will tell me: "oh, we didn't have time for bathroom time this morning, so a lot of people have to go), and sometimes they are still reeling from some other situation. I mean, these other teachers have some kind of high professional horse they like to sit on sometimes. The behave as if specialists -like art teachers- couldn't possibly understand special needs issues etc. etc. etc. Yet, they send their kids to us full of issues everyday, and then further infringe.

No, I'm serving brownies during art unless I baked them myself, thanks.


  1. Amy, thanks for visiting my blog! I appreciate the kind words :-)
    And boy, I can really appreciate what you are saying here! I still get it all the time - the interruption in the middle of a class when a kid walks in with an empty cup and says "mrs. so-and-so sent me to get black paint" or "we need a huge card for the retiring teacher for everyone to sign and oh... we need it by the end of the day? (WHAT? Don't I have students? Don't I teach????) Aren't I the last teacher to leave the building at the end of the day as it is? Oh I do love my job; you just hit on a sore spot I guess.. Anyhow, keep checking back at my blog! I'll try to have a better attitude ;-)

  2. Dewd. I've become legendary about turning students away at my school!

  3. I'm the music/art teacher. I recently showed up to school and there was a
    mom with a waffle iron, fruit, yogurt and the whole deal, ready to feed the whole seventh grade class during my 45 minute art class. No notification, nothing! Because she just assumed we weren't doing anything important! It's only the arts!

    I really felt the pain in your brownie story. Many times. Thanks for sharing your great stuff.