Art (Part II) — Don’t Lose Your Marbles!

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*Panitsa’s (IP2) art portfolio, an evil carrot by Warin (IP6), Natalie’s (IP2) art portfolio with teacher portraits

I wrote recently about co-teaching, and I did not bring up art because I’m not really teaching art. Ken teaches art, and I assist. I may help more in the second semester, partly because I feel more comfortable around Ken now (and would feel less weird about asking to teach a few lessons), and partly because if I don’t, I might go insane.

I’m in the art room, assisting, six hours a week. The room is cold, the kids speak Thai (I know I said that Ken insists that they speak English, but this will give you an idea of how much power he has over them), and more often than not, the kids really don’t need any help from me. They know how to color and how to use watercolors. I did feel useful on the days when the IP6 kids were making scale drawings of their mothers for Mothers’ Day and when the IP2 kids were making clay octopi and crabs. Other than that, I’ve been pretty useless.
…That is, when it comes to actually helping students do art. When it comes to behavior management, I think I’m quite helpful. Ken’s management style is yelling over the loud voices of the chattering students (though it’s funny how non-threatening and friendly even his yelling is, so don’t think that he’s a nasty mean screamer). Together, we came up with a system modeled after the IP2 classroom teachers’ marble system. It’s very modernist. It’s very behaviorist. And it works! Kids need a certain number (arbitrary number) of marbles in their jar in order to do what they want to do — paint, sculpt, play a game, have an end-of-semester party, etc. I finally felt like I was a teacher in that art room when I would step in to add in or take away a marble. My favorite part of the marble system is that Ken, not knowing of the English idiom, yells at the kids to stop talking or playing or generally going a little crazy, threatening, “Don’t lose your marbles!” The double entendre is really a beautiful thing.

Though I’ll complain about my boredom and the freezing cold conditions of the art room (what’s up with the AC, Thailand!?), I do love art time for one reason. It has given me a chance to get to know the kids. I really adore them now. Each of the three classes has one or two kids with mild behavioral issues (talking out of turn, not listening, scribbling…terrible crimes!), who have of course become some of my favorites.

  • Phattharin, Pavitchaya, Phongphisuth, and Reepephon (aren’t you proud of me for knowing their names?) are always loudly talking, but they’re hilarious and friendly.
  • Mickey in IP3 is like a disgruntled old man who sometimes just doesn’t “feel creative today” or like an articulate 15-year-old girl who “is feeling jealous and uncomfortable” around another student. Sometimes I have lengthy conversations with him about his various friendship woes, and sometimes he just needs someone to roll his/her eyes at him — so I do that when he’s clearly trying to get out of coloring in all the white parts on his farm scene by talking my ear off.
  • Then there’s Patrick in IP2 who is the cutest kid in the world, but who is always being blamed for hurting others or stealing their scissors. And he’s usually very guilty.
  • Kanin in IP3 told me that his dad says that “narrators are artists too,” which is why he hid the letters of David Attenborough’s name in a collage on his art portfolio folder.

These are just to name a few of the 95 or so kids I see in art. I look forward to seeing them when they’re back from their semester break.

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