An occasional parent will peek in my Art room and be amazed. Not by my awesome lessons, or the kids’ dazzling artwork, or my great collection of books, but by a far more jaw-dropping sight: kids cleaning.

Clean-up is one of the most important, if not the key, objectives I try to teach. Anyone can make a mess (especially in the Art room). But leaving the room in as good or better shape than it was left for you, that’s a true art. It’s about respect. It’s about helping. It’s practice for how to treat the world.

Or maybe it’s just a fun chance to play with sponges and brooms. I put out 8 sponges, three brooms, and two dustpans, and kids want to use them so badly I often have to switch twice. Some kindergarteners are sometimes in tears if they don’t get to suds up the tables. Parents, try this at home.

For five minutes it’s absolute chaos (as opposed to the previous forty-five minutes of pandemonium), but then their teacher shows up and they’re lined up like angels (angels who talk and try to cut, but still).  Child labor at its finest.

Gustave Flaubert: “Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.”


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