Yellow Snow (Not THAT Kind)

It’s fun to play with kids’ minds. Every winter, I read first graders the gorgeous Jan Brett book, The Mitten, based on the Ukrainian folktale . “What color is snow?” I ask, and they all shout “White!” Of course snow is white. That’s why Baba tells Nicki not to drop the white mitten she made him; in the white snow it will be lost forever (at least until Spring…) Nicki drops the mitten within seconds. Probably had to text something on his phone.

After that, I have the first graders design colorful mittens that will stand out in the snow. And all is well. Until second grade, that is.

In second grade, we again we read a Jan Brett book: The Three Snow Bears. In this story, Aloo-ki enters the three bears’ igloo while the bears are out for a walk. She tastes their soup, tries on their boots, and slips into their beds – until she finds one that’s just right.

After closing the book, I again ask the students, older and smarter all, “So now what color is snow?” They shriek the predictable answer. And that’s when I reveal the true, but shocking truth: snow isn’t white, it’s blue! And purple! And gray! Okay, it’s sometimes white, but if you really look at the Snow Bears’ landscape, most areas are rendered in cool colored shadows. For the non-believers, I then take them to the window and point out the many shades of snow on the playground. They begin to sense the second, shocking truth: Art class is as much about learning to look as learning to draw.

Of course, some kid then squeals, “That snow is yellow!” “The slanting rays of the golden sun,” I point out. “The sun is behind a cloud, Mr. Roth,” the kid continues with folded arms. Guess they like to play with teachers, too.

Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody, Everywhere…

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.”


Holiday Quote of the Week

In Art class today, I had the first graders make decorative five and six-pointed stars. A girl came to me near the end to show me how well she drew Stars of David.

“I’m really good at these kind of stars,” the proud six-year-old  said, “and I’m not even British!”

No Stealing This!

I was moments away from having some amazingly profound thoughts about art, literature and education, when I decided to clean instead. And that’s when I had an even more profound inspiration: a cool band name!

Not that I’m in a band. Or ever will be. But if I was, I would be sure to call it (drum roll, please): Cathair Tumbleweeds! (Or should it be simply Cathair Tumbleweed, without an s? A lot to think about…)

Better yet, maybe it should be a character name. My new series-in-progress takes place in space. Cathair Tumbleweed would perhaps be a great (mistranslated) name of an alien.

No stealing!!!!

Heeeeeeeere’s Jonny

Actually, I’ve been here the whole time. But due to more than 100,000 spam comments and my lack of knowledge and laziness for dealing with the problem, I haven’t been posting to this site.

But my New Year’s resolution last year was to try to deal with the minor tech issues that send me screaming for the hills, and my pre-New Year’s resolution this year is to review last year’s resolutions (note I only said ‘review’) and apply my resolution from two years ago (Stop making New Year’s resolutions!)

In other words, I’m sending this out as a TEST to see what happens; and hopefully when I figure that out I’ll find someone else who can fix it.

More soon!