Four girls, a stool, lots of time, patience, and dedication. The results . . . a masterpiece, a sense of purpose, and budding friendships.
As a teacher, I’m tearing up thinking about the journey. And a two month journey it was. As a mom, I see the beauty in their interactions. You see, I have a daughter myself. She’s in college now, but when she was entering junior high, I was keenly aware that the relationships she was developing in her tween years would carry her through junior high and into high school. Sixth grade is such a transition. I joke with my students from the very beginning, telling them that they don’t know if they’re little or big, coming or going. I let them know that it’s normal. It’s all part of growing up.
This year, I made it an overarching goal of mine to build relationships. At the onset, I thought I was working on relationships between myself and my students and with my teaching partners. But as the year developed, and I embraced the concept of collaboration, I saw student relationships develop as well. I put my thinking cap on and thought about what I could do to help nurture some lasting friendships.
It was an easy task. You see, these four girls are extremely artistic. They already had the passion of creativity inside them. Last summer, I created my first masterpiece stool. Then during Christmas vacation, I painted another one. I used my passion to connect with theirs. As educators, tapping into our student’s passions give them a sense of belonging, a sense of being understood, a sense of importance.
After the girls completed the stool, I asked them some questions on a Google doc. We’ve been working on the 21st Century skills involving the 4 Cs. Let’s see what the girls had to say.
Question: How did you decide what to paint?
Answer: At first, we had thought of a random theme for each leg that somehow represented the school. After struggling to come up with an idea for one of the stool’s legs, we had wanted to think of a foursome. That’s when it came to us that seasons had been a perfect idea, due to the amount of seasons, also matching the number of people working on the fun project.
Question: How was it working together?
Answer: It has been one of the most fun things we had ever worked on. Mostly because we had known each other so well, so we got used to working with one another. It also gave us a chance to talk, giving us a chance to learn something new. There was a bit of confusion during the process, but we managed to get through it, counting on each other to come up with something.
Question: How does the project relate to the 4 Cs?
Answer: The stool obviously wasn’t a one man job. We had to do some collaboration and we really did get creative with it. Other ways our project relates to the 4 C’s is that we had to communicate with each other. The critical thinking came up when we made decisions on what to paint and we sometimes had to make changes.
After two months of planning, painting, and perfecting, the stool was complete. And oh, was it indeed a masterpiece. The four seasons were revealed in all their glory. Beautiful spring flowers, winter snowflakes and scarfed snowmen, fresh summer fruit, and fall leaves and pumpkins adorned the legs of the stool. On top, the four seasons took on vibrant life. Natalia’s fruit wore sunglasses, Riya’s pumpkin shimmered with glitter, Susanna’s snow capped mountains captured the cold, and Nancy’s barn house bloomed with flowers. Okay, let’s stop here. I almost cried when I saw the barn. Both of my stools have a folk art farmhouse theme. Thank you for the homage, Nancy.
Every year, our district has an art fair. Hundreds of pieces of student art work is mounted, framed, labeled, and put on display for the community, parents, and students to see. With eight schools in the district, that’s a lot of eyes. The girls' stool was displayed at the very entrance of the fair. Apparently, it was well received. I even heard that a teacher wanted one of her own.
Reflecting on the experience, I can see the importance of tapping into student passions. All of our students are unique and have special talents. As educators, we must dig a littler deeper to find them. School is a place for learning but also for nurturing. Our students are with us for 9 months. They will move on . . . with each other. Let’s help them with this journey. Let’s make it a commitment, be intentional if you will (my #oneword), to send our students off as better versions of themselves both academically, socially, and emotionally.