This past week, I printed with all 6 classes just about every day. Can we say, "Management Nightmare" with 187 middle school students? How do you get them to clean up in 10 minutes? Where do they put all their prints? How will they keep their prints clean? How do you keep them from giving in to the temptation to smear ink all over each other? 

You have to be just a little bit crazy to be a middle school art teacher. Honestly. You also have to be nuts to do printmaking the same week as your art show. I think I worked almost 70 hours last week!

There is only one of me in the class, and there are 34 kids. Middle school kids can be destructive, many care more about what their friends think than the teacher, and they LOVE to play. They play bumper cars with the brayers, they swirl their fingers around in the ink and waste it. They smack each other in the head with wadded up newspapers, they bang on their printing plates instead of treating them gently, and when they think the teacher isn't looking they use the water spritzer bottles as water guns (remind me to lock those up next year!) I didn't even realize that some of the kids in one class were beating on their printing plates until I saw the video clip later that day. I really do wonder just how much gets by me when I am so tired! 

You have to have a strong, positive energy to maintain a disciplined environment in middle school. Somehow, the kids can sense when I am weak and there are always those who will push boundaries. Was I 100% consistent this week? Ummmm, no. I was too tired to catch everything and too tired to say all that needed to be said to proactively guard against little mischief makers. 

Clean up happened every class period; some classes did a better job than others. At the end of one day I spent a good 45 minutes cleaning up the mess. One of my best classes lost all decorum another day and a kid got smacked upside the head with a wad of inky newspaper, resulting in a smear of beautiful blue ink across his hair. The kids were a little on the wild side, so the next day they had "Silent Art" and the wildest ones had to do the alternative assignment in the book, writing about printmaking instead of participating. 

Sometimes it seems that 99% of misbehavior happens during clean-up, when the kids are buzzing all over the room trying to put things where they belong. The younger kids especially are easily distracted and will make poor choices. It helps to have half the class get up first, then the other half, but I still always wind up with everyone milling about. It also helps to go over clean-up procedures verbally with the kids so they are reminded of what I expect. I probably skipped that step once or twice, due to myself being so distracted! 

At the art show one of our office aides (not one of my art students) was chatting with me and she told me that EVERY classroom is crazy right now, not only mine; except mine is the only classroom where there is a bunch of printing ink out! 

However I survived this week, and the artwork that emerged from all the chaos was stunning. 

The printmaking unit ended up being one of the best units we have done all year. Even students with the lowest skills and the worst behavior were able to come up with stunning images and innovative ideas - one student figured out how to offset the image with multiple prints, creating a triple image. Another student used multiple colors on his brayer to mimic the colors of a sunset with his landscape print. I don't think any of the kids were ready for the printmaking to stop! 

The truth is, I really didn't keep order - I relied on my classroom management plan and enforced consequences wherever necessary. Also, I couldn't have maintained any kind of order without the help of the students! Many of the kids pitched in - the picture of all those brayers and inking tiles neatly lined up was a result of one student who just wanted to arrange them like that. He likes the class, and he likes me, and he wanted to do something nice. The very next group of students left a watery mess at the counter (too much water spritzing) which I had to hustle to clean up - I didn't notice it before dismissal. But then, my last class daily made a herculean effort to clean. I love that class! 

Here is an interesting quote: 
"Classes that use disciplinary interventions will have their good days and bad days as will classes that don't. However the average number of disruptions in classes that use disciplinary interventions effectively is substantially fewer than in classes that don't. Over a year's time, this decrease in disruptive behavior results in a significantly different atmosphere in the two types of classes. Over a year's time, classes that employ disciplinary interventions will have about 980 disruptions, whereas classes that do not will have about 1800." Classroom Management That Works, Robert J. Marzano, Jana S. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering, 2003

Sometimes, what we do is simply impossible. There is no way we can be 100% effective under stressful circumstances, and there is so much going on that our good teaching skills get lost in the shuffle. "Best Practices" or not, the show must go on! We pretend that we know what we are doing and just put one foot in front of the other and hope that all that hard work will pay off. After all, nobody can really control what other people decide to do, especially children! 

In situations like what I went through last week, there is a LOT of grace involved. My husband, son, and I have our morning meetings with God to pray over the day! God is in control. Not me. 

This is the organized counter at the end of one class. The student didn't just line up everything neatly, he put the brayers in color wheel order. He said, "I don't know why I just did that," as he was walking out the door. 

article by Mrs. Anna Nichols




Phyl said...

People always wonder how we manage cleanup with papier-mâché-mâché. It's actually easy. But cleanup of printmaking is the WORST, and I can't imagine doing it with everyone on the same day! You are a brave woman!


Ha ha ha! My thought process was that it might be more streamlined if every class did the same thing. Efficient? Maybe, maybe not. The kids most definitely had a good time, and the pay off for me was all those beautiful prints. I would walk around the room to see one neat image after another emerge. This project was successful because every kid, talented or not, wound up with successful prints. I love printmaking, just not the mess! You are right, though, I think printing is the biggest mess generator in the art classroom. I used to think it was clay, but not any more.

Mrs. Hahn said...

Great stuff! I have added you to my blog roll! MiniMaitss.blogspot.com


Thanks! Your blog is amazing - I really enjoyed seeing how many different types of printing you allowed those little ones to experiment with. This is a wonderful blog post: http://minimatisse.blogspot.com/2016/04/kindergarten-students-flipping-their.html