Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dragons in the Knight's Armory

"Fie on ye! Thy gauntlet has been thrown!...but let's not joust."

These were epithets wielded about for the past two days by eponyms and denizens of "Middle Earth" (local Middle or Intermediate Public School). Yes, I heard them and actually used them in my dealing, as a sub, with 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students of Art. I had been asked back to hold forth for a second round of "clashes" (classes) at this medievil institution.

Actually, for the most part, I had alot of fun with the assignments. The regular teacher had gathered supplies and media for "tooling metal armored knights" and fantastic dragons. Most of the kids "dug" it...especially the boys. Some, as usual, fought it, endured it, reluctantly...determined not to have fun with it. I did. These were the kind of assignments I used to give along with looking up family crests and coats of arms. Fascinating.

My first three periods were older students who had been challenged to tool a highly detailed knight in shining armor with a weapon or a shield. They could trace the outline and then fill in the spaces by pressing extremely hard with a rounded tool. Then they could put in patterns, like chain mail etc. There were no more than a half dozen who could really bare down and stay with it for two days. Most were easily satisfied with a very conventional knight that probably wouldn't last two rounds with a dragon. All my cajoling and exhorting to "buff him up" and "pump him up" did little good. I even xeroxed some design patterns as suggestions for "cross-hatching". One or two had looked up their family's coat of arms and tried to put it on their shields. It amazed me how many wanted to quit early and just sit and talk with their fellow classmates, or tease them, or insult them. One group was competing with each other as to who could tell the grossest "mother" joke. They were having a good time as they looked forward to a nine-day vacation. We only had two girls who insisted on "jousting" (verbally) with me, trying to avoid the assignment, talk of their problems "privately" and then cause an uproar with argumentation and threatening to have their mother come in...for what reason, I don't know...(to discuss how they were refusing to do any "work" (even art) because it was something an adult in charge had insisted that they try?) Or they would call you over to ask the same question again and again just to call attention to themselves and try to bug you. Finally, I just "referred" them and called their regular teacher. She wasn't surprised. One other student came up later and said they tried the same thing in other classes just to get out of work or do their own socializing. Only that one class was "tainted" attitudinally by them. As soon as their "fires" were snuffed out it was a calmer armory.

Two younger classes were asked to trace or draw dragons flying or in various threatening positions, border it and then paint it. About a dozen in all got to the painting and there were only two minor spills of paint that they quickly cleaned up. They were warned to wear a smock and that the paint was indelible on their hands. Here again, several boys especially just couldn't concentrate and complete the tracing. They ignored the suggestion to tape it down so it would wiggle and ruin the outline. One kid, after three attempts, made a paper airplane out of the "onion skin". Several took my suggestion to tape it to the window and trace with "backlight" especially since then they could see and gesture to their "friends" walking by outside. This was something they never had gotten to do before. I wanted to play music while we "created artistically" but there was no CD player in the rooms and none of the computers had been set up for sound from CD's. Pretty soon though, we had two or three cell phones that could play tunes for two minutes at a time. Wow! Then we had some dancing instead of doing their tracings. Oh well, it was creative expression. It was the birthday of one girl and she wanted her picture taken for the "yearbook" cameras were all checked out so I snapped her with my cell phone and tried to send it to the teacher's phone...nope. I'll try her email.

We discussed the use of armor in our society now days i.e. football pads, kivlar in the army etc. We skirted the issues of "dragon breath" and personalities that do exist at these ages. Some have already developed their own "armor" in so many ways with each other and especially teachers and other "caring adults" that it does bring out the "dragon" (well-meaning) in all us beleaguered subs. RRR

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