mel jacobson on thu 4 sep 08
anyone that teaches, works in a public place with clay
will have many of the same headaches.
getting others to clean your room is a pain in the ass.
i did my own.
even the over summer room cleaning did not happen
in the ceramics room.
i just locked it up. chained the door.
i had a system.
this may help others.
we did all of our own repair of machines and tools.
just did. kids would help me, and many late teens
got some great info on tools.
cleaning was done by the students.
here is how i did it.
190 kids a day make a huge mess. so...the rule,
and it was a rule....set your working space the way
you want it. if you are fussy, clean up and set things
the way you want it. so, kids just worked til the bell
rang...they put away their own stuff and another kid
sat at the wheel. it went on that way....all day.
clay was put back in the pug mill, or in big barrels.
pots were stored on their own shelf on a rack. each
kid had a board 12 inches wide, three feet long. if it was
not on your board...it was thrown out. (anyone could leave
a note/info about big pieces not on their board.) every kid
had a bucket full of tools..it was their property, it went home
with them. they could have anything that was in the room.
all the clay they wanted, they could fire all the pots they
wanted...not to exceed 200 a semester. some pushed the
limited, but i never counted. we had no assignments. just make
stuff every day...fire it, glaze it, take it home. i did suggest
that they make mugs and bowls for grandparents...big reward
for that sort of thing...`god almighty mel, my grandparents cried.
thanks a million for suggesting that...`
every friday we cleaned the entire room.
each kid had one square yard of the room.
and that square yard had better shine.
you could either pick a space, or you could have
one assigned. it was yours for the three years you
had clay. vets really hogged their space...and no one
could abuse a seniors space. if you threw clay around,
you would face some senior...`hey dork, pick that up now!`
or else. and `or else` happened on occasion.
with that many kids it took seven minutes at the end of each
class on friday. the room looked brand new at 4 on friday.
at the end of each semester we took the entire last day
for each period and sparkled the room. everyone worked
and made things new. they loved it in fact. the stereo would
be playing heavy metal, the brooms and mops were swinging,
every cupboard was emptied...kilns were washed and cleaned.
every thing was dusted and waxed.
it was tom sawyer times ten.
if a space was not cleaned...i knew who bugged out.
i would call home...call dad at work...(mom's get enough
crap.) i would wait in the room until the kid was dragged
back to school and washed their one square foot. that only
happened once or twice...but, the point was made...others
knew i was not kidding. if a kid had a real attitude, i called
dad's at work. never call a school official. period.
same for kids absent. (remember, no one skipped my class.)
i would call a parent, see how the kid was...`hi mr. nelson,
just wondering how sarah is today...she must be sick...we
missed her`. `how nice of you to call, yes she has a cold.`.
now, do you think kids would skip my class? i call home
with love to check on them. public relations times ten.
if there was a love fight, girl in tears, they were
asked to go find a place to rest...leave class.
a girl with cramps...hey go take a nap...or, they
would just say...`mel, i have to leave for a bit.` not
a problem. nothing said. no embarrassment. girls talked
to girls and let them know how it worked. do you think respect
was built? it is so easy.
trust and respect. no rules, trust. but, never break the trust
for you were out for good. same for boys...`mel, i have to go
find sally, she is really hurting.` just go
the clay room became a life of its own. it was in many
ways, not part of the school. i was not a traditional teacher.
in my desk was always ten dollars. anyone could take money.
whatever they needed. it was assumed the money would be
returned the next day. sometimes there would be 18 bucks in
there...money grew. it was a tiny bank. there was always
5-10 dimes...for sanitary pads. there was a jar of 500 aspirins.
no one said a thing. if you needed them...take them. i did not
dispense them. they were stolen..for good reason.
kids were safe and happy. as it should be. they learned respect
and love for clay and craft. they learned from each other...teaching
was going on, all over the room. every day.
i demo'd every monday...lectured and showed ways of doing things.
for the entire period...it was story time. i did a different technique
each monday. did not need slides or movies, i could do it all.
i am a potter you know. some days i would paint, draw, talk
of potters all over the world. bring in pots i owned...let them
look at it, feel it. my pots covered the room. they could touch
and mess with anything i made. it was for them.
respect and love. it never ended.
participation with the craft. every day.
they learned that they could succeed, and when that happened,
self worth. it was never poured into them. ...they had to earn it.
earning it meant work. dedication.
some did it very well. but, the greatest reward came to the
boy or girl that had hand eye ability, could see and work hard.
we would all honor and respect that ability. coordination, feeling,
school administers would talk the game, `art is so valued, we
love a quality art and music program`. but they would cut
our hearts out in a minute. it was always talk. right back
to rote learning...assessment, testing...because that is easy
to control. what i did....how i taught...took courage.
not a great deal of that in public education...lots of fear.