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cleaning an art space/story

updated sat 8 jan 11


mel jacobson on fri 7 jan 11

this is how i did it for years. it takes some humility, and
toughness. wimps, do not apply.
remember, all other teachers, janitors, admin types will
hate you. they hate the clay room. they hate it all, so
it matters not what they think. screw them.
it is my room, it will be the way i want it.

i also had a Vietnamese janitor that was in poor health. he was
an attorney and a colonel in the army in his home country. now, a janitor.
his wife came every night to help him clean.
i had two big boys take the big trash cans to the dumpster
every day...`bob and kevin, take the trash, leave ten minutes
early and be the first kids out of the parking lot.`
then it was `tom sawyer time`...two girls...`mel, our turn, our turn.
mr. new/wen loves bob and kevin...we want our turn.
never had
to worry about the trash at the end of the day.

here is the story....

Ok, this is important: This is the key, clean up friday.

Students must have their projects ready for the kiln room, get all
pots trimmed and finished, or tightly covered with plastic. Music. Loud

Ok, here it is. This is so important is should be in bold type. I
split the room into a grid. Sort of one square yard grids. Every
student has one square of the grid. That is their grid and it has to
be cleaned on Friday. In fact it is more than clean, it is
sanitary. For example: Jean has sink number three, that is all she
ever cleans, just that sink. It has to sparkle every Friday. She may
keep it all three years if she wishes.

So, 190 kids in one day, they each have one square yard of the room,
everything shines at 3:30 p.m. Friday. If one grid has not been
cleaned and the kid was not absent, I call their dad at work if I
can. `Jean did not clean her art space, I will wait here at school
until she comes back and takes care of it.` Dad says, `my god, sorry
mel, we will get her, call her and she can run back...sorry to hold
you at school on a Friday.` That is how I do it. Every kid in my
class knows I will sit and wait on Friday for a kid to come back to
school and finish their cleanup. It is their responsibility to the
studio and fellow students.

When they understand this concept no one ever misses their one square
yard of cleanup. Again, we blow off the cannon. No fear, but be ready
to sit at school maybe once a year on a Friday. Never threaten
without being willing to hold up your end of the bargain.

And, every teacher of clay has really important things to do Friday
afternoon. Like: phantom pot smasher.

On Friday/4:30pm I would walk around the room pushing a 50 gallon
drum on wheels, half full of water. Pots left around, not trimmed, no
name, odd pots just sink into the plastic drum. Gone forever. I
also had a bottle of red food coloring and a brush. Any bisque ware
that is getting dusty I marked with red. The next week it goes to
the trash if it is not glazed. Nothing sits around the room. No
exceptions. Do they ever figure it out fast. No discussion. When a
kid says: `hey mel, someone stole my pot!`, I would say, `must be
international art thieves. I am sure your pot is on its way for
exhibition and sale in Tokyo, kid says` I will look for it some more.
opps, here it is.`

So, that is the week. Lots of time for students to work, they get a
rhythm. Interesting fact, they love classical music day, but no one
ever says it, but they get mellow and happy and will ask for Mozart
or some other great historic piece of music.

from: minnetonka, mn
clayart link:
new book: