Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Art Is Not for Grading"

Sweet M had been holding up pretty well with the transitions that middle school has brought.

There had been some tears, and there was the return to the image of the solitary flower, but she was mostly buoyant and enthusiastic, especially about the upcoming school dance and planning her birthday party.

She was handling the two hours of homework each night. Yes, that was "two hours," not a typo. (And it's not just two hours for her . . . the kids are expected to do two hours of homework after an eight-hour day.)

She was suiting up in her sweats at home on the mornings when gym was the first activity of the day and participating in the field-day-like activities at a track by the river.

She was tolerating the fact that now they have just a 15 minute recess with no other breaks.

She was bewildered that library — her favorite thing — was no longer part of her schedule, but we'd started going to the local book store each weekend to give her the "book browsing" feeling that she seems to love.

She was managing the transitions of going from classroom to classroom as they do in a schedule that reproduces the model of the typical middle-school.

And she'd even gone out with her classmates on the out-to-lunch day that her school starts in middle school, though she'd stuck with eating her lunch from home.

Overall, she'd been keeping it together pretty well, albeit with some tears here and there.

But the other night, the night when she'd wished to take out the ancient Greeks so as to nip in the bud the whole idea of school and gymnasium, she told me, voice cracking, heart breaking, what was troubling her so much . . .

"I can't believe it. They're going to grade our art," she sobbed, voice shaking and tears streaming down her face. "How can they grade our art? Art is not for grading, art is for self-expression."

She spoke slowly and struggled for the language to say this, as this is not something that we've ever discussed. But she had the idea fully-formed and articulated her dismay and disbelief, her sense of injustice, of something utterly wrong in her world.

She seemed to have the sense that they would be grading her very self.

I told her that I agreed with her completely — that art is for self-expression — but also that since she is such a good artist that she doesn't need to worry at all about her grades in art.

This seemed to be only a modest consolation.

For her, it seems to be the principle of the matter.

Amidst all of this bewilderment, her artwork has returned to the motif of the solitary blossom on a landscape. And this lone tree in the moon light.


Unknown said...

I'm with her. Art should NOT be graded.

Also I hate math and geometry and stuff like that. It should have been saved for people who like that sort of thing.
It would have been nice to take Kendo instead of Gym too.

VAB said...

Sweet M is right. And two hours of homework in middle school is nuts.

Lora said...

And maybe grades just don't matter... I'm the mom of two special needs kiddos, and a music teacher that gives lots and lots of meaningless grades. I always laugh at the grades my kids are given for their art projects.

I enjoy your blog.

mothersvox said...

@Chromesthsia . . . Kendo instead of gym would have been great! I agree! Or Iyengar yoga!

@VAB Yes the homework is a bit nuts. But she's doing it okay now.

@Lora Welcome. So glad you enjoy the blog. I'm glad to have some time to be back to it. I missed writing it!

Anonymous said...

I agree. Art should not be graded. My middle school art teacher gave me some poor grades and it totally destroyed my desire to create art for several years. I hope Swwet M's teacher is not like mine was.

And two hours of homework is crazy. When are the kids supposed to have time to relax, have fun, and persue their kid interests?