It took 90 minutes (two class times) for him to draw this much of his self-portrait. 20 minutes were spent staring at the paper unsure how to draw his hair because his dad always puts gel in it, and he doesn't like it with gel, and oh by the way his little brother can draw and he can't. He stayed after class awhile, and I tried some different approaches but when I saw the tears start to well up, I called it a day. We'll try again next time. This may be as far as he gets.
Upon seeing my student's work someone special shared with me this early Henri Matisse portrait, as she found the two altogether similar. It warmed my heart to see it, and helped me, as this boy's art teacher, to relax into what was, instead of forcing what could be.
As a new teacher I battle with insecurity. It is easy to get upset or worked up because I feel like I am failing if a student doesn't do the work. What do I have to show for myself and all that, you know? Results are important in teaching, but so is hearing/feeling out your student and knowing where he or she is coming from.
I believe so much in the exploration of making. In some instances a finished piece is overrated. Or another way of saying it - who is to say when a piece is finished? The progression of an artist happens over several pieces, not just one. Will this boy stay bald in his self-portrait? Does it matter? I feel like I'm walking him up to his edge and helping him look over.
Later in the school day I knocked on his class door and showed him Matisse's drawing saying, "A friend shared this art with me. This man is known as a very famous artist. Some of his artwork was showing in the Oklahoma City Museum of Art just last year. I just wanted you to see how similar your art is."
"Oh wow," he whispered timidly, avoiding eye contact with me and blushing. He returned to his class.
Tomorrow his class will finish up on their fourth grade self-portraits. I'm not sure he'll get to add paint to his at all, but that's okay. Initially I thought he was being obstinate, but time revealed he was actually mortified that it wouldn't look like him. He kept his paper turned upside down on the table, so those three students sitting with him couldn't see his art.
In the back of my mind I keep thinking about that commission piece I said yes to, and how anxious I am that the watercolor paper is still blank and white and ominous, lying on my dresser awaiting permission to be written into the next chapter of my life. I penciled it in on my calendar later this week, but for now it is manifesting as a lump in my throat.
I hope my fourth grade student won't erase his ears again tomorrow. I think if the ears get to stay I won't stand myself up on Friday for the penciled in date with my watercolor paper. I am walking up to my own edge, and looking over.