Grace should be my middle name.

Location: United States

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Ramon and His Missing Stuff

There are a few things that will always get me weepy. That "When Somebody Loved Me" song that Sarah McLaughlin sang for Toy Story 2 is one. The movie Old Yeller another. Some of those kids things just get me somewhere inside. I can't even begin to imagine reading "Where the Red Fern Grows" again or watching "Brian's Song" without just absolutely LOOSING it.

My last week of school, I came close to loosing it too. I guess to me, stuff matter. A lot. And I mean stuff in the most materialist and physical way. Partially, it's probably because I'm an art teacher. Where I try to get kids to MAKE STUFF. Nothing high, lofty. We make stuff. We do not, as a very smart professor used to say, make "Art with a capital A." George Weigel, one of my favorite writers would say it's also because I'm Catholic and for Catholics, physical stuff matters too.

Regardless of why or how, stuff matters to me. And I'm not talking about stuff like BMWs and fendi purses. Not that I'm opposed to that stuff or anything. It's just that sometimes it's the little things.

So last week at school, it was time to take home all the artwork. Since I know what 11 year olds are like, I know that if I just let them take their work home, about 2% would make it home. To avoid that happening, I have them take ALL of it home at the end of the term in a portfolio, along with a letter they write to their parents, telling them about the artwork. Returning the letter to me the next day gets a 100% homework grade, which in reality rarely makes a difference in their grades at all. The point is: your artwork MATTERS and your parents should SEE IT.

Whenever the day comes to take home the artwork, I get a lot of grumbling and complaining about carrying the stuff around with them all day. But they do it. And they bring the letters back. And lots of times, their parents write nice notes on them. All in all, I think it's the highlight of the term. But really, the point is that the parents need to know about their child. And the child should be proud and excited to share part of himself with the parents. The point is also that the artwork is saved, perhaps even precious.

Last week, a student, who I'll call Ramon, did not return his signed letter. Now Ramon is a sweet kid. He's also a pretty great artist. He is, however, not the sharpest tool in the shed. Ramon sometimes makes teachers want to scream, but he's just so nice, that they can't. So it's impressive that Ramon is so great at drawing. He drew these 3 birds, each in analagous colors earlier in the semester that I had considered keeping for a while to hang up at the fair or something, but I decided against it because those birds meant so much to him. He was going to hang them up in his room. I wanted him to be able to take them home for Christmas.

Ramon is also a student, who a few weeks ago was in a conversation with another boy, discussing the age old "Is Santa really real?" question. Ramon was adamant that Santa is indeed REAL. But the other kid was telling him otherwise. Then Ramon innocently asks me: "Ms. Grace, ISN'T Santa Claus REAL!" I guess it was sort of phrased as a question, but moreso it was phrased as, "Ms. Grace, TELL him that Santa IS REAL!" Of course, I said that Santa is real. To which Ramon said, "See! Even Ms. Grace says he's REAL!"

So anyway, this is the sort of kid Ramon is. And Ramon, the terrific artist, with the great bird drawings that took him FOREVER to make, didn't bring back a signed letter, showing that his parents had seen his work. When he told me he lost it, I thought he meant the letter. But no. Ramon had, in fact, lost EVERYTHING. Letter, portfolio, artwork and all. 9 weeks of work. For a kid, who I judged probably didn't get a lot of satisfaction out of the rest of his school work lost EVERYTHING he had made. Gone. Sure I asked some of his other teachers. And the PE department. And the lost and found. But Ramon's work was definitely gone.

This whole scenario made me want to cry the more I thought about it. So we talked. And Ramon's going to get to have more art another term. To a kid like that, stuff matters and I just couldn't ignore it.


Blogger Earnest said...

bigger issue you cry at the last week of school...
and you should just give this kid a D for being stupid for thinking stanta is real in the 6th grade!
totally kidding, PS.
but kudos to you for saying that santa is real... but hows that for being put on the spot, jeez! that would be one of those moments where i would say yes but my expression would totally say bullshit :) "uuh...yeah umm totaly..i mean didnt you see polar express??you gotta hear the bell dude" (just saw it on the plane ride home) moral to the story not all people should be teachers, ie. me. though there a sweet innocence there that has to have some reward...then again rewarding is sorta relative...i think im done here this comment doenst make any sense.hmm.

11:59 PM  

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