Art School Teacher: On Failure

I bring to class a box full of little clear boxes each containing one tiny item. I have used them before, prompting lively writing assignments. So I spread the little boxes out on the tables and ask the students to walk around and look at them.

They do, but then I realize I don't remember what exactly we did with the little boxes to prompt the lively writing assignments, so I lamely tell them to use the items in the boxes to inspire some sort of art piece.

Some of the students start to write but others just sit looking bored.  I myself have no idea what to write about the items in the boxes.  So I make a list of all the items and think I should have had them make a list of all the items too and then do something with it.  But what?  I can think of nothing.  The room is quiet enough to hear one student sigh, another roll her eyes.  I panic and run to the supply room to gather construction paper, scissors, glue, trying to think of some way to save the class from failure.

Upon returning I try to sound excited challenging them to now transform what they have done so far into something new using the construction paper, scissors, glue.  One girl puts her head on the desk and sleeps; a boy texts with his mother about the two goldfish in a baggie another teacher gave him when I was out of the room; one violently attacks a piece of construction paper with a scissors.  I cut up the list of items I wrote and glue them to black paper hoping it will be interesting.  It is not.    

With ten minutes to go, I try one more time to salvage what little is left of class.

"What can we do with a failure?" I ask.

"We can crumple it up and throw it away," suggests one student.

"We can transform it into something else," says another.

"Or we can just accept it for what it is. Learn from it," offers a third.

I admit to them that I think the class I presented today was a failure. 

They seem surprised.  One student claims she was inspired to write a story about the candy wrapper in the little box and is planning on finishing it at home.  Another observes that everyone was focused and quiet and that was nice.  Another says that she thought it was fun, trying to come up with something creative to do.

Perhaps they're just being kind, but I'll take it as a sign that sometimes what we believe to be failure is not.

1 comment:

  1. Every day a new performance. A surprising result (or not). Exhausting. Thanks to all who keep at it!