Saturday, March 6, 2010

He was so quiet ...

... kept to himself a lot.

So this is a post about an origami lesson gone a bit awry. Middle school, the class was called "Explorations" or some other such nonsense, pretty much it is what passes for an elective in a K-8 with no art teacher. So, the math teacher I was subbing for was supposed to do art projects with a random group of 7th and 8th graders. She thought it would be easier on the sub to have them do study hall while she was away but previous experience with this group taught me otherwise. So, I busted out some copy paper and the one tupperware of lost little colored pencils and came up with an origami lesson.

Step 1: Fold a triangle across your paper and cut off the excess to make a square. (This takes them more than 5 minutes, I swear.)

Step 2: Select two or three colors and make a spring-time pattern all over your paper. (I demo with pink cherry blossoms and orange dots.) Remember! Do not draw a picture, just repeat one or two elements all over the page!!

I give them 20 minutes or so and circulate while they draw. Bunnies, lines, polka dots, leaves, flowers, birds start to appear on the papers.

Except one kid.

Who has drawn, in startling detail, a dead bird in the center of his page. He took a red colored pencil, drew the blood pool coming out from under it.

Now, I'm 99% sure that he did it just to get a rise out of me and the other kids, a small rebellion against cheerful lesson plans and limiting instructions. But 1% of me? Not so sure.

And that's the thing about substitute teaching. You see the tiniest slice of what a student is all about. You can go on your gut of "is this kid going to be a problem for the next 45 minutes?" but you really know nothing about them. All you can do is your best with a smile, and hope that someday in the future you won't be reading the newspaper and find yourself saying "but he was such a nice boy...."


  1. That's creepy. I had a former student draw a "family portrait" in class, by showing his soldier brother blowing someone's head off. I was subbing for the day, and I knew that it was part for attention, but also because his family life was a mess.

    How do you do the rest of the oragami project?

  2. Oh, we did cranes. I used the document camera and good old-fashioned "holding it over my head" to show each step, circulated, and set kids who got it to circulate too. Total circus, but fun.