This Makes Me Smile

I was putting away a few odds and ends from my old job when I found this ornament. Now I get to put it on my tree and I will smile every time I see it.

Why does it make me smile? It was a demonstration I did for my students. Every semester my classes would take a final for my class. And all of their other classes. It’s the end of the semester, kids can’t wait to go on vacation and they are stressed beyond belief because they have finals in Every. Single. Class. A lot of classes have tests the last week of school before finals and then they have tests for every class in a single week, each one of which is a major grade.

As you can imagine, students would walk in to my room and be anxious and tired and just so done with school. My first year at the school kids asked to have a party, which I was happy to oblige, but I still needed a grade for them. What could I do with the students that could be graded, but still be fun?

I wracked my brain and stared at Pinterest for hours. It came to me. I would have the students paint fans! Every year the students would get a different object and theme to paint. Fans were painted with a summer theme, planter pots were painted with memories of their holiday season, and clear ornaments were painted in a winter landscape.

Each project is fun but still has it’s challenges. The ornaments had to mostly be painted with toothpicks because paint brushes were too large to do detail! Each student came in with their own inspiration for the painting and had a week to plan what they would do. Then, in less than 2 hours, they would paint it and turn it in. Before the end of the week, they would be graded and ready for pick-up to be hung on trees or given as gifts.

All of that was great, but what really sticks with me when I look at the ornament is the memories I have of my students. I remember listening to music or watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas while they painted. We passed around food and drinks and told jokes and talked about our plans for the break.

As an art teacher I have the privilege of teaching students up to 4 years! I can’t tell you what an honor it is for students to choose your class year after year. To watch them grow from Freshman (essentially middle-schoolers) in to mature adults as Seniors. I get to see them choose their paths for careers, to learn responsibility as they get their first jobs and guide them in life. When they talk to you about things that make them feel vulnerable then you know that you have earned their trust.

Although I don’t have kids yet, my students are my kids. I love them, and I love being reminded of all of the classes we spent together, getting to know each other, and being a support for them.

When I look at this ornament, it reminds me of all of my students, and that makes me smile.

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