Monday, October 01, 2007

What's a teaching mama to do?

I'm putting together a kick-butt presentation and project on modernism, the Bezalel School, architorture, and Yaacov Agam's art (i.e., the "tainted by the Bauhaus" instruction), but the problem is, I won't be there to present it because my sister-in-law is getting married this weekend. I was gonna have so much fun relaying this little tale from my early a-school days:

A while back, near the end of my teens, I was in the holding tank called Freshman Foundation at the college I attended, and I noticed a load of people coming into the cafeteria for lunch who were giggling away and /or laughing uproariously at the tirade their drawing teacher had gone on earlier in the morning. Tirades by art teachers weren't all that unusual. In fact, my particular group of foundationeers was having a great time playing off the teaching philosophies of our 2-D and 3-D design teachers, ferrying their different tirades back and forth to each guy and having a laugh at how they would tear each other apart.

This tirade really stuck in my head, however, because someone's drawing, or someone's drawing style, subject matter, what have you, got this particular guy going about how we'd all been tainted by the Bauhaus all these years and it was spilling over into every class he'd taught for decades now. Just look at it and draw it! Don't try to impose order on it! Don't become influenced by the Bauhaus!!!

And folks, I'm not talking about THIS Bauhaus.

I'm talking 'bout this one:I think, once most people see what folks like Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, and Josef Albers were doing in Germany between the world wars, they will certainly agree that "The numerous consequences of this experiment still today flow into contemporary life." Gropius took a lot of his design ideas from Frank Lloyd Wright, but, in founding the Bauhaus, he deviated some from the individualistic thrust of Wright's school/cheap student labor source/home, Taliesin. Nazi Germany shut down the Bauhaus, dispersing these folks and their designs, which is why there are buildings like these in many other countries:

Okay, so the ones in the pictures are all in that country called New York City. The Bauhaus designers did end up changing the world, sure. Mies' "less is more" certainly gave carte blanche to the appearance of miniscule and immense boxy buildings everywhere, to the point where people are beginning to ask if some of the early monolithic monsters not designed by the Bauhaus crew ought to be eligible for historic preservation. Though I can't find the Preservation Resource Center's specific issue online, I recall seeing a publication of theirs that put an ugly green modernist office building on Canal Street on the cover. The implication was that this was a building worthy of preservation, even though it has not been occupied for quite some time and is really looking the worse for wear (heck, the PRC picture made the building look better that it actually does). So the Bauhaus design principles basically made every building its own island, without much consideration for its surroundings, something that is being challenged some today.

But I digress.

After all, I can't present all of that to a bunch of seventh and eighth graders. I've got to water it down some and distill it into a lesson relating to two-dimensional art and the development of Agam's kinetic art. Reeeeeeal simple.

Something that is a tad less simple is that my son might well be on his way to getting booted out of religious school for a year, since he's not interested enough in the group activities to sit still. I know he's not ADD, because I have seen him focus very intently on whatever he is interested in. I guess he's just not interested enough in the lessons to behave in class. Ugh. Must meet with religious school head today about this.

Maybe she'll end up blaming things on this little episode...


GentillyGirl said...


Your little guy sounds so much like me years ago. My poor mom was always at the school calming them down over what I had done that day. (nothing bad, just things they weren't ready to handle.)

Creative, intelligent kids are just that way. They see a different Reality... they are innovative. They question everything. They "see" through every wall.

And yes they will upset apple carts.

Your boy is fine, and he will go many places during his life. Trust me.

It is also confusing for them because no-one else "sees" their way. It's frustrating for them.

To use a Nuclear bromide: "It's intuitively obvious to the most casual observer".

These kinds of kids are the ones that will change the World. They need teachers that think as they do. They need stimulus. They must be challenged, and in doing this, they will become the teachers and visionaries.

Once we are back in our home, if you need a tutor (I have 20 years experience), just let me know. I understand kids, especially these kids, and I'd love to help them find their paths.

It's just a thought.


Leigh C. said...

Thanks, madame!

I think the religious school teacher understands, thankfully. He is a bright little individual, and he does get a great deal out of the instruction. I just think he's used to the Montessori way, more than anything else. He's also always had some of this nonconformism going in one way or another all his life.

I just love him a great deal and hope he can get through all of this without diminishing his talents and his intellect too much. THAT'S the real trick, isn't it?

Sophmom said...

Leigh, ADD/ADHD people *can* concentrate intently on things in which they have interest. In fact, on the back side of ADD/ADHD is an ability to almost hyper focus. Almost as important as attentional difficulty in the cluster of behaviors that is called ADD is a high level of impulsivity. I'm of an opionion that ADD/ADHD can be a genetic advantage. When seeking guidance about what's best as a parent (when the boys were little), I would think about mom in the wild, before we were civilized, and ask, "What would she do?" Thinking along those lines, I realized that the ADD/ADHD person would be the first to notice the lioness creeping up from behind. It's not surprising that we have such a high rate of attentional disorders in this country, given that we are a society founded and populated by folks whose ancestors came here at great peril (pretty impulsive). There are studies linking ADD/ADHD genes to a cluster of genes that enable individuals to sense danger and lead nomadic people to new, safer homes (I will try to find this, but it's been a long time).

There are also numerous studies linking attentional disorders and other learning "disabilities" (I think of them as teaching disabilities) with intelligence and creativity as well as leadership skills (charisma) later in life. Like in everything, there are degrees. It is a spectrum. God made us so varied, why would He make us all learn just alike? It really is quite a shame that most educational systems in this country teach only to the middle of that spectrum, and ignore the gifts of those outside that middle. I am at your service, should you wish to ask. The Oldest is severly ADHD with other LDs and required a fair amount of "special" education on his way to a dual degree in Writing and Communication Studies with an emphasis in New Media. The Youngest has mild ADHD, no additional LDs, a remarkable social instinct (always the guy chosen to talk the police out of busting the party), and exceptional athletic abilities. I'm ADHD. I was diagnosed in the 5th grade but not treated, although I've worked hard as an adult to learn about how this inhibits my life and work with it rather than against it, to compensate where it is needed and tap into it where I can. I struggled in elementary to become an excellent student in high school and college. ADD/ADHD folks have a remarkable ability to multi-task and it often comes with extraordinary "desktop memory" (and therefore executive function).

There are all sorts of little things that can be done along the way to turn what some would call a disadvantage into the gift it really can be. All of this said, maybe your little guy has no attentional differences, but it's not the end of the world if he does.

Good luck with this ambitious project. Funny to see you mention Taliesin. Earlier this week I ran across something on the web about Falling Water (can't remember where - was it here?) and ended up digging around and re-reading a lot about FLW's life and the sad story of Taliesin. Falling Water is quite beautiful and I found myself wishing for a chance to visit western PA and the three FLW houses open to the public there.

Peace, darlin'. Sorry for the stream of consciousness (ADD) rant, but you struck a chord. :/

Leigh C. said...

Taliesin itself is a beautiful place. Unfortunately, the tree that was in the central courtyard of the place (in fact, it was a tree at the very top of the "shining brow" that is the hill on which Taliesin is built around) collapsed in a storm. The folks who keep up the grounds are trying to grow the tree back with a clipping from the original.

I have my fears with regards to my son. I tutored a woman's son who was very bright, but who was in a program that was clearly too advanced for him. Initially, I thought the problem was that he needed to get tested for a learning disability. When I tried to talk about it with this woman, she said she didn't want him to be labeled anything at an early age.

A few years earlier, my husband volunteered to tutor a kid for his bar mitzvah - a job that the cantor who was here at the time SHOULD have done but decided not to in light of the kid's ADHD. Dan was so ticked off that the cantor wasn't doing her job in this instance. That kid had his ceremony, thanks to Dan...but it could have very easily been denied him if Dan hadn't stepped up.

I should face this head-on, because this WILL most likely come up again. My son's Montessori teacher is ADD and her son, who is now seventeen, is, too. She does very well with the little guy. Not everybody else will, however.

I thank you for sharing this with me. I'll be sharing some with you too, honey. 8-)

As the little guy said last night, "But Mom, I'm just a little kid!"

ashley said...

I'm Mr. Adult-with-ADD prototype. So there may be hope...depends.

And when I see Mies stuff, I'm reminded of the old line "In Chicago, the only thing straighter than the buildings are the people."

Sophmom said...

Amen, darlin'. He's just a little kid.

My boys went to Montessori preschool too, and we didn't send The Oldest to the Catholic School as had been our plan, but rather to an Episcopal school with a more individualized curriculum (we couldn't afford any of this). There were tutors too and lots of after school conferences. I'm not saying it was easy, because it wasn't. I think I was well suited for it though, or I became that way pretty quickly. Don't they all get labeled in one way or another? They become the short one or the brainy one or the athletic one or the hyper one. There's always something, some surprise.

I think that's part of the trick of becoming a parent: letting go of what we expected and joyously accepting what is, riding in that last car of the roller coaster with our hands up in the air. *sigh*

GentillyGirl said...

"I just love him a great deal and hope he can get through all of this without diminishing his talents and his intellect too much. THAT'S the real trick, isn't it?"

Yes it is. All of us are just meant to be ourselves.

If we all were the same, Life would get pretty boring. Nothing new would come about. All would stagnate.

The problem often with education, and this is through all of history, is that it usually focuses on indoctrination to a culture and not an introduction to Life itself.

I was fortunate that I had great teachers: one did the clean-up on the Manhattan Project, another was a crazed Lesbian Feminist.

But the best teacher was my mother: she expected us to explore and learn... there was no goal but to understand living and the World. (That's the best way I can put it.)

Money and power didn't fit her view. It was just about being one's self.

After she died (I was 13), I became the "mom" and tried to continue her way for my siblings. Sometimes I just had to roll my eyes and hold my tongue when they went their own ways. I guess that it is always same for us.

chrissie said...

The little guy is very lucky to have such a thoughtful and observant mother. Bright, creative kids are always a challenge to teachers who don't know what to do with them.