Middle School in Sunset Park

This week I substituted for one of the classes provided by the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s after school art program called smartARTS. I traveled down to a middle school in sunset park. The first thing I did upon arrival, after collecting supplies and setting up the room was to collect my students. I went down to the schools auditorium and amongst chaos somehow found a group of students who looked at me suspiciously. I made the mistake of asking the students if we were supposed to wait for everyone or if we just all met in the classroom. I got two different answers and decided that the one that sounded less fun for them i.e. wait for everyone, was most likely the right thing to do. In my experience if you want to mess with a sub, it’s best to have your stories straight. When we arrived in the classroom I could tell that there was little to no interest to telling me what assigned seating was. Half of the students seemed to go directly to a seat while others lingered with mischievous looks on there faces, apparently sizing me up seeing if I would notice if they sat somewhere else, or if their compatriots would tattle…

“No assigned seating guys!” I announced I was not about to waste time and energy interrogating a group of middle school students, who I had just met. “I don’t know where you usually sit but since I am here today, and I don’t know your assigned seats you may sit where-ever there are art supplies, thank you.”

This got everyone to a seat almost immediately. That felt good. I felt like I was in charge, and so did they. I have found that using a super loud and overly confidant voice, and choosing to be serious about art but not so serious that I can’t make jokes, gives these older students less chances to push my buttons and more chances to connect with me or at least laugh at me on my terms. As it turned out, this was an amazing and kind group of New York city public school middle schoolers… a rare occurrence.

I followed the lesson plan that had been given to me which was a lesson that focused on telling a story through images. Awesome! I could bring in my love of the Zip Zap Zoom! class.

We began by testing out each of the 4 types of pencils 2B 2H HB and 4H. We made gradients, and labeled them. Then we looked at photos in sets of twos. These photos were from the early 1900’s according to the teacher who gave them to me. Each student took a page, and with two or three sentences they wrote about what was happening in these photos, as if they told a story, and then, if they had to complete this story, what would it be about? What would the 3rd frame be?

After that we made quick thumbnail sketches of a three panel story of our own. I did an example where a lonely man sees what he thinks is his dream girl, but when he gets close, she turns out to be an evil witch! I saw a few students follow my example and create similar stories. It was adorable because with middle school students you sometimes forget that they are still children, because they are trying so hard to act like adults.

Other students, mainly the girls, created genuine love stories about finding true love or asking the boy of your dreams if he likes you back. It was over-all a very fantastic subbing experience!

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