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By Contributing Mama Daphne Biener

Looks like we’re going to make it through kindergarten.  I guess that all Acadia really needed was some time.  Time, that is, and a cupcake or twelve.

With almost every kid in her class celebrating a birthday in August or September, it’s a rare day that she comes home without frosting smeared all over her face. I’ll tell you, a cupcake a day goes a long way towards developing some happy-about-school feelings.

There is one thing in the ever-changing roller coaster ride of parenting that I have found to be completely reliable.  As soon as you get settled in; as soon as you get your head wrapped around an issue; as soon as that last tear has been wiped and you start thinking, sure I can handle this –  then WHAM something new crashes into life like a tornado in a toaster oven. You just never see it coming.

Like elementary school art class.

Art class? Oh you mean your district is cutting back on the humanities? No, you see, that issue I would have expected. An outrage, yes, but within the realm of what is out there.

No, my almost five year-old has her little fists clenched in rage over her school art teacher.  The first day of Friday art class, she came home in tears, muttering incomprehensibly about the teacher making her put the wrong kind of feathers on her birds when she ALREADY knows how to make a bird.

I’m sorry to admit that I did not really take her seriously. She stopped crying and things rolled smoothly ahead into the next week until Friday showed up and she came home in tears, again.  Citing art as the problem, again.

This time, I sat with it, wading through the hyperventilation and the sobs until, at last, I deciphered the issue.  I wanted to believe her, but come on, really? What kind of person, never mind an elementary school teacher would DRAW ON A CHILD’S PICTURE DESPITE HER DESPERATE PLEAS TO LEAVE IT ALONE!?

I got back-up over the weekend from her big sister and a couple of kids in the neighborhood.  All of them concurred: Yup. He always draws on the kids’ pictures.

Why, I asked the older girls, why would he draw on your pictures?

You know, to make them prettier.


Now, I am aware that I have some inherent biases. When my little Van Gogh creates things like this wonderful portrait of “Parents as King and Queen,”

I smile, and I gush.  I do not analyze nor do I offer thoughtful critique.  I do not point out that, gee, how could a family so clearly plagued by clubbed limbs be elected to the throne?  I just hang the thing on the wall.

I myself make no claims at being artistic. It doesn’t bother me that my rabbits don’t look particularly rabbitty. I mourned when the kids learned to assemble Mr. Potato Head without three eyes and an arm sticking out of an ear.  I adore the abstract creatures produced by their wild imaginations. I bet Picasso’s mother would agree.

So maybe the goal of the class is just to produce massive amounts of identical, perfectly representational works of art?  Not according to the school web site, which claims that art should “give rise to ideas, invention and imagination.”  Hmmm, imagination?

Yesterday I went in and spoke with Acadia’s teacher, who agreed to take the issue up with the art teacher.  I reassured Acadia, but explained realistically that this teacher might not change his ways.  No matter what, I told her, you can make your own pictures your own way when you are at home.

And can I rip up all the ones I make in art class?

Yes, I nodded sadly, you can.

And then I, my dear, will rip the teacher in half in a mano-v-mama show-down at the Crayola corral.

To read more of Daphne’s work, visit her eco-fabulous blog, A Greener Biener.

17 Responses to my suffering artiste

  • dave says:

    Loved this line, “mano-v-mama show-down at the Crayola corral.” Just beware, my elementary art teacher once throw one of those huge art sponges at us for talking in class. Those characters take themselves way seriously.

  • Kelly says:

    Have you ever heard the Harry Chapin song, ‘Flowers are Red?’ It’s the identical issue of teachers dictating/enforcing their definition of art. Scary. My money’s on you in the Crayola corral.

  • Kimberly says:

    This is probably pathetic, but I STILL remember making a clay wise man at Christmas time. He had blue eyes b/c all of my family had blue eyes. The teacher grabbed a paint brush and made his eyes black b/c wise men didn’t have blue eyes.

    So this isn’t a new thing, that was 20 or so years ago. I don’t understand why teachers (ART teachers) can’t keep their hands off the kids work, but…maybe your teacher will change his ways!

  • Grace says:

    A teacher should never write on a kid’s paper, agreed. But, is he working on actual techniques or strokes and that is why he is looking for it to be a certain way? Just curious

  • David says:

    Loved the “clubbed limbs” comment! That had me lol. The scion of Jerry DeFalco is still out there, with his fascist ways, trying to make all our Xmas trees, bunnies, flowers, and pumpkins look the same! Curse art by the seasons!

  • Paula says:

    Speaking as a mama and an elementary classroom teacher at an art based school. I never draw on kids papers, even when they beg me to. A scrap paper always provides a great place for me to model a drawing for a child (maybe you could suggest that to the art teacher). I shutter thinking the many kids this art teacher has shut down. Please don’t group all art teachers together as bad teachers- there are many amazing art teachers. Speaking as a teacher I think it would be great if you could directly speak with the art teacher himself.

  • kelcey says:

    first of all, i was crying with laughter when i read the paragraph about the king and queen drawing.

    I am outraged at this art teacher. i pulled dylan out of an art class because the teachers INSISTED that my daughter only use a paintbrush, not her fingers. And that’s just not how my girl rolls.

    excellent piece!

  • Jessica says:

    How uproariously funny and so sad at the same time. I saw those clubbed feet and LOVED those club feet. My daughter (now 9) used to draw like that. As your daughter is, mine was (is) quite the artiste. I miss those quirky little picture. I am so mad at her art teacher. He ought to be encouraging and teaching them to love art instead of smashing their tiny little spirits to smithereens. I would have marched myself into that art teacher’s office… classroom… whatever and given him a piece or 25 of my mind. I would have pointed out that Matisse and Picasso and Miro and Calder did not comply to any “standards.”

    Btw, do not throw away her school art work, Tuck them away safely — out of her sight — for future viewing.

  • Danielle says:

    Yea – I admit to having toned down my response on the phone to Cady when this was done to me 20 years ago. I think in all reality I stomped my fists and refused to draw. oy! Those twisted elementary school art teachers!? Who do they think they are. I\\\’ll meet you down at the Crayola Corral!

  • Stacey says:

    Oh my gosh! I just read this book- Willow by Denise Brennan-Nelson- to my five year old and it really is your story with the happy ending. I think you and daughter would love it!

  • Wrong, just wrong. We visited a school where the pre-K kids were being taught to copy famous artists, the teacher was so proud how well they did and not a single piece of “original” art was hung on the walls. I found it creepy. I love those abstract drawings and just can’t imagine what’s in that teacher’s head.

kelcey kintner