Twice a year, I bust out a popular boxed drawing game to play with my students. The last week of school happens to be one of the times I bring this game out. The students love it, I get a kick out of it, and good fun is had by all. Until this week. If you follow Art Teachers Hate Glitter on Facebook, then you’ve already heard part of the story. Here’s what I posted earlier this evening:
For Your Consideration: It’s the last day of art and you’re playing a Pictionary-esque game with your AP 3rd grade class. You pull a subject card that reads, “Gym teachers in love.” Do you,
a) think it’s silly and let your students draw it because it’s all in good fun and they’ll get a kick out of it, or
b) think it’s inappropriate and controversial and banish it to the back of the box?
The responses were essentially divided into two camps, what’s-the-big-deal, and why-poke-the-bear, which is exactly what I expected. As you can probably expect, there’s more to the story than the small little blurb I posted to Facebook.
I play a modified version of the Pictionary-style game, (affiliate) Luck of the Draw, with my 3rd-6th graders. The students are given a subject, which I read from a card I’ve pulled out of the “subject” box (pre-selected for comprehension and maximum humor). They then have a minute to draw the subject. After the minute, the drawings are shared with their table anonymously (or as anonymously as elementary students can be). The students then vote for the drawing that they feel best fits a selected category card. It’s silly, it’s fun, and students of all artistic abilities have a chance of getting their drawings selected as a “winner”. For the last round of the game, I like to select a really fun subject that will get the students roaring with laughter. Sometimes it’s “hamsters juggling,” sometimes it’s “a moose in the house,” and sometimes, it’s “gym teachers in love.”
Until this week, it never occurred to me that “gym teachers in love” was an inappropriate or controversial subject to give students to draw. The response to this subject has always been giggles, mixed with some “ews” and drawings that show two adults with hearts over their heads. Well, for the first time ever, a student took this somewhere it shouldn’t have gone. Somewhere I never expected a third grader to take it, and in surprisingly shocking detail. It was a big deal. Administration and counselors got involved. It was ugly.
I later approached the AP who handled this situation to find out how things had ended. The whole thing had been very emotional, I was actually very upset by the ordeal, and I wanted to make sure that the student was okay. Little did I know, but I was about to be thrown under the bus.
It was suggested that I was to blame for why the drawing was made, which, okay, had I not chosen that subject, the picture never would have happened. Fair enough, but in my mind, there was a bigger issue at hand.
Why is a third grader drawing such detailed images that are not developmentally appropriate for his age?
It quickly became evident that I was the only one who felt that this was the most pressing concern. It was suggested that the subject I asked the students to draw was inappropriate because of everything kids see on TV nowadays. Apparently “love,” something that we teach our children about since the day they are born, something that is interwoven into many human relationships, is a rated R topic. You know, because that’s what kids see on TV, that ever present instigator and fall-guy for every bad thing anyone anywhere has ever done*.
It was implied that the subject was controversial because gym teachers are often accused of doing bad things. Hold the phone. So, if the subject had been “science teachers in love,” or “music teachers in love,” that would have been okay? So, because the subject was specifically about gym teachers, in love, that automatically pushes it into unsafe territory? Why, because gym teachers are evil and dangerous? What, are gym teachers not allowed to be in love? What if it had just been “gym teachers”? Or “in love”? What if I had asked students to draw “love”? Would that be wrong too?
Since when has “love” become an inappropriate and controversial thing to talk about and ask our students to consider in their art work? I ask students to draw family portraits. Is this inappropriate because bad things often happen in families? I ask students to draw pictures of themselves with a friend. We discuss relationships and body language and how you can tell that two people are friends just by looking at them. Kids draw themselves with their arms around their friends. They draw themselves holding hands. Is this inappropriate?
I’m still confused by the backlash that occurred because of this one drawing that this one student drew. I’m shocked that anyone would suggest that I’m asking my students to do inappropriate things. I’m amazed that the focus has been turned around on me and taken away from the student who could really use some attention and help.
I think I just got my first real taste of the anti-teacher vibe that exists now. If this is truly the state of education, that teachers are blamed for the actions of their students, then I don’t know if I want to be a part of that anymore.
What are your thoughts?
*It’s interesting to note that while I wrote this, the TV was on and a commercial came on about Love. The commercial showed many different demonstrations of people showing love for each other, and it was all rated G. Or maybe hugging and kissing children and grandparents is PG? R? I just don’t know anymore.