Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Tale of Two Portraits (#14inFeb)

Twice during my career a student has given me a portrait of me. The two stories are very different, but connect in one important way that I will reveal at the end.

This first "portrait" was created in 1999 by my student Jimmy and his father Jim. Jimmy was in my 7th grade honors-math social studies class (the last year that students at that school were leveled and traveled by math class). Jimmy was one of the smartest students I had that first year teaching public school. He was smart enough to know that his father would do anything to ensure that Jimmy had whatever he needed to succeed. Jimmy was also a very eager student who either actually got my warped humor or knew enough to pretend (either way works for me). Jimmy made me a few things during the year (I still have them all), but this portrait is my favorite. Jim Sr. worked in the print shop of the vocational school in town and loved to have his students make things for Jimmy's teachers. We all got great content-themed writing pads with our names on them for Christmas (I still have some of these left too).

Jim and Jimmy both loved that I tried to bring some technology into my teaching (not previously done at that school due to complete lack of equipment). Since I was able to score some discarded computers and a printer (Mac LC 575 and an Apple ImageWriter), I could actually have students do some activities on the computer or at least type and print some assignments. I also gave out my email address to students and parents (it was on my class website, too). Well, James began to email me with questions, comments, stories about Jimmy. Jimmy also emailed from his father’s account. We made a good connection.

In January of Jimmy’s eighth grade year (we were still in touch as he was in my History Day Club), Jimmy and Jim created the tiger illustration using Photoshop and emailed it to me.

The story behind this second portrait is much simpler. At one of my assistant principal jobs, we held a year-end banquet in the library after the students left for the summer. Well, one of the years, the shelves near the tables of food were lined with staff portraits painted by seventh graders. Each student took the yearbook photo of a staff member and created a work of art. I was getting my food and most of the way through the line (and rather exhausted after 180 days with nearly 1000 7th and 8th graders) when one of the teachers told me she thought my portrait was the best. A bunch of others agreed. Well, I had to see it. I was amazed. I didn’t even know someone had painted my portrait. In fact, I didn’t even know who the student/Artist was. This student that I did not know made a portrait of me that is far better looking than the real me.

So, how do these two stories connect. I was planning on coming up with a deep, philosophical way to connect the two. Since, I couldn’t do that, I will conclude this tale of two portraits with a simple idea:

Kids are awesome!