Tabla Rasa

Whew! What a school year! And it isn’t over yet. All us virtual teachers at my school have one more week to go. Today was the last day for our students. I still have that gulp in my throat from saying goodbyes to my students.

Today was my last class. We did a lesson on Writing about Art. We also interacted with our art. One of my favorite artists in René Magritte. I love his witty style.

Hats, Apples, Stuff-filled Pipes, Windows, Clouds, and Eyes

As teachers, we teach best, when we teach what we love. With that, since there is no curriculum at my school for special education, I write my own lessons and of course, I love to integrate the arts. I chose Margarite’s The Listening Room circa 1952 as our painting of the day. It is a painting of a peach room with a green Granny Smith Apple plopped in the center. The apple fills the room. There is a window and the light from the window is subtle. There is a shadow on the opposite wall. The apple’s shadow. There are no ears on the apple, as such, I wonder is it the listener or are we?

Apples. Since I am a writing teacher, I chose to teach about Art Criticism using Feldman’s Model in which there are four steps. They are as follows: 1.) describe, 2.) analyze, 3.) interpret, and 4.) judge. I’m not one for being judgy, although I’ve been described by some as being aloof. I have heard that a couple of times by fellow teachers when I taught at brick-and-mortar school, but not by my close friends. Hmmmm… I wonder why my free association brain is going about the afloofiness? Anyhow, when a colleague has described me as aloof in the past, I say if I am aloofy, it is not on purpose. It is usually that I am in my own little world, or that I didn’t see the person in the hallway. My husband jokingly calls me McGoo sometimes. McGooness, oh my goodness. 

Okay, so back to the lesson. Tabla Rasa. Philosopher John Locke proposed that we are born blank slates on which we have no rules to process data until we receive the data, which will in turn affect the way that we perceive new data. 

Blank Slate. The apple in the room. The window on the wall. The ears that aren’t there. 

What I noticed today as I reflect on my teaching is that we need to leave room for blank slates. We need to literally leave room. Today at the end of the lesson as the Ticket Out the Door, I asked my students to draw on the apple with their annotation tools. What I found was surprising. Some students totally went with it drawing faces (personification), one student drew people squished ’round the corners (and there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room), some drew worms with pointing teeth, an apple pie à la mode, some students drew outside the edges of the painting because they didn’t want to draw on Margritte’s apple, and some students totally drew on the blank page opposite the painting. Space.

Space. An element of art. Why do some choose to fill the room where as others leave the space that remains? The canvas, the edges, the bricks and the screen – the windows, and the tabs, each one unique to each eye-glazed observer. As a person who has been trained in art therapy, I was super jazzed. Teaching virtually, it was interesting to see how my students interacted with the art digitally. Some of my students even let me know that the apple was for me, their teacher. It was a good day. #PandemicTeaching