Friday, May 09, 2014

Smear, Wad, And Crumple

Our art table was dead. Earlier, there had been several kids drawing with oil pastels, but they'd moved on and no one had come to take their place, so I sat in one of the many empty seats and began to doodle. In the Pre-3 class, this always draws a crowd. In the 5's class, a child or two might slow down to peer over my shoulder, but otherwise I'm ignored. In the 3-5's class, however, I can count on a few to come to see what Teacher Tom is up to, then stick around to make a little something of their own. In other words, the older they get, the less they seem to need me, which is exactly as it should be.

This was the 3-5's and one of the boys came to watch. 

"What are you drawing, Teacher Tom?"

"I'm thinking of drawing a picture of you . . . I guess you have sort of a square head."

"No! Round!"

"Right, round." I drew a circle on my paper, then peered back into his face, "It looks like you have . . . Let's see, one, two . . . You have two eyes."

"Yes, two eyes. And I have one nose and . . . five mouths!" We decided to give him a happy mouth, a sad one, an angry one, a surprised one, and a silly one. This process had drawn another boy to put his elbows on the table to watch.

I said, "Now I'm going to draw something else."


He's lately been regaling the class about NASCAR, so I said, "I'm going to draw a race car."

"Draw Jeff Gordon in the number 24!"

"I've never seen Jeff Gordon in the number 24."

"He's fast."

"Does he go fast around a track?"


I picked up a pastel and began to "drive" it on the paper, creating an oval, taking a second, third and forth lap. "That's Jeff Gordon driving on the track."

"He goes faster than that."

I sped up, going faster and faster and faster, making soft motor noises, until the paper beneath my hand began to smear, wad and crumple. The boys laughed.

I said, "Race you," which has been our racing fan's primary invitation to play these past few months. I slid the box of crayons his way, saying, "Grab a car and let's go."

We started our engines side-by-side, "On your mark, get set, go!" and we were off, racing madly until our paper was smeared, wadded, and crumpled.


This time the second boy wanted race as well, so he chose his color and we were off, breaking all known speed records for the three man smear, wad, and crumple. I tried to sit out the next heat, but without a firm hand holding the paper in place, at least initially, the race was over before it began. I was needed in another part of the classroom, so I slid the game over to Mason's mom Michelle who was our art parent and the two boys went with it.

I returned several minutes later to find a third boy had joined the group and they were racing like mad, heat after heat of smear, wad, and crumple. Michelle was still playing with them, still holding their paper, still driving her own "car," but it was the boys who were directing the action. A big part of this game was the jostling, the banging of arms and fists as the cars sped around the track, foreheads often close enough together that they touched. It was a game comprised of bursts of frenzy, followed by declarations of victory, a cursory examination of the "art" they'd co-created, then calls for another go.

With each successive round, Michelle said a little less, she was a little less active in her participation as the boys more and more made it their game, until there came a round when her only involvement was holding the paper in place. By now the boys had taken over, "On your marks, get set, go!"

Finally, she let go, and one of the boys, apparently without even knowing he was doing it, put his own hand in place of hers, taking over the vital role of holding the paper down, no longer needing needing an adult, which is exactly as it should be.

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1 comment:

Johanna said...

Looks like a pandemonium :D

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