Had a lesson in “Why I am not a Kindergarten teacher” today. I was back for my monthly art lesson with Lily’s class. Today, we talked about the art of Piet Mondrian (specifically his works that look like the side of the Partridge Family’s bus ) and learned about parallel and perpendicular. I open my little lessons by reading Bob Raczka’s No One Saw. The text of the book runs along the lines of “No one saw flowers like Georgia O’Keefe” and then there’s a picture of an O’Keefe flower. Today after every line, they’re hitting me with “I do.”

“No one saw mothers like Mary Cassatt”

“I do.”

“No one saw Sundays like George Seurat.”

“I do.”

“No one saw trains like Rene Magritte.”

“I do.”

“Really Quinn? Have you seen a train coming out of a fire place? Really? Because I think you lie. Liar liar pants on fire!” Ahem.

But I get through it. I keep it light. I keep my humor appropriate to small children. I give each of them a 12×12 square of paper with 1 inch grid drawn on. They sit quietly and await instruction. No, no they don’t. They wave the papers in the air and put them on their heads and generally behave like the toilet-trained chimps they are. I do that teacher thing of standing still and silent. They quiet down. (I think this may be some prey-animal instinct. The predator has crouched and is still. We’d better stop flitting about before she pounces on us. ) I pass out red, yellow, and blue squares and rectangles. Before I hand out the glue sticks (because once they have a material in their hands, they begin to use it. Stupid Montessori), I tell them that they will be putting the shapes within the lines of the grid. I demonstrate at each table. Give them the Goofus and Gallant versions. Then I get the glue sticks. Of course, they start slapping them on any old way, but I’m cheery and light, “Okay guys, I know that usually I let you go your own way on these, but this lesson is about parallel and perpendicular. Remember? Keep it in the lines.” And I go table to table. They’re putting one shape on top of another, they’re trying to just hoarde the shapes, they’re gluing both front and back. One of the girls at Lily’s table has folded rectangles like cards and is giving them to her tablemates. Much little girl squeeing. Then she has to take one she’d given to Lily. The tears. Lily, do you SEE the other little rectangles in a pile in front of you? And where did the paper come from in the first place? Your house. That’s right. oy.

Then it was time for the black strips of paper. I had cut them all 1/2 inch by 12 inches. I gave 5 to each kid and then told them that they could cut them to make them shorter if they needed to. I was not specific enough. Lily’s table was cutting confetti. Another boy cut his, jaggedly, up the middle, leading to his gluing down stringy triangles. I’m feeling that old feeling of the first time your first kid is using watercolors and won’t rinse the brush and all the colors turn grey. Of the first playdough that all turns grey. I’ve made all the other projects Super Mellow. I just. wanted. some. damned. lines. When I gave them a pencil with which to write their names on one of the white spots of their pictures, I was specific–“Write JUST your name. Don’t decorate any more of the picture. JUST your name.” One kid wrote hers alllll the way across the page. Another wrote hers 4 times… So it seems that control freaks shouldn’t teach art to children. Next lesson, I’m going to let them draw to music. Totally free. all their own. Lets see how they are able to defy me THERE. HAH!

Anyway, here’s the bulletin board:

Kindergarten Mondrian