Case Study “The Young Artists”

This semester I had the pleasure of working at local school in Glassboro named Bullock elementary school. During my seven weeks I observed and taught under the direction of Mrs. P; a former Rowan University graduate. During these three weeks I have pleasure of meeting many children. But three students stood out the most and other reason I am writing this paper on them. Because we cannot go by their actual names I will call them student A, B, and C.

Student A is a quiet second-grader with no IEP that I am aware of. At first glance you can tell that he is quite immature for his age as he crawls around on the floor and sucks his thumb on any occasion. According to the cooperating teacher, his fine motor skills are on track with his age group; he is never behind and seems to be on task with all of his developmental traits. He seems to be a healthy active eight year old boy. It also seems that the teacher does not know how to discipline or control Student A as he is basically ignored and can do whatever he wants at any given time. Also, he seems to be more of a follower than a leader, which seems to get him into trouble a lot.

As most second graders are full of life, I noticed he was also having a hard time staying on task. Now it is quite common for second graders to be rambunctious, so I didn’t really notice how much he was not doing his work until I decided to use him for my paper. On several occasions I would talk to him about what he was doing and if he liked the project. He rarely answered me in a complete full sentence. I always felt like I was putting words in his mouth as he would just shake his head yes or no.

On the third week, I decided to try and have a conversation with him regarding the project they where currently working on. At any given time I would purposely stay around Student A and help him stay on task. Since we only worked on two projects the entire time I was there, I was able to ask him in-depth questions about why he chose what to draw. Our conversations went something like this:

“Hi Student A, How are you doing?” He would reply with a shake of his head yes then I would get down to his level and kneel next to him and ask him what he was drawn drawing. “What are you drawing Student A?” He replied “A gravestone, a zombie, a hand, a haunted house and a tree” I replied, “How come you to a zombie?” And he would answer me “‘cuz it’s Halloween.” At this point the conversation was kind of going nowhere, so I left him with a “Good job, keep it going”

Almost all of the time, the conversations with Student A were like this, very short and sweet. I was a little confused at how he does not have an IEP; I felt that he should have one. On my very last day, for the first time I saw Student A start crying. I asked him how come he was crying or if there was something I can do for him, but there was no answer. So I left him alone, as the teacher did and kept walking around. But it bothered me greatly that the teacher never once acknowledged him crying.

During the last fifteen minutes of every class the teacher likes to stop and read a book or two, and this is where Student A usually gets in trouble. So today I took it upon myself to ask Student A if you would like to help me clean up, so he didn’t have to sit down and listen to the book until he composed himself. What I found was a completely different Student A; he helped me clean the whole room for a good ten minutes. Then the last five minutes I told him he could go listen to the book if you would like. He joyfully went skipping over to the circle and sat down. You can definitely see there was a change in attitude and that he was happy and smiling again.

What I learned about Student A is that he is not very mature for his age, and needs more attention than the other students at times. I feel he is seeking not just attention, but more recognition of being in the room than anything else. It seems that when he is upset for whatever reason, just having the attention and the time alone seem to help him get back to himself. If I was his regular teacher I could see how hard it would be to give him that constant one-on-one attention he seems to be craving.

My next student will go by the name of Student B. He is probably my favorite out of every child I observed over the seven weeks, and the only reason I say that is because of his charisma. He seems to have this little man, little boy type of attitude. When we talk, and I tell him that he’s doing a good job, he winks at me, with a smirk on his face and says “yup”.   Student B is a healthy eight-year-old second-grader; he’s a very social, and rambunctious. According to the cooperating teacher, his fine motor skills are on track, but he must be experiencing some kind of trouble as he will be receiving an IEP soon but my cooperating teacher did not know why.

What I did notice about Student B is that he constantly looks for reassurance. He constantly get out of his seat and walks up to me and asked if what he’s doing is okay. He must do this about every 10 minutes. You can see that he definitely wants to please others. He listens well, and is easy to control, but staying on task is hard, especially when he is constantly getting up and asking to be reassured about how he is doing. I also noticed that he works extremely fast, and he likes to make large blobs of color, he is definitely is not trying to be precise. When asked how come he goes so fast, he replied “because I’m afraid I’m not going to finish on time.”

I also happen to have Student B in my Saturday SmArt class; this gave me time to see him twice a week. And every Friday he would say- “See ya tomorrow Mrs. Jacob!” as he walked out of class. Right around the fourth week I started reassuring Student B that he had plenty of time, and to go slow. Once in a while I even asked him to start over, and take his time, add in detail and care into his work. I told him I would tell him how much time is left in the class. This did seem to work a little bit.

What I observed was that even though he would still go fast during the Saturday morning classes, he did not get up to ask for reassurance. The only explanation I can think of was that the class was smaller than his class at school, there is less tables, so I could walk around very easily and give him constant reassurance that I normally couldn’t do in the other classroom.

As with the first student, I walked around the room and observed how all the students were doing on their projects. I walked up to Student B and asked him why he chose his current scene. The conversation went something like this: “Hi Student B, what’s this?” He replied “This is a graveyard; this one is my pop-pop, he is in the headstone. This is a bat, that’s an angry dog stuck to the gravestone. This is a scarecrow, that’s a scary tree and that’s a scary pumpkin.” I replied, “This is pop-pop? Well, I was very glad he included pop-pop in your painting, this way we never forget him “I received a “Ehhuh, he just died a little while ago.” So I said “Ohh, I am so sorry, well I am glad we can keep him forever right here.” I received another “Ehhuh” with a shake of his head yes.

Student B always seems so busy at work. Then I asked him how the like using the watercolor to make the background, I asked him what he had to do in order to make his background. At that point he explained to me how he was supposed to make red on the top and yellow on the bottom and mix the middle to make orange, except he messed up, and everything became orange.

When it was my time to teach a lesson in front of the entire class I found out that I had two periods in order for the students to finish. The first class started, I did my lesson, my demonstration and in about 10 minutes Student B was finished his entire portrait. As this was a half day, I find it had no other choice but to listen to the teacher say she wanted them to sit down so she could read a book.

When Student B handed me his portrait, I can see that it didn’t even resemble a human being, it was very blocky and very robotic looking. I could tell he didn’t listen to anything I have explained, so I waited to the next class to ask him to redo the picture. During the next class we had an entire class to work on her portraits, before  Student B restarted his picture I walked up to him and explain to him that I would like him to take his time and that I would tell him when he needed to stop. I explained how Picasso took a long time to make his pictures, and all great artists take their time. So as my ‘lil Picasso, he needed to take his time and make me a masterpiece.

Well, this time it took him about 20 minutes to finish his portrait and it resembles a person a little more than last time. It is still very blocky and looks nothing like him, but that is Student B. I feel that if I had more time with Student B I could get him to slow down and enjoy his work. During our conversations he has told me that he loves art, now if I had the time I would figure out a way to calm his anxiousness. He is definitely one student I will miss.

My last student goes by the name of Student C. Student C is definitely one student that will keep you on your toes, he is a definite behavior problem, constantly interrupting and disrupting the class, barely ever sits down or sits still, he throws things at people, curses, crawls on the floor, and the teacher allows him to do this without anything other than saying “Student C please sit down”

I noticed that when Student C’s teachers drop them off that they always ask him to see if he can have a good class, at the end of the class they always ask my cooperating teacher how he did. I would always respond with the truth, telling him how he was a behavior problem and how he acted out, but my cooperating teacher would turn around and say that he was fine, and that he was not a problem. This completely eludes me as to why she would say something like that. According to Clements (2010) “Make it clear that unruly behavior-excessive talking, laughing, throwing things…-will not be tolerated” (p.34)

You can see that Student C’s fine motor skills are perfectly fine, he does have an IEP, which I think is more for oppositional defiance disorder more than anything else. He also seems to need to be the center of attention constantly. But when the teacher just ignores him, he just gets louder and worse. It wasn’t until the third week that I finally decided to start disciplining him, as I just couldn’t take it anymore. I could see that he was responding to me and therefore started following me around. I believe in positive reinforcement, but also you must be stern and structured when you are dealing with a behavior problem. Structure is not in my co-operating teacher’s vocabulary. So, I kept him on track as best I could and I helped with the other students as well. It never even seemed to bother my co-operating teacher that I was disciplining the students, she would actually agree with me after I said something.

I have stated before, that 15 minutes before the class ends, the teacher likes to read a couple of books until the end of the period. For someone like Student C, sitting still for 15 minutes is an impossible task. He is constantly hitting someone, smacking the window behind him, or talking while the teacher is reading the book. At one point I asked Student C to come help me clean the room, he graciously stood up and came with me and started cleaning. This is how I noticed he is another one that needs attention. It seems to me that in this classroom the students are constantly lacking attention.

When it was my time to teach my lesson, I had the same problem as the previous classes, my first lesson was on a half-day and I finished my lesson on the full day. Therefore I needed to spread out the lesson into two periods. Within the first five minutes of me beginning my lesson Student C stood up and yelled out the word “FART, I have to fart!” I immediately answered in a very stern voice “Don’t you ever talk like that again in this classroom, now sit down.” That lasted for a good five minutes and he decided to stand up and start walking around doing whatever he wanted to do. He walked around talking to other students and being of obnoxious as if I wasn’t even there. So, I did what any good teacher would do, I employed him.

Student C became my stand in model. Since my lesson was about Amadeo Modigliani and his portraits, symmetry and asymmetry, Student C became the face of Modigliani. As the kids laughed, Student C completely changed and his attitude subsided to one that helped me throughout the rest of the lesson. He handed things out for me, drew stuff on the board for me, and allowed me to use his face as a drawing board; a hypothetical drawing board as I explained to the students what symmetry was by looking at Student C’s face. I grabbed his ears and asked if this was symmetry. I pointed to his eyes and made a silly face with them, asked if this was symmetry. Took his lips and moved them crooked, and asked if that was symmetry. To my surprise, he loved it, he loved the attention.

When we were done explaining lesson, he sat down quietly and started drawing his own portrait of his mother, instead of him. He sat there the rest of the period, until she started reading the books. On the second day that I was to read teach the lesson I did the exact same thing, except this time we had more time to spare. I immediately started with him as my model and then allow him to go on his own to see what he would do. He began to draw board facial features and more or less playing. But he was doing the lesson, I drew him back to me and asked him to pass something else out, and then said when you’re done you could go back and work on mom for me. His behavior was fine, there were no outbursts, no disrespect, and when I asked him if he could help me once again to explain symmetry, he gladly stepped right in and stood there waiting for me to begin.

This time I couldn’t wait to tell his homeroom teacher how amazing he was. Of course it was the last day I was to see him, so I will never know if I rubbed off on him a little bit or not. But I did get a fist pump and a “Catch ya later Mrs. J” on the way out the door. Something I didn’t get previously.

I believe that every child is a Picasso or a Van Gogh. And I rightfully call them by their artists’ names; Student B van Gogh. The common theme in all three classes was a lack of reassurance-the co-operating teacher seems to be preoccupied with her own murals or confused at how to handle so many students at one time. Since there is a general lack of discipline in all of the classes, a lack of respect and a common need for reassurance I am faulting the cooperating teacher for not being able to handle her class appropriately. I have worked with elementary school students in an art room for over two years and it’s really not hard to control them, when the teacher has structure built into the classroom environment, when rules are followed, along with consequences. As explained by Clements (2010) “A teachers success depends on the empathic rapport developed with ones students” This is something that is definitely lacking in this room. (p.28)

Resources

Clements, R., & Wachowiak, F. (2010). Emphasis Art: A Qualitative Art Program for Elementary and Middle Schools (9th ed.). Pearson Education.

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