Jardin de Niño Diaries, Part Three
I started teaching that week. I have a book of ideas for art projects for kids, and I brought in a very fun project that involved straws, water color, tissue paper and origami paper. I realized only a half hour before that I didn’t have enough large paper, and the paper I did have was stained and ripped at the edge from a hurricane leakage. And so I cut off the corners to the pages that were damaged. It looked so good, even though it was irregular (I have always been a fan of rounded corners and now own a little puncher that does it for me) that I decided to cut off all the corners to those pages. It had a very charming effect. I was so relieved that the class went well. I had a shot of pure joy in just being with the kids.
I remembered my many years of taking care of and teaching children-- there is something quite natural for me about about being with children. I am still very much attuned to my own inner child and that part of me easily connects to children. Even if my Spanish is awkward and the room is chaotic-- just being with children is a very good thing for the soul. Each week for the rest of the year, I brought a new project to do with the kids.
At Christmas time, I offered to make a piñata with kids. They wanted a snowman even though none of them (including Emilio) had ever seen snow. I hadn't made papier maché (since I was a kid) and I had always wanted to explore it. The only method I know is the balloon method, so the plan was to create three snow balls with three balloons and then connect them. The kids loved the papier maché. It was messy and gooey and hands-on. Perfect for preschoolers. They each received a pile of newspaper strips and we shared a big bowl of the flour paste. I had forgotten how simple it is to make, and how forgiving, it’s almost impossible to fail. It’s important when doing projects with kids, or anyone, to consider the probability of success. The easier the project, the easier it is to get them intereested. But also, because messes tend to overwhelm me when teaching kids, it’s important to have a plan on how to achieve the messy project. The method of taking turns to add strips to the balloon worked, sort of, but of course most of the kids have a hard time waiting for their turn. And I had so much compassion for their enthusiasm it was hard for me to tell them not to.
After three weeks of adding elements to the snow man, it was finally finished and then, in just a few minutes, the snow man was smashed to bits at the christmas party. His candy guts were scooped up unbelievably fast. After the Christmas party, school is often cancelled for no reason (or at least not one that is communicated to me), and so my class is not very regular. When a few weeks go by with out class, the kids start to ask me about art class again. They cheer when I tell them it's happening. I still have not even considered the mural. The school year ends and the teacher, who is no longer Vanessa, announces that we will be having a graduation ceremony. I ask her if I can do an arts presentation as part of the graduation and she says yes. I set up a little table and display all the kids' art from the year. The bossy lady is at the event--she comes up to me and shakes my hand. She is surprisingly friendly. The subdelagado of Elias Calles also shakes my hand. I was proud of myself-- all that mess and uncertainty and lack of planning added up to something official enough for me to shake the hand of a local Mexican official. It has meaning. Being a non-Mexican offering something that wasn't asked for takes me as far as a handshake. A sign of respect and acknowledgement. I am satisfied.
To be continued...