Today’s lesson is about Japanese culture.? When you think of Japan, what comes to mind? I do a quick survey of the room and call on several 6th graders.? After sorting through a smattering of answers that include slanty eyes and “talking funny”, we get down to a real appreciation of a culture very foreign to many of the students in the room.? The one lone Asian girl takes it in but doesn’t say a word, and breathes a sigh of relief as the conversation develops.
We learn about Katsushika Hokusai, with whom they are all familiar but do not know.? We discover the three boats and the fishermen and Mount Fuji in the famous image.? We learn to create organic landscapes and let go of zigzag mountains, and draw the fluid bodies of patterned koi fish.
As I look out at the sea of 6th graders eagerly working on their paintings, I can’t help but giggle as I realize that what I actually have in front of me are 30 lovely, detailed drawings of — sperm.? With scales.? Because as much as they tried to draw something resembling a fish, it just wasn’t.? And I know that when they get home tonight and are anxious to share what they’ve learned in school, the conversation will go something like this:
Mommy mommy, look what I learned in art today! at which point the student will whip out this Rorschach of a drawing that the poor mother can only hope is something other than what she thinks it is, which is giving her flashbacks of the “reproductive education class” she had to sit through in her middle school years (and up until now, had successfully repressed).? She will exclaim how lovely it is with a puzzled look which she will try to hide, and carefully ask… what is it?? At which point the 6th grader will say exactly what she dreads most:? Guess!!
In my defense,* I’ve taught this project before to beautiful results. 6th graders are filled with lovely poetry that pours out when they are quiet enough to hear it.
I’m giggling because I’ve been that parent, gone through that phase, and (to the best of my knowledge) have not permanently scarred my daughter’s delicate psyche.
I’m also giggling because I realized right then and there that I also just taught all the future 7th grade boys how to draw sperm.? Which will come in quite handy.? Because for those of you reading this who don’t teach middle school, have children of this age, or are of this age yourself (chronologically or emotionally), there’s one indelible truth of life: 7th grade boys draw penises.? a LOT.? I don’t know why.? But they do.? The “clever” ones do it on purpose, the innocent ones do it subconsciously.?? And now, they will be able to draw them in grave detail.
(And I’m giggling because I’m not going to be teaching 7th grade art next year.)
As I look out at the room I realize I could hug them all, every last one of them.? For I know the transformation that is about to take place in these lovely young minds and bodies, and I must enjoy them while they are still beautifully young and innocent.? And before they reach their true “artistic potential”.
……………………………with love and [cough] other little things,? C.
* work with me