learning from middle schoolers

Artist and co-teacher Star Hamilton and I have just witnessed the 8th graders we have worked with for the past 2 years (since they were wee 7th graders!) graduate this past month!  All of our internal parent selves burst forth as we had our final few classes with them, and inwardly weeped at the end of an 'era' of our adventurous mornings with them. Transitions are the definition of that age (and every age), and I think we mourn the loss of them as a collective group - their bumbling, lively dynamics with each other, and the indescribable edge they seem balanced on: one foot in childhood, and one in a very self-realized adult world. 

The alive and unfiltered way in which they tend to inhabit the world is infectious.  At that age they embody all the contradictions of the teenage world that is waiting for them, whilst holding onto full faced grins and hilariously self confident quirks.  They don't hear anything said to them as a group, and hang onto every word said to them individually.  Don't we all, no matter the age, thrive on individual attention, one-on-one conversation, feedback tailored exactly to our situation?  The rest of the noise floats over our heads, too. 


self portraits.... :D 

self portraits.... :D 

They were endlessly forgiving of any and all of our shortcomings in the beginning of our working with them, when we communicated in large circles, hoping a word would drop.  

I learned so much about my process of preparation as a teaching artist; what to ask; what to let happen; and how to make as much room as possible for individualized attention.  The more structure and clarity, the more room for young people to take projects and run with them, on solo. Balancing a vastness of supplies with very specific ones can help move students through steps on their own, before you need to attend to their individualized questions.  and more and more and more...