As this year closes I wonder how many of young artists will keep their journals in safe places. How many will survive until old age? Maybe only a few.
I went into a 3rd grade class this week and asked last year’s students if any of them still worked in their visual journals. No one raised their hands. Several kids lost theirs. 1 girl threw hers in the trash. In the trash. The trash.
That made me very sad. Unfortunately kids, like grownups, don’t always value what is given to them free of charge. Last year’s bunch was sent out of the class on the last day with bags brimming with supplies. With such a bounty raining down on them I think they were less appreciative than this year’s group. But I am learning about how to conduct visual journaling in the classroom. It can be a difficult river to navigate. This second year of doing it felt richer, truer.
As for last year’s group, I’m trying to think of that time as the Tibetan monks think of their sand paintings. All of that patient, quiet effort… and then they blow away. But still I wonder about the glib girl who threw hers in the trash.
This year the only thing the craft monkeys are leaving with are these last visual journals. I’ll happily give them supplies if they come visit and show me what they’re working on creatively. Happily.
If they are intrinsically motivated to create they will put forth effort to gather supplies of their own. That effort might bloom. Something lasting might grow.
Many of this year’s punks actively collect things from home to put inside the pages. Some of them carry their journals home to share with family and friends. They carry photos back to the classroom to glue inside. They tear pages out of magazines in the dentist’s office. Okay well, just Ashley did that. They bring the entire newspaper to class and pass out to the other kids. “Find pictures!” They save worksheets that comes with an illustration. They use their whole coloring book as collage fodder and swap pages with each other. They bring stickers from home. I love how they think.
Last year’s journals were much cleaner, more design worthy, less haphazard. This year I have loosened up my standards of what is acceptable. Basically anything goes.
More looseness leads to more creativity in the end. More spontaneity leads to more meaning. And the meaning is what I think will create the value, a sense of preciousness. Because these books are precious.
Misspelled words and all.
Last year I collected the journals after each session. This year they keep them on their desks. Some kids sneak them home. I pretend I don’t know. They write on the pages. I want badly to say, “Are you SURE you want to write with a red felt marker?” But I hold my tongue.
I recently got them a class set of gel pens. They’re learning to doodle, make marks, draw letters.
We gather in a circle after each session and they talk about what they did. I have high hopes that some of this will take hold and root. But even if it doesn’t, I know it was worthwhile. I know it was worthwhile.