As a teacher for 10 years, I have come to know what to expect on craft days. I can handle a room full of first graders wielding paint brushes and glitter. I am quite skilled at keeping the chaos at an acceptable level. I try to think ahead, and outsmart those little Crazies who will inevitably put glue or paint on any surface not intended for such. I am not scared or overwhelmed at the thought of handing scissors to some five year olds and letting them hack away. Basically, I'm cool with the mess that comes with boisterous creativity.
Today. Today I experienced a painting activity with 35 kids who are not accustomed to the "school craft project." I somehow thought my skills in crafting crowd control were transferable cross culturally. In hind sight, I have pinpointed the lapse in judgement.
1. I am not fluent in their language. How can I set parameters without being able to communicate effectively?
2. American grade schoolers have had ample crafting practice for a minimum of one or two years prior.
3. Aforementioned practice was done with the guidance of someone who was fluent in their native tongue (see #1).
I started out confidently. The goal was to paint rocks for the new garden. Some would paint the words to label each section of the garden. Others would decorate rocks for the border, so each child would have a piece of the new garden that they contributed. We started strong. Look how darling they are... sitting in small groups, using the drop cloth, keeping each paint brush in it's separate color.
Soon after this picture, I started to get edged out. Like tiny ninjas, they soon overtook me, wedging me out of the painting circle completely. Paint brushes began dipping into unassigned colors. Do you know what this does to the part of my brain that values order? Then paint brushes began to be claimed by an owner, dipping willy nilly into any old paint color.
Some had paint brushes and began to paint the foundation of the office building.
There was more face painting. Look, he is so pleased with himself.
The little ones just started blinding painting their own faces.
At first I was shocked. Then I laughed. Then I grabbed the camera to document the craziness of kids. Then... the wheels really came off this bus, and I just had to put the camera away and be the responsible one. The bigger kids, who have had a little secret clubhouse project going for about a month now, took off with a gallon of paint and a couple big brushes. They were now in an all out remodel that included a fresh coat of paint and their own set of painted rocks for their garden. The kids that wanted to make every rock in the yard turquoise? Well, they decided that it would be more efficient to just overturn a gallon of turquoise paint, add a load of rocks, and just mix it with their hands and feet. You should see how many turquoise rocks abound now.
So. I have officially lost my touch, or never really had it to begin with. We let them have their fun. As we rounded up empty bottles and ragged brushes, and began to send kids to clean up. The cistern ran out of water, and the generator ran out of fuel to pump more. Oops.
So in short... Who wants to invite me over to their house to help their kids make something with the trifecta of messy craft supplies: paint, glitter, and playdough?