Thursday, February 14, 2013

"Is This Good Enuf?"...

We made  handmade Valentines today. Most of the kids were doing great, diligently going through the steps of designing, drawing, coloring, cutting out and mounting their valentines on card stock and enjoying the assignment...

I had brought in my great uncle's valentines from the 1920's I shared last year  HERE on Moonflower Musing for inspiration. But as usually I had some trouble from some of my third graders- who had the attitude like the Valentine at the top of the post...
Twenty minutes into the activity- Little Miss Not So Into Art called me over with a long diatribe how her mother prefers less artwork on her valentines and hardly any color. Mr. Whip Through It- let me know that his parents prefer to open their cards from Right to Left instead of the usual way. Miss Always Argues even put a hand on her hip and cocked her head at me ready to argue when I pointed out that no one else was even ready to be done and she had plenty of time to be more thoughtful in how she designed and colored her card and Mr. I'd Rather Make Excuse Then Just Do the Work finally had a good idea at the end of class, but since now the time had gone into lunch, I sent him on his way with an unfinished card.
It takes me 45 minutes to drive up the canyon and get back home, lots of time to contemplate  the demise of our world based on how kids make valentines or waste their time asking "Is this good enuf?"
Actually NPR did a great broadcast on such things awhile ago- we always love to listen on long road trips, especially on Sunday afternoons because they have some great programming.
This American Life did a feature- "Back to School" last fall about Non cognitive Learning Skills- those things other than what is currently being tested that have a huge impact on the success of students both in grade school, secondary school and college. Things like delayed satisfaction, planning, problem solving, etc. The host of This American Life, Ira Class, does a much better job of explaining than I do.
But here it is from an Art Teacher perspective ( and a big Scream Out- Why Art Class is not just a "filler activity in our schools)...
When I give my kiddos an assignment to "Make a Valentine". They have to..
Develop a Plan
Figure out the Steps of Said Plan
Execute the Plan
Evaluate and make Adjustments to the Plan
They not only use their brains, they use their brains in conjunction with their eyes, connect to their hands, creating muscle memory and dexterity
If these are things they have not done before, they are exercising their brains and making new connections in said brain.
And finally they should be evaluating the Plan and the success of the Plan and using the experience to better themselves the next time they set out on a similar endeavor.
All the above are ways to teach skills that then can be used in many areas of their schooling and life-
But the above can also  not be measured on a "standardized test" !
I was definitely not allowed as a kid to ever have an "Is this Good Enuf?" attitude.
I was raised with a "If You are Going to Do it, Do it Right" attitude.
Which usually has helped me, though sometimes it trips me up- when 75% would be fine and 110% makes me insane- but that is another post...

Interesting, Laura Ingalls Wilder talks about such things in her diary- On The Way Home, which she wrote (her daughter Rose Wilder Lane later included her own remembrances) on the journey from De Smet South Dakota to Mansfield Missouri in 1894.
In the diary, Laura Ingalls Wilder calls it "Gumption"- not "Non Cognitive Learning Skills"

Gumption-  1. good common sense and practical judgment; 2. the courage and determination to take action.

She talks about traveling through different areas where the settlers showed some "real gumtion" with  thriving fields and well built barns and farmhouses and other areas that showed only laziness and a "good enuf" attitude.

I am beginning to think that "gumption" might be as important to success as knowledge, what do you think? Think we need some Gumption 101 in our schools or how about just guard or reintroduce the Art, Drama and Music classes that teach such things!


  1. Great post and timely, as I am just about to give a talk to a group of museum interpretor/educators and was asked in an interview about what I thought about art in schools. As if it in now an option. You summerized the reasons so well. Love Wilder's gumption, too. Cheers!

  2. Do check out the NPR podcast- it is really interesting, gets into success of students with GEDs vs those who actually graduated high school and apparently "stick to it"ness is a huge factor in later sucess!

  3. Do check out the NPR podcast- it is really interesting, gets into success of students with GEDs vs those who actually graduated high school and apparently "stick to it"ness is a huge factor in later sucess!