“We just thought it would be a great idea,” they said as we debriefed on the event, “We thought these high school students would love the opportunity to come talk about their art and have it displayed in the community.”
Um… Do you know any high school students?
But this is only partly about the students and whether or not they would appreciate this opportunity. This is about the many, many, MANY people who think they have just come up with the most creative idea when they decide to have a student art exhibition (or a student art contest, but don’t get me started on that!).
THERE IS MORE TO IT THAN YOU KNOW!
A couple of months ago, a community organization (which shall remain unnamed so I can say bad things about it) contacted me because they thought it would be just grand to include some student artwork at an annual event they were planning.
I have to give the organization credit for starting early, but that is about where the compliments end. These people had no idea what they wanted, no idea what they needed to figure out, and no idea how much work it was going to end up being for the teachers.
Once I realized this I would have politely declined, but unfortunately, this request had been routed through one of the top offices in my school district, so I needed to help make this thing happen.
I was helpful… I was nice (twitch, twitch)…
I talked them through it. I helped them decide which of the 70 schools in the organization’s geographic region they wanted to involve (six high schools). I helped them figure out how much space they had (a nice sized conference room). I helped them realize that the artwork would have to be held up somehow.
“Oh, no, we can’t hang it on the wall… we do have three or four easels though.”
For six high schools? Hmm…
I held their hand, and explained all of the things they would have to figure out, and I made sure, while doing this, to stay focused on the teacher workload they were creating.
Them: “Could the teachers do this?”
Me: “Maybe you could get some volunteers from your organization to do that instead?”
Them: “Oh, ok. We could do that… Can the teachers bring the artwork to this specific place, at this specific time”
Me: “Maybe we could give them some flexibility. Could they drop it off the day before if that works better for them?”
I worked out all of the details and typed it up. I explained who was doing what and when. I broke down who would be responsible for what tasks, and I got the organization’s thumbs up on all of these plans before I sent the details to the teachers — begging them to help make this thing happen.
AND THE TEACHERS WERE AWESOME!
…as I knew they would be, because I work with amazing people! But they were not blindly compliant. That’s not how art teachers roll! I was quietly proud of how many of the teachers involved asked me independently of the others:
“So, why should we do this?”
They weren’t asking, “What’s in it for me?” They were asking, “What’s in it for my students?”
Teacher: “And what is this event anyway?”
Me: “It’s a scholarship award ceremony.”
Teacher: “Are they giving scholarships to my students?”
Me: “Um, no. But they are giving scholarships to students at your school.”
Teacher: “Art students?”
Me: “Um, no. But could you please help me out? Pretty please?”
And they did. But it didn’t end there! This story is only half way over!
(Check out installment 2 coming soon.)