My son wanted to draw with me this morning. I wasn’t really in the mood to draw. But he had gotten out a pencil and some pink construction paper for me so I decided I would write a story. This is what I came up with.
The prison guard walked into the art area to find an inmate who wasn’t working. “If you do not start soon, you’ll not make your quota.”
“I’m thinking,” she replied. She thought during almost the entire hour. With five minutes remaining, the guard said, “our lack of work is unacceptable! You will have to miss free time until you create a piece of art that is expressive.”
The inmate indignantly stamped her brush on the canvas and crossed her arms. The guard scoffed at her attempt and punished her rebellion. The janitor, who had been cleaning, overheard the guard say, “This isn’t art. It’s trash.” The guard crumbled the piece and threw it away. The janitor collected the piece and took it home. Every visitor saw the piece hanging in his hallway and asked about the story behind it. Inspired, many would leave and share the story of this oppressive and ignorant prison guard.
An English teacher came across the story and became excited about sharing it with her class. She asked the students to write a thoughtful response. After a few moments, she discovered a boy with a blank paper. She said, “You don’t have much time left. I suggest you get started.”
“This piece is about us,” he said.
You treat us just like this prisoner. You say our work should be real and true but you aren’t willing to wait for it. It’s always due at the end of class.”
“If you cannot be respectful go to the office,” she replied.
“No,” he said, “I’ll write my response.” He wrote, “This story is about me.”
After seeing his response she scoffed and said, “This is just anger. Why don’t you go spend lunch with the principal until you have a chance to take your work seriously?”
I keep asking myself the same question. Is what we are trying to teach in school so important that we are willing to risk our very relationships to teach it?