Tuesday, March 28, 2006

the art of not knowing anything much.

Have you ever had to instruct someone how to do something you don't know how to do yourself? Sometimes being a teacher is less about sharing knowledge and more about bluffing it - and this year this rather embarrassing fact seems especially true.

What are the words that bridge the knowledge gap and make learning functional? This term I feel a bit like I did in my first year of teaching. There are so many things I don't know how to do or achieve. All the mountain tops are hidden behind thick clouds. Who knows how far up they go? I'm a little terrified of not really knowing what I'm doing.

Thursday I have to teach a class on clay. The tiles we're making will go on a mural that is going to live at the school forever. We have one lesson to get it right. No pressure! I haven't taught a class on clay in ...ooo.. NEVER! I haven't actually worked with clay since I was in year 8 and I made a bust of a duck (yes, it was a little surreal I admit. The whole family laughed when I brought it home and it became known as 'the ugly duck'). Can't wait for Thursday! Go team.

I'm what you would call a learn by experience type girl. It isn't enough to plan and theorise (though I like to theorise, often too ridiculous to mention things) - I do best by living in the moment, testing my flying skills for the first time when standing on the edge. Gee..perhaps I should have practised this before. Ahh, let's just hope for the best. Every time I think I'll learn from that mistake; leaving everything until there is no other choice but to plunge in, but I still keep doing it. Despite the laid back approach to life, I would be nothing without my nervous tension.

I haven't exactly planned properly for this term yet. I haven't even thought about that movie project. I haven't devised proper assessment piece for the levels. I haven't organised the art show, or the artists' project or anything. I haven't I haven't. I haven't. I haven't. I approach it all like a clean slate. But it's not.

Today was a good example of how I work with the clean slate. This morning, still deliberating of what I was going to achieve today with the grade 3 and 4. I knew that I wanted to do a Ken Done inspired series with one of the levels at some point, but I didn't know what. I wanted something Australian, without it being all about the outback all the time. You know, Pro Hart died today and so Australianness and Australian artists were at the very forefront of my mind as I rubbed sleep from my eyes. Ken Done, I knew depicted Sydney and none of that seemed very relevant to me or what I wanted to achieve right now. I wanted his enthusiasm for Sydney, somehow transpired to Melbourne. This morning while looking desperately for a piece of artwork to inspire some sort of Australianness and Melbourne spirit, I came across a picture of Sidney Nolan's Footballer.

Of course Sidney Nolan is best known for his iconic depictions of Ned Kelly, which I may revisit later in the year. But Footballer is a striking painting and since I am about all things Melbourne I saw the opportunity to trick the children into being interested about an artist while including something very Melbourne related and topical (the football season starts this week). This is truly a city which loves its football. I was surprised about how interested the children were about Sidney Nolan himself. They adored the stories I relayed (hastily grabbed just half an hour before they walked in the door, actually), of his life - his paintings - his vibrant colours and haunting story telling through pictures. I was interested too, feeding off their enthusiasm; them feeding off mine.

They were to create their own AFL picture using a few cues I had for them that were inspired by Nolan's painting. The clean lines, the prominent footballer, the fence line, the goal post. Apart from that - they had free reign. It's amazing what kinds of things children will come up with. The pictures were all different, amazing, vibrant - and this was before we added the paints.

The visiting artist decided to use my rushed together lesson in her own program, which was very flattering since the lesson was at best hastily stitched together with hope and nervousness. But somehow it came together. I've had worse lessons that take weeks from conception to birth and are still stagnant and boring. Sometimes not knowing allows us to take the journey with an open mind, and heart. I'm hoping this will happen with the clay work. It had better. I haven't got knowledge fall back on now, do I?

What do you ever *really* know to begin with anyway? And when I think about it, there is no mountain top is there? Life is really only a series of never ending footsteps that take us closer to the end without ever taking us anywhere at all. Putting aside death: Is there ever really a finish line? We're always constantly evolving aren't we?