HOUSTON? WE HAVE A PROBLEM

We are old, but still have a senior in high school.  In my entire life with children, this is the first time the advantage of public transportation to school could be utilized.  At first, it seemed like a miracle.   But even then, the experience was a little weird.

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Our drive is more than two-tenths of a mile, off a dirt road, and off a state highway.  The students are not allowed to stand on a two lane highway to wait for the bus, so our driver comes down the dirt road to pick Garrett up and turns around in our drive, also dirt.  My bad:  our drive is pure sand; one cannot ride a bicycle down it.  Where we live used to be the bottom of the ocean.

The driver once tried to use the circle drive accessing our three buildings and with a tight radius, with the bus.  Nightmare for a gardener.  She almost took down half of an adolescent live oak tree, and a group of bridal veils. We all decided she would pick up Garrett down by the mailbox.

We first met our driver when signing up Garrett before his junior year in high school.  She was eating her lunch at the receptionist desk in the public area of the school.  She IS the receptionist.  And she drives a bus.  And she is the manager of the bus system for the school.  Lucky, she is her own boss.  And therein lies the problem.

We went to early Thanksgiving dinner at school last week.  On the way to the cafeteria, my husband spoke to the receptionist/bus driver.  She looked down, ashamed.  She knew what was going to happen.  We are trying to figure out how she looks at her job in this middle class institution of a public school.  She goes through the motions of running a bus on a route.  But running a bus on a route is NOT the job, the picking up of students on that route and getting them safely to school is the job.  Often she will come around 15 minutes early to our stop (or a little more or a little less). Garrett not being there, she turns  around in our drive, and leaves.  We can hear her back-up warning through the woods.

Glenn has been around the block (so to speak) with her many times.  He called Garrett’s old school in Missouri and requested the bus schedule handout that all the parents get at the beginning of each school year which shows the bus route and the window of time for arrival at each stop.  They were amazed, but they sent it for Glenn to show this bus driver and manager of busses.

Cultural differences run deep.  The idea that if she is running early, that she should sit at a stop for a few minutes (who knows?  Maybe the students on that stop will have time to make the bus) so she arrives at the rest of the stops in the correct window of time is beyond her (and her boss).  We think that part of the problem down here in SC may be that rural students simply do not go to school when it is cold. That would make her early if many stops did not have to be made.  Hard to believe, but this is South Carolina.

What she said to us at the Thanksgiving lunch is that her new aide on the bus is always on time, so they always leave “early”.  Digest that statement!  OK, so no notification of any kind to let us know about the good work habits of the aide?  No, we just smoothly slide by each stop wondering (or maybe not) why there are no students waiting.

It happened again this morning, after our little talk.

 

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MODERN MATH

This is what they called it about the time the Cardinals won their first World Series of which I was aware.  The “smart” kids were corralled and marched down to the cafeteria in an off hour.  At first it was an honor, and then it became a sickness.  I began to get nauseated as that time of the day came along.

1-BioProj-book-1964Cardinals

I remember the cafeteria being all beige with eight foot long tables rearranged from lunch.  Using graphite on one of those tables made interesting bold marks.  And you could rub them away with your finger.  Even the eraser made great marks if you tracked it through a smudge of graphite.  Of course, I was just interested in the marks; they were not answers to anything.  I had no idea what the answers were.

A year later, Glenn had a similar experience in Catholic school.  They brought in a “lay” teacher to instruct in the new math.  She was all red.  Glenn remembers a redhead, deep red lipstick and a red skirt she sometimes wore.  It is all imagery for Glenn.

1-Joan

In different little worlds, and both of us being in what is now called the “creative class”, neither of us understood what was happening.  We could not figure up and down anymore, we had to go side to side.  We could not use regular numbers anymore, we had to use only ones and zeros.  Why?  They said it was for a switch being turned on or off.  What switch?  Why a switch?  A switch to what?

My mind could not complete the change in longitude and latitude.  And what about cancelling out things on either side of the “equal” sign?  Why?  It was all just a nightmare.

I did not have the confidence to ask an authority about these changes.   All I knew was that everybody else understood it, and I did not.

On NPR some months ago, a man discussed that research has discovered that some learners cannot understand until they are told what the calculations were for.  Well, YEAH.  Wish I had been part of that research: they forgot about the vomiting part.

ART AS A MOVABLE FEAST

Living with another visual artist is an exercise in comparison and contrast, influence and independence.  It can be a three legged race.  You can be more sure of your partner’s work than of your own.

I am not sure of my own work at all now.  But I have seen my husband, very talented, move like the wind in the past four years.  He has more talent; I have more credentials.

At the beginning of our relationship, my interest in textiles was on the wane.  Had been for some years.  As a student, my interest did not lay in exploring two dimensions with pure shapes. Later when teaching this material, I saw that giving students limited options in composition and limited tools with which to create enabled me to see in each student their humanity and creativity.  My secret desire was to fulfill all the projects given to my students.  I was tired of symbolism.  I wanted to be Chinese or Japanese and make minimal compositions.  Content, puns, text—all these things were still important to me.

On the other hand, Glenn was a sculptural impressionist using metal lines.  He moves through the world noticing parts of figures.  Where I have to see something, he can pull up a mental sketchbook and draw six thumbnails relating to the idea under discussion.  I have the words, he has the ammunition.

Before either one of us knew it, we were both pulling towards some kind of common middle.

One huge part of our lives which was not revealed in our work was our love of flea markets and all the potential for making art it can deliver.  For many years, I had tried to incorporate some kind of “found ” objects into my embroideries, (as above), but the stitched work was just too fine.  Nothing else could survive with it, even beads.  Maybe I did not try long enough.

What you choose to live with, or what you choose to buy at a flea market reflects your style in an elementary sense.  Choice is style.  What you have around you will have common denominators in characteristics.  Just like an art student might get the best design results using a triangle and therefore often uses one in a design solution, one might feel most comfortable living with a wall of planters that look like tree trunks.  Or whatever.

Glenn loves old trucks and tractors.

Here are two old ones that he uses regularly.  His soul is mingled with old parts like this.  Slowly in the past summer, and then much faster as the summer passed, he began to buy old tractor and implement parts.  Then his work turned, and it made a whole lot of sense to me.  Isn’t the following sculpture a much less conventional way to create personal expression, and a more unusual solution to a design problem?

Content is also creeping into the work, as opposed to simple (or not so simple) representation.

These final two examples are about “cleavage”.  All elements either cleave, or have been cleaved.

I’M GONE

After today, I have two more college art appreciation classes to teach.  Impossible as it is to believe, retirement from this job is my future, and with a monthly payment!  I cannot believe age has “got” me, and I cannot believe that finally the students/administration have done the same.

I have loved teaching the uninitiated about art; the explaining of odd connections, the idea that beauty is not the first consideration in understanding the work, the concept that to look at art is to comfort your humanity and help you feel not so alone.  We are currently having a fight in this state as our governor eliminates our arts commission with every new budget, each year. Then the art community roars up, demonstrates, and the veto is overridden by the legislature.  Someone posted on Facebook yesterday a comment made by Winston Churchill during the panic of WWII.  This bureaucrat wanted to eliminate funding for the arts so the same money could be spent on war needs.  Churchill said NO, what would we be fighting for without the arts??  What a guy.

My students come into my class at the beginning of the semester and think we will spend great chunks of time talking about the color red, or the color blue.  They are sure they will not have to study, and do not.  They believe that one has to write and think concurrently only in English class.  Some think all they have to do is attend class to earn a C, because that is the way it was in high school. Their passivity to my stupid theatrics in trying to teach is stunning.

Sometimes I think that adjunct professors are the only ones strong enough to say that the emperor has no clothes.  Others are afraid for their jobs.  Some want to implement every new learning tool when the majority of our students do not read well, because at some conference or another the existence of this tool at our school will make the school look good.  Students are advised to take classes on line when they cannot use a computer.  We call teachers “leaders” and use teachers less and less in remedial classes.  People who cannot read or write sit at a computer and do gawd knows what while teachers troll around and make sure students are working.  New teaching ideas are implemented because we can get a grant for them.  We lost our “writing center” after a number of years when the grant was gone.  With it, the one tool that I could suggest for students to help with written work and to accomplish what should have been in grade school, was gone.  No grant money.

My daughter recently graduated from Davidson College.  During her time there, no on line classes were offered.  Last month, the president of UVA, Teresa Sullivan,  went through the horrible trauma of being fired and then reinstated,  one reason being that  she was perceived to be slow in adopting new learning methods.  These two institutions are simply giving students a quality education.  Students cannot teach themselves for the most part.  They need an authority figure, a person present to answer questions and to stimulate thinking.  In the case of two year associates degree colleges, people attend who have no idea what college is.  Their parents did not attend.  They need human beings in the front of the class to model the middle class values necessary to succeed in this middle class institution.  My students are not getting this.

I am tired of being the part time person who has to give the message to a student in his last semester that he cannot read well enough, cannot make a sentence, or has no idea about critical thinking.  It is not fair that a person who is not a “real” member of the faculty to have to do these difficult jobs.  I am not paid enough to have to do this and worry all semester about the fact that I have to.  Additionally, an adjunct has no power to put in place any solution to these particular problems.

It is true this blog has never strayed from the idea that things can be done on the cheap if you are willing to work.  I would like to say this to our administration, and our students, but it would be like spitting in a hurricane.  From now on, I am going to take my work ethic and apply it elsewhere.  “Waste as a Way of Life” does not mean what they think it does!