Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Let Me Tell You a Story

Despite the weather conditions, my job training went as planned yesterday. I made it without any great mishap, although a minivan did try to hit me on the drive home.

Our training, Arts Alive, was held in the library at the school. Now the tables with three wooden chairs each were designed for middle-school kids, not predominately middle-aged women with hips (I, of course, mean no offensive by this, it's just a fact. I've got hips too.). There are just enough chairs for everyone. For some reason, the chairs on either side of me weren't claimed until almost the very last. But when they were, I was wedged.

The teacher who designed this curriculum we're going to be teaching, began by reading a quote by Picasso. As the quote was being passed out she read it and said it was by Picasso. The woman on my left (who incidentally was late and bustled down the row bumping into most of us) says not quietly, "Picasso. That's by Picasso." (Thankfully I'm wedged forward into the table, were as the two woman sitting beside me were pushed slightly away from the table, so I'm not within eye shot of the chatting woman and she talks to the woman on her left instead of me.) This outburst--which came a second after the teacher already gave the answer--was followed by a continuously running conversation about the art appreciation class she's taking online. She's really not sure she's going to like it and do well in it because she doesn't know how to do quizzes and tests online. At one point she's asking the woman next to her (who seemed unfazed by the talking), "Do you know what this MLA is that the paper has to be written in?" Her conversation partner explained it.

The class lasted two and a half hours and for the majority of it, Ms. Chatterbox kept up a steady stream of conversation that was just above a whisper. All the while she'd be flipping through her art class syllabus. I also learned that she desperately needed to go to the bathroom and her daughter might have mono. And to make things even more distracting, she frequently bounced her leg which was right next to me, and to be quite honest, her thigh touched mine, so when she bounced, well I kind of did too. I shrunk myself into the table leg as best I could to keep from touching.

Now on the other side of me, the woman plopped her purse onto the table next to my right arm, and herself into her chair and for the first 45 minutes or so, she didn't move much. Occasionally I'd hear what sounded like heavy breathing and then a little snort cough, like she'd jerked herself out of a stupor. My suspicion that she was sleeping was confirmed when I passed a paper to her and she didn't take it, the woman next to her took it from me and gave me an implied eye-roll look. I felt annoyed with a chatterer on one side and a sleep on the next.

To make all of this even better, it turns out that this is a very hands-on class. If you all know me, you know I do art projects like a little child. We were to be learning how to make art and talk about art like we will with our kids. First up: Lines, Shapes, and Forms. We are supposed to draw a continuous line into any sort of shape and then fill in the internal shapes with patterns, lines, etc. After we complete this, the teacher instructs us to share it with our "neighbor." We are supposed to praise the good aspects and tell how it makes us feel and ask any questions we might have. It turns out that Ms. Sleeper is my neighbor. She perks up and says she sees a sailboat in my drawing and asks about some triangles. I tell her I see swirling ribbons in her figure-8 patterns. Beneath that she was patterned the white space and she says, "I put L's here because my name is Lola. And hearts here because I love people." I kind of smile and nod because I'm not sure how to respond to these revelations. Then we take a break. Lola says, "I'm just having such a hard time staying awake!" I wanted to laugh at the obviousness of her statement.

Second up: 3-D form. Read, sculpture. So, the teacher leads up through the steps of making an animal sculpture out of sort of rubbery substance that is self-hardening. Try to imagine Stephanie sitting in a room of middle-aged woman making a 3-D animal...hard to picture, right?! Lola by now has become very pleased to chat with me as we sculpted. "Is that a cat you're making?" I kind of look at it, I'd actually been trying to make a pig, but it wasn't working, so I decided it did look more like a cat and went with that. Lola says, "That's such a cute kitty!" I duly admire her dog with a pug face and a long body. And then the teacher instructs us once again to share with our neighbor about our sculpture. Lola and I talk.

Last up: Printing. Using a wooden stylus, we draw a picture into styrofoam and then cover it with paint and press it onto a piece of paper. My attempt at this wasn't terribly successful. Kind of splotchy on the paint. Lola came back from printing hers, one paper saturated with paint and the other even spottier than mine, with a huge smile on her face. She held up the spotty one and said with great admiration, "This looks really great." I agreed it was pretty cool. As the class wrapped up, Lola once again brought my attention to the print and told me how great she thought it was.

Can you imagine that I wasn't sorry to leave the class? I actually had some fun making the cat. But, I was ready to be free from Chatty Ms. Bouncy Knee. In the end, Ms. Sleeper turned out to be quite pleasant. And I came home and regaled my husband with tales of Lola, my neighbor, and the rest of my adventures in Arts Alive.


Anonymous said...

Life and consequently people are ALWAYS interesting...

Thanks for the "slice-o-life"

Love Dad

Alaina said...

Great story...I can actually picture it all. And the thigh bumping? Well, I'm giggling just thinking about it. She obviously didn't know you. :)

Alaina said...

Oh and that class would have been my and me, well we just don't mix. :)

Barbara D said...

Okay - the story was absolutely wonderful! My bank stories are not that exciting but maybe one day!

So, help me again - I thought this was teaching reading. I obviously missed something here so fill me in on the job description. You have lots of time - you are likely snowbound. Our prayer meeting is canceled due to the cold!!!

jeremy said...

Lola sounds like a winner...I look forward to more possible run-ins with this side character which might lead to her own series

Heather L. said...

Great story! Very amusing. See if you can come up with more as the job goes on. :)

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