Shattered Mosaic


The Mosaic Project should have been one of the highlights of my students’ final year in elementary school. They would be studying photography, learning about different types of phtographs, and taking the cameras home to capture shots of their cultural and neighborhood experiences.

Why not? That’s what I did last year in my first year of the project, so at worst, this year would be a repeat. At best, I would improve on last year’s and continue doing so throughout my career.

Unfortunately, the best laid plans often find a way of going to waste, don’t they? With the restructuring of the all important testing schedule, so that my dear children will face double the pressure in a span of less than 2 weeks (rather than 3 months), all designs of a wonderful Mosaic experience have essentially been shattered.

Last year, my students produced over 100 photographs. Everyone displayed a shot of their neighborhood and most produced photos of their cultures. This year, cultural photoraphy wasn’t even an option, given the time constraints. (The enrichment project effectively ends next week, rather than May, like last year). Weather-related closings and the simple fact that I don’t trust cameras in the rain have made it difficult for me to send students home with them. With our deadline looming next week, I have sent a camera home with a grand total of only seven students (out of 28). Yikes.

Today, I let the class know that there would be absolutely no way everyone would be able to have a photograph displayed, given our looming deadline. Yet, I’m fully aware that all my students need to feel some connection to this suddenly uninviting, exclusive project. So today, I asked the students who won’t wind up taking photos to revisit their notes from our meditation exercise of some time ago, when we naively, exuberantly stood on the precipice of what promised to be an unforgettable learning experience.

I knew I had to do a serious sell job on this, considering envious eyes were watching as I distributed colorful, intriguing papers to the students who had already taken the camera (they were charged with a different, photo-related task). Basically, I framed the work for the non-photographers this way: even though you won’t have an actual picture to display, you can paint a picture with your words. So, let’s look at this as an opportunity to create a real tribute to your neighborhood. Maybe you love it. Maybe you hate it. But take the time and the effort to craft something – something almost poetic – that will show our guests what your neighborhood means to you.

Well, some bought it, and are taking very seriously the disappointing task set before them. It’s a let down, but it’s the best I can do at this point.

It’s a tough spot, and just another reason to give thanks to the deity that is the standardized testing culture. Hey, without them, my students might have actually been able to fulfill their photographic potential. But why would anyone want that? There’s no point. It’s all about the tests.

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One response to “Shattered Mosaic

  1. well said. We have quite a balancing act as teachers. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the children first – priorities are often blurred by demeaning standards imposed by so many outside forces. Interesting how you described it as a Mosaic experience. Sometimes it feels like “a near drowning experience

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