Today as I sit and write I must admit, since Friday night I cannot stop replaying all last week in my mind. Why you ask? Because our class spent last week preparing for our big art show. And on Friday night our art show unfolded in the most beautiful way.
Last week I wrote about this upcoming experience on the blog. All last week our classroom buzzed with excitement. We wrote artists statements. We practiced what to do when someone asked us about our artwork. We practiced interviewing each other. We made signs. We practiced using google maps to find the location. We even created bookmarks to give away for small donations. We finalized our reports on Puerto Rico.
Local news reporter Rick Wells came to do a story on us to help promote our art show. Their piece brought me to tears. Every adult in that room beamed with astonishment as they exclaimed to me how incredibly poised and knowledgeable each child was about what we were doing and why.
Thursday night as my mom and I hung everything up (crooked, we tried) in the space Chimera generously donated, I had this moment. The large room fell still. I saw all the artwork and artist statements hanging in this makeshift gallery space. The culmination of something bigger than me, bigger than my students.
I took a moment to admire the carefully crafted artwork. I observed the beautiful portraits of each artist donated by local photographer James Parker marveling at how each child’s personality radiated through the photographs. I reread the statements each child made about their work for what felt like the hundredth time. I found missed typos I did not fix, sorry world. The images, stories, and paintings all came together. Unbridled joy and anticipation bubbled up inside of me.
I left that space with a list of more things to do before Friday, but also knowing that this art show was going to work. It may not be perfect, but a slice of the world was going to get a small glimpse of what I get to see every day.
On Friday as a class we celebrated what was to come by sharing what we enjoyed about our project. Some children knew they were coming, others were not. We watched videos and looked at pictures from our class twitter account . Each child saw their artwork hanging in a gallery. I am going to say that again, each student saw their artwork hanging in a gallery. They saw their picture next to their words. They encouraged each other as they eagerly anticipated meeting our goal of $`1,000.
We sat in a circle and one child asked, “Ms. Steinocher, what if just one painting is not sold?” Before I could even answer another child chimed in, “If it doesn’t sell maybe we can not buy ice cream as a class and we can buy it!” Our school sells ice cream as a fundraiser at lunch, and this group of second graders decided collectively to instead use that money they may bring to help each other.
You see, I work at a school many people falsely label “that school” with “those kids”. I loathe when others assume this about a place I love so dearly. This misconception and bias anguishes me. I want the world to know the truth about the families and communities I have had the privilege to work with each and every day for the last ten years.
But alas, all last week and on Friday night “those kids” stood by paintings and raised over $1,000 for people in Puerto Rico. “Those kids” floored the people who came to our art show with their creativity and their empathy. “Those kids” stories brought grown adults to tears with how much compassion and wisdom they showed to each other and to the cause they stood behind. Not in a way that exploited what others assume of their circumstances, but because of their authenticity, wisdom and talent.
One student in particular was chatting with one of my friends near the end of the night. She had purchased his painting and wanted to tell him how proud of him she was and how much she loved it. All my student could talk about was how worried he was that two of his friend’s paintings had not sold yet. He grew consumed with making sure that someone purchased those two paintings.
“Ms. Steinocher, I won’t feel good about my painting being sold until those sell.”
When those two paintings were purchased, he beamed with pride and announced to me, “Ms. Steinocher, I cannot wait to tell them we did it! We sold everything and changed the world for good!”
There were countless moments of beauty throughout the evening. Parents of students glowing with pride. Students stepping out of their shell for the evening as they themselves burst with hope for Puerto Rico. A student seeing her painting sold and running over to tell me, “We raised another $50 for Puerto Rico!”
The generosity, joy, compassion, wisdom, truth, and hope each and every child displayed during this project gave me a renewed sense of what we can truly accomplish. “Those kids from that school” reminded me of what a group of people who band together can pull off.
So tonight, I say thank you. Thank you to each and every individual who pushed me to try this. Thank you to each person and business who donated and helped make this happen. Thank you to each and every individual who showed up to celebrate and support our class. Thank you to each person who made a donation, no matter the size. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
May we never forget that each day we carry with us the same hope and joy that radiated from that space Friday night. We really can change the world for good. As you move into this week look for big and small ways to fill the world around you with a little more joy, hope and awesomeness.
If you would still like to donate to our class, click this link.
*I used everyone else’s pictures because I forgot to take pictures. So thank you. You know who you are. My students who could not attend will be very grateful you shared, as am I.