His selfie was magnificent.
I projected it to the class and offered, “This is the best one I’ve seen all day.” The image expressed a young boy’s confidence and wisdom set behind glowing eyes. I thanked him and returned his iPhone. He walked away beaming from ear to ear.
His teacher stood to my right and close by. Glancing her way, I noted tears welling up in her eyes. “Are you okay?” I queried. “Yes. You have no idea what that meant to that student.”
A few weeks earlier I had attended a function at Town Hall. My creative friend, Juan Alonso-Rodriguez, was appointed the Hall’s first “artist-in-residence.” His premier gathering was an event, in his words, “The idea for this event is to bring audiences and artists of various disciplines together as well as introducing artists to many other resources in a casual atmosphere.”
After the presentation, I mingled through the crowd where I met a middle school teacher. After a few minutes of conversation, she asked if I might be interested in spending some time with her art class. In particular talking about my creative journey and perhaps giving a short “how to” lesson. These are always so enjoyable for me. Plus, I thought, I have not been up close and personal with a roomful of early teens, well,… since I was an early teen.
On the appointed day, I spoke to three consecutive classes, each with 25-35 students. I marveled as they rolled through the door. The quiet girl with streaked hair, head down, was a mirror image of Ally Sheedy, late of the Breakfast Club. Another young man, tall, extremely handsome, obviously the head of his crew, reminded me of Justin Bieber. I noted Justin Bieber pinned to the wall and yelled out “Justin B.” He stopped laughing, gave me the evil eye, and turned to his seat. It went on like this as all 35 rolled into the room.
The young man whose work I later applauded sat quietly by himself.
After about 30 minutes of show and tell, I launched into an introduction to selfies. The basic four steps to better selfie’s were discussed. I then asked them to explore on their own. What ensued for the next eight minutes, to my eyes, was pandemonium. Although I was assured it was controlled chaos and they were normal and well behaved. At the end of the class, I was able to review and comment on a dozen or so images. Most attempts were not remarkable. My young man’s was.
Then, the bell rang and they quickly piled out. So much chaos. So different from what I remember. I might add that the teachers were amazing to maintain calm, composure, and keep the class under control.
After class, the teacher pulled out some art projects, among them, this young man’s work. Compared to most of the other paintings/drawings, his was lacking spirit. Much of his year had been difficult and his self-esteem was fleeing. Being drawn to the creative arts, he was feeling down, that he “had no talent.” Then the selfie. As she wiped away a tear, the teacher concluded, “You didn’t just make his day, you may have made his year!” She added, ” It’s moments like these that remind me why I continue to teach.”
I thanked her for the opportunity, walked into the now quiet hallway, and smiled.