Holding On

Photo "Hands on the Wheel." by Melody Weintraub. Do not use without permission.

Photo "Hands on the Wheel." by Melody Weintraub. Do not use without permission.

So, the last day before Spring Break, I decided to introduce my 6th Grade Art Class to the Pottery Wheel. Yes, the class was low in numbers that day and no, it wasn't in the scope and sequence. It was however, a teachable forty minutes..not just for the students, but also for their teacher.

STARTING SMALL- I decided to start them off with a small amount of clay, knowing this was their first experience on the wheel, a larger amount might have been too much for them to handle. LIFE LESSON: Maybe we shouldn't complain if we are given less responsibilities/position than others but instead shine with what we have been given.

SIMPLE DESIGN - No, elaborate designs here and kept trimming to a minimum. Basically the goal was to learn to center the clay, see how it worked and to get over the muddy hands. LIFE LESSON: Sometimes in order to make something remarkable or experience something extraordinary, we might have to step outside of our comfort zone. 

NO PROMISES - I also told them ahead of time that I didn't promise that I would fire what they made. The goal of this activity was not the product, but to let them experience the clay. It actually relaxed them to know that their first attempt did not need to be successful. LIFE LESSON: Enjoy the moment.

DEMONSTRATION - I demonstrated the process for them beforehand. I was careful to point out the position of my hands and arms and how important it was to maintain symmetry. I am in no sense of the word, a "master" potter. However, I know enough to teach them the basics of throwing a pot on the wheel. That's why their response took me by surprise as they practically squealed with excitement seeing this ordinary art teacher turn an ordinary pot. LIFE LESSON: Never underestimate the awesomeness of what you teach.

GUIDED PRACTICE - Now it was the students' turn at the wheel and as the first three potters began centering their clay, the other students watching and waiting began cheering them on, reminding them of the procedure they had just witnessed together. And when the second group sat at the wheels, the first group coached them and then something extraordinary happened. A student who was having difficulty centering her clay was assisted by the hands of her "coach." I watched in amazement as their hands collaboratively began to control the clay. LIFE LESSON: If life ever feels out of control, hold on and never resist the help of your friends.