At the beginning of last school year, we did a fun little activity during one of our PD days. You sit across from a partner, paper on the table and markers in hand. You then have one minute to draw a portrait of your partner.
The catch? You can’t look down.
One tense minute later, you have a lot of hilarity on the page. People pass the papers around; several of ours ended up on a piece of string and were displayed all year in the main office. We talked about what we focused on (hair style! earrings!) and what we left out or messed up (ears, noses, eyes, mouths…)
I totally forget who on staff presented this activity; kudos to them. Ostensibly it was shared as a “you can do this with your kids” sample. But the key thing was that we enjoyed doing it ourselves. As teachers, I would argue that we have an even lower tolerance for crap than our students — if it’s insincere, or pointless, or boring, our alarms go off right away. Talking to teachers around Philadelphia, I heard plenty of stories about new initiatives, slogans, or activities that were being handed down to teachers at the beginning of the year — stuff that has been developed and tested and standardized for maximum effectiveness… and that you know in your bones kids aren’t going to buy into. If it doesn’t have legs in the teacher’s meeting, it is destined to fail in the classroom.
I kept the partner portrait activity in the back of my mind for a while, and then we busted it our with our new freshmen advisees on the first day of school. An awkward first hour melted away to instant laughter.
“We did this last year,” I told them. “You should see ours!”