i’ve spent the last month teaching at a local art center. one of the groups i had recently was an absolute handful and a pain in the butt (this is a rarity, as most of the camp population is really, really into making art and mostly wealthy, which means while we’re working we talk about their second homes and fabulous vacations they’ve been on). one girl in particular, K, was the catalyst for the descent into chaos in this class – she was mouthy, bossy, didn’t listen and was generally a complete spazz in the way only an 11 year old can be. i could not figure out how to tap into her – figuring out what would help her calm down, focus on her work and make the rest of the class happier, since her peers were clearly annoyed with her too.

then yesterday, they put the finishing touches on their projects far more quickly than i anticipated, and we were left with about 45 minutes in the class. i couldn’t possibly have them play clay pictionary for that long, so i grabbed her and a couple other kids, gave them a tray of dirty clay tools and told them to clean.

and lo, it worked. especially for K. as soon as i gave her a purpose, a job, she quieted down, concentrated fully and happily on what she was doing, and proudly presented me with a tray of sparkling clean tools, asking for more. so i gave her more, and the rest of the class was peaceful.

in anticipation of getting a dog in September, i’ve been reading various how-to and training manuals. having dealt with unruly, untrained puppies in two of my previous jobs, i am keen on making sure my dog is well mannered. one of the things that was repeated over and over was that you have to give a dog a job, a thing for work for. if the dog knows it has a job (in this case, obeying their owner and behaving within certain parameters) everyone will be happier. turns out the same is true for some kids.


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