SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL: Jackson Pollock Comes To The NYC DOE

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jackson Pollock Comes To The NYC DOE

Years ago, I think around 1996, my wife and I were passing through Austerlitz NY on Labor Day weekend and came upon a yard sale. At this yard sale my wife, who happens to be an artist, noticed this watercolor of a beach scene. She wanted it really bad, and easily shelled out the $2 to purchase it.

A friend of mine that just proudly decorated his living room with an oil painting bought at the Galleria Mall in White Plains derided us for buying art at a yard sale. He said, "you need to be careful who you buy art from. You should know the name of the person to make sure it will have value."

Whenever my wife and I go to MoMA or to the Met, I am like a little kid when I see anything of Jackson Pollock's. It must be the neurons in my ADD mind that go off or something like that. I just stared and study and wonder how Pollock was able to create what he did. My wife on the other hand, well, she does not care for Pollock. But never at any time has she said Pollock is not a good artist.

So why am I sharing these two stories? I think it is a great correlation between art and how we evaluate teachers. Can we truly evaluate something that more and more people are saying, and have always said, is a craft?

Yes, there are true hard factual methods we can judge a teacher. But, those are very minute. But, the act of teaching, if we compare it to how we judge an artist, how can there be any sure fire method?

My friend, the art collector, he sees art as something to collect that increases in value. That those little finds along the roadway are, and will continue to be, worthless. The art he bought at the hotel/motel art store in the Galleria, he truly believed it to be art. It was a seascape that matched is living room furniture. I, and my wife, both did not see it as art.

This is no different than looking at a teacher. This is especially so in having parents evaluating a teacher. One parent will love the teacher, another won't. Same as a student.

How can we evaluate teachers properly when so much of what we do is nuanced? When so much of what we do, and why we do it, is different than a teacher in the same hall as us?

Each teacher, with each class, with each student, with each parent has a skill set, a method, a knowledge base that comes from years of doing their job. That what might work with one student, does not necessarily mean that method will work with another.

Teaching from a script, from an earpiece connected to a control room (as Bill Gates wishes) removes the craft, the art, the nuance from education.

What is wonderful about teaching, about being with children is that each day is going to be different, each minute will be different. There is no way to predict what will happen inside a classroom, let alone a school.

Gunny Sgt Highway said it best, "Improvise, Adapt and Overcome." That is what teachers do each and every day.

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