Assignment # 1 – The Human Hand

See the whole video. Then…

“The human hand can’t do anything perfectly. The human hand creates perfect imperfection.”

Character. Function. Doesn’t it all sound like what we do as educators? Can we afford to get it wrong?

Flow. Ballet.

What does your ballet look like? How do you hone your craft? What does your “shop” look like? What ingredients do you serve in your restaurant? What moulds do you build in your machine shop? What inspires you? Where does that come from? Do you think about egg cups? Is it time for farm-to-table in education? Do you think of yourself as an artist?

“This is what we do everyday.”

Your reactions, please. Leave them below, as a comment.

26 Replies to “Assignment # 1 – The Human Hand”

  1. I really don’t think of myself as an artist in my job as an educator/teacher. For the most part, I’m more of a journeyman. Meetings, testing, SLO’s, more meetings more testing leave little time for inspiration, and yet I do try. One way to find inspiration is to keep attending professional development opportunities, like NEOTIE 2016 that will allow me to expose my students to tools that may help them create, learn & connect with others. I also follow inspiring people on Twitter as well as a small circle of like minded teachers at work. My ballet is performed in front of up to 30 students at a time and despite my best attempt at perfection, there are stumbles and falls. I may not connect with all students, still, I pick myself up, dust myself off and continue on making the attempt to perfect my craft. My workshop is messy, and my piles of work shift around. However, I’ve been able to purge my workshop of anything resembling something that came from a mimeograph machine and replaced with more visually appealing and purposeful (by means of challenging) work. My products are constantly being retooled to fit my clients so in this way I guess I’m tailoring it farm-to-table just like Simon Pearce was doing it in his restaurant before it was a thing.

    1. I like that you “continue on making the attempt to perfect my craft.” Well worth it for the entire journey, I think.

  2. The video was very interesting. I have never thought of my teaching style as anything but teaching. I think the video shows how no 2 things are exact, just like our children. I teach them all the same basic skills for a particular goal (like a glass) but then have to tweak the skills to fit the particular child (like the finished glass). No two children (glasses) are exact- most very similar but still unique.
    What does your ballet look like?- my ballet is different each day and each session. My students are always changing either with improvements with their goals or regression due to goals/environment/life.
    How do you hone your craft?- I go to workshops, reading, social media groups. I am always trying to keep up to date on latest tests and procedures.
    What does your “shop” look like?- I feel my shop is organized mess- I know where things are but an outsider looking in may only see the mess.
    What ingredients do you serve in your restaurant?- I serve different things each day and different things each session, depending on the student individual goals. I often have a main course happening along with a desert- all in the same session.
    What moulds do you build in your machine shop?- I try to mold the student approach to how to make a particular sound or understand a particular concept.
    What inspires you?- My students are my inspiration. Their success.
    Where does that come from?- The want to make them better.
    Do you think about egg cups?- The fact that his family were very particular with what they did because the lack of funds relates to our education system. We can do great things with the limit buget.
    Is it time for farm-to-table in education?- I feel we need to do more farm-to-table in education- we need more hand on, interactive experiences- involving the local community in our education. I think this is why I see success with my student because I am doing a lot of hands on and relating what we are dong to what is needed in the students daily life .
    Do you think of yourself as an artist?- I have never thought of myself as an artist but I guess after watching this, that is exactly what I am. Working with my students and molding them and their behavior to get a finished product.

    1. “I often have a main course happening along with a desert – all in the same session.” What do we call that again? Differentiation. But you said it better. (and I’m glad I got you to think about your artistry, too!)

  3. My ballet is finely orchestrated, for I constantly have a plan and practice my plan. However, the plan always has room for improvement and leeway for the unexpected. I’m not sure I have any molds, for each class and each student brings something special to the mix. Thus the end product is always unique. The performance itself is different each time because the characters bring their own personalities to the stage and the enactment morphs into something completely distinctive.

    I do consider myself to be an artist or craftsman. I am constantly thinking about ways to take my craftsmanship to the next level and improve instruction for my students. I search for the best tried-and-true practices and infuse some of the new and innovative approaches to capture the interest of my students. So even though I put a great deal of thought and groundwork into every lesson, perfection remains elusive. Sadly I may improve my instruction with the next group of students, but in reality I only have one chance with this group. I hate to waste that opportunity!

  4. I think this video is fascinating for a few reasons:

    Firstly, they start with the most basal appendage (the hand) that indirectly guides the rest of the video and the things that they are doing in the video. By exploring the simplicity of the hand, they uncover how complex it really is and how instrumental it is as the first level of design, the conductor in a symphony of art.

    Secondly, the mention of failure and continual learning as a process of glass-making, in this example, intersects with our roles as educators. We are constantly faced with failure, with keeping up in our field, with trying to do better in our professional lives, and much like these glassblowers, we keep at our craft. We start small, taking time to craft the tiny pieces of our handiwork, forging pieces together for our students; eventually, we stand back and watch how the tiny pieces come together and create a perfectly imperfect design, and we always strive to do better.

    Do we ever definitively perfect our craft? Should we ever be satisfied with our craft and where we are in it at that moment? Or do we, like this family of glass blowers, keep remaining true to the core values of our craft but continually improve our process?

    1. Well said, and great questions! I don’t know the answer, for sure. As long as we do what’s good, and right, for kids, I think we’re on the better track… Thoughts?

  5. Wow! This video is such a metaphor for what we do everyday. Simon Pearce referred to glass blowing and individual pieces as “a combination of design and in that individual feeling that makes the piece unique and special.” This completely refers to our heart and soul that we put into each lesson, reaching every unique student with their individual needs, and in the end, the results are varied depending on the amount success every student is capable of achieving. Maybe that success is reflected in their grades. Maybe it’s reflected in their smile they have on their faces every time they enter your classroom and are happy to be there. Maybe that success is the eye contact a student has with you while you are teaching letting you know that they are engaged and are interested in your lesson. The success that an educator has after teaching doesn’t always look the same and doesn’t always feel the same to every teacher.

    The constant searching of “new expressions in the glass and of character” mirrors what we do as teachers. No matter how many years of experience we have under belt, education is constantly changing and so are the students. It is our job to figure out ways to”stay with the times” because that ultimately will reach students and help make them successful in and out of our classroom.

    Failure was talked about as well in this video along with the comparison of glass making being “like a ballet.” Every lesson we teach is choreographed in a way to serve a purpose and reach a goal. There is a “flow” to the ballet to present and assess the material. Sometimes failure occurs, but that is when self reflection takes place on both the student and teacher’s end. Then we go back at it and try something different in order to ensure that success we are trying to achieve.

    1. Well done! I like that you “get it”. Thank you for being reflective. Very important to think about what happens around you, and be able to navigate through challenging waters.

  6. In my classroom, there is a performance going on each day. I am the conductor and my students interact and perform like a symphonic orchestra. All instruments are different and unique, just like my students. Each musical note is produced in conjunction with another in order for the song to come together. My students must work as an independent structure, yet together they can make beautiful music.
    My craft began when I decided to become a teacher. Every lesson, meeting, conference, training, and student deepens my understanding about the educational process. Each day brings a new and exciting adventure in learning. My craft will never be perfected. I can make it genuine and sculpt it beautifully, but it is ever changing.
    My shop is filled with tools and strategies that help students learn. Much like the factory had a “behind the scenes” forge shop, I have a myriad of tools at my disposal in order to keep students engaged. I build strong foundations. My molds keep changing as the students grow.
    My students inspire me to become a better teacher. My lessons can go in so many different directions based on what students inquire about or strategies they may need to master a standard. Every student in my classroom can be compared to the hand blown glass. Each one of the glass pieces are unique and different as are the individuals in my class. They both begin as a certain form but then take on a whole new shape as they are molded and guided to become a masterpiece. Each separate and special in their own way.
    I believe to be an artist of education. I am molding our young children to become future leaders. My canvas is a classroom and the many different colors I need to make a work of art comes from my students.

  7. Glass blowing is an art form that is both beautiful and fascinating. I found myself drawing many connections to teaching, in both a metaphorical way and more literally. This could be because the assignment guided me in that direction, but it helped me identify some of the more intricate ways that our profession is a ballet, much like the work in the video. My shop is messy- it can be chaotic or it can be very focused and quiet. Just like blown glass, there is no exact mold for individual student success. The ingredients look different all the time- various skills, strategies, methods, and tools for meeting student interests, learning styles, and strengths. The greatest inspiration that I find is in my own students. Their ideas and discoveries continue to fascinate and inspire me each day. I can have one expectation for a lesson or project, and be pleasantly surprised to learn a completely different perspective when it gets into the hands of students.

    The part of the video that connected with me most was the importance of the human aspect. While state testing and standards can seem to control our craft, it’s the human aspect that makes it meaningful and special. The man in the video stated, “The human element is in every step of the process. It’s the hand and the eye evaluating everything, from the design, to the mold-making, to the glass blowing…” This very powerful quote can be directly linked to education, if we consider the role of a teacher. Particularly with the endless opportunities for research, collaboration, and innovation provided by technology, the teacher’s role of providing the human element is critical. It helps to facilitate meaningful discussion, encourage new ideas, and provide ways to improve. Without the human element, all of our students would be home-schooled on their own personal computer. The human aspect allows us to learn the resources provided to us, but also from one another.

  8. My ballet looks like I’m jumping and twirling all over the room like a pinball. There’s no real plan to it. It is in constant flux. That’s how most days progress. My craft is dual. I am a teacher and an artist. I hone my skills as an artist by working with children to hone their skills. I am constantly showing them my artistic skill in order to demonstrate what they should do to improve their own. My shop and my restaurant would look like a mixture of different eclectic items and foods. The menu and the shop inventory would likely change on a regular basis because there is constant change and flexibility involved in my life and career. If my shop and store are much like my classroom environment, I would think there’s a great deal of color and activity going on. The molds that I would build would be foundations for other things to be built upon. I cannot say I like standard duplicates of things. Every mold could be a basis for someone else to build on top of, like a bowl that you can add more clay onto to make a more unique design. It’s like with my students. I show them the standard skill to start them off, they build upon that skill (mold) to create their own, while using their own plans. I am inspired by diversity. I believe it’s from my upbringing, living in foreign countries and my very diverse ethnic background. I enjoy the differences and unique approaches everyone has. This makes me a very flexible and open minded individual who believes in everyone’s right to express themselves. This of course fuels creativity. Every person is different in the way they think and create. To stick to a standard mold would crush that creativity. I do believe that our educational system sometimes puts us in a position to treat and teach everyone with a standard molded approach. I think that learning by doing in an “internship” type scenario is what I equate with the “farm to table” analogy. I may be completely misinterpreting that. I think that as an artist and educator, my classes, and my subject area in general, is run that way. We show students what to do and let them do it. They learn as they go, while we guide them along. That is what makes my every day special and teaching enjoyable.

  9. I believe the flow is much more important than the ballet. I identify much more with the care the glassblowers are taking to create something special in each piece. In that respect I think it more important to impact students in movements, the buildup leading to a jump and what comes next is more important than the jump itself. Constantly achieving that moment where a few students are in awe of what they can do is something I am working on as my craft.

    My shop is very personalized, like the shop in the video. I want every bit of decoration to have some significance either personally or to my students. I like their philosophy of using the goodness of the outside world to influence and help guide the workings of their business.

    It’s pretty good that I do not have a restaurant, since I may end up tweaking the recipes for each individual customer. Ingredients would pile up and may go unused. The same is true in my teaching. I would like to work a bit more on managing my resources better. Let the forge take care of things once hand designed like in the video.

    Farm to table leaves out the exotic. It is very important to be able to show a variety of viewpoints. Mass production is not better, but can leave resources for a larger alternate experience when every step of the process is not micromanaged. Students should be able to see beyond to all possibilities available, not just local opportunities. In this respect, I reject the notion of an everyday. Days should be unique with a fresh idea, a fresh thought. This is where I most feel like an artist by trying to bring new ideas into existence. I relish imperfections; sometimes they create the strongest impacts.

  10. First of all, this video made me sad. I feel that the field of education today has become all about standards, high stakes testing, evaluations, and paperwork, more than developing every student to the best of his/her potential. As a third grade teacher in Ohio, we’re faced with the challenge of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Students come to us behind in all subject areas. Some are identified with special needs, others just struggling with literacy. The struggle for the teacher is knowing you need to take baby steps in developing these students for long term education, but faced with the fact that we must hurry them through the standards and give them the necessary strategies to be promoted to fourth grade. The narrator talked about not being able to take your eyes off the creation or leave it for a second. That is how I feel about our students. Unfortunately, I feel this was because we always need to do more,we always need to better and we always need to succeed. Being an artist as an educator would, in my opinion, develop students who love to learn. Sometimes I feel more like a doctor running a reading clinic than an artist creating individual masterpieces. Our country needs diversity. As we use differentiation in our classroom to scaffold our students’ learning each child makes progress, but will they be able to score a 42 on the AIR reading assessment? Students are like our works of art, each one is unique. I feel the state is trying to bog us down and take some of that creativity out of our profession. As educators we need to continue to look at our students and do the best we can for them everyday, so that they have the drive, the skills, and the desire to become the inspiration for someone in their future.

    1. I like your metaphor of artist vs doctor. I think many feel that way, and it’s hard to practice true artistry when constraints are high, and resources like time, low.

  11. The comment that resonates with me is “You never get a second chance.” This makes me feel that EVERY opportunity I have with students I must be at my very best. Impossible and unrealistic goal, yes, but certainly worthy enough to make the effort. Fortunately, students can be forgiving. So when things go crazy, at least we ALL learn.

    1. I agree. That’s what learning is all about, isn’t it? Learning from one to the next opportunity to hone your skills.

  12. I am an artist. I work with what I am given to create a daily experience for my students. I am fortunate to be given a lot in terms of facilities, equipment, professional & tech support, and students who are ready to embark on the daily experience in my class. The nice part about being an artist is that there is freedom to create and change, from period to period, day to day, and year to year. I don´t let state standards and district initiatives distract me from my basic job, which is teaching physics. Like the video, teaching and physics are both old crafts. Most of the physics I teach is knowledge that is hundreds of years old. (Even ¨modern physics” is over 100 years old, but not considered age appropriate for high schoolers even though that´s what they want to learn – but that´s another essay). But unlike the video, I don´t teach it the same way my father and father´s father learned it. This isn´t glass blowing. My product is constantly evolving and so am I, though the foundation stays the same. One more thought on do we have to be perfect or can we afford to make a mistake. If we are to try new things we have to make mistakes. And an individual student or class of students is not harmed by a lesson that is ineffective or a course that they didn´t relate to. It´s part of the educational journey they are on, and the reason they take 8 courses a year. Some they love, some they dread, some too easy, some very challenging. And an innovative teacher will give students many many more valuable experiences than duds, and the students will appreciate their teacher for it.

    1. “freedom to create and change” – an artist’s credo, right? I like your take on the educational journey, too – some classes / experiences will not connect, and others, most definitely and powerfully so.

  13. Teaching lower elementary, I don’t think that I can say I am a true artist in the educational craft. I must be knowledgeable in a variety of areas as I teach all of them, but full mastery has yet to be attained. Is this because standards and ideas are constantly changing so as soon as feel close to artistry we are asked to take students to another place – a new level? Or maybe if all of that was set aside and so I could just focus on my students it might feel different. It might not always be perfect, but each child is unique, and special in their own right. They deserve to get the best of me everyday, and in turn I must continuously ‘sharpen the saw’ to meet their demands, and the demands and changes of the world we live in. Each and every day I am charged with helping to shape or mold, if you will, future astronauts, performers, or business entrepreneurs. For me that’s a really cool gig – so I’m in!

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