When I am teaching in the juvenile hall schools, I often observe students tagging on the desks, in the books, on the chairs, walls-- anywhere they can make their “mark.” When I catch them, they get “written up” and have consequences. I try to make this a teachable moment.
I’ve explained to my classes numerous times about a new camera that will take a picture of their “art” The pictures are fed into a countywide data base.
“When you get arrested, all that artwork will become evidence in charges against you and you will also have to pay restitution.”
Recently, one young man told me that he paints graffiti because he is mad at the government. I tried to explain to him that his taking a risk to be arrested again—to be locked up-- is not going to make any difference or change what the government is doing or not doing.
He seemed to listen. Later, I went to Michael’s craft store and bought him an artist’s pad so he could practice his art work on a more “appropriate” medium. (I was able to give the pad to him because he had completed a special program at the school. Otherwise, I would have to give a pad to all of the students).
I told him he could, when he gets out, go to Michael’s and buy small canvas boards and start selling his art work. “You are talented!” I told him. He smiled.
But, I knew he could make more money selling drugs and feared all my encouragement wouldn’t mean much when he got back to his neighborhood.
I haven’t seen him again. Perhaps he’s been released. I just hope he thinks next time before he does his “art”—and remembers a teacher once told him he had talent and to use it differently. This would make me smile.
From time to time I plan to share some of my thoughts and insights about the students I teach in the juvenile hall schools. I appreciate any comments or thoughts you might have as well. Each of these kids has a unique story.