I was sorting through some old student work the other day, and I began to wonder–how much work do most teachers keep around? The best stuff that I keep is actually part of my school’s permanent collection of student artwork, something I began just a couple of years after I started teaching. This is probably my favorite piece, which was given to me as a parting gift from the student:
It’s an awesome set of wheel-thrown lidded vases, and they sit WAY up high where no one can touch them. They’re up there with a couple of other paintings and a couple drawings as well. We also have huge paintings in the library, a 14-foot mobile that we created there as well, and some other work around the school (and not all of it good, even–one social studies teacher collects the worst work for his “Island of Misfit Art Projects”. It’s pretty awesome).
I have had students want to donate work as a gift, or as a thank you. But I’m also not shy about asking for work to display. A lot of times, students want to keep their very best work, but there isn’t anything wrong with taking a second-best work. Sometimes, though, they are happy to give you their best if they know that work is going to be part of something special. Some schools are actually lucky enough to have the money in their budget to purchase work from students, usually one work per year. That’s definitely not happening where I am, but nevertheless, it’s a cool idea.
I like the idea of having old student work around–there’s a sense of posterity, and seeing great stuff that has been created previously always gives students something to strive for. Most of all, it makes my room look cool and helps me remember kids fondly, and I think that’s why it’s really there.