Monday, December 28, 2009

The Best Christmas Present Ever!

Twas two weeks before the winter break
And Mr. Jim’s dining room table was a muss
As he assembled his presents of art
For the children of The Peacebus!!!

After Joanne and I had moved to the west part of London, I quickly realized that I had a further distance to travel with my school bus during my afternoon break. A further distance means that I am using more diesel fuel and we all know that that is bad for the environment! I talked with my supervisor about this issue and soon we had an agreement that will see me driving bus routes closer to my home, in the new year. My new routes will be saving me about 30 minutes of travel-time each day. This will also save Murphy Bus Lines a few dollars in fuel costs each day and of course the amount of exhaust pollution coming out of bus’ tailpipe will be decreased, as well.

Unfortunately, this also meant that my time with the elementary school students that I had gotten to know so well, would soon be over.

I was thinking about this… and thinking about a fun way to end our time together – with christmas approaching – when it suddenly occurred to me that my students had never seen any of my artwork. I began to work on a solution for this problem!

I spent one afternoon going through some of my old art files. I wanted to create some new art prints from images that had never before been turned into hardcopy prints. These are the four images that I had selected…

Oops! Did I say ‘never’??? Okay! Okay! This image had been turned into a print, just once before, but at about half this size. I just love this painting so much that I had to revisit it, clean up the colours a little bit, re-do the title and border, so that I could share it with a new audience.

Haaaa! Did I say ‘my artwork’??? While I was getting this image ready I realized that while my desire was to share ‘my’ artwork, I was actually sharing the artwork created by students that I had taught in previous years.

I guess that I wasn’t tooooo far off the mark, as I was the one who had created and laid out the designs, mixed the paint colours and gave direction to the students.

One out of four ain’t too bad, though – eh!?!!! Yes – this art peace is one that I had created on my own… and this was the first time that I had ever created prints of this image. I wanted to show the students a different way of creating art. This image was created using ‘cut-n-paste’ techniques, using many small bits of magazines all cut out and glued together to create this image of a Temagami pine tree.

And as per the ‘Mr. Jim’ way of doing things, I also decided to add little surprises to these packages, as well. I added poems, Stik-man peace stickers and a news story that related to each painting. I also wanted to decorate the envelopes that I was putting all of these things in.

I used Jason’s christmas peace art drawing to create these stickers that I put on the front of the envelopes – with a small message saying “To be opened christmas morning some time after a yummy breakfast!”

I also used some cool artworks that I had collected from the internet to create nametag stickers for each of these envelopes.

Now… my plan was to give one of these packages to each student who rode my bus, but I didn’t tell them that. I told them that if they wanted a special surprise from me for christmas that they had to create one more peace of art for The Peacebus. I handed out a fun activity sheet for them to work on during their spare time that involved the creation of visual art and poetry art.

Over the next week many students handed in their completed art sheets. When an assignment was handed in I gave the student one of my packages. When the other students saw this happening they became excited to get one of my presents, too and soon more and more artworks were handed in.

I thought that it was great to see that many of the student’s parents had helped with these assignments. I could tell when a grade 3 student handed in his poem with the line “Typhoons are common on the other side of the Earth!” I smiled as I thought how my simple art sheet was being used to bring parents and children together to discuss environmental issues and creative art expressions!!!

This is a collection of some of their artworks and poetry…

It was only a few days before the winter break and a few sad faces came to talk to me. Some of the students had told me that they had lost the art sheets and they were upset because there was no time left to redo them. Quickly I had to make my announcement to the students, as I did not want one single sad person on my bus. I simply told them that if they had lost their art sheets, or had been too busy to do them that they were not to become upset… because every student would be receiving a special present from me. The bus filled with cheers and everyone became excited. By the end of this day I had handed out all of my presents!

Over the last three days the artwork still came in…

One boy told me that although he had lost his art sheet, he still wanted to hand in something peaceful. He had gone onto the internet and printed this cool picture for the me and the bus!

Two brothers were a little sad to know that I wasn’t going to be their bus driver after the holidays and so they had created a special ‘thank-you’ card for me. Inside it said “Mr. Jim – you are #1 bus driver. We will miss you!”

Danielle handed in one more art creation. She told me that although she had already handed in her art sheet and had received her gift that she wanted to make another peace of artwork especially for me, to thank me for being so much fun! She was really excited to point out how the Earth in her drawing was also the ‘o’ in the words ‘don’t destroy’. I told her that was a very clever idea, indeed!!!!

During the last two days of the school year I was surprised and delighted to receive a few other gifts from my students. I received another ‘Good-bye’ card, a box of chocolates, a few gift cards, a mug filled with packets of hot chocolate and a small envelope with a letter inside.

After I had dropped the students off at school I went home, made myself a cup of hot chocolate and lounged on my sofa surrounded by my two cats with Koly at my feet and Mikayla’s letter in my hand…

To say that this was a touching and thoughtful letter barely scratches the surface. It truly warmed my heart. This young girl in grade four had shown me (and now that you’ve read it – the world!) that the best presents are not store bought and wrapped with paper, ribbons and bows. The best presents are made from the heart and wrapped with love!!!


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