One of the most fundamental things for my kindergarten students experience in art is finger painting.
I always teach my students the basics of finger painting the first few weeks of school so that I can remind them not to 'paint their hands' or use their fingers later in the year when we are using brushes.
It is a feeble attempt at making sure that I have some order in the chaotic world of the kindergarten art room. Get the messiest stuff over with. This year, I finger painted with 11 classes of kindergarten. That is nearly 250 kids.
Every year, I learn a lot about myself and classroom dynamics when I do this lesson. The lesson itself is very repetitive. This is my fifth year doing the same routine with the same number of classes, so I've literally taught this same thing probably 55-60 times. I've got it down to a near-perfection.
I have learned to always 'suggest' that students pick one hand to spread out the paint and keep the other hand clean....in case they have an itch or they need to brush their hair out of their eyes. Most of the time, kids get excited at the idea of covering their hands in paint so I don't stress too much about it on fingerpainting week. They sort of 'get away' with it and I let it slide, but as the year goes on, I expect them to keep their hands mostly clean.
This year, I experienced the ultimate-finger-painting-day-realization that keeping one hand clean is the BEST idea. A boy was spreading out black finger paint, trying to draw in the paint with a popcicle stick.....and then he sneezed.
Both hands were covered with black paint.
This wasn't an ordinary sneeze.
This was the sort of sneeze that produced a full-on snot string that stretched down to the table.
I am no stranger to snot strings. Often, I will be reading a book or giving instructions when I witness an enormous sneeze that produces the elastic, snotty, dripping goo. Usually, the student is able to wipe it on their shirt, suck it back in, or ingest the greenish puddle before I can hand them a tissue or even say their name in reference to using a tissue.
He grabbed it and got most of the snot, but before he could completely clean it up, another sneeze showed up, and another snot string stretched out.
He continued to use the paper towel, now speckled with black paint to wipe his nose. Black finger paint was covering both his hands and it was getting all over his nose and into his nostrils.
I tried to help the boy, in between putting wet finger paintings in the drying rack, wiping up dropped paint, monitoring the water buckets to be sure that kids were not 'hogging' the sponges or splashing water, and generally making sure that the room wasn't erupting in utter chaos around me.
I've learned to tell kids not to 'pretend' like they are going to wipe their hands on someone, not to actually touch anyone else, not to clap their hands together because the paint can splat in someone's eye, not to drip water over the floor when walking with a wet paper towel to clean up their spot because when other kids are walking around the room it can become slippery and dangerous and yesterday a girl fell...she didn't get hurt really bad, but she did cry.....all of those personal experiences become part of the lesson and kids seem to really remember things that 'actually' happened to 'some other kid' even if I made the whole thing up...It keeps them safe...and it keeps me sane...
In the NOTES FOR NEXT TIME section of my lesson plan, I will probably remind myself of the snot story so that next year, I can more strongly suggest that kids ONLY use one hand to spread out the paint.
But for now....I am just glad that I don't have to finger paint FOR 12 WHOLE MONTHS! YAY for that milestone in the school year!
It feels good to have gotten it over with....now on to clay (which isn't messy or troublesome normally...I just have to haul every bit of it to another school to be fired since I don't have a kiln so it takes a lot of time to load it up in my car, unload it, load the kiln, unload it, load my car, unload it, glaze, load my car, unload it, load the kiln, unload it, load my car, unload it!)