‘Draw on my dress’ said the teacher
With all of the heartbreaking stories in the national news recently, it’s refreshing to hear of a local story in which children were honored and celebrated. St. George second grade teacher Alison Babb took an art project for 12 of her students and turned it into a hands-on lesson in empathy, cooperation, perseverance, responsibility and reflection. Here is her story.
Q: How did you get the idea?
A: I had the news on in the background when I’m getting ready to go to school and I’d heard about this fourth grade teacher who wore a dress that all of her kids drew on, so I thought that was a wonderful idea.
About a week later, my mother found me a white dress on Amazon and I went to Michael’s for some fabric markers and just came to school and told them that they had free artistic reign. I told them to make me something beautiful to wear on the last day of school.
I didn’t want to direct them in any way; it was their project. It took them six months to create this beautiful piece of artwork.
Q: How did they get so many images on it?
A: I told them all to do one small drawing just to get a feel for what they wanted to incorporate into it. Then, I put the dress on the art table in the library and every time the kids finished an assignment early or they needed a break, they’d come over to me and ask ‘Miss Babb can I draw on the dress?’ and they’d go to the library and sit there quietly, adding something new to it.
There are a lot of snacks on this dress: pizza, ice cream, cupcakes, etc. which is funny because the kids nicknamed me ‘Miss Snacks’ about half way through the year. They played out nicely with the number of snack portrayals on the dress.
Q: But we’re also seeing images of the world, symbols of love, rainbows, rockets and wildlife. Do you know what that is all about?
A: It’s so interesting because the symbols on the dress are all a mix of things the kids picked up in our class. I think teachers do so much more than just teach academics. It is our job to raise little humans that are going to go out into the world and be kind, be empathetic and do good things. We have a saying in our classroom: ‘We are crew, not passengers.’
And there are five qualities I explicitly teach all year: cooperation, perseverance, responsibility, reflection and empathy.
We do week-long units on what that means in our classroom, so all over the dress I’m seeing little symbols of ‘We are crew’ and perseverance and being empathetic mixed in with dinosaurs, rocket ships and a DeLorean. Yes, there is a DeLorean on there.
Q: What was the reaction of everyone when you wore the dress on the last day of school?
A: I think for the students, it was the closest thing to having a celebrity encounter. They all filed in after recess and it was like jaws dropping on the floor. They kept poking me and trying to find their drawing. We also had a number of parents and school community members express amazement over the dress.
These kids worked really hard on it all year and then we got to celebrate something beautiful.
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com