If you're in the U.S. and you have kids in public school, I would venture to guess that in preschool and/or kindergarten there came a day in November when they came home with one of these: The Paper Plate Turkey. There are lots of variations to the design but they all involve some amount of gluing, cutting and other fine motor skills, making them a perfect activity for the 3-5 age set.
When Angela was in kindergarten, she came home the day before Thanksgiving with a beautiful Paper Plate Turkey. It was stunning. It was so perfect, in fact, I turned it over to make sure her name was on it because I was pretty sure the example turkey had been sent home by mistake. Sure enough, there was her name. Not written by her, of course, but it was there.
I looked at the front of the turkey again. Every paper feather was perfectly cut. The eyes perfectly aligned. The beak and feet exactly where they should be. Obviously Angela had not made this turkey. On Angela's IEP, some of fine fine motor goals included things like, "will cut within 3/4 inch of a line". In other words, Angela was just learning how to cut and follow a line; there was no way she was going to cut these turkey pieces exactly right.
I was instantly annoyed. (I get like that) As a parent, how am I to know what progress my child is making if she brings home things made by someone else? I pictured the classroom aids having a good time doing their craft activity while the kids sat around and watched. (later I would sub in this same classroom and that is pretty much exactly what happened!)
I put a note on the turkey and put it back into her bag:
Dear Mr. S.I never did get "Angela's" turkey.
It seems the example turkey got sent home by mistake. This one is beautiful, but I would much rather have Angela's hacked up and butchered turkey that she made herself.
Over the years I've had this same conversation with many of Angela's teachers. Most have not understood what I'm talking about, because Angela has come home with beautiful water color paintings where the colors have been perfectly mixed, the barns, trees or houses perfectly drawn. In 8th grade she made this beautiful sculpture:
It's one of my favorites, because it's pretty clear most of it was done by Angela herself. None of the face pieces are blended into the head, and there are actually Angela's finger prints baked into it all over the place. She is very proud of this scupture, and it sits in her living room downstairs, proudly displayed for all to see.
I think the reason Angela comes home with "perfect" projects is that some people who live and breathe art have a hard time understanding the true meaning of "perfect". I think there are people who can't stand to see these projects come out any other way. It's hard to watch a kid fumbling with the wood glue or stain! I mean, they might get it on their clothes or something, right? Like this clock and jewelry box. The only visible imperfection is a slightly crooked hinge on the clock's door. Other than that there is nothing glued out of place, no drips of stain or poly, every screw and nail perfectly straight, all wood sanded perfectly smooth.
Back in Kindergarten, a few weeks after the Turkey incident and we were now well into December when I made a visit Angela's school. There on the wall outside her special ed. classroom were ten paper plate snowmen. Nine of them were absolutely perfect, looking like they'd come straight out of a magazine. The 10th snowman was Angela's. I could tell because the paper plate snowballs were haphazardly stacked, the face pieces were all over the body, and the head was glued on top of the arm.
Angela's snowman was the most beautiful of all.