My first day was nothing different than that. I had my room looking beautiful, the bulletin board had "WELCOME TO THE NEW ART ROOM", in big beautiful letters with some cute cartoon animals hand drawn all around it. I had the perfect shirt and tie combo that even included a tie clip. I even had great plans for a first project for them to do. The only problem was how I was going to greet the children. I knew I would have to go over the rules of the art room as well as explain the different things in the room, but what else am I going to say? I remember walking down the hallway towards the playground before school wondering, "What am I going to do? Should I go over the rules several times, give them some paper and markers to draw me a picture, or just jump on the tables and do a dance for them?" I came to the conclusion that I will do all three.
When my first class came into the room I stood at the door and shook their hands as they came in and told them to sit in any chair they would like. Most of the children were very quiet and mystified with my size. A few boys said that I look like a basketball player and mentioned the Michael Jordan thing again. Once everyone got seated I started with my introduction. I originally wrote everything down, but once the moment came I decided to do it from the top of my head.
"My name is Mr. Bollar. Therefore, do not call me Bob, Tom, Ricky, Jerry, Lisa, Yo, Tall Guy, Michael Jordan, or any other name because I WILL NOT ANSWER YOU! I am 6' 7", I wear a size 14 shoe, I like all kinds of music, I have been doing art since I was about 5 years old, I do not know any professional basketball players, yes I can dunk a basketball, no I will not do it for you, and no I do not play professional basketball I AM AN ART TEACHER!" I did this to prevent any stereotypes that are in the children's head about tall black men. Those types of questions always haunt me wherever I go. Therefore, I knew I would not deal with it in my own class room. These children were going to learn that not all black men are ball players or people who hang in the hood.
"Now, before we go any further, I must go over the rules of the school as well as the art room." As I went over each rule I acted out the particular rule and included the children with the acting. In my mind I was thinking that I am really having fun and the kids are too. They are laughing and smiling and responding back to me positively. Once the rules were done I gave them a tour of the art room. I started in the front of the room and moved around the entire room explaining every little thing that I changed in the room. "This is too much fun," I thought. "Something has to be wrong. If I keep this great feeling the rest of the year this year is going to be wonderful."
It was time for me to find out who was who in the class. I looked at the tables to see how strong they were, then looked at the children to see what kind of expression they had. All smiles were on their faces they were responding to me in every way. I took one big step and stood on top of the one of three art tables in the room. The kids eyes were wide open. I must have looked like I was about 20 feet tall to them. I shouted out, "When I point to you tell me your full name and your favorite color and food! I'll start, my name is Mr. Bollar, my favorite color is black and I loooooove steak!" Then I pointed to the first student that was directly under me. She responded with her name, color and favorite food. Then the next student, and the next, and next. I continued with the names as I stepped form table to table. The moment I stepped down from the table the students teacher came back to pick them up. The students didn't want to go. They wanted to stay with me in the art room. Once they left I danced around the room all by my self. Boy what a feeling! At that point I knew the year was going to be great and everything was going to be all right.
On the last day of school of that year, the class did not want to go when their teacher came. Once the last class left I stood in my room and thought about my first day. I remembered thinking, "...If I keep this feeling the rest of the year this year is going to be wonderful." I then stood on top of the art table and danced.
Steven A. Bollar
Lawrenceville Elementary School