I’ll never forget the time I was setting up class when a student ran up to me and excitedly thrust a picture he’d drawn at home in front of my face. In the center was a crude image of an airplane engulfed in flames flying directly at a high mountain. To the right was a smiling boy parachuting out of harms way.
“That’s me!” my 3rd grade student exclaimed.
“But who is that?” I said, pointing to the two horrified faces looking out the windows of the doomed plane.
“That’s my sister and my mom!” he said with a smile.
I caught my breath and didn’t know how to react. I was just a 22 year old art grad teaching at a local recreation center. I knew how to encourage children in their positive artistic pursuits but had no idea how to deal with such a dark vision.
His sister sauntered into the room and slumped in a chair as the other students wandered in. I took the image from the boy and put it on a high shelf in a cabinet. “That’s not a very nice way to picture your family. They look like they’re going to get hurt,” I said. “You can have the picture back after class.” He scowled at me and retreated to his seat.
When their mother came to pick them up an hour later I showed her the picture and explained what it depicted. She was taken aback. “That’s mean!” she yelled to the boy. “You love your sister!” She thanked me for sharing the image and dragged the two out the door with the picture clenched tightly in her fist.