Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Playing Matchmaker

Driving home in the rain this afternoon, my cell phone rang. It was Mike from the Glass Bubble Project. Mike has become one of those wonderful friends who will call out of the blue, for no other reason than to harass me. Sometimes he calls me at work, on my school phone, during a class, pretending to be my boss. I almost fell for it...A bunch of times.

He never says "Hi, this is Mike" He just starts discussing whatever is on his mind. Today he jumped right into:

"Does Jose ever STOP talking? This boy won't shut-up. I tell him I'm going to take a nap, and it's a Thousand Questions...'Mike, why are you tired? Mike, why are your eyes closed? Mike what are you doing?'...He's driving me crazy!"
I can hear Jose laughing in the background. Mike starts laughing too.

I'm still smiling

I feel like a Matchmaker...Here's the rest of the story.

Last summer I was crossing the parking lot behind the West Side market with two students who were taking a bronze casting class with me. That afternoon we were at Ron Deweys foundry on West 28th watching a pour and afterwards, stopped at the Market to grab something to eat. The door to the glass studio was open, so we stepped in to take a look.
The owners, Mike and Chris were finishing up a piece and called us over. Mike handed my student, Misraim, a pipe and asked him to try blowing some glass. We stayed for over an hour. It was awesome fun.

The Glass Bubble Project is walking distance from Max Hayes High School. I thought, what a marvelous opportunity it would be for more kids to go to the studio and have the experience of glass blowing. The next week I stopped by to discuss the possibility of holding after-school glass classes for Max Hayes students...Maybe I could apply for a grant. Mike, Chris, and I worked out the details. In October we got a Neighborhood Connections grant from the Cleveland Foundation for twelve students to take glass blowing classes in the winter.

Jose is one of those hyperactive boys that can be a classroom teacher's nightmare. He's out of his seat more often than in it, distracts his classmates, and is constantly running his mouth. He seems to thrive on attention...any attention...no matter how he gets it. He has boundless I-just-can't-sit-still-energy. I can't count the number of times I've had to ask him to wait outside the door of my classroom, so I could get through giving directions to the rest of his classmates without his loud interjections.
We have an arrangement. It saves my sanity and he thinks it's funny. I start talking...he interrupts, once, twice, three times...I point to the door...he walks outside and stands there making faces at me through the window until I'm finished...I motion him back in and give him the rest of the instructions, one on one. It seems to be working. He has incredible artistic talent and has been earning 'A's. For some reason he's not doing so well in his other classes.

When Jose applied for a glass blowing scholarship, I raised my eyebrows. My first inclination was 'No way could I turn this kid loose on Mike and Chris, they will hate me.'

Before the scholarships were awarded, I took the interested kids to the Glass Bubble to get an idea of what the classes would be like. Jose was in the group. His enthusiasm was radiant, you could see him soaking up the atmosphere of the place, asking questions, listening to every answer. "I like that kid" Mike said to me " He reminds me of myself."

For the next six weeks Jose blew glass. Goblets, bowls, plates, flowers, pitchers, vases. He would bring the pieces in to school each week and show me. He was scheduled for Friday afternoon class, but started going to the studio nearly every day after school. Mike began to put him to work so he could earn extra "blow time". The other eleven students were just as enthusiastic, but Jose had that pound puppy neediness that will tug at a persons heartstrings if you give it half a chance. Mike felt the tug.

Pretty soon Jose was calling him "Dad". " I love this kid" Mike says "He's just like I was at that age." Jose has been talking about building his own glass studio when he graduates from school. With the help of his new-found mentors I have no doubt he will be successful.

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