Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Idle Hands

No doubt you’ve heard (and probably quoted) the old adage “Idle hands are the Devil’s tools” in one form or another. Though I can’t remember a specific instance, I’m sure I’ve said it to at least one of my students or the child of a friend. So I did some “research” (meaning I typed it into Google) and found this:

“‘Idleness is the root of mischief.’ This maxim has been traced back to [Geoffry] Chaucer's 'Tale of Melibee' (c. 1386). [It was] first attested in the United States in 'Collections' (1808). The proverb is found in varying forms:  ‘Satan has some mischief for idle hands to do’; ‘The devil finds work (or mischief) for idle hands to do.’ From ‘Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings’ by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).” [italics mine]

Upon further “research” I found some information regarding The Tale of Melibee here. It was the second tale in Chaucer’s collection The Canterbury Tales, the only one that Chaucer did not write himself. In fact, it was a translation based on a story that was a translation based on another story. For that reason alone I would think it worth reading, although you apparently can’t find it in some contemporary versions of the collection (that link explains everything).

Like most maxims/proverbs/adages/clichés, it has lasted for centuries because it states a simple truth about human nature that will never change. In this case, referring to the necessity of constant forward motion. I find it very apropos (very appropriate to a particular situation) as an elementary Special Education teacher. When a child’s hands are idle, mischief is never out of reach! Which makes Fridays in our classroom particularly stressful some weeks [smile]

As many of you know, I work in the Resource Room at a local elementary school. Taking some time on Friday afternoons to cook something simple and delicious has become part of our routine; we only have four students from 12:30-2:00, as compared to our normal group of fourteen who come and go (most kids are served M-Th for one or two half hour blocks). These particular students are in greater need of some independent living skills than extra academic work, so we’ve been working on basic recipes. This past Friday, our resident supervisor of the cooking process was out sick, so we decided to try a Valentine’s Day-themed art project. Here are the hands at work:

gabe s hands workingparker d hands workingscott b hands workingshannon f hands working

I must say they did remarkably well for students with fine motor difficulty and short attention spans. The idea was to make a “mixed media canvas” using a cardboard base, Valentine themed scrapbook paper and embellishments, and some good old fashioned Elmer’s School Glue. I cut the paper into 6x6 inch squares and had them tear strips and/or pieces to collage the background. They used paint brushes to apply the glue and embellishments. It was my goal to have this take an hour; they finished up after about 50 minutes, and each one was as unique as its creator (these children happen to be in grades two, four, and five):

gabe valentine wall hangingparker valentine wall hangingscott valentine wall hangingshannon valentine wall hanging

My instructions were simply to choose three or four of their favorite papers to layer on the background, tearing them (no scissors necessary) and gluing them down. They were given some embellishments, and the rest was up to them! I am so proud of their creativity and determination, and I know whomever they gift these to will receive them with big smiles and hugs. I look forward to future projects, and will try to share more photos of the great work they encourage.

For those of you with children, this might be a fun way to make an extra special gift for someone you love – it’s quick, easy, and allows for a great deal of individual creative expression. The possibilities for materials are cheap, easy to access, and endless! (I cut up an old box for the bases, and some paper I didn’t particularly like for the decoration! They can be any size or shape. Tearing paper is a good release of energy and helpful for kids who struggle to use scissors.)

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