On May 19, 2021

A class by himself: my son (almost) failed art

By Dom Cioffi

I recently received an email from my son’s art teacher that explained how far behind he was in her class. She listed four outstanding assignments that my son has never handed in and was critical of his perceived lack of interest. She then requested that I speak with him so that he thoroughly understood what was at stake (in other words, my son is on the verge of failing art).

As I read the email, I became increasingly agitated. By the time I was finished, I was close to rage.

With all due respect to the teachers of the world who specialize in the creative disciplines, art class has to be the easiest course of study known to man — right up there with gym.


Maybe that’s inappropriate for me to say, but I never got anything lower than an “A” in art class in all my years of schooling. That’s because I realized early on that it didn’t matter how good or bad you were at sculpting clay or watercolor painting, as long as you put in the effort.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” so a good art teacher knows better than to criticize someone’s attempt at personal expression. As long as you try hard, there’s no reason your lump of pathetic clay couldn’t be someone else’s expressionistic masterpiece. It’s a subjective course of study, unlike math, which has very definitive right and wrong answers.

My son apparently didn’t get this point and opted out of the easy “A” in lieu of a personal nightmare delivered on my behalf.

I took a few moments to calm down after reading the art teacher’s email before proceeding upstairs to his bedroom where I found my son happily engaged in a phone conversation with a young woman.

“Off!” I said pointedly, after barging into his room in a whirlwind.

My son quickly dismissed himself from the call and rolled off the bed so he was standing directly in front of me.

“Something wrong, dad?” he queried, while looking at me with deep concern.

I don’t have a good poker face when it comes to these scenarios, so he was well aware that something bad was about to be broached. And given his history with school, I’m confident he had an idea of what was coming.

I then said the words, “art class,” at which point his head dropped down to stare at the floor with his shoulders slumping soon after.

“Yeah, I know. Not good.” He replied.

He knows better than to argue with me about these things so there was no attempt at explaining himself out of his predicament. My ability to rationalize my angle using logic and deductive reasoning is immense, so he generally falls on the sword as soon as one of these conversations takes off.

No matter. I still ranted for a good 20 minutes about the pathetic nature of failing art.

He dutifully listened and then promised to catch up. I could tell he was hoping that was the end of it, but there was no way this was going to be resolved with just words. As I stood up to walk out of the room, I reached out my hand with the palm up. He submissively placed his phone in it knowing that was the end of his personal life for a few days.

I then stated, “We can talk about you earning this back when I see a self-portrait finalized — and it better not look like a bunch of scribbles.” I then calmly shut the door and walked away.

I hate playing the heavy in these situations, but most parents understand that kids have to feel a little pain or they will never learn lessons.

Amazingly, a noble attempt at a self-portrait was sitting on the dining room table when I woke up the next morning. I made sure to commend his effort, but not without mentioning how much better it would have looked had it been handed in on time.

This week’s film, “Stowaway,” starring Anna Kendrick and Toni Collette, involved an awful lot of effort as four astronauts on the way to Mars realize they only have enough oxygen for three to survive (that’s one way to make a trip uncomfortable).

I kept thinking this film was going to get ugly and explore the darker side of humanity, but instead it stayed increasingly positive. Being positive didn’t necessarily make this film any better. In fact, it could have used a little evilness to liven things up.

Check this one out if you are captivated by outer space dramas, just don’t expect something on the level of “Gravity,” which this film tried desperately to emulate.

A motionless “C” for “Stowaway,” available for streaming on Netflix.

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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