Once upon a time, art teachers used to be THE divergent thinkers and creative leaders in our school system. Looking back at my own school life, I remember or heard about a whole range of art teachers that had an air of freedom about them, which set them apart from all other teachers. While I have the feeling that a lot of teachers of my generation, including art teachers, want to do a lot of things right, trying to comply to what is expected by administration/parents/students - this former generation of art teachers was more fearless, more daring, more willing to push the boundaries and run in walls.
Now, I am not saying I want or can be like one of this generation, but they can teach us a few things. And some of the traditions they’ve started are still alive. I want to share one of them here. Who knows, maybe it will become a tradition at your school as well!
What is the “Hochtisch”?
The “Hochtisch” (“hoch”= high, “Tisch”= table) is a setting exclusively reserved for year 11-13 advanced art classes or for your favourite colleagues! About four tables and enough chairs for everyone are put on a couple of other table in your art room. Bring plates, glasses, drink and food, candles and whatever you need to have a high-spirited spaghetti feast!
How it began:
In 1975, the now retired art teachers, Volker Jung and his colleague Jonny Schoppmeier, entered their art room in Hamburg, Germany and found it completely stuffed with new and old tables and chairs. A new order of school furniture had arrived and the janitor had simply added them all to the room. Not knowing how to start a lesson in this packed room, they stacked the tables on top of each other. To their delight, they discovered what a fantastic and extraordinary view one has when looking down at the art class from this angle!
Jung says, you could tell by the spontaneous exclamations “Aaah!“ and “Wow!!“ that all “Hochtisch”-participants immediately loved the remarkable atmosphere. The "Hochtisch" is about creating a distanced point of view on ordinary school life, while at the same time its participants play an active role in creating a positive feeling of school life - in the art room.
When do you set up a Hochtisch?
At any special occasions (introducing the art curriculum to art advanced students, end of school year, birthdays, exams or meeting of alumnis) or not so special occasions (counter-cooking to avoid cafeteria lunch) the Hochtisch provided the popular frame for social and high-spirited get-togethers. Sometimes, it took place at night, sometimes during lunch breaks. Traditional products of consumption at night would be Spaghetti, cigarettes, wine and beer (whereas smoking and drinking have become a little out of fashion in the last 10 – 15 years). Year 12 students often remembered how they had seen the remnants of the late-night Hochtisch feasts when entered the art class at 8 am as 11-year-olds.
The Hochtisch idea spread among art teacher colleagues and it became a tradition in many art classes in Hamburg and it is still alive at some schools in Hamburg. Well, at least at ours...
Safety note: No injuries have ever been reported. Apart from an art teacher himself, no one has ever fallen off.