SchoolArts Magazine

FEB 2019

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Page 18 of 54

little wish of mine: What if I could teach the same kids from kindergar- ten through eighth grade? Could I cre- ate a whole grade full of artists? N o. I could not. Not yet anyway. Last year's class had a few artists and a few determined nonartists just like all the other classes I have taught. The Meaning of Can't I'm proud to say though that all of my students can draw. They draw portraits and landscapes and political cartoons and illustrations for the year - book. So, they know better than to e xaggerate their inabilities. "I can't do this," one of them occasionally slips. But then he or she gets my stern look and responds, "I can't do this yet." Their frustrations lead to conversa- tions. My role in those moments is to help my students reflect. What do they really mean when they say "I can't"? After many sit-downs with many students, one of them finally L ast year, I enjoyed a special gradu- ation. The eighth-grade graduates were my students for nine con- secutive years. In my early years of teaching, I rarely stayed at one school for very long. I moved in my twenties. Budgets changed in my thir- ties. When I met this particular class of kindergartners, I thought, "I want to see these kids graduate." I wanted to see that accomplish- ment. Also though, privately, I w anted to prove to myself that art could be taught. I have had plenty of successes. Some of my favorite moments happen in middle school. New students often introduce them - selves to me with some version of, " Mr. Hughes, I'm just going to warn you now: I can't draw." Everyone's an Artist Fast-forward three months—those same new students are the ones who are most excited about our classes. After their first tastes of success, they realize that art is possible for them. They realize that, with a little effort, they can learn. They prove to me again and again that anyone can be an artist. Those students inspired that explained to me what I had not seen. Referring to another student in the class, that student said, "No matter how much I practice, I will never be as good as Amanda." Confidence from Context My students are "good" at art. A group of graduates visited from ninth grade this year to tell me that all of them had been accepted into the honors art program at their high school. It pleased me enormously. Even students who had doubted themselves in my classes felt, in their new school, like they were the talented ones. "It's all because of you!," one of them thanked me. You know that felt great! My students have taught me that a lot of their confidence comes from context. My eighth-graders admit begrudgingly that, yes, they can draw. They acknowledge their prog - ress, but they suffer from compari- son. "Amanda is the real a rtist." Conversational Strategies So, what do we do? Maybe you all have ideas. I'm excited to hear them. There Will Alwa s Be an Amanda Rama Hughes M A N A G I N G T H E A R T R O O M M tudents have taught me that a lot of their confidence comes from context. CONTINUED ON PAGE 45. Left to right: Fourth-grade selfies by Aimee Razi, Adina Dror, and Gabriel Hazani. 14 FEBRUAR Y 2019 SchoolArts

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