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 49 of 54

In my own classes, we do a lot of talking. In those conversations, I discovered a series of conversational strategies that often help: 1. Acknowledge that Amanda really is a good artist. It might even be true that, yes, in this moment, she is the better artist. 2. Jealousy can teach you something. When you feel jealous, it is your body's way of telling you that you Following in the tradition of Beautiful Stuff, this book tells stories in which children and teachers explore the beaut f their local environments all around North America. Through their explorations, collections, creations, displa s, and stories, children discover the beaut nd variet f their own natural worlds. Principles of the Reggio Emilia approach guide the explorations and documentations of found materials from the natural world, providing inspiration for an lassroom to look more closel t the beaut nd wonder that surround them. Grades PreK–5. Softcover. $34.95 Coming Spring 2019! • NEW FROM DAVIS! 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? No. 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 exaggerate 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 wanted 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 artist." 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 42. 14 FEBRUARY 2019 SchoolArts CONTINUED FROM PAGE 14. want what someone else has. "Do you want to be the better artist?" Instead of giving up on that desire, let's go for it! 3. Amanda's success will make yours easier. I had to sketch this idea for one of my students. I drew a mountain. "Imagine that you and Amanda are standing on a moun - tain. Show me where Amanda is and show me where you are. Okay. So, you look up and see Amanda high above you. How did she get there?" The actual Amanda, for example, kept an active sketchbook. She drew for fun during recess. She asked for feedback and used it to get better. "Amanda is paving a path that you can follow. Ask yourself what she is doing that you could do too. Even better, go ask Amanda right now!" 4. There will always be an Amanda. Even Amanda has an Amanda. "If you are here on the mountain, and Amanda is there on the mountain, where would I be?" Higher. "And what about Picasso?" (Big amused sigh.) Above the mountain. "There will always be someone who is better than you." And that's good because it gives you a path to follow. 5. Change your context now and then. Enter a contest. Participate in a show. Teach one of your siblings how to do what you can do now. If you need a boost in confidence, it helps to see that other artists are looking up to you. The most persistent result of these conversations was another change in our vernacular. Now, when my students say "I can't draw," I give them that same stern look. Instead of saying "I can't draw yet," they say "I want to draw better." "Congratulations," I respond, "Now you're a real artist." Some of their classmates even cheer. Rama Hughes is an art teacher at Yavneh Hebrew Academy in Los Angeles, California, and a contributing editor for SchoolArts. rama@ SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 45

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