SchoolArts Magazine

April 2016

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 58

M A N A G I N G T H E A R T R O O M The Power of Yet I can't do this," my students often tell me. "You can't do this yet," I correct them. I point to a poster on my classroom wall that encourages students to assess themselves. Are they novices, amateurs, or experts? The explanation of each title empha- sizes a continuum. All experts begin as novices. An expert in one skill may be a novice in another. This year, our headmaster intro- duced our school to Carol Dweck's book, Mindset (Ballantine Books, 2007). Simply put, it encourages the idea that we can always improve, versus the idea that our aptitudes are fixed and unchangeable. As art teachers, we are keenly aware of this distinction. How many times have we had to dissuade a student from the notion that he or she cannot learn art? Comfort in Confusion To paraphrase another wonderful book, Creative Confidence (Crown Business, 2013) by Tom and David Kelley, creativity is at its essence a familiarity with failure. As adult art- ists, we know this. When you make your first mark on a blank piece of paper, the feeling passes through you: "I might mess this up! But that's okay." How do we transfer this com- fort to our students? One of my favorite teachers put it this way, "If you aren't confused, you aren't learning." That sentence has benefited me in countless situations, especially during chaotic moments in my life. I remember the hair standing up on my arms when I realized, "I am so confused right now! I'm about to learn something big!" I remain grate- ful to that teacher because he taught me to be excited about not knowing things. The sentence itself is a mantra that, to this day, I repeat in class. Creating Confusion More important than saying it, though, teachers have to create that confusion. To that end, I have begun to make confusion a requirement in my lesson planning. Along with my objectives, methodologies, and assess- Rama Hughes ments, I added one more question to my lesson plans: How will this lesson bring my students out of their com- fort zone? I know how effective this is because it has already aggravated my fixed mindset students. These are stu- dents who have already made up their minds about what they can and can- not do. For these students, failure is frightening because it threatens their sense of self. So, I am trying to offer them a new idea of who they can be. Permission to Fail Recently, a perfectionist in one of my classes refused to take any steps in one of these newer, challenging proj- ects. Each time I approached her, she pleaded for help. I explained to her, "At this point, I'd rather you do a ter- rible drawing all by yourself than a perfect one with help from me." With that permission to "fail," she did very well. Her accomplishment was some- thing that I could build upon. I was careful to praise her courage and not her success. My proudest moment as a teacher was when one of my former students CONTINUED ON PAGE 47. "I ou aren't confused, ou aren't learning." Artwork by Adina Dror, a student who improved her artwork by embracing the growth mindset. 14 APRIL 2016 SchoolArts

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