12 October2011 SchoolArts
Mystu-dentsandtheirparentscan barelybelieveitbut,yes, itispossibletoearnanFin myartclass.Imadeaposter thatlistsallthewaysthata studentcandoit.Thelistis meanttoinspiremystudents andmaybemakethemlaugh. Nonetheless,Iamasdisap- pointedasanyonewhenoneof mystudentsactuallyearnsanF. Who’stoBlame? Abadgradeisafailureonmypart asmuchasitisonthepartofmy students.Mygoalasanartteacher istosimplifyartintosetsofskills andideasthatanystudentcan learn.Itismyjobtomakethoseles- sonscompellingandcomprehensible. AnFrepresentsmyfailuretodothat. Ofcourse,itismystudents’jobto approachtheirlessonswithawilling- nesstolearn.Thatmeansmorethan
just drawing well; it means investigating new ideas. It means struggling
with unfamiliar materials. It means
practicing something difficult until it
becomes easier. It is a favorite irony
of mine that students risk failure in
my class by not risking failure in their
Good Artist vs. Good Student
Which brings me to the point: There is
a difference between being a good artist and being a good student. Ideally,
every art student
would be both.
In my experience
rapidly more talented when they
are presented with strong lessons. Talented artists don’t improve as much
until they are challenged to become
Effort isn’t enough either. Talent
does play a role in the success of our
students, but how important is talent
if it goes unchallenged? If a student
always creates beautiful drawings,
does he or she deserve an A in art?
What if that student draws all the
time to avoid learning how to paint?
Should he or she earn an A without
learning to sculpt? What about the
student who doesn’t achieve beauty
in his or her work
but rises to the
challenge of each
Art is an
because there are
so many opportunities to succeed.
One lesson can challenge a student’s
drawing ability. The next one can
challenge creativity. The one after
that can challenge
his or her grasp of
history, knack for phi-
losophy, or ability to
Each lesson presents
students with a new
opportunity to suc-
ceed in art. Or to fail.
A grade might motivate some
students, but it is not a reward, and
it is not a punishment. A grade is a
teaching tool. An honest grade starts
conversations. They often begin with
an exclamation like “I can’t get a
B in art!” My students are lucky to
have parents who get involved when a
grade falls any lower, which invites
questions: What is my child study-
ing in art? Why is that important?
What is my child good at? With
what does my child struggle? How can
my child improve?
One of my proudest accomplishments as a teacher came from the turn
around that I witnessed after discussing a bad grade with one of my students. “I’m the worst artist in class,”
He told me. “If you really think that
you are the worst artist in this class,”
I responded, “Then I expect you to
work harder than everyone here.”
And he did. In just a few weeks, he
became a much better student and a
much better artist, thanks to that one
20 Ways to Earn an F in Art
1. Be afraid of new things.
2. Be late to class.
3. Blame it on a lack of talent.
4. Do as little as you can.
5. Don’t ask questions.
6. Don’t even try.
7. Have someone else do your work.
8. Ignore instructions.
9. Ignore people who know
It is a favorite irony of mine
that students risk failure
in my class by not risking
failure in their artwork.
Illustration by Rama Hughes.
Continued from page 12.
11. Keep your ideas to yourself.
12. Let other students tell you
13. Make excuses.
14. Make no mistakes.
15. Miss class and don’t make up
16. Never fail.
17. Perfect it all.
18. Sit perfectly still and never make
19. Spend as much time as possible
talking with your friends.
20. Stick to what you are good at.
Rama Hughes is an art teacher and illustrator
who teaches at Yavneh Hebrew Academy in
Los Angeles, California. rama@ramahughes.
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