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Re: What Does Excellence Look Like - Elementary - High School


Date: Sat Jun 19 2004 - 06:16:43 PDT

I liked Diane's list of expectations and I loved Patty's post about play
being vital to making art. I agree totally about playfulness leading to
excellent artwork. There is a huge difference between off task, raucous
behavior, and playfulness with artwork. We as teachers get to be pretty
good at recognizing the fine line that separates these two kinds of
behaviors. An atmosphere that is friendly, encourages original
thinking, and is open to humor is characteristic of the way I like to
work with kids in my room. I have a quote on my door that says, "To be
creative thinkers we must lose the fear of being wrong." I wish I knew
who said that. If you are always worried about being "right" you won't
be feeling very playful, will you? I love to try to loosen kids up to
be able to see the myriad of ways that they can solve a problem or come
up with ideas. Many of those ideas happen with mistakes. I'll bet we
all can think of the times when a kid came up with an idea so divergent
that it didn't quite fit the criteria of our "lesson." If I see passion
in a kid's eyes or hear it in their voice, I go with the passion and
forget the plan. Most of the time they will have at least understood
what the goal was in the beginning, but in these cases that I am
speaking of, the kid went so far beyond the goal that they REALLY made
art...personal art. I just got back from a workshop where I had to make
9 projects exactly the way the instructor told us to do them. I could
clearly see the way to do the projects the same way but make them my own
with personal added touches. These touches were discouraged. I can see
in part why, as it probably would have bogged some people down in design
time to deviate from the EXACT thing we were supposed to be making and
those people would perhaps not have finished the 9 projects in 3 days.
Remember, we were going for certification to teach certain skills in
this workshop, and each project required that we prove that we could do
certain things with the material. But the whole time, I was thinking of
my students and what it would feel like to be a student and have someone
tell you that you had to do something JUST THIS WAY. I hated it! I saw
the reasoning, but it doesn't feel like art to me, and I don't enjoy the
projects I made because they are not my own ideas. They are not my
style, so to speak. In the end, I am certified, I learned the
techniques and processes so that I can go on and use them in my own way
now. But it was good to be in a class where I felt that angst of not
being able to use my own artistic voice. Where I had to curb my ideas
just to meet a goal. At times it felt like torture, lol. I am looking
for the passion. If I see it, I will delight with the child in their
own ideas. THAT is the goal to me. Present something, stimulate them,
encourage them, loosen them up to be playful with their ideas, encourage
artistic behavior, praise experimentation, coax them out of the box,
and hope that kids will diverge and wander off into excitement in their
own ideas. There is nothing better than seeing a kid lose all track of
time because they are totally engrossed in their own work. That only
happens when their work is personally meaningful.

Linda Woods

Visit our student's web art gallery at St.John's School
 click on "Stories of SJS," click on "Arts Stories," click on Linda
Woods' name. View artwork by Lower, and Middle School students as well
as our art archives.