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Lesson Plans


[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Sat, 11 May 1996 10:54:51 -0500 (CDT)

Warning!!! LONG posting!
I have followed with great interest many of the recent postings on=
artsednet. Every time I think "I must respond to that!" I find that=
someone else (usually Sandy Hildreth) has already expressed my thinking=
exactly - and better. However, there are a couple of things I would like=
to add to the debate about coloring books and drawing on kids work and=
artistic freedom for students.
I believe one of the most negative aspects of human nature nature is our=
tendency to generalize: " blacks are..." " Jews are..." " welfare people=
are..." "gays are..." "children are..." I think I understand why such a=
complex creature such as the social individual needs to simplify the world=
around him/her and I am certainly as guilty as the next person of trying to=
put things and people in some sort of working order; but every group is=
made up of incredibly diverse individuals, and we as teachers need to see=
that and understand that different individuals have different needs and=
that the strategy that works best for one child might fail another. Just as=
the strategy that works best for one TEACHER might not work at all for=
another. It's that BALANCE word again that keeps popping up. It reminds me=
of the story of the man who listened to an argument between two friends. =
He turned to the first and told him he was right then turned to the second=
and said "You're right, too." The two friends said, "We can't BOTH be=
right!" and the man said "You're right!" That's the way I feel about=
recent postings. Yes, coloring books are bad. Yes, of course they can be=
used creatively and harmlessly. Yes, drawing on student work is bad. Yes,=
it is sometimes the best way to show a student something. So what is the=
Unfortunately, I believe, the answer to good teaching is, when all the=
theory (even the wonderful Getty stuff) has been studied, and this month's=
newest trend adopted as the definitive answer to great education, just what=
it has always been - great teachers. People who understand the basic goals=
and walk a fine line between structure and freedom to achieve those goals. =
People who understand that children are not all alike. Some thrive in a=
free environment while many others are intimidated. Some freak out if you=
touch their work and others beg you to. (I once had a first grader ask me=
if I taught because I liked kids. I replied that kids are people - that I=
liked most=20people, but not all. Did she like everybody in her class? She=
didn't.) I do love many of the things that many children do, and am=
frequently delighted by my students' insights and points of view, but kids=
are people with distinct personalities and I must admit I like some more=
than others. What I have come increasingly to understand over many years=
of teaching is that one approach, (even mine!) won't be best for eveyone in=
my class every time.
One of my sisters-in-law has been an outstanding first-grade teacher for=
many years. She has seen all the theories come and go, and likes whole=
language a lot - BUT. She begins her class each year with phonics because=
some kids learn better that way. It's not "this or that" but rather, "some=
of this, some of that". Last year, she had a child who simply could not=
read, despite hours of special attention and a variety of approaches. I=
had attended a lecture by Linda Silverman on spatial learners and happened=
to pass along her unique method for teaching spatial learners to read. My=
sister-in-law called back three days later in tears. Her student was=
reading, the child's self-esteem had soared, she couldn't wait to get to=
school each day, etc. As teachers, we must be aware that different kids=
have different needs and that, while we may not meet all those needs every=
time in every half-hour or hour class, we need to try to reach everybody at=
some point. We can't be rigidly wedded to one single approach.
Having said that, do I teach a random "This looks like fun, let's try this!"=
curriculum? Not at all. In fact, I would describe my scope and sequence=
as very structured. (Those of you who requested copies can attest to=
this.) What we cover is highly organized. HOW we cover it is more open,=
although once I find a project which teaches the concept and that the kids=
enjoy, I usually stick with it. I am always intrigued by the comment that=
"We should not impose our adult standards on kids art." I thought that was=
my job. That is what teachers DO. We impose adult standards. That's why=
schools exist: to enculturate the children with society's expectations so=
that they may=20become productive, contributing members of that society. =
My younger son had an enchantingly unique way of spelling when he was=
young. I knew even then that I was going to be sorry when he learned to=
spell "correctly". But it never occurred to me to suggest that his=
teachers NOT teach him to spell. Fortunately, they were able to do so in a=
manner that in no way inhibited his creativity of THOUGHT. Much later, a=
middle school teacher helped him organize his thoughts so that others=
could follow his admittedly unique thinking style. No one told him WHAT to=
think, but rather, how to express it in ways that others could understand. =
Today, he is still one of the most creative people I know. (In all=
fairness, I think that is what the "adult standards" people are saying.)=
How a first-grader draws a horse is his or her business - how they compose=
it on the page or how they use the paintbrush to apply its color is my=
business. I rarely dictate WHAT a student draws but when I do, I have a=
good reason for it. And just as society does not allow you to take another=
person's property, in my class, you may not steal another student's (or=
adult's) imagery. We never do "coloring book" projects, but I send home a=
cute worksheet on complementary colors in first grade to reinforce the=
concept we have been studying. In my class, students learn how to think=
the way artists think. Some artists work toward a very preconceived goal. =
Others let the medium take them where it will. We have both experiences. =
Most artists were products of rigorous academic training. It didn't hurt=
Picasso and it won't stifle my kids either, IF I walk that very fine line=
between high expectations and rigidity. And that's the dilemma we face:=
there are no pat answers. There can be five teachers who disagree totally=
about methodology and each one could be a wonderful teacher. It's not that=
coloring books are inherently evil, but that they can be used in=
innapropriate ways, just as it's not always bad to draw on a student's work=
if you know when and how to do it constructively. I think that where we=
CAN generally agree is on ultimate content - the DBAE stuff - but each of=
us as an individual has his or her own teaching style which would not work=
for the next person. We also need to "fit" our class situation. The person=
who would be perfect teaching at the elementary level might be using the=
wrong approach for high schoolers. It is the job of each teacher to know=
as much as possible, to consider all the learning styles and personal=
differences, and then to do the best we can for our kids. That, to me is=
the beauty of this forum. It has helped me broaden my thinking and find=
new and often better approaches to the problems in MY curriculum in MY=
school. And while I am a fervant advocate for GOOD art programs, and while=
I know "bad" art programs when I see them, it's just like I tell the kids=
in class: there ARE "wrong" answers to this visual problem, but there are=
also as many "right" answers as there are answerers. That's what makes art=
class so much fun.=20

Eileen Prince
Sycamore School=20

  • Maybe reply: henry: "Re: stuff"
  • Maybe reply: EILEEN PRINCE: "Re: stuff"