This semester I've taken on a different approach to teaching middle school art. Middle school, the age where they wear their hearts and egos are on their sleeves; the age where they need all the affirmation that they are good human beings, with a smattering of behavior management. I'm liking it.
I am determined to work with students on a level that attempts to reach their core creativity. The results are not only affecting their work and their attitude towards the work, but it is affecting me and my approach to my creative process.
Core: meaning the central and most important part of something, the substance, the part that without, might result in failure, or malfunction - a total collapse in the inherent structure.
1st day student challenge: students were asked to create a metaphor for something (anything) using only items they had on themselves or that were directly in front of them. They were given two minutes. I was met with puzzling looks, scowls, and even crossed arms and dragon breathing. But after they realized that I wasn't kidding, they set to work. After two minutes there was a flower made from a scarf, a crashed airplane made from a sheet of binder paper, a porcupine made from erasers and pencils, tents made from books and paper, etc. But this was not the overall result. Most students were uncomfortable with an ambiguous assignment and were unable to create anything. There they sat; frustrated, fidgeting and watching each other. After making this observation, I was ready to adjust. It was clear that they were uncertain with ambiguity and free expression.
The first of three ideas I want to examine is the idea that an artist must become comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. This comes from observing my own path as an artist. When there is a certain amount of ambiguity, I allow myself to take risks, try new ideas, make mistakes, make connections, and the consistent outcome is growth. This may sound basic, but I want to encourage students to have both the courage to have ideas and the courage to fail. We know, as both parents and teachers, that kids are loaded with ideas, but often times, especially in a middle school art room, students might be embarrassed or reticent to express what they are truly thinking and feeling. My goal is to create a space where all ideas are welcome and explored, and all mistakes can be looked at as opportunities for growth and reflection.
Step one: being comfortable with ambiguity
each student has an unlimited amount of uninterrupted time to work on a large group painting. Each student will choose their materials and will have a choice of three colors; black, white and blue.
Overheard yesterday, "I love this project! I didn't wash the paint out of my fingernails all weekend!"
Step two: generate ideas - where do they come from?
Step three: veracious research and the quest for information.
I'll be writing about step two and three when we get there. But as for me, I've been making messes and mistakes all over the place!