"There are always flowers for those who want to see them." - Matisse
Everyone knows what it's like to have a case of the Mondays, but what if we thought of those long Monday mornings instead as an opportunity to motivate ourselves? At the very least, thinking about motivation on a Monday allows me to use alliteration in the title of this post.
I may have entered into teaching art mainly because I wanted to share my love of color, design, and aesthetics, but really, above all - this is why I teach:
"My painting is about taking risks. Finishing this project helped me to feel more positive and successful. Painting this type of a picture inspires me and makes me believe in myself every day as I see it improving and looking greater every day. As the days progress, people's perspective changes, not just about my work, but about me. It's okay for this progress to be slow and steady, it can still make something great. I would call this The New Me because I have always been a negative person, but taking this class and getting through this painting has changed me into a more positive person."
If you had ever met this particular 7th grade girl, her words would mean so much more. Since she entered my classroom for the first time last year, I had never once seen her smile. She was upset and irritable, self conscious and nervous. She was unwilling to even attempt anything, because she had zero belief that it would ever even be worth it. She presented a bit of a challenge for me, because she reminded me so much of my former 12 year old self. This morning she was waiting for me at my desk clutching this piece of lined paper that she couldn't wait to share with me. She was grinning ear to ear and waited for me to read it. When I told her she did a great job and should be proud of herself, she still had to ask me "Really? Are you sure?" But at least it's a start.
This job isn't always the easiest, but in the spirit of positive thinking, I would rather focus on moments like these than on the student who paper mache'd my back (yes you read that right) and classroom ceiling during last period and momentarily reminded me what a case of the Mondays is all about. If having that attitude can carry over just once and help any of my 500 students feel more successful and capable, I think it's all worth it. As much as I want my students to leave my classroom with an understanding of the elements of art, a familiarity with art history, and increased observational skills, it's important to understand that teaching art so often really isn't about teaching art at all. It's about providing a safe place where kids can take risks, experience successes and failures, and learn valuable life lessons about themselves.