Working with so many students on a daily basis, I have learned so much about what is actually happening in the minds of the future generation. Just to give you an idea, it has nothing to do with art and everything to do with “just getting by.” As I walk around the room, watching students work, I can see it happening; they speed up their coloring, slap paint on a canvas, or just quickly get something on paper so they can put their name on it and hand it in. I have had students look up and give me a flat out “no” when I asked them if maybe they would want to do a little more with their project. It breaks my heart to see students just doing the bare minimum when it comes to their creative education. Talking with my co-op and going through past student examples, there is an evident and very striking difference between what used to come out of art classrooms and what is being produced now. Students had ideas they wanted to try, they didn’t shy away from trial and error or experimentation, and they absolutely did not just say “no” when the teacher made a suggestion.
What makes me nervous is the rapid pace this is occurring. I am only a few years older than these students and when I was in school you still saw some ambition in the classroom, some creativity. Now you MIGHT get a student or two who want to try harder or to produce the best work they can. Just a few days ago I walked around the room as a group of 6th graders worked on a shading exercise. Yes, I will admit, shading is not the most exciting thing in the world, but as you see progress and change in the objects you are looking at, it becomes so satisfying. In my journey around the room I heard things like “Excuse me! Is this good?,” and “Mine looks terrible. I can’t do art.” I had to stop them in their tracks to give them a little encouragement. I told them that I did not want to hear things like that in the classroom anymore. I explained that I did not like the term “good” when speaking about artistic ability. Being “good” means nothing when you compare it to being “unique” or “creative.” I wanted them to know that, 1) they all had a different view of the objects they were looking at, meaning no two drawings would look the same, 2) they each have their own drawing style which will not look like that of their neighbor, and 3) being different is why we do art in the first place. To be different is the beauty of art.
This experience, although difficult at times, has really allowed me to see that kids are so hard on themselves, they focus on perfection and once that is not achieved they give up. Writing this has been a way for me to work through some of these challenges and to put it out there that we need support our young artists. No one is ever going to try something once and succeed. So if you see a student being hard on themselves, provide some encouragement, lend a hand, and support them in their creative ventures. We need focused and creative people in this world and I refuse to have that generation of learners stop with me.