Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Art Class: Expectations vs Reality

I think most adults don't really remember what it's like to be a kid. I've been teaching summer art classes for years, and I can remember what it was like to have to follow the directions and do what everyone else was doing when I really would have preferred to do my own thing. I usually tell the kids in my classes that they aren't required to do the same project as everyone else as long as they aren't being disruptive, but a couple of years ago I got to start a class I had been imagining since childhood.

It would have been the art class of my dreams as a kid, we had paper, pencils, crayons, markers, colored pencils, several different types of paint, sequins, bells, plastic jewels, seashells, pipe cleaners, curling ribbon, scrap fabric, cardboard boxes, small bits of scrap wood, hot glue guns, popsicle sticks, craft foam, pompoms, googly eyes, yarn, and almost anything else you can find in a craft store. I had boxes and boxes filled with leftover stuff from my old classes, and the other teachers would bring me their scraps and unused bits of their craft kits. The first day I expected the kids to either be completely lost or utterly out of control.

Instead I was pleasantly surprised.

I even let the kids use the hot glue guns themselves, on the theory that they would learn to be more careful if they burned themselves. Kids who made a big fuss about getting burned were banned from using the glue guns, and I had classroom aids supervise and glue stuff for the kids that needed help. This was remarkably successful. Shockingly, the parents loved the whole thing, from the total lack of structure to the slightly-dangerous glue guns. Sometimes they would just stand around in the doorway and watch the kids create, or lament that they didn't have an entire room at home to devote to creativity.

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