I learnt this approach to observational line-and-form drawing from our PGCE art teacher. My inner art-snob initially bristled at the idea of just 'copying' other drawings instead of drawing 'from life' but I'm now a firm convert. Drawing has a central role in the Foundation Phase with the biggest emphasis placed on imaginative drawing. Children are expected to draw themselves, their friends, families, homes and holidays, animals and adventures - all predominantly from their heads.
Many enjoy this, some don't. Most become suspicious after a while, seeing the world in its complexity, they start to doubt their capacity to render it at all. The 'I can't draw that' mantra lands on the lips and sometimes solidifies in the heart, hands and gut for a lifetime. From what I've seen, little emphasis is placed on helping children to develop the observational and rendering skills required to actually 'learn to draw'.
I have learnt to love these black and white line drawings, because they give my students a way to connect SEEING and DRAWING, to connect their eyes' work and their hands' work in an accessible way. Rendering the 3-Dimensional world into 2D is a truly complex skill, rendering 2D to 2D is complex still but it is also much simpler. You don't have to see round corners, you don't have to flatten the world onto your page.
What I really wanted to say in this post is that my heart always soars to see the beautiful linework many children produce in these sessions, but there are also always students for whom this activity is quite upsetting and even traumatic, for whom the 'I can't draw that' mentality has already taken hold. In considering teacher self-esteem this week, this drawing session today made me mindful of my students' self-esteem. If I value drawing-as-learning, which I truly do, how can I help my students draw confidence from drawing - especially for those whose perception of the world is already one in which they feel inadequate?
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It goes without saying that BEING WITH my class is the main part of my teaching life but being APART from them is a big part too. Not only do I spend time after school every day doing student-focused work, like planning and evaluation, but I also think about my students and about teaching further into every evening.
But there are also those times when I don't think about my students or about teaching at all. This requires a significant shift in mentality. I have learnt that if I sit down in the evening to do even one school-related task I almost inevitably end up doing a planathon (and STILL feel behind!) I've learnt that if I want to disengage my teacher-brain, I have to switch it off completely.
This all-consuming aspect of teaching has made my pretty resolute about carving out time for myself that is at least nominally separate from my teacher-brain. I cocoon my weekends (well many of them) and approach Mondays with a possibly flawed sense of fatalism.
And then there's actual holidays. Yikes. This one was especially intensive because I went home to see my family. I knew without a doubt that I didn't want to do any 'school work' while I was in Windhoek.
I prepped and planned and generally tried to organise the classroom so that when I walked in 10 days later I'd get a comforting sense of purpose and flow.
Well, my morning didn't really turn out like I'd hoped. Within the hour I felt impatient and frustrated - at myself and my students, but mostly at myself. I did the gaping fish. I did the stony stares. I felt tired and I didn't feel fun. Why hadn't I spent my whole holiday preparing a world of activities so that this day could be lit? Why didn't I anticipate the lacklustre mundanity of trying to get seven-year-olds to listen to me quietly for unreasonable lengths of time?
At the end of the school day, small groups of students darted and drifted in and out of our classroom, as they always do, wanting to chat, to ask me things and to be comfortably in our space. I even got a marriage proposal - well a declaration really.
We laughed together, we hovered in this calm merriment and I thought about how much I'd looked forward to seeing them that morning. Deciding to disengage my teacher-brain is always a big decision. It has a cost, but I have to believe that it also does me good. A pause. A rest... a gathering of other self-fragments. My afternoon was better than my morning. The teacher is back at her desk.
This week I'm writing about internal teacher dialogue and its impact on teacher-self-esteem and resilience. I'll also be writing about writing. A teacher writing about other teacher's writing. Meta. Read my first 'author snapshot' about the awesome CULT OF PEDAGOGY blog here.
A daunted but determined teacher irons out the creases of her brain.