Ex - studends I'm writing about you

May 27, 2013

Extract 1:

The great learning and awareness that evolved from those I loved, cared for, had the privilege of trying to guide, motivate and encourage has been a gradual process of subtle awakening for me. In my role as a teacher I felt I was stimulating young hearts to grow, learn and develop never realising the great learning that would come my way. To all my former pupils I thank you for the opportunity you gave me to share in your personal growth and development. As a teacher I loved going to school to share daily the intimate connection I felt I had with many of my students. We shared and bonded through creative expressions. Together we would laugh, dance, sing and try to build an atmosphere of cohesive respect and endorsement. I now know it wasn’t my great teaching strategies or educational programming skills derived from institutional instruction, academic achievement or departmental directives …it was simply a spiritual connection that created a better learning environment.

Extract 2:

I found in my role as a teacher many children would come to me with ideas about their creativity already in place. Somewhere in their learning process they had received a message they could not draw well, paint, dance or sing etc. A few unrewarding experiences and judgement values they had adopted meant a “can’t do” attitude. I discovered that by changing the focus of clear outcome or pre conceived expectation ie “Today children we are drawing a tree” which would have the possible potential for the whole class immediately thinking in their heads of some amazing tree they perceived as the level of expected outcome and feeling… “Oh shit! Here I go again I can’t draw a tree like that or even one that remotely resembles it…I’m still at the cabbage on a stick stage and crikey everyone’s going to think I’m hopeless! I think I need to go to the toilet. Maybe I could be sick. Why do we have to do these arty farty things any way …I’m really good at footy, why can’t they just have a footy school and we could learn about that, that’s what I want to do!”…  and naturally by this stage every child, with the exception of one or two in the class who do fancy themselves as budding artists, has lost concentration, many now are possibly lost in space, some are squirming uncomfortably in their seat or disturbing someone as an attention seeking protest. You as the teacher are trying to give them the stipulated well rounded education whilst thinking, especially if you are not of artistic back ground or nature yourself, “Why do we have to teach all this arty farty stuff anyway, it’s so much preparation, makes a big mess, most of the kids muck around…surely some specialist person could do this, it really stresses me out!” I know this thinking as many of my teaching colleagues expressed it to me and many children have also confided their thoughts. Their seemed to be a common focus on arty farty stuff and creativity to past experience, beliefs and “can’t do”. Somehow I had to show my pupils that past experience doesn’t always equal the present experience and sometimes what we believe isn’t always true now.


 I commenced creative activities with each new class with different art lessons that were based on removal of outcome and changing the focus of constraints of “I can’t” to let’s have a try…after all we have all fallen off a bike and got back on and eventually, maybe with some coaxing and lots of practice we were able to take the training wheels off and eventually Dad or Mum would stop running behind us shouting instructions whilst holding on to the back of the seat. A bit of trust was involved when I handed out large black crayons and I would get everyone quickly scribbling all over a blank sheet guiding them with simple demonstrated lines that appeared as abstract art on my large sheet taped to my blackboard. Spontaneity, playfulness and wonder set in as we all freely whipped a few lines here and there on our pages with the children having no idea what they were aiming for except my telling them it was a loosening up activity and to just follow me and put lines on their page something like I was doing, “A line over here, a line over there…now let’s put one up in the air”…as they saw it a whole lot of nonsense and a bit of fun. When I did say “Now I’d like you to turn your page upside down and take a look at what you’ve just drawn”, well those were often very special moments for me as I watched eyes widen and everyone break out into conversations of “I’ve drawn an old house, shack, boat…” whatever the subject and show each other what they had done. From this point you could add window panes, shading details, bits of character pointing out how uniquely individual each house, shack, boat would become. The great thing about art being we can interpret, create and dare to be somewhat different. Everyone would freely engage in having a go and then we’d put a wash over our crayon work adding a sunset background.


That evening I would mount and outline every child’s artwork and before they got to school next day I’d have all their work up mounted on the classroom walls. Inevitably children would arrive bursting into our classroom with a parent in toe to show them their new found artistic talent and they would be delighted to see their work mounted, displayed and looking absolutely fabulous. Not much work would take place that morning for the first twenty minutes as we discussed how great the room looked, recognising individual efforts of surprise, pondering on how amazing it was that everyone’s painting was so good, what a talented class we had and when were we going to do more. I assured them there would be more and they would learn how to mount and present their work just as I had done to give it a more professional look but more importantly that every lesson we would be putting everyone’s work up on display because they all had natural creative ability within waiting to come out and reveal itself.


When we shift our focus and replace an old pattern of thinking with a new belief we can have different outcomes and create new patterns that fit more comfortably with our spirit. Thus began my ‘bribery and corruption’ technique of teaching, as art became the reward and “we could do some art if everyone finished their…maths, cleaned out their desks, whatever might need some attention”. Maybe our focus is a little skew-whiff sometimes because of our past; maybe turning it upside down might not hurt, at least give it a thought next time before you say or think “I can’t”.


In any learning situation I have been involved in whether personally as a teacher or as a pupil one important element is to establish a sense of confidence. As a teacher I always spent my first term focussing on each pupil’s strengths and promoting and developing these area, traits, talents or interests. I even kicked off the high heels and learnt how to play and referee footy so I could relate to my wild boys and burn up some of their reckless energy when they got a little ‘testy’ as puberty blues taunted them. Once each child became recognised as being successful, good at something and realised they had quite a number of attributes going for them which were uniquely their own, qualities that were special, valuable and useful we could move to learning about new things, develop new skills and try things previously they thought they couldn’t do. We’d begin individual programmes of self improvement. Each child would work at their own level of development and set goals with me to tackle areas that they weren’t achieving in with a renewed sense of confidence.










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