What I learned from a year in elementary school.
I spent part of every week as the art teacher at my kids' elementary school last year. It stretched me in new ways and opened up teaching to younger grades.
While teaching design to college students continues to help me learn and mentor, teaching art worked on my creative side. I was using techniques I hadn't practiced in twenty years and I was inspired by the talent of many of the children. Most children aren't afraid to try techniques and many jump in totally whole-heartedly. This can lead to major messes and plenty of creative exploration.
Transitions are not always easy for me, so as I look back I find myself questioning. Why did that happen the way it did? What should I take from that experience? What's next?
My Tuesday ritual is to listen to The Next Right Thing by Emily Freeman. She encouraged her listeners to think about what they've learned in the transitions of the seasons.
What I learned from the Spring:
1. The weeks are short, but the days are long. This saying extends to the elementary years. Afternoons with my own kids came quickly, but thirty minutes with 31 fifth graders could be really hard.
2. People are more important than processes. Not being an elementary teacher by trade, the transitions, explanations, and classroom management were a work in progress for me. Seeing the needs of individual students on any certain day was way more important than getting everything done in a particular order.
3. Kids don't need sarcasm from their teachers. First, most of them don't get it. Second, it can just come off as mean. I hurt the feelings of one precious little helper because I was aggravated, and still haven't gotten over it. Save sarcasm for adults!
4. Art is therapy! Exploring paints, markers, and shapes can open children's eyes. They can also process what's going on at home, why their teacher gets on their nerves and who they like working with on a team - all with a pencil and paper. It can be non-verbal. They don't have to know why they feel the way they do. They can simply express it.
5. Not everyone likes art. There were some kids that I couldn't engage no matter how hard I tried. I did learn that some of them really liked helping me with the computer as I gave a presentation. Or others needed to move a little before they could sit and draw. One of my own kids doesn't love art, but he grew just by trying.
6. I wish I could hug every teacher in the world, but not during the months of January - March. The work they do is so hard. Leading a group of children is a calling and just trying not to get every cold or other other sickness they have is a full-time job.
I earned a sweet mug out the deal and learned that being a teacher is not for the faint of heart. Wishing all the art teachers out there patience and peace this September!