Reflecting on the Creative Processes of Teachers and Students

Unlike many of the people in our program, I was very excited about taking this class.  Since I was a small child, I have always been somewhat artistic. My parents always thought that I would go into more of an artistic field, but little do they know that I actually did.  Teaching is exactly that.  My lessons need to be creative, innovative, and alluring just like a great piece of art to hold my students’ attention and get them involved.

            In my opinion, I have never been one of those “practical and traditional teachers” whose teaching lied directly on the state standards and assessments.  One of the reasons I went into teaching was that I wanted to be

different, the artistic-teacher so to speak.

            Now in my sixth year of teaching children of various ages and abilities, I wonder how, at times, I tended to stray from such a meaningful tool to learning.  By being in this class, it really made me realize of the importance of actual art and how it can be greatly incorporated into every aspect of the curriculum.  One just has to be flexible, allow a certain degree of messiness,

take risks, and be willing to have the kids have FUN!

            I can honestly say I have encountered so many positive thoughts, visions, feelings, and ideas through integrating the arts into my curriculum.  I feel that this class has generated a motivation to learn new strategies and lessons to liven up my teaching practices and restore a part of a curriculum, which I feel is missing from many classrooms.  Many classrooms lack of an actual art curriculum due to standardized tests, state standards, and certain required programs that take up much of the direct teaching instruction.

            I have never before in my entire life actually taken an art class. So, this class would be my first.  As I mentioned before, I was excited to dive in right away.  I was hoping to absorb some fresh art lessons I could use with my students in my own lessons and school curriculum.  I wanted to become more familiar with different materials as well. 

            As I reflect back on my experiences from that first weekend, I almost have to laugh at my thoughts and reactions.  Even though the environment and class were very non-threatening, I think that the only threat imposed upon me was myself! I was very much concentrating on the product!  Questions like “Where is this going?”  “What will it look like afterwards?”  “What is this going to be?” invaded my mind at various times, especially when we were building the gesso collage boards.  I had a lot of difficulty with that as I first started.  I wanted to know if I was “doing it right.”  Looking back at those questions, which are perfectly normal, I guess, I now see that it was more coming in terms with the process as I went along. 

            On that note, I found it very shocking that my students who did the same type of collage board for my lesson plan implementation/presentation were very much the opposite.  We have been studying Venice and the uniqueness of such a remarkable city.  Liking the gesso collage boards that we did the first weekend in class, I decided that they could create their own unique island like Venice.  They were given the objective, my model to look at, given a variety of different materials, and were set loose.  They quickly just plain out started building with their partners!  I couldn’t believe that every single student was on task, talking to his/her partner, and cooperatively working together.  Ok, so I had one or two not liking their partner, but after pushing passed that small conflict that lasted 30 seconds or so, they really got to work and created wonderful, more creative collage boards than our class!  HA!  Children can really amaze me sometimes!

            Another amazing factor that I need to mention is that these kids have more creative imaginations than we do!  They were seeing things inside those collage boards that made me stand open-mouthed wondering where they got those crazy and impressive ideas from!  This project is still going on as we speak, and they are creating pamphlets for their islands.  This project is so real to the students, and I feel they really got something out of it.  I was so extremely happy that they were so excited and involved in this project that was part of my required course work for this class!

            Returning to my classroom on the first few Mondays directly after this class put me on an automatic, natural, and crazy high.  The motivation to begin a Monday (which is the hardest day of the week for me) is still to me so wonderful and amazing.  The thrill of having so many fun, innovative, yet relevant ideas caused me to find the energy that I didn’t think I had!

             I see so many artistic and different ways to approach a topic, issue, and subject in every aspect in my teaching.  I try to incorporate more art into my lessons that appear to be really reaching my students especially at this time of the year. I also have more of a carefree attitude to allow students to do more creative things the way they want, not the way I want.

            Again, I have experienced working with different types of schools that range from the middle- class, white population- to the poverty, culturally diverse population.  I feel that art reaches out to the students of my school in a way like no other group that I’ve encountered.  My students don’t get the opportunity to explore their artistic abilities and talents at home or in special classes that cost money.   The developmental needs of children in my classroom are very diverse and challenging.  Students at White Center Heights Elementary are predominately non-native speakers of English.  Our population consists mostly of these ethnic backgrounds: Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, and African-American. These groups make up about 85% of our school.  About 85% of these students speak a language other than English at home.  Not only are these students ESL, but 90% receives free and reduced meals.

            Because of this great diversity and other factors that make up the developmental needs of my classroom, I truly believe that the arts are able to reach my students on a multicultural level.  I feel that integrating art into my lessons bring my students closer together.  There is this universal feeling. We become a group with the same purpose, talents, and abilities, to create

something so wonderful. 

            I’ve greatly learned in these first two classes that no matter what one looks like from the outside, whether one speaks English or Vietnamese, art is perhaps humanity’s most essential language.  My students in the art projects we do are focused and speaking the same language, so to speak, despite cultural and linguistic differences.

            As for myself, I greatly feel this class has changed me as well.  I kept on hearing “trust the process” as we went along in our class.  At first, it was something that I would laugh at.  It seemed to be the inside joke amongst others.  BUT, I truly think I had an awakening as I reflect on those projects that we did in and out of class.  One in particular is proof that if one just believes that the process will work itself out, the outcome will be magnificent! Not saying that my creative project was spectacular, but I do want to tell you that I was very happy with the outcome. 

            I must have anguished and contemplated over what to do my sketches on.  Little did I know that they were right in front of my face.  My neighborhood is quite unique if you will.  It consists of big orange pick-ups, abandoned shopping carts, a loose dog on every corner, and believe it or not, chickens and goats.  It inspired me to capture my environment.  From these

sketches of twenty, my paintings were born.  I’m quite proud of them and feel that I let it happen!  I explored the process, let it happen, and was successful.  These experiences are only adding to my awakening as a teacher, a person,

and as an artist. 

            The arts feed the inner lives of teachers, I believe.  It has definitely begun to fill my inner life as well as my students.  I also am assured the arts have brought me back to the teacher I truly want to be.  When digging deep in my soul and roots of who I am, as a person and as an educator, I realized the arts provide an insightful learning education that attracts students to

explore the world, their humanity, their emotions, their fantasies, and their

realities.

 

By SeAnn Sivly