As I’ve been sifting through piles of uni notes making heads and tails of my two subjects this semester I’ve been wondering how, on the one hand we teach the structure of writing, whilst on the other hand we bring out the individual sense of identity.
Observing, taking notes, musing and pondering, I’ve been watching my boys’ teachers and looking at how they do it – if they do it.
7 year old won an award at the school assembly last week. The school has fortnightly assemblies and each child will win an award each year at some point. Often I listen to the reasons for each award being read out and laugh inwardly at the creativity of the teachers. Some of them seem to be reaching really hard to find new reasons for awards.
As it turns out, it was my 7 year olds turn. Previously he received an award in kindy for good spelling, in year 1 it was for concentrating well in class, but this year was different. Admittedly it was accompanied by quite a few chuckles from the parent audience, including myself and his Pa. It was for “an amazing self-portrait in Picasso style”.
I had to go to work so Pa lingered to see him afterwards and asked the teacher if he could see that amazing self-portrait. That evening Pa came by and said that he wanted nothing more than to be given the painting so that he could frame it because it was so special that it had to be kept, it needed to be kept. He said that all the portraits were very good but there was something about it, he didn’t know what, but there was something there and it was special.
Today I finally got to go into the classroom to see it. And yes, they were all very good. But there was something very special about my boy’s painting, it was not necessarily better, they were all exceptional, but there was something. My son started to explain it to me, he discussed the colour choices, the reasons for them, the reason for the angle of the mouth and the positioning of the eyes, the background colours. Other children started to do the same thing, explaining their pictures and what it meant to them.
The teacher has mastered the art of teaching structure and nurturing the creativity within to create an understanding of identity – and is passing that on to 7 year olds and 8 year olds. She has always been known to many of the parents as a teacher who loves the creative arts, but I think it goes beyond that. It’s not just a love of the subject, but an understanding that this subject is just as important in the curriculum as any other subject. From my own observations, many teachers see maths, science and English and the main subjects and the others just fillers (unless of course they are in secondary school and that filler is their subject). But this teacher treats each subject as if it is the most important subject. She sees how some children have a talent in subjects that are not maths, science and English and nurtures that.
She teaches the structure so that the child can then master that structure, play with that structure and then change it, modify and create a new genre.
So we are going to frame a 7 year old’s painting. Is it a great painting for a 7 year old? I have no idea, I’m not an art student, but when he said “the mouth is angled like that because sometimes I’m happy, sometimes I’m sad” I realised that this piece of childhoold art is an amazing self-portrait – it is how he sees himself. What an extraordinary teacher to be able to bring that out. Did it stand out from the rest? I don’t know – chances are it was just his turn to get an award (it did happen to coincide with his 7th birthday afterall), but it is a glimpse into a moment of time in the mind of a child nurtured by the master-skills of a brilliant teacher.
Now of course, if it is really how he sees himself, I’m wondering if we should be worried about the black background and blood colours …