As we close in on the last days of Middle School Art, I watched my 8th Grade Students graduate tonight. This is the first class of Honors Art Students who I have seen for 40 minutes every day all year. I have taught most of them since they were in 6th Grade. In those days, I only saw them every day for 9 weeks. As I watched baby photos of them flash across the screen in the auditorium, other pictures flashed through my mind, that no one else could see.
Pictures like them working on designs for shoes they would make of clay connected to a real world problems they wished to "stomp out," pictures of them helping a fellow student work through some composition issues in a painting, pictures of them laughing and joking and refocusing on the grid drawing that would never end..literally, pictures of them receiving recognition after pouring themselves into a project. Then there is the picture of the student who suddenly seemed stunned at his own successful drawing when he stood back away from it. He had been so focused on getting the tones just right by looking at the reference photo, that he never stood back to see all that he had accomplished! A "Wow" moment not only for the student, but for his tearful teacher. Sometimes as educators, we need to stand back a little too. We can get so focused on meeting deadlines, worshiping the curriculum, managing details that we forget to pause, take a breath, step back and enjoy what our children are accomplishing. We need to remind them of how much progress they are making. But then, when it's all said and done, it's probably not the progress they will remember, nor the clay shoes, nor the gradient scale, nor the..grid drawing. Now they might remember something about "what's his name" that painted "what's her face," but what they will definitely remember is how they felt walking into the Art Room, and how the Art Teacher, Ms. So-in-So, made them feel about art. I would like to think they learned a little bit more about composition, shading and painting, but more than anything else, I hope they recall feeling loved and accepted in my classroom. That feeling has the power to take them wherever they want to go and is definitely worth remembering.