A few years ago I was speaking to an older woman about art. She shared with me, “I would have loved to be creative without having to be perfect.” This made me stop in my tracks.
We continued the conversation about her experience of art classes at school; not being able to draw the perfect straight line like the teachers or other kids, or getting into trouble for not getting it right etc. She had held onto this in her body and it affected her to this day.
Many of us have had experiences like this; it may not have been in the art classroom, as perfection, hurt and comparison can play out in many areas of our life.
It may have been for colouring outside the line, but what happens if you just love yellow on white paper so much that you can’t help but want to share how awesome it looks, you can’t and don’t want to contain it to the lines, you want to share your love and joy of that colour? What happens if you want to colour in in every direction possible, – up, down, left, right, front to back, back to front, only to be told you can’t, it’s ‘not right’?
Who says it’s not right?
Just because we may like something one way, that doesn’t mean it’s true for all. It’s a bit like telling someone they can’t wear two colours together because you don’t like it, like black and navy blue, yet I love wearing them together.
Now don’t get me wrong; when teaching an art lesson, there are things to be learnt. We can still teach lessons following the experiences and outcomes we have to as part of the curriculum, alongside allowing people the freedom to express themselves and enjoy what they make.
One of the most beautiful things to do is allow children to express the same topic in the way they feel to and be blessed by and enjoy each expression.
I have learnt much from children and teenagers I teach over the years; they come up with some incredible things that I often would never think of and I say “Wow, I love that! Can I use that in another lesson?”
Sometimes what I see, because we are so prone to telling children and people what to do, is that kids can’t think for themselves; now we know this is not true – what I mean is that when asked to produce their own work, come up with ideas, not be shown by the teacher what to do step by step – many children really struggle with this. This can play out at home too, where children don’t know what to do with themselves, as in games to play or how to enjoy being on their own. When I was a child this was not the case, so something over the years has changed.
What I have also learnt from observing and talking to other people, adults and children alike, and from my own experience, is that it is important to allow people to express themselves and have fun, not try to control them, make things look perfect or good to go on a wall. Sometimes kids end up hating a subject because of this or as above cannot think for themselves, or don’t know what they like and don’t like.
I have seen kids come into first year at high school terrified of making a mistake, too scared to have fun, or very young kids in primary school, really anxious about messing up, ready to bin something for the tiniest of mistakes. How does this then equate into everyday life when we make mistakes as we go about our day? Do we have a self-barrage of really critical thoughts, attacking ourselves from the inside out to give up?
This plays out in kids from a very, very, young age all the way through to our adult life.
We need to be aware of the impact of our words and actions, our movements you could call them, how everything we do and say affects people, including ourselves. It is either healing or harming – there is no in-between. And the fact that when we hold onto things, we hold onto them in our body and they can stay with us for years or lifetimes, ill-affect our health and or cloud our picture of other situations or people. It’s not worth holding onto things – it’s like carrying lots of heavy invisible baggage around that weighs us down. What would it feel like to let go of all of this?
For me the joy in teaching is first and foremost about building a relationship with the kids, having fun, then the subject.
This is what lasts with the kids –the connection and relationship we build with them first.