There is something so heartwarming about watching young people engage and respond naturally to their surrounding environment. Particularly if that environment is within your sphere of influence.
Today was one of those days. As the art specialist teacher at Sylvia Park School in Mt Wellington, Auckland, I took my Yr 8 art class to visit the Degas to Dali exhibition at the Auckland City Art Gallery.
Truthfully I didn’t know how it was going to evolve. For some of these students it was their first visit to an art gallery. We were to be there for just over two hours and anyone who teaches 11-12 years olds know that can be a test for one’s attention span.
Well what I witnessed today was quite simply magical. If only I was able to record or photograph the unfolding beautiful events…(no photography etc allowed).
To begin with I had a gallery staff member remark that of all the school groups she had observed they were the best behaved. I would have been thrilled with just that one comment but as we continued through the exhibition I began to notice the public’s reactions to the children.
The public was beginning to observe the children and how they were so engaged and stimulated by what they saw. And as I stood and watched I couldn’t help but see why the students were making such an impact.
This is what I saw….
- Groups of children talking about the work – asking each other what they liked about the work and getting right up close to really see ‘how’ it was ‘made’
- Children not caring about sitting on the floor as they were too engrossed about ‘drawing’ their chosen work
- Children so focused on the work that they had no idea people were watching them
- Children being told to ‘hurry up’ as we were literally running out of time…yet they were far too busy looking and recording what they saw
- Children asking the gallery staff questions about the works
- Children complaining that we had to leave
- Children wanting to know when we can go back!
It made the quote from Pablo Picasso that I recorded today so impertinent…
‘It took me years to paint like Rapheal, but a lifetime to paint like a child’
As a teacher of Art I feel the responsibility of nurturing a gift that is inherently present in EVERY child.
As I reflected back on the success of today’s trip I came to the following conclusions….
- Preparing the children with clear expectations – they all knew that I wanted to see in their visual diaries at least two works that they personally selected, to be drawn by them and to add the artist’s details
- Equipping them with their own individual visual diaries – they ‘looked’ and ‘acted’ like art students today walking around and recording their thoughts
- Being passionate about what I do – I don’t even think of what I do each day as ‘work’ – in fact I can’t believe I get paid for doing something that I so love and believe in…(essentially that is what the children pick up on!)
- Role modeling – not only do I teach art, I am an artist. From this position you can speak with authority.
- I absolutely believe in every one of the children I teach – I believe that they will make a positive impact to the future of our country – in the arts or other – but they carry the hope of our nation.
What a privilege to be shaping and influencing our next generation.
After today New Zealand’s future is in great hands!