Actions, gestures and body language are sometimes more powerful than words.
I am an artist and a teacher. As a teacher, I have a tendency to want to explain all of the possible pitfalls and tricks of the trade because I want them to be successful. Meanwhile, my students are about to explode with anticipation. As an artist, I know failures can be powerful paths to success. Allowing students to explore, investigate, make mistakes and delight in discoveries is what true learning is about. Resisting the urge to talk, or deliver information, is difficult for someone who loves the content/subject and profession. Answering the question, "Am I finished?" with a raised eyebrow and silent pause returns the question, "Are you finished?" Communicating my pride in a student's accomplishments through publicly displaying their work builds a student's pride in his or herself.
Rise above reaction. Reflection will reveal the real issue.
It is hard not to react. When you see a student using a blade the wrong way, you instinctually react. The same holds true to all of those frustrating, confusing and not-so-perfect moments…we instinctually want to react. However, I have found that reaction usually does more damage, and more time is wasted on repairing that damage. Taking the time to reflect allows introspection so that the true problem is identified. Once you know the problem, then you can set a plan of action into the solution. It may still need some time to apologize or explain, but that only builds trust, not damages it.
Trust in children’s abilities to imagine.
Place a child in a sandbox, they will not ask you what to do or how to make a sandcastle. Teachers are trained and expected to model and differentiate for every learner. The problem is that teachers have translated that too literally. If our charge is to prepare students for colleges and careers then teachers need to establish trust and faith that students can "get the job done." No career follows a script. Even a play can change based on the actors, how a line is delivered, who directs and the mood of the audience. It is not the teacher’s job to think of every possible solution, it is the students' work. Determine the basic information or components that are necessary, and then allow the students to fill in the blanks.
Everyone sees the world in a unique perspective.
Maybe it is because I am an artist or that I teach art, but no one will solve the problem in the exact same way. And no one sees the world exactly like any other person. Value the perspective on the individual. Imagine a world with no running water; that home belongs to my student. Imagine a world where summer vacations are spent on a private airplane; that home belongs to my student. Imagine someone who is trying to read a novel in a language that is foreign to them and then being judged on their inability to pass a test. These are real people with real stories and real knowledge; that knowledge does not fit neatly in a multiple choice answer sheet.
Nobody’s perfect, teachers included.
Good teachers share the belief that all students can learn. However, we are aware that learning is a result of making mistakes. Why then do we think that we must have all of the answers? Why are teachers worried about making a mistake in front of witnesses (students or administrators)? Building trust is established by a genuine relationship. I often encourage my students by saying, “It is okay to make a mistake, in fact I would prefer you try to accomplish something bold and fail than to simply copy my idea. The real question is what did you learn from your mistake? And what will you do differently next time to achieve your goals?” That can be asked of teachers, after every lesson of every day. What was successful, what was not? What could you do to achieve your goals? I am not a perfectionist; I question whether I will ever believe something is perfect. I am reflective and strive to be the best I can be, just like I ask my students to strive to their best.
The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.
Kim Wilson lives in Monticello, Arkansas with her husband Scott Lykens and two children. A native of South Carolina, Kim has lived in several states as a student, a professional artist and artist –educator. She considers herself a genuine life-long learner with a Bachelor’s of Art from Winthrop University, in SC, a Bachelor’s of Art in
Craft/Art Entrepreneurship from Trinity College in VT, a Masters of Fine Art in Ceramics from Kent State University in OH, a Masters of Art in Teaching from the University of Arkansas at Monticello and is currently a doctoral candidate at Walden University.
Kim currently teaches Visual Art classes at Monticello High School and is an adjunct instructor at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Her teaching career began with 12 years in community education and entered public education in Arkansas. She was named the 2012 Arkansas Teacher of the Year after completing her third year as a certified teacher. “I passionately believe that the need to create is a common human desire, whether that means paint a picture, design a rocket or plant a garden. My hope is to share the visual arts as an inclusive subject, relevant and meaningful for all, whether that means some participate in the making of art or appreciating its value to society, or as a means of personal enjoyment.