If ever a room needed a bench, it would be an art room. As I have learned, benches are the perfect place to think, to observe, and to sketch. At least, that’s what I told middle school students this week.
And since this particular art room didn’t have one, I assisted the art teacher in lifting a bench from the school lobby.
Dawn is an old friend. Up until my schedule became too demanding, I came in six times a year to teach a simple watercolor class to seventh graders.
Over the fifteen years of those lessons, she and I talked much about art and teaching and kids. She’s passionate about all three. I knew she’d be game with my odd seating request.
I went in twice this week to meet with the Art Clubs. It was a treat to show my work to young artists who are intent on pursuing their own creativity and skill.
Day One: I showed slides of my art and answered questions, telling the students that the one thing they could do to become more creative is to buy a small notebook to carry with them and write down or sketch what they observed. As fun as the hour was, I walked away thinking I had lost an chance to co-create with them. Tomorrow, I thought, I’ll change that.
Day Two: I raced through my presentation, fielded a few questions then turned the tables on the kids. “You’ve asked me about my art,” I said. “Now I want to know about yours.” I directed them to two large sheets of paper with a simple question.
Without hesitation, they spent the remainder of the time drawing and writing their answers. Roaming the room behind them, I realized that as fun as this was to watch, I had still missed the goal. We weren’t co-creating. I was a bystander.
But maybe something more important was in play. Perhaps my most important role in these two brief hours was one of cheerleader for creativity. To applaud that innate spark of a desire to capture our view of the world visually – a spark we all had as little children but only some fanned into flame. I suppose it was my turn to wave that fan for a few kids.
The girl drawing this came to me on the second day and told me, “I went home last night and had my mom take me out to get a small sketchbook. So I can do what you said.”
It made me smile. I guess I’ll have a tiny supporting role in her life of creating going forward. Sometimes the best collaboration is to encourage – then watch what happens.
Something a great teacher like Dawn could have told me.