Friday, October 11, 2013

A Cinderella Story

Whew, today's art class was super intense. At least half the class felt discouraged and upset; three of my 12 students were on the brink of tears.

And it's all because of these guys.

Yes. Pumpkins. Mini-pumpkins, to be exact.

These round, ribbed fellows make for a challenging drawing exercise, and while I normally save this project for older, more advanced students, I decided that my 4th through 6th graders were up for the challenge.

I'm happy to report that I was able to wipe away a few hot tears, soothe the troubled hearts, and speak calming words of redirection and encouragement. And by the end of class, those amazing children turned out some fantastic pumpkin drawings.

How did I learn to work such miracles?

Easy. See, when it comes to teaching students how to draw, I have a fairy godmother.

Meet Vickie. 

About ten years ago, when our school-for-homeschoolers found itself without an art teacher, my friend and fellow homeschooling parent, Vickie, stepped up. Summoning her vast experiences as a college art major, lifelong painter and drawer, and full-time lover of kids, Vickie volunteered to teach our otherwise art-deprived high school students. Since my daughters were benefiting from her spirited instruction, and I was always game to hang out with Vickie, I offered to help.

Remember, I'm no trained artist. For crying out loud, I was an accounting major. If I recall correctly, my formal art instruction ended somewhere around third grade, and while I was a creative kid in other ways, I never got the hang of drawing stuff.

But I worked alongside Vickie, taking the lead on classroom management issues and designing a balanced curriculum, while she served as the content expert and head cheerleader for our budding teenage artists.

I listened as she worked one-on-one with discouraged students, helping them to articulate what they disliked about their work, suggesting technical solutions to sidestep their problems, and always, ALWAYS reminding them to draw what they see.

And over the years, I caught on. Vickie encouraged me to develop my own drawing style, making me the exuberant and enthusiastic amateur artist that I am today.

Even more magically, she transformed me into a drawing teacher. Following her lead, I learned how to ask the right questions, refine the necessary skills, and always, ALWAYS remind my students to draw what they see. 

So today, when those pumpkins were making my students as sad as a girl with no invitation to the ball, I remembered my fairy godmother, Vickie, and everything she taught me.

Luckily, my students found that my instruction fits them like a glass slipper, and now we all are living happily every after.

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For more stories about my talented and adorable art students, read:

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