The Teaching Art
Albert Einstein said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Wow, that is heavy! It’s like one can feel the weight of the responsibility unloading on their shoulders, with every word in this sentence. But let us look at the bright side, “art” is fun!
In my experience, teaching is an art, and the art is displayed in the joy and enlightenment of the students I teach. Anyone can hold up a picture, point to it and say, “Dog,” That’s not art, that’s drone work. Anyone can even be liked by students, that’s just a matter of personality. But learning how to engage, interpret, and get the synapsis’ of each student to fire at exploding rates, that’s where the art comes into play.
Erin Gruwell is an American teacher who won several awards and had a movie written about her mastery of the art of teaching, called Freedom Writers. She now travels the world and motivates teachers to motivate students. Her most famous words of wisdom, “follow your heart.” (Ugh, so cliché). In an attempt to take something practical from this frequently uttered phrase (after all Gruwell is a genius, so let us give credit where credit is due), this could be translated to, do what you know.
The teacher is the best role in the class, (considering there are only two roles: teacher and student, not including the chalk board, of course). The teacher does have a curriculum, but how they deliver that curriculum is left up to them, which is wonderful because then they can play to their own strengths and the class has to do it, it’s the law! Ultimately students want a teacher that has fun, when a teacher has fun, their students are inspired to have fun too.
So what does this look like in front of actual students? It means, Arts-and-Crafts Day, can be every day or if a teacher loves to sing, they can work out words for students to repeat in songs. For the actor out there, they can have students role play or enjoy some charades. For the artist of the bunch, have the students play Pictionary, or make them label everything you draw on the board (They love this game). For the competitive athlete, make teams and turn every activity into a contest. Students love to win, and you can’t win if you don’t play!
Writers can create paragraphs and sentences to be copied and dissected. I know this last one sounds boring but shockingly, it can be so fun. Students love to be right, and when they can copy something and know it’s right, they feel so accomplished. Of course the art is that they learn what it means.
The point is, all of it can be fun for them, if it’s fun for you. Each teacher can uniquely play to their strengths, and in doing so live out the words of Einstein and, “awaken joy in creative expression” in their students. Naturally, this tactic can be over-done, anything gets boring when done every day, even coloring. However, that’s when a teacher can break out and try something that isn’t their strength (Don’t get scared, we’re in this together).
The best method to teaching, is leading by example. If students never see an example to learning, they don’t believe it’s possible. Internalizing takes time, and teaching and learning become synonymous in this way.
The teacher is the leader, the students follow the leader – so show them what you’ve got! Show them what you know and what you don’t know, and like art, practice.