Art is a discipline that can be taught. In fact, I believe that anyone can be taught to be a good artist. If I didn’t believe that as an art teacher, I would be in the wrong profession. The problem is, many people do not believe this. Instead, they buy into the lie of talent, and conclude that since art is a talent-you either got it or you don’t. As an art teacher, I deal with this misconception daily. People make excuses based on this misconception, and if you’re an art teacher and you buy in to it, your students will suffer. The first principle in becoming an effective art teacher is to drop the word “talent” from your vocabulary. If your students believe in talent, and have never been labeled as “talented”, then chances are, they will never truly believe that they can create good art. And if you believe the myth of talent yourself, you may not believe that they can produce good artwork either. This handicaps you right from the start. So, get rid of “talent” and make your students aware of your position.
Now that “talent” is out the way, you can focus on believing in your students-all of them. Many teachers say they believe in all of their students, but really believe in maybe 80%. In order to teach art effectively, you must believe in all of your students and show it, especially when they don’t believe in themselves. This may be a real challenge at times. You will always have those students that it seems you’re not reaching. If you are consistent and authentic, whether you believe it or not, they are listening. Focus on each student as an individual and let them know (frequently) that you are there and are genuinely interested in their success. (If you aren’t genuinely interested in their success, get out of teaching.) Students will respond to authenticity. It may take a while for some students, so don’t give up.
Now that you are invested completely in all of your students, create creative and relevant experiences for your students to learn and grow. Teach through these experiences. Remember, the point of projects (experiences) should be growth, not product. Trust me, the product comes with time. Focus your experiences on learning, not for the county-wide art show. Do not put a huge emphasis on grading, instead focus on growth. Make sure that when you are designing your experiences, provide many ways for students to be successful along the way. Teach the curriculum, but do it in a way that breaks the mold. The students will respond. They will look forward to your class and they will soak up everything you have to offer.
Allow the students to see the real you. Be completely authentic. Students don’t really care what your personality is like, they just want you to be real. It’s okay to make mistakes and admit them. In fact, your students will respect you for it. And if they respect you, they will learn from you.
Lastly, enjoy your job. If you like what you’re doing, it will show. Students will like learning from you. They can smell it when a teacher is not enjoying their job. That teacher’s effectiveness will suffer because of it. Enjoy what you do and effectiveness naturally follows.