Refresher course

March 14, 2008

This is a joyful period where life’s lessons seem to be clustering around the previous topic, ‘letting go of having to be the authority or teacher’. Letting go of using will only, and making room for trust and grace.

I hit a wall teaching my 11 year old drawing student. I was running on empty and was no longer giving her the quality I felt she deserved. I also saw in her a similar trend to mine of going for results at the cost of process and even at this early age, identifying with being able to draw well. She was gobbling up techniques as fast as I could give them to her, and I felt pressured to keep coming up with new things. She, meanwhile was perhaps not getting the time needed to digest all she was learning.  This is all natural in the first stage of learning a new skill, but I felt she needed a balancing influence  in order to develop wholeness in relation to her art.

This is where my dear friend M was called in. She is starting her own practice in working with children and art and she has an entirely different approach than I. She is more a painter than an illustrator and and her work is more raw and dynamic, while mine tends more to aesthetic and controlled.  With the agreement of E and her mom, M took over E’s lessons for about 2 months.

My approach had been to  plan every lesson thoroughly, being aware of the goals, material skills, and procedure.

M , on the other hand,  made her studio inviting, prepared a general idea with a loose theme, set out materials and set E to work. She didn’t interfere or try to ‘teach’ E anything, yet she was totally present to what E was doing and did jump in if there was a question. The child worked solidly (this particular girl has ADHD) for an hour or more in total concentration. She explored and experimented and flourished with very little open interaction between her and the teacher.

Of course the intent was slightly different. E came to me with a clear request to learn to draw, in this, failure is an inevitable part of the process. With M the goal was to get acquainted with paints and have room to experiment with few constraints.

She is coming back to me on Monday. The break has given me time to refresh myself creatively and to reassess my own teaching method. I realize that I can give E the room to make her own mistakes and discoveries, can intervene less and generally step back a bit.

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