Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Perspective Taking- Post #100! RES

As I have come to this 100th post, I have had a lot of time to reflect this past year on my teaching. That's been the best part of blogging.

I love teaching art. It might make me sound like a loon, but rarely, even in childhood, did I ever imagine doing anything else. Some days are hard- it's a messy, fast-paced job that is full of endless surprises and twists, both good and bad.  I go to bed pretty dang early to keep up with it.

But many, many days I drive home thinking to myself thoughts such as, "Well, that was a really great day. The kids had fun, the new lessons I tried are working, and I have tricked them into integrating math without knowing it."

Lots of my students tell me that they "hate math." It seems to be, by far, the most vastly disliked subject in the informal polls of one another that children do when they have a moment to chat (e.g. "Raise your hand if you like..."). To me, this is a terrible shame- it's my next favorite school subject after art.

In my eternal effort to engage learners in subjects they "hate," I try to integrate content areas into art- both to bring art-doubters an in-road to using their visual strengths, and also to use the arts as an avenue for growth and exploration in other subject areas.

To be honest, I know what I want my classroom to look like, what I want my learners to love, so when I fall short it is especially frustrating, so I try to take their perspective and understand what didn't work and why. 

Perspective drawing.  Seeing things from a single view point.  Not your own. You and I cannot stand side by side and see exactly the same thing. Say we are looking at a small wooden block. You'll see one side of it, but I might see a different face of it. We have to literally stand in one another's shoes to see things exactly the same way as the other person.

It's also what we hope to teach our students to do- think about someone else's thinking, and adjust and modify behavior, words, and choices accordingly. 

So, maybe I love math, and all these angles and lines come naturally. Maybe that child doesn't.  Or he's tired. Or she's hungry. Or someone sitting next to him is making it look "easy" and he is afraid his won't be as "good."

So we adults- teachers, parents- push, then hug, then push again. We raise the bar, then listen and compromise when it is out of reach. Then we adjust it for the next person in line. Or we readjust it again for the same child to a different spot, because it is a new day, or a different moment.  That's parenting. That's teaching.

This lesson.  Make 5-7 geometric, straight edge shapes that disappear to a single vanishing point.
This is hard, Mrs. Elliott.  Maybe so. Don't forget to use your ruler.

What else, Mrs. Elliott? Try curving shapes, they are much trickier.
This is hard, Mrs. Elliott, curved shapes don't have corners. I know. Keep trying.

What else, Mrs. Elliott? Try stacking them inside of each other, like they are hollow.
This is hard, Mrs. Elliott. Don't forget that all the lines that aren't faces connect to your vanishing point.

What else, Mrs. Elliott? Try creating a light source, let shadows and values add dimension and volumes.
This is hard, Mrs. Elliott. Use a scrap paper, you won't smear your pencil as easily.

What else, Mrs. Elliott? Cut off your shapes into prisms, so that they look like they are bursting out from the center.
This is hard, Mrs. Elliott.  No joke. I didn't draw like that until the end of high school.

Your students knock my socks off. 
They bring out the best in me, and it has been a pleasure to teach here at RES. 

I will miss all of your children, and look forward to visiting next year.
Thank you, thank you, for letting me be a part of your school community. 


  1. I'm another art teacher who loves math! And loves teaching perspective! I actually think I teach it very similarly to you. Nice post. The kids are always so excited when they 'get it'.

    1. Thanks Phyl! I'd love to hear how else you integrate math- always eager to learn something new to bring to kids. They have been so excited about how their work has come out!