When I saw this cartoon, it really stirred up some sadness in my soul. In my job in public schools, I am privileged to be able to really get to know my students. Some of them are truly gifted artists, and I mean TRULY gifted. When I collaborate with other teachers, I hear them complaining about students spending time drawing during class. True, they need to complete their work, but drawing is such a good outlet once they are finished!
One thing I strive to do with kids I serve, is to tap into their talents and interests. I notice that when I say,”Let’s learn to draw something new!”, some kids just can’t believe that they are being “allowed” to draw! Learning to draw something new teaches us not only about drawing, but also about dealing with mistakes, perseverance, and practicing to improve. I start these activities by folding a piece of blank paper into 8 sections, and talk about why I do that- it is because I expect to have to practice a new drawing at least 8 times before I like it. Kids tend to start with one piece of paper, and may be unhappy with it very quickly. It takes getting through this productive struggle alongside another, to learn about perseverance.
At the beginning of the school year, when I am getting to know students, most of them have two interests: video games and sleeping. This is our starting point. Throughout the school year, we try new things based on interest and choice. We work on social skills needed in all areas of life, and self-awareness.
Of course, since I work in a public school system, the bottom line is that students perform well on state testing. While not a huge fan of state testing, I have watched the ups and downs of this testing over the last 20 years, with our most vulnerable population. The test confirms for the population I have served, that they don’t fit into the “norm”.
The biggest thing I want to impart to the kids I serve, is that a test does not define them! That is why it is so important to me, to develop talents and interests alongside the state prescribed standards.