More thoughts on teaching

I find gratification in the moments of joy and pride that emerge from the students when they discover something new from their work. I like to unlock their creativity so it becomes a tangible work of art from which it can be shared and learned. The fact that I facilitate in this discovery process and witness these students become creative always brings me back to teaching.  Further, their growing enthusiasm and sense of wonder propel me in my own creative work.

The John Swett School administration (San Francisco School District) wanted a mural about California’s history permanently painted on the schools’ exterior walls.  When I told my students, a mixture of predominantly African American and Asian kids from low-income families, of this, I did not get a single response.  Instead I just saw blank stares.  These students were different from my own background and upbringing; I needed their help in finding out what would excite them to be creative.  I asked, “What do you want to draw?”  After a moment of silence, one student in the back of the room finally shouted, “ I want to draw cars!” Then all the other students joined, “Cars!” Cars would not have been my choice for the mural but the students explained to me that cars were important to them – cars were critical parts of their neighborhood.  I knew that it was important for them to be supported by me in their choice so they could be creative.  Every single student knew actually what he or she wanted to express and they held back nothing.  For the first time, these students were creatively inspired and felt a connection with the mural – a sense of pride and meaning as a group.  I was proud of their achievement and fought with the school to accept and understand why the mural fits their intent.  After awhile, they too saw the relevance of this beautiful mural.

I strive to make a positive difference in my students’ lives by helping them to expand, and discover their own creativity.  This can affect their lives in so many ways.  In one school, I was doing a color mixing class when I noticed a student looking quite wide-eyed.  As I walked over to him,  I asked, “How are you doing?” He looked up at me and said in all seriousness, “This is the best day of my life!” I asked, “Why?” He answered, “Because its magic.  I can make my own colors, the way I want.”