Thursday, November 10, 2011

Top 10 Things I've Learned Teaching Art to Children

I recently started an Artist in Residence program to bring ScrapKins to schools. Here's an observational list from my weekly classes at a school in Brooklyn.

Top Ten Things I've Learned Teaching Art to Children:
1) When you teach children Art you will receive free Hugs. 
2) You will be called by a new name. Call it affection or lack of attention but soon you will be christened with a nickname. Mr. Yanish is now "Mr. Radish." (I kind of like that one.)
3.) To kids, the promise of being able to paint is like another birthday. (Paint a lot.)
4.) Prepare to be observed. I was asked why my hair was gray the other day. (I'm okay with that one but I did want to retort "Why are you so short?")
5.) Copying = Admiration. Some kids are natural creative geniuses, some need encouragement, and some will copy anything you show them. When I was young, I copied Mickey Mouse, Heathcliff and Garfield, so when a child wants to make their monster look exactly like my monster, that's admiration kicking in. (When 2 kids also wanted to name their monster "Mr. Yanish", that's weird.)
6.) The Simple Things are the Best. Building a milk carton pirate ship is pretty cool but when I carried around a little tub of water and they "tested" their ship and saw it floating, I got some serious fun points. Simple. Floating Rules!
7.) Demo. Demo. Demo. Kids have a lot going on in their small heads. Don't tell them to cut out a square. Show them. Hold it up high so they can see it. Then do it again. One more time.
8.) Make Little Jokes. Don't worry about a stand-up routine in class but a little silly goes a long way. Example: We we're cutting out eyeballs from cardboard so I stuck one to the forehead of a boy. I also brought in a tub of dirt for our gardening project and told the kids I made them brownies. Heh heh.
9.) Know the Secret Sign for Quiet. Most teachers have a "quiet" signal. Some clap their hands, some ring a chime. Learn it. Use it. Even art needs some quiet time.
10.) Create an Outline then Discard it. Know the basics of what you'd like to get done with the kids then figure that you'll be lucky if you get half of it done before a fire drill interrupts class, someone spends 5 minutes refusing to work without "pink" scissors and 4 kids can't stop giggling about burying "Mr. Radish" in the garden.