1. All human beings should be accorded respect in the first instance in every sphere of life. Personalities get in the way and behaviour dictates whether that happens or not. It is an ideal worth striving for but one that will often fail to materialise wherever you find yourself, even in an art class.
2. Making people feel worthless has nothing to do with teaching or art. It has everything to do with the insecurity of the person who operates by making others feel worthless – it is about the worthless feelings of that person. You cannot avoid such people and you will find them everywhere, even in an art class.
3. It is a huge ask to get anyone, teachers included, to remain open to the possibility they may be wrong and takes enormous sense of self and generosity. There are of course people out there capable of such generosity and wisdom but in my experience they are few and far between. When I come across such people I am generally in awe of them. Such people are of course suited to art education but that doesn’t necessarily mean art education is wholly populated by them. I was yelled and shouted at drama school by a well known actor revelling in a sense of power over young, insecure, impressionable students. Not sure what that taught me but I remember it still as as a pointless and cruel exercise. Artistic professions attract unstable egos and it is a truth that such people will inevitably end up teaching.
4. <If you’re wrong bloody well say so…> I agree, but unfortunately there are few absolutes in life. If something is very obviously wrong then it is a great lesson for students to see you admit you are wrong. But what about those moments that are less clear cut? It is also good to see someone arguing for what they believe in calmly but with a level of passion too – another ideal worth aiming for but in the end an ideal.
5. I agree with an earlier poster – sometimes people need and want authority figures, so blurring the lines isn’t always the best way forward, not matter how much that appeals to one’s personal humanist ethos (and mine tends to fall that way). There are young people in desperate need of clear boundaries as they have never had them and in those cases the blurring of lines might be confusing and difficult. However, in an ideal world we should, right across education, be teaching children and young people to work collaboratively. The future of all work is changing and the old models of education suited to turning out factory workers will be useless and unhelpful in most areas. Working together, creatively and compassionately will likely be most beneficial to individuals and societies. Modelling behaviour, i.e behaving in the way you would wish students to behave, is proven to be the most effective way of teaching this.
6. I have trouble with assessment full stop and am intrigued by some aspects of the Steiner education system where no formal assessment takes place at all. I am studying at the moment and was very much in two minds about submitting for assessment. I have been convinced to in the end although I am still ambivalent about it. The work I am doing is very personal and having it graded is a worry even though I know I am likely to do well. Doing well will of course be an ego boost but it’s extrinsic and therefore I question its long lasting effect – and it also could feel somewhat patronising. I have very mixed feelings about this.
7. There are no general recipes for making art. Learning about how others did it but understanding that you may do it differently seems to be the thing to concentrate on. Teaching someone to just do it may be more beneficial.
8. People do want feedback. They generally benefit from honest, non patronising feedback given in a compassionate and balanced way, with positives and negatives pointed out.
9. Teaching might sometimes feel like shouting in a force 10 gale – but there are surely also times when it feels the opposite. It depends on the teacher, the student, the art, the moment, the time.
10. Having a talent to express ideas verbally or in written work fluently and with some knowledge is a separate talent that some artists may or may not have. Not having it doesn’t make an artist less of one, but that artist may struggle in an academic situation (and it would be shame under those circumstances if his/her confidence was lessened because of it). Like everything this skill can be developed but some will naturally be better at it than others. Getting a good grade for it won’t mean you’re a better artist though, and vice versa.
11. All extended knowledge is good for you, no matter what you’re doing and learning. People should be encouraged to find out as much as possible.
12. Restrictions always hone the mind; constraints may be frustrating but lead to creative solutions. Teach people to learn to work within them. There will always be constraints of one sort or another.
13. Start in the shallow end – yes. Teach from the shallow end, with compassion and patience. Again, an ideal but one in the end that will dictated to a greater or lesser by personality and ego.
14. Every student will learn differently. Some might learn by reading, some by doing, some by watching interpretative dance. Some by all three or some other means. It’s part of the conundrum of teaching.
15. Analogy – good!
16. It is only from within that anyone can truly develop (in art or elsewhere) and in the end it is up to the individual to allow that to happen. You, the teacher, may aim to help but you cannot fix the unfixable. You are human and some people have barriers that will take years and years to bypass (if ever in many cases). You are only responsible for your behaviour. You cannot be responsible for how others receive or don’t receive.
17. I don’t know what art is. I am still trying to figure that out.
18. Not everyone will find a voice. All you can do is try to enable it, kindly and compassionately if possible. You are in danger of stifling it without those two elements. Instigating anger and disillusionment is not in my mind an effective means of positively enabling someone.
19. I don’t know what good art is or bad art is. I think those adjectives are unhelpful at best.
20. I totally agree that parenting is an excellent analogy. Unfortunately parenting is as subjective as art. The various positions held by people on what good parenting might be are disparate and complex, governed by individual experience and perception of the world. Teaching, just like parenting, is fraught with pitfalls and in the end you have to aim for being ‘good enough’. Good enough is all we can realistically be and in the end it is the ideal because perfection is brutal and aggressive.
21. It is never good to be 99% certain one is right.
22. We live in a society that totally dismisses play. Play, play and play some more. But do it kindly and with care.
Sarah-Jane Field, ex actor, ex marketing assistant, mother & photographer