Yes you can or Let’s try

A Culture of Permission in the Art Class

Yesterday I was invited to join a podcast conversation centered around “A Culture of Permission” in our schools with Sam Sherratt, Frank Hua and Cathy Brown. Inspired by Sam’s post on Inquiry and a Culture of Permission.

Still reflecting on some of the snippets from yesterday reinforces my pursuit of student driven projects in the art room – where everyone involved are left smiling, fulfilled, proud and really feeling like an artist. With years 10 years of art teaching under my belt, 4 years of fine arts training and years and years of creating art – I do not assume to know what will or will not work for a student. Sometimes, I have a pretty fair inclination that what they want to do may not work. A recent example being, this idea a student wanted to try was definitely a book carved out with a laser cutter – the first reaction in my mind was oh dear this is not going to work, it will not have the effect he is after. But… what will he learn if I say “No, you can’t do that”? That his ideas are silly? That he’s not skillful enough? That he’s dreaming and he should aim lower next time? ARGH! Awful! So, instead I said “Sure, let’s give it a try!”. From the sidelines I encouraged gentle slices, slowly and carefully through the book pages. After giving it a good go this student turned to me and said “Actually, I think I’d like to look for a new idea because it’s not going to work”, very neutrally I said “OK, no problem I said, maybe that was made with a laser cutter?”, “Oh yea, probably” he said. What came after was the golden moment, he happily grabbed a couple of art books flicked through them with a much more critical eye and now his new idea is rocking! And maybe what is even more important is he knows his choices/ideas and creativity are valued. As he heads up to the MYP next year I know he is in a good position as he has figured out how to develop ideas, test materials, reflect and regenerate ideas. I am not sure this could have happened if I had just said “No, you can’t do that, it’s not possible”.