My school held our annual Parent/Teacher Conferences just over a week ago. I always look forward to these two days because I gain so much insight into my students through their parents’ stories about them. It is fun to hear what the kids think of me as their teacher, including my rules, my grading and my projects. We have fun in my classroom and I know I am well liked, so unless there is a problem about a grade issue, the conversations are typically light hearted and encouraging, for both sides. Parents are often amazed at what beautiful creations their kids make. They tell me that the only class their kids ever want to talk about is mine! This makes me happy. No offense, but how do math teachers do it?
It wasn’t many years ago, at P/T conferences, that I would continually hear, “ . . .the homework is too hard,” or, “art should be fun and not so much work.” Several years ago the tide seemed to turn quite dramatically, however, and parents seemed more interested in learning about college and career choices their children might have if they were to continue the study of art. This became so noticeable that I developed a “Careers in Art” presentation that I delivered to a small group of parents last year. It is my hope to eventually turn this into an ebook so more people can have access to this information. I’ve found that it is not unusual for a talented child to be the product of parents who never learned the importance of art and/or who never took art classes themselves. Parents tell me that they wished they could take my classes. They realize that our entertainment directed, iPad society is a creative one and they are desperate for advice on how to counsel their child if he/she should continue an art study program.
Over the years, my school has adopted a statement that pinpoints who we strive to be as educators:
We should be gracious hosts, wise and winsome storytellers
and creative chefs.
I love this metaphor. As a gracious host, I welcome my students and their parents into my life, and into my classroom, which involves a passion for the arts and creative expression. I joyfully prepare the main course of my projects with my guests, my students, in mind. I work constantly at developing the menu of my curriculum that will be both educational and conceptually thought provoking, hoping to increase their appetite of problem solving skills.
More often than not, it is stories of my own life experiences that engage my students. Through my passion of travel or my interest in environmental concerns; or my interest in endangered animal species or my fascination with history, other cultures or architecture; whatever is of interest to me I share with my students and build a story around it. The evidence of my being a successful, wise and winsome storyteller, is to produce, in my students, a love of learning, in general, but specifically a love of what I love. I teach them to see through my eyes.
I do this in the laboratory of my classroom as I take on the role of creative chef. I’m not sure that all my ideas and projects are fully successful but as I stir the pot with enthusiasm, love and encouragement and experiment with new spices, materials and techniques, I challenge my students to be unique and find themselves in the unknowing.
This embedded video is so funny!!! Although it is certainly exaggerated, I’m guessing that all teachers have had experiences at Parent-Teacher conferences that are similar in some respects. If you can, watch it. You will laugh. Have a great week!