A few months ago I attended the Picasso exhibition in Sydney. Viewing his work for the first time, I was struck not only by the range and immensity of his drawings, models, sculptures and pictures, but also by the development and evolution of his craft over the course of his life. It was impressive to see the diligence and dedication with which he approached his work. Reflecting on the experience, I have begun to see another connection between what we do as teachers and creating artworks.
Imagine for a moment if you had the opportunity to watch Picasso at work. Each stroke of the brush, every colour that he mixed – exuding confidence in his ability yet still enjoying the possibilities and exploring new ways of approaching the work. I believe I’ve seen true artists, just like this, in action in the classroom! A particularly memorable one was a fantastic literacy lesson, which one of my supervisor’s conducted in my early years of my career.
My supervisor was teaching the class about how to use adjectives to add richness and depth to writing. She dressed as a wizard, danced around the classroom and conjured up intriguing spells. I was completely absorbed, with the rest of the class, in the lively world that she created with words. She took us on a journey through history, to castles where the heroes fought dragons and then back to her classroom. The content was great, but the way that she delivered her lesson, confidence, precision and expertise was outstanding. She was, and still is, an expert in her field, a true artist.
Teachers are like artists in that they:
See potential where others do not – Teachers see the potential in the students that they teach. Teachers see that each student is unique and that each student has unique gifts and talents, which need to be encouraged and challenged.
Choose the right tools for the job at hand – Teaching tools, lesson sequencing, appropriate scaffolding, inquiry learning and knowledge of teaching pedagogy are tools that teachers use to bring out the greatness of their students. Teachers select, implement and use teaching tools appropriately to bring out the potential of their students.
Exercise discipline – Without discipline you cannot achieve a consistently strong result, both in the completion of your various tasks and goals and in the results that your students produce. A true artist and a great teacher cares about the finished product too much to let their discipline slide.
Perfect their craft – Teachers should be the best learners. To be an effective educator you must be up to date with the current research, trends and materials that are associated with your profession. Teachers need to make sure that they are continuing to learn new skills and that they are implementing their skills expertise appropriately.
Great Teachers are true artists. As a teacher you see the immense potential in the students that you teach and you use tools and strategies to bring out the gifts and talents of your class. As educators your need to exercise discipline and precision and continually perfect your art form.