I taught art for a year in the 2000-2001 school year (as one of those, 20% of your job is something you are not certified in, but do it anyway kind of staffing situations) and I gained an enormous amount of teacher insight from the experience, but at no point would I call myself artistic or identify as an art teacher. But, there I found myself once again, in charge of leading an art activity while we were on our week at Camp Colton with the Alpine 7th graders. I will admit to being 100% surly about the situation as the event neared. It was a combination of exhaustion, not wanting to try something new and reeling from the 10 item supplies list that included ink, brushes, cups, tape, markers, clipboards, etc… and we were hiking with all that. Blerg.
My very good friend Megan tried to be super helpful in that moment when she sensed that I was not dealing with the prep for my art lesson very well. How I dealt with that was not my finest hour. But, I loaded up all the stuff, corralled the students and hiked to the top of this awesome spot that overlooked the San Francisco Peaks.
First of all, the lesson that was created for me was awesome. It was elaborate and a little unwieldy for outside, but it was a thing of beauty. First activity, ask the students to spend 3-5 minutes focusing on just one sense and then write about what they heard after the time was up. Discuss. Guess what… the 7th graders were totally down with that activity and got it. Woo! On to the second part of the lesson, lead a discussion about what this area looked like 100 years ago – they had really good insights – fewer trees, different trees, no ski report, etc. Then they spent about 15 minutes drawing what they think the area will look like in 100 years. Another success! They were all about it. Next up, use India ink/watercolor to create an artistic interpretation of one part of the scenery.
This is when I started having flashbacks to my Art teacher experience. First of all, I didn’t need to be able to be the artist in this moment, I needed to create the space for them to be the artist. Second of all, I was being asked to do something in which I wasn’t sure I could be 100% successful and it made me uncomfortable… welcome to almost everyday at school for the 7th grader. Finally, I know these things, but is it so important for me to stop in these moments and remind myself not to be so caught up in the ‘stress’ of it. Because as we sat there listening to the wind pick up through the tall grass, stress faded away… replaced by a little bit of awe, wonder and creativity. I laughed at myself after this. Straight up lol’ed at how ridiculous I had been leading up to the activity. Luckily, I was able to take a second group out the next day to repeat the activity with a much better attitude. Art. Nature. Kids. Watercolors. #sogood