In the 6th grade classes we did an activity to start the school year by imagining leaving for a trip that will last three years. The class group is a “crew” of a ship captained by the teacher. I am lucky to have a beautiful art room, so I consider the classroom dedicated to my discipline like a ship with its passengers, a ship that must be cared for, looked after and preserved in the best possible way to ensure a safe and unforgettable journey.
First of all, I asked my students to write on a note in what mood they entered the art classroom, and most of them wrote positive moods such as happiness, enthusiasm, curiosity, emotion, surprise.
The tone has changed to the second question “Do you like drawing? Do you think you are capable of it?”: someone wrote that drawing is his favorite subject and that he is also good, someone wrote that he does not really like drawing, but most part wrote “I like to draw” with a big BUT ….
“I like to draw but I’m not good, I like it but I’m not capable, I like it but I would like to draw better, I like it but I’m not good enough, I’m not good at it, I’m not able, I think I can’t draw etc … ” I was expecting these answers and then I told how art is not necessarily sought in perfection, in verisimilitude, in beauty at all costs! By studying art we will discover how the most important thing for an artist is how to COMMUNICATE, and there are infinite ways to do this.
I showed the students some works of art, and asked them which of these images expressed more joy or more despair. Then I left them the interpretation of these works from an emotional point of view. Anguish, anger, calm, freedom, injustice, lightness, fury, sadness, cheerfulness were noted.
Together we read a sentence by David Hockney taken from the book “The way of the ugly drawing” by Alessandro Bonaccorsi, and we reasoned about the reverential attitude we usually have towards the beautiful, the accurate, the perfect. What if instead we just needed a little spontaneity and experimentation, free from the final product?
Among the things I asked to write was also the question “What would you like to be able to say at the end of the year?” the best answer was surely “I would like to be proud of what I have done”. I drew a large billboard with a ship and put all their answers in the “hold”, a hatch with a pocket that I opened on the side of the ship. We will reopen the hold at the end of the year to see if our hopes have been fulfilled.
Each student then drew himself on a shaped paper, and placed the figure on the drawing. Then together we discussed why someone went overboard, someone on the yard, someone in the hold, on top of the mast, in the clouds or in the cockpit next to me. Everyone has chosen his place for various reasons, but we are all ready for our journey.
Finally, I revealed what we can learn together in this classroom and how we can face the journey into the sea of ART!
1 thought on “We are all in the same boat!”
A brilliant assignment, creative at several levels: the artistic (how will the students draw themselves in a year’s time?); political and cultural (contemporary immigration issues, world-wide); humanistic and ethical (the boat a metaphor: the world is the boat and we are all passengers in it). It’s beautiful. I have always admired and enjoyed your work and practiced some assignments. Only at this late stage in my life am I seeking to make art.
I commend your thoughful and rich work as a teacher, a gift to your students. — Marilyn Cleland, DeKalb, Illinois USA