Talking With Students

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Teachers like to say that they talk to their students.  Secondary art teachers especially like to say that.  But, what does that mean– talk TO your students.  Furthermore, shouldn’t that say talk WITH your students?

In a TAB classroom/studio, it is very important that we talk with our students.  Talking TO them is like me just going on and on and on and not making any sense or relating to them in any way.  That’s a monologue…not a conversation.  If we talk WITH  our students, so much more is going to happen.

So, what does it look like to talk with our students

  1. You get to know your students…what they do outside of your room, what teachers they like, whom they are dating, what they do in their free time, what their home life is like, etc.  This is really important if we want to help them to create meaningful artworks.  Knowing these things can help spark ideas when they are stuck in an artwork or getting started.
  2. Asking questions that don’t have an answer.  The open-ended question gets them thinking about things on a deeper level.  It can be about their art or it can be about society or some other issue that you think has nothing to do with art.  You never know how the way a student contemplates answers to those questions is going to show up in an artwork.
  3. Art history on the back-end.  When we talk with students about what they are creating, it can open up the student to artists they may have never know about.  Hey, I see you are into drawing patterns–let me show you the work of Britto.  Your work reminds me of an artist named Mondrian.
  4. Relationships are built by talking WITH someone.  This means listening as well.  We like to think of the art room as a safe place for students, a place where they feel comfortable.  Well, to build that type of environment, we want to build relationships.  We want to build trust.  Trust can lead to some amazing things happening in our classrooms.
  5. Letting them have opinions on their artwork and the work of others around them.  Yours, the teacher, is not the only authority on artwork.  Giving students an equal footing helps to validate what they are thinking.  They need to know their opinions matter.
  6. Making the students feel comfortable to ask questions.  If the students feel you are unapproachable, they will never ask questions and their artistic growth will more than likely be stunted.

I would be amiss if I didn’t list a few things that talking WITH doesn’t include.  It doesn’t mean telling them not to do something, like a corner sun.  It doesn’t include telling them their artwork doesn’t meet your expectations of how much contrast or values it should have.  It doesn’t mean only saying hello to them or just talking about the day’s assignment.

I love to build relationships with my students.  I love having open and real conversations with them.  I love getting to know them and having them get to know me.  I love when I can show them new things because I listened to what they had to say.  And I love when I can see that they thought about things we talked about because it shows up in their artwork or their other conversations they have.  Talking WITH them is so important because the art studio is about so much more than just making art.

Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.
~Rollo May

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