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a repost on how i teach kids to critique part 2 of 2

updated sat 30 apr 11


John Post on thu 28 apr 11

My art room is place where one third of the school population, the =3D20
right-brain-learners come into their own. My room is where April who =3D20=

was one of my students for seven years was the best artist in the =3D20
entire school, all the while spending large parts of the rest of her =3D20
day in the special education room. In art she was miles ahead of =3D20
every one else. April's ideas, compositions and ability to create and =3D2=

paint and sculpt were several grade levels above her peers, but on =3D20
standardized tests she was just another kid who didn=3D92t measure up.

Yesterday I had a heartfelt conversation with a sixth grade student =3D20
named Zak. He=3D92s got black painted finger nails and told me he isn=3D92=
t =3D
very good at academic things. But Zak makes beautiful clay sculptures =3D2=

that his classmates compliment him on. So for forty-seven minutes a =3D20
week, Zak gets to shine and be genuinely good at something. The rest =3D20=

of his week he spends as a struggling student not knowing that the =3D20
reason he doesn=3D92t "get it" is that his brain learns best by doing and =

not by sitting and listening. He=3D92s looking forward to his graphic =3D2=
design class in junior high, but not much else. I mentored Zak =3D20
telling him to make sure he steers his way into as many classes as he =3D20=

can where kids "do" things instead of signing up for electives where =3D20
kids just sit and listen passively. Classes like electronics, =3D20
welding, computers and auto-shop would be a perfect fit for him. Zak =3D20=

told me how he customized his bicycle by painting the rims yellow. =3D20
When I asked him how he did it, he told me he took the entire thing =3D20
apart including taking the bolts out of the wheels so he could mask =3D20
off certain areas and paint the rest. Think about how much critical =3D20
thinking went into solving that problem. Then think of how many cable =3D2=

television shows feature grown-up kids like Zak, customizing cars and =3D20=

motorcycles and making beautiful things. Yet the only place Zak gets =3D20=

to be himself during the whole school week is in art. If Zak doesn't =3D20=

get to take art classes and electives in school and has to measure =3D20
himself by how well he does on standardized tests, then he probably =3D20
will see himself as a failure. On the other hand, if schools don't =3D20
lose their art programs and other hands-on electives, they will create =3D2=

more adults who can contribute to a vibrant economy of creators.

I teach lots of kids like April and Zak. Kids who have an amazing =3D20
ability to learn and create but who don=3D92t perceive and process =3D20
information by listening and taking notes. So what does school hold =3D20
for them if budget cuts eliminate art and other hands-on programs =3D20
simply because these programs aren't measured on a standardized test? =3D2=

Just the chance to be told year after year that they are behind and =3D20
that it is their fault that they don=3D92t get it.

As teachers feel the pressure from administrators, legislators and the =3D2=

media to improve test scores, thousands of kids will be thrown out =3D20
like the proverbial baby with the bath water. They aren=3D92t taught in =

the way they learn best, by hands-on doing. For the sake of =3D20
expediency and cost they are assessed using a tool that doesn=3D92t show =

just how wonderful and creative they are as people.

Kids like April and Zak are the kinds of kids I will miss most when =3D20
schools are forced to eliminate programs like art from the curriculum =3D20=

because of cuts to their budgets.

When I was taking art classes as an undergraduate in college, one of =3D20
my art professors wore a little pink pin that read "Art Saves Lives". =3D2=

As a brash, young twenty-something-year-old I read that pin and =3D20
thought "How?" Now that I have been an art teacher for over twenty =3D20
years, I see how art saves lives. I see how it is the one place where =3D2=

so many kids get to use the part of their brain that they learn best =3D20
with. It is the place where creativity and divergent thinking =3D20
happen. It is the place where the square pegs don't have to fit into =3D20=

the round holes and where special education kids and English Language =3D20=

Learners can perceive information visually and demonstrate their =3D20
understanding and growth as artists by working hands-on. Art is the =3D20
place where a right-brain learner feels at home in a left brain =3D20
world. Art is the place where the kids who can't be measured by =3D20
filling in bubbles, discover how smart, wonderful and creative they =3D20
really are and if art is taken away, why would these kids even want to =3D2=

come to our schools?

PS. for Sue - I have taught classes from my studio when I was a stay-=3D20
at-home dad 10 years ago. Many parents and kids wanted me to continue =3D2=

teaching them after I went back to teaching full time when my son =3D20
entered first grade. I found that I really needed summer to recharge =3D20=

my creative batteries by working on my own pots in my studio. For me =3D20=

being a teacher is a bit like hosting a party. All of my guests have =3D20=

a great time, but at the end of it, I am exhausted and feel like I =3D20
didn't get to mingle enough or enjoy the party as much as I wanted to.

John Post
Sterling Heights, Michigan

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On Apr 27, 2011, at 8:18 AM, Susan Cline wrote:
> Undoubtedly there are many fine teachers who are members of Clayart,
> but I think all Clayart parents of young children should send them
> for a summer of "Mr. Post Camp." What a gift to the kids and to the
> profession this man is! Would that every child could be taught - at
> least once, but more would be so much better - by someone as
> dedicated and creative as John Post.
> How about it, John?
> Sue Cline