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Using Art Classes To Teach Confidence and Competence – Part II

In my last blog I noted that art classes can teach children confidence and competence (two skills needed for people to be resilient) by offering both guidance and challenges.

Here are a few more ways to make art classes opportunities to develop confidence and competence.

Imagine this scenario. You’ve put together a great lesson with lots of support to guide your child, and you think the lesson is going well, when, all of a sudden, the child bursts into tears, exclaiming between sobs, “It doesn’t look right!”

What should you do? Should you let the child start over? Should you help by drawing on the paper to “fix” the mistake?

Rather than answer these questions, let’s first take a step back. The problem might have been prevented with a simple explanation at the beginning of the lesson.

Before starting a project, it’s helpful to remind students that not all projects turn out the way we expect, and that even famous artists don’t like all the things they create. (If you doubt this, visit an artist’s studio sometime and see all the never-to-be-displayed work setting aside.)

Secondly, before the lesson begins, remind them that they need to agree before starting that they will finish the project, even if something seems to go wrong. Learning to turn “mistakes” into happy surprises and agreeing to persist are both helpful in building competence.

As you can see, we’ve already answered the first question: Should you let the child start over? The answer is no. By doing so you miss the opportunity to teach them persistence, and they fail to learn that “mistakes” can often be corrected by incorporating the “mistake” into the drawing, thereby creating something wonderful that had not been planned.

Let’s look at the second question. Should you help by drawing on the student’s paper to “fix” the mistake?

It’s always a temptation, when a student is struggling, to fix the drawing with a few lines of your own. However, when you draw on a student’s work,

You demonstrate that they are NOT competent, and that you are.

You reduce their confidence.

You also steal ownership of the drawing from them, and make it your own instead.

If you must demonstrate how to draw – and sometimes that is necessary – draw on your own paper to demonstrate how to do a certain technique.

Making art is challenging work, and if the challenge is accompanied by enough support to insure success, art can be a terrific opportunity for students to learn to solve problems on their own, gain confidence, and build competence.

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