Motivation (Part II).

This finally led me to thinking about my high school art classes.  I was in the Honors Art Course and for me it was tough to get into.  I worked even harder to stay in it.  I didn’t have the talent that everyone else had and I lived with the pressure that someone else could slide into my spot at any time.  It made me work harder.  In reality, Honors Art is the course that prepared me to study in college (and so much more).

Every Friday we would have to put our sketchbooks out on the back table then stand, circled around the table looking at the art before us.  Mr. Malicki allowed the silence to linger around us as we absorbed the work on the table.  Still today I remember the pressure.  He would finally ask, “So, what do you think?” then allow the silence to fill the room once again, until someone would say something.

We would talk about the art on the table.  If someone didn’t put forth their best effort, it would be removed.  Mr. Malicki didn’t accept second-best.  I watched as remarkable drawings were removed from the table because the artist didn’t do their best.  He pushed us to do our best work — and then some.  He pushed us to take risks.  He pushed us to talk to each other, asking questions, giving compliments.

Some Fridays we would stand around the table for a few minutes then head off to work, while other weeks we would spend the entire class period huddled around the back table.  I learned a lot during those share sessions — not just about art, but about myself and my classmates and, most importantly, about life.

The audience of my class was enough for me to put forth my best effort (and then some).  Mr. Malicki was a part of that audience, an important part.  He knew about art and I wanted to learn how to become a stronger artist.  Those share sessions were crucial to my learning.

The girl in the history class reminded me of myself.  Her work was strong, but she wanted it better.  She wanted this because the audience mattered — both the students and the teacher were a worthy audience.

I’m planning to tap into this power of a classroom audience next trimester.  I think it begins with building a solid classroom community and depends upon everyone wanting to do their best work.  These are not easy tasks . . . especially when given the parameters of a high school teacher:  70 minutes every day for twelve weeks.

It can happen.  It does happen — it happened in this history class, it happens in English classes, art classes — any class where the teacher pays more attention to teaching students instead of content.  As I set my eyes on teaching readers and writers, a solid community will form which will become an authentic audience for my students.