“Teacher, teacher, watch me.” How many times have you heard this question in the course of a day? Children desire to be seen and heard. And adults do too. As humans we all desire recognition in some way. For instance, to have people hear what we have to say and see what we’ve done. When people feel invisible, silenced, powerless, they find unhealthy ways of gaining the attention they so deeply desire. I believe some if not much of the violence we see in our society today comes from individuals trying to meet this need. We gain the most recognition through Creating art. The ability to experiment with different art forms helps us find the medium that best expresses our own unique voice.
I first started really thinking about this idea of “being seen” when I trained in a program known as Responsive Classroom. One aspect of the program focuses on the power of language and how carefully we educators must use our words. The program encourages teachers to use objective language that doesn’t imply a judgement, just a noticing. Whether a child is exhibiting behaviors they want to encourage or those they want to extinguish, the first part of the statement is, “I see” or “I notice.” The message is clear; I am watching and I do see you, all of you.
Many teachers open their day with a circle of sharing. This provides each child with a greeting, and the opportunity to speak and gain acknowledgement by their peers. This can be an incredibly informative time for a teacher. In addition, a very powerful time for children who may otherwise feel unheard or unseen. Adding art-making into such an environment can only strengthen that feeling of being a valued part of the classroom community.
Arts In Teaching
When we teach children the elements of art and art-making, we give them a language to allow them to talk about the art they experience and to create art very intentionally. We empower them to use art independently for their own purposes. We give them an avenue to express their deepest, truest selves and to process thoughts and feelings. When we foster an environment of shared exploring, learning and respect, children have the ability to share their art and gain acknowledgement safely. When we encourage children to make and reflect on art pieces made by themselves or by their peers. It results in their work and their unique voices feeling validated. The more experience children have in expressing and sharing their voice in a safe supportive environment, the stronger it will become.
Arts Integration is not only good for learning art skills and coming to a deeper understanding of other curriculum areas, but it expands the humanity of our students and allows all children to be seen, heard, validated, and valued. I realize I am preaching to the choir here but sometimes we who are implementing arts integration need to be reminded just how important our work is to the whole child and our whole society. I’m not claiming that quality arts instruction and integration can eliminate violence from the world but I do believe it’s a great start.
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.