Thursday, June 03, 2010
Looking at Art -Julie Diamond
I thought I would share a few ideas from Julie Diamond's book 'Welcome to the Aquarium' -the story of one year in one year one class. It was refreshing to enjoy the reality of life as teacher that Julie expresses so well. And all the more since it so much aligns with what I believe. I guess we both developed the basis of our philosophies in the heady days of the late 60s. Her classroom is a truly personalised one - not a classroom full of students developing ideas provided by the teacher.
Julie makes it clear she wants the students to 'feel- in their bones- this is their room'. The classroom is to be a 'place for children's work; that's the message'.the goal of the classroom is 'the development of children's intrinsic interests.
'Traditional education', she writes, 'pictures children as the slates, teachers doing the writing.If we are receptive- to children, to what they bring to school- the relationship is reversed.' This is in contrast to teacher dominated ( no matter how friendly)many classrooms I visit are.
Julie writes, 'I want children to take from this year an attitude of respect towards their own capacities for having purpose, for making things, for thinking.I want children to take themselves seriously while having fun.''By the end of the year I want them fully engaged'.
I was interested to read her views about the importance of art, being an ex art adviser. All too often art is used as a a means to 'decorate' the room rather than express individual children's idiosyncratic expression.
She writes, 'A critical component of art work....is an acceptance of the unknowability of the end product....I have had to learn that mistakes are not only inevitable but necessary and useful, and that dealing with them - untangling some knot- takes us somewhere unexpected.' Once again in contrast with all the 'intentional teaching' now seen as 'best practice' in our schools resulting in a conformity of product devoid of personality. And as well the importance of art as a form of expression is demeaned.
'Teaching art has to do with the difference between trusting children and believing you must teach them everything about a subject or they won't know'. This brings in the role of the teacher. Julie writes that teachers must leave space for their work - children must make the decisions, do the thinking, use their imagination, and take responsibility for their own work. Teachers must be careful not to impose their ideas on students.
Julie writes that teacher's role is subtle. Explorations can be guided, parameters set but still open enough 'to permit each child's experience and unique preferences to inform' their work. 'The aim is help children to develop their abilities, to see, design, use colour, to help them extend their visual vocabularies, to help them gain clarity and conviction, while making something that is authentically theirs'.
'I aways put the children's expressiveness first.Art activities were valued because the class environment was rich in art, part of all content areas, they illustrated poems, drew the classroom animals and plants, printed with the leaves we'd collected in the park, and made collages to illustrate children's information about the animals they were studying. They used maths material to make elaborate and beautiful patterns'.
When involved in real life investigations Julia is influenced by John Dewey who believed children learn best through concrete experiences; that they learn through their bodies and their senses; they look closely at things, play with them, smell them,and shake them.
Julia involved her children in what she calls 'science' drawings. Children had lots of experiences in drawing a range of things from the nature table. Drawings were dated and stamped and Julia would ask the children what they had noticed about the object being drawn and she would write down what they said.
Science drawing, she instructed her children, is a different kind of drawing from other more expressive drawings. Expressive art arises out of observational work.Science drawing is a means to investigate some phenomena. When they draw in this way they notice more; the swirl in a shell or the jagged edge of a nut. Such drawing gives children a sense of ownership of the object being drawn. Drawing in this way is a valuable tool of investigation is natural for young children. The teacher actively helps a child look at an object to be drawn. By displaying drawing children's thinking was made public Photos also documented the work of observation. Work collected creates a record of the development of children's observational abilities.
In Julia's classroom children communicate with ease in making and thinking about art both expressive and scientific..
My kind of classroom.