From Teacher Demo to Student Practice to the Praise of Strangers

Zentangle border by my student

Originally uploaded by anselm23

You can read the story about this scrap of paper below the “via flickr” header, but I want to talk briefly about the idea of a teacher demo of a skill. When was the last time you wrote a demonstration of your own of a particular writing or contextual skill? when was the last time you wrote a five-paragraph essay … particularly on a topic you assigned to your students? When was the last time you proved to yourself that you could do the things that you were teaching?

Earlier this week, I taught some basic doodling skills: Dave Gray’s Forms, Fields and Flows (what I call the Semigram), some Zentangle border or edging patterns, and some basic “more than stick figure” figure-drawing. None of it is particularly hard to learn, nor should it be considered an unsuitable skill for adult instructors to learn and pass on.

Today, I found the result: Here’s a bit of index card — not even a full piece — with the patterns of borders I taught this week on it, repeated over and over. This is a kid who is HUNGRY for this kind of learning. Borders and patterns and meaning-making, over and over again. This was a piece of paper abandoned, because the student had learned the skill, had mastered it, and was ready to move on. Or maybe they’re horrified that they’ve lost it, and will find out that I picked it up, and will be relieved.

Let me tell you something, O Student, if you’re reading this: My mom thought it was so beautiful, she put it on her refrigerator. She thought your work was so interesting, she wanted to put it in a place of honor in her house. It’s valued, honored, and loved, by someone who has never met you.


Via Flickr:
Today my school went to a local camp for fun and games and team-building exercises. In the amphitheater near the lake, where we assembled in the morning and ate lunch and departed at day’s end, I found this tatty bit of paper.

It’s the Zentangle borders I taught in class this week, on a bit of notecard. Someone brought a pen and index cards with them, and apparently made this during downtime.

So… Let me repeat this again and again to drive it home. Kids can learn to draw. They can learn to draw rapidly and easily. They can make patterns and shapes, and they can repeat them again and again until they get them right. It’s not a waste of time to do so: it’s empowerment.

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