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To teach a child art work you learn that you are the student. You are the one that will learn many things before the sessions are over.

One of my first opportunities for this honour was when I was with the Palette Pals art club in Alberta. This group likes to bring the arts to the children. They charge no fees and teach in the public schools. It is not about the money; it is about the art. For this reason I have always felt extremely lucky to have meet this group for my first experience in the art fields in many different ways. The children are most important and in my opinion should never be forgotten when you take on the role of a teacher.

I was asked if I would be willing to come in and assist for a few hours. Nervousness would barely express how I felt as I walked through the classroom door for the first time. The children were just starting to arrive with an excitement that I had not seen in a school before. They were laughing and joking but all were watching the Artist very closely.

The teacher that normally teaches them each day introduced the artist and asked the class to give the Artist their full attention. A silence came over the room as they waited to see what would happen next. The artist in his modest ways introduced himself and as I watched him interact with the children I could see that they knew he was there for them and not for some recognition.

I wish I could bring to you the image of the children as they watched him. The excitement in the air and the thirst for the knowledge he was sharing with them. The ohhs and ahhs, they would utter as they watched him show them how to paint. At each step, that he taught, he would go around the room and watch each painting develop and help each child in whatever difficulties that they had run into. He smiled and he laughed with the children. It was a blessing to be a witness to this event and indeed to this day I feel grateful that he was the one that I learnt from. The children and the artist were one as they created with their imaginations. I felt the energy and I caught the fever and knew that day that I too would teach.

My first experience came many months later. A parent that knew I was one of the Palette Pals approached me. She explained to me that she was running one of the Home Education programs and wondered if I would be willing to come in once a week and teach the children. Over the next few weeks we worked out the problems of art supplies and what would be needed. We were very fortunate as the only store in our town loved children as much as we did and we were given many discounts.

As I look back to the beginnings of this undertaking I realize the parents must have been wondering if I was nuts when I suggested that we work with Watercolours. I did not feel comfortable teaching with acrylics or oils. Many nights and days before my first day as a teacher were spent in deciding how I would teach and what I felt I should be teaching. The main thing in my mind was that I wanted the children to have fun and to enjoy the arts for what it is.

So many things raced through my mind. I thought about how easy it would be to do or say the wrong thing that could be discouraging to a child. I wanted so much to share with them the fun of Art. I thought back to my own experiences as a child. I remembered with pain being forced to hold scissors in the way the teacher felt was best. She never seemed to understand that it was uncomfortable for me. I thought of a teacher that got angry because I had coloured outside of a line. I remembered a picture that I choose my favourite colours and then was told I did it all wrong. I was so sad and so discouraged. I thought of the artwork I had done just for fun and because the colours were dark the teacher told my mother to talk to me because something was wrong. The only thing on my mind when I did the painting was exploring something other then flowers.

Finally the day arrived. I walked into the house where I would become the art teacher for the next couple of months. I introduced myself, and then made a point of getting to know each child and finding out what they wanted to learn. It was from these answers I set up all the art classes that I would be teaching them. The main thing that I stuck with was to teach them the basics of colour and the different techniques that would help them to get the object of their desire.

The day I remember fondly was the day I taught them how to mask the paper to keep the whites. Since these children were really young I felt it was best not to work with masking fluid so I spent days thinking of other methods that would give them similar results. I taught them how to draw with wax so that the water scene would not appear flat. Imagine their delight as they used rolled up Kleenex to create the clouds in their skies! When we first started this art project I had them apply masking tape to spots where they had been instructed to create mountains. If only you could of seen their faces lit up as they removed these tapes to see the beauty of the white spots showing through their artwork. The excitement rising, as they watched their masterpieces come to life.

On my last day teaching the parents came to pick up the children sooner then I had expected. This had been planned in advance. The parents wanted to meet me and I found out that they were surprised by the artwork that their children had been bringing home. They had been expecting the usual stick people. They wanted me to come back and teach again in the next session and I agreed overjoyed. Unfortunately events in my life unfolded in a unexpected manner and before the next session began I no longer lived in that area. How I miss teaching children!

In the beginning of this story I mentioned that to teach art is to learn that you are the student. Any one that has taught children knows this in their hearts. The freedom of innocence that is in a child when they paint without the restrictions! The restrictions that we are taught as we are growing is not within the child. So we learn this innocence as we teach the children; if, we truly listen to what they have to say. To see the joy in their eyes as each painting becomes whole in front of their eyes is an experience that you never forget. To see each painting of the same subject and yet each painting has different colours and different moods. Each painting a master of the child that has done it. Children learn art because its fun!



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by kat





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