I wasn’t looking for a job. In fact, returning to work was the farthest thing from my mind. I was waiting for my husband to retire for the second time and we were discussing the different things we wanted to do when that happened. An Ambleside parent, who was also a former art student of mine, mentioned the art teacher at Ambleside was moving and asked, “Would you be interested?” When Mrs. Romine approached, suggesting I “noodle” on it, she also handed me the Monart book, Drawing with Children. I couldn’t stop reading it. It perfectly laid out the plan for teaching children (or anyone else) how to draw. I loved it! I met with Mrs. Smith, who is one of the most organized people I know and she walked me through a lesson on how to teach the method. It couldn’t have been easier for me to step into the position that I have now had for the last 4 years.
I had seen a lion my grandson, Jackson, had done in kindergarten and was impressed. Could I pull that kind of work out of these students? I soon found out: these students can do hard things!
Yes, sometimes there were tears and “can I start over?” but between my frugal self and the advice of the teaching method, I would encourage them with, “We can work that out; just keep going.” They usually doubted me (and many times, I doubted me, too!) but it was so satisfying for us both when the student would say, “I like it now!” Was this art class or a lesson on finishing what you start? I needed that lesson!
There were times when I looked at the next lesson and I thought, if I’m going to expect them to do this, I need to make sure I can do it (sometimes, I practiced it several times and that was for kindergarten!) Try, try again sounds familiar.
My first parent night, I taught a quick art lesson with the parents, demonstrating how we use the 5 basic elements of art. We did the Thrush (bird) that is a Kinder lesson and it was so funny to hear the parents exclaim how much fun it was and how proud they were of their work! Ambleside could not have chosen a better program for teaching our students how to draw.
Art has enriched the education you so willing and sacrificially give to your children at Ambleside. The Arts cross over into many other areas of study but one of my favorites is math. You should see their faces when I begin a lesson with, “We’re going to be doing a little math today.”
Some of my favorite moments are when a student sees their artwork displayed in the bulletin board by the office. With the addition of Lively House for K-2, we have another area for display and the students are always excited to see their own as well as their classmates’ work.
Although we are a small community, our students have opportunities to share their work outside of our school, too. Selection for FAFO has encouraged the students to do their best work (although it’s so difficult to select the few we can show!) Mrs. Works shared how several of her second grade students were so proud to have their art displayed. We have had many students who have been published in beautiful hardback books called Celebrating Art where their work is judged and selected for publication by independent art teachers. We have several of these annual books in our classroom and I encourage our students to look through them, looking not only for themselves and their classmates, but for additional inspiration to excel. One of our previous Middle School students, Felicity Johnson, had her artwork chosen to be displayed in Keith Perry’s office in the State capital. Appleton Museum of Art is yet another venue our students have enjoyed their art being shown. For some, the recognition affirms their effort to do something well. We all want to hear, “Well done.”
While last Spring was tricky as we navigated through the second half of the year on Zoom calls, the exposure to different technology had some positive results. I know it stretched me to figure out how to draw with the students on camera (I learned to not wear sleeveless clothing while doing it!) I even shared one of my teaching videos with my great-niece because she loved foxes and she taught herself how to draw one from the video I sent.
I say all this to say, It’s worth it! The teachers and staff at Ambleside never cease to amaze me. They encourage, push, pull and drag your children in the right directions and develop their character at the same time. One of my sayings in art class is, “look, think, draw”. With your consistent support and encouragement (which we all need) and the steady formation of good habits (again, which we all need) I believe your children will “look, think and do” what is good and true and right. There is no higher hope for a parent or even a grandparent!
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.