A Positive Perspective on Teaching Elementary Art

By Bellessis, Martyna | School Arts, December 2000 | Go to article overview

A Positive Perspective on Teaching Elementary Art


Bellessis, Martyna, School Arts


To be an elementary art teacher you most certainly must have a positive philosophy. This philosophy must see you through some rough periods and keep your "educational goals" picture rosy. I deal with budget cuts, inflexible teachers, horrendous schedules, and cumbersome teaching loads. In a word, my philosophy is "humanistic." I sincerely believe that all elementary students benefit from time in the art classes. It should be a period of joyful experiments, a time of seeking answers for yourself, and an interval in the educational process where you can pace yourself. Art should open horizons and give insights to areas never before explored.

I receive a tremendous amount of satisfaction watching the wonder on young students' faces when they discover that blue and yellow mixed together make green. The magic of making a lump of clay into an object is a rare gift that many teachers never receive, or the first drawing that "really looks like I wanted it to look." The sharing of early art forms and how we still use them today is an exciting art history lesson. To learn how to criticize our own artwork in a positive manner is a challenge at any grade level. All these activities are a part of my "sharing of oneself" philosophy. We must become more humane towards one another, and the elementary level is the perfect time to begin this process of humanism.

Instruction in art should be open-ended. The pupils should be shown that many projects can be completed on their own, and they can improvise with materials and methods. Although we teach the very basics in weaving, students may get very involved on a larger scale and do some spectacular weaving pieces. They may do in-depth art pieces that we do not have time for in the regular art classroom situation. Once we get a child involved in art learning, hopefully, the process never ends.

The work I do in art curriculum development makes me much more organized. I understand that there must be an overall plan to the children's learning experiences. …

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