"I like art and I'm an artist."
Oh, how proud of her students can a studio teacher be? Not more than I was of my preschoolers on today's visit to the Wallach Art Gallery, for sure.
Graeme Sullivan, one of a handful of truly remarkable professors I have met in my many years as a higher education student, used to talk about "building his own redundancy" as a teacher. Getting to the point when students are so independent that the teacher's presence is hardly required in the classroom. I see his point.
This of course looks different in early childhood than it does in higher education. The teacher's physical presence if obviously necessary at all times, and plenty of practical matters need to be attended to by a responsible and responsive adult. But still - building my own redundancy seems like a wise way to go about teaching art.
This came to my mind yet again today, during a visit to the Wallach Art Galley with my preschoolers. As our tour guide was asking us to introduce ourselves, she also asked the kids if they liked art. "I like art and I made a sparkly airplane flower," a four year-old girl said, "I like art and I'm an artist." As my heart melted with joy, many other preschoolers jumped into the conversation: "I make things with paint and paintbrush," someone said, "I do glass," or "I sometimes work with wood," others continued. My preschoolers talk about themselves as artists. My preschoolers have no trouble in expressing their thoughts about the artworks our tour guide asked them to look at, or in contributing to the group work they worked on in the end. My preschoolers don't really need me there to go for it when it's art we're talking about - and that makes me proud.
It's the same kind of proud I get when four year-old D. stands up to say "We're not like those artist people...we ARE those artist people," as I described here. The same kind of proud I get when preschoolers ask each other "what is it about that painting you like?," or "what interesting choices did that artist make?," when looking at artworks in the gallery, without me even being a part of the conversation. The same kind of proud I get when my kids just do their thing, fearlessly and responsibly.
Graeme still has plenty of work to do with me, and he is still far from redundancy as far as I'm concerned. But that much - that your students will be the ones to tell you if you're doing your job - I have learned already.