Life Lessons In An After School Art Class

When you’re known for always having a camera in your hand, you sometimes get requests to snap a few photos at different events. When it’s possible, I like to say yes. Last week I spent a few hours at an after school art class for our local primary school. My friend Tina went back to school a few years ago to get a degree in art and offered to share some of what she’s been learning.

She’s talked a bit about teaching when she graduates and volunteered to teach a multi-week program for any child in the school who wanted to attend. Around 22 of the 32 students who attend the primary school took advantage of the opportunity and Tina had a mix of ages to work with from 4-11. Their work will be displayed at a local venue later this week giving the children a chance to be in art show open to the community.

I almost always learn something myself when I photograph events like these and I was reminded of a few simple life lessons while photographing the class and even helping a time or two when needed.

I wanted to share a few of the almost 150 images I snapped last week and I’ve intentionally chosen those that did not show the children’s faces directly. You can click to enlarge any with the exception of the second to the last one as a child’s face is slightly visible. I included that one only so you might see one of Tina while she was teaching and it had the least amount of little faces looking up in it.

Things to remember as we grow older.

Concentration and focus are required when doing your best work.

I took a series of photos of this child and she never looked up from her work. What drew me in was the way she had the tip of her tongue out which is something I have always done when concentrating on a task. I wonder how many of my readers do this too.

Help one another when you see someone struggling.

In this instance, an older girl of about ten or eleven saw a younger boy who said he was four, having trouble putting his book of artwork together. She helped him with his before working on her own and was finishing hers up alone when the others at her table had moved on to something else.

The red or blue test, sometimes having fewer choices makes choosing less stressful.

When I saw the two primary colors that the children could choose from to make their prints, I thought of how much easier a decision can be if the choice is limited to an either “this or that” decision. I may try narrowing the field the next time I get stuck.

Know your limitations and how to ask for help.

Tina could have pulled this off by herself, but the quality of the experience would not have been as nice for her or the children. She had fabulous help from a local artist friend and mom to a boy in the school. (He’s one of my very favorite children to talk with and a total sweetie!)

Controlling the situation when speaking to a large group.

Deliver your message in a calm manner acting as if you expect people will want to hear what you have to say even if the situation feels overwhelming. It’s difficult for people to continue to be rude and disrespectful if you refuse to join them there. Model the behavior you want others to emulate.

Share your gifts with others.

We all have something that makes us special, a gift that is uniquely ours. You may not know what your gift is or you may be someone who discounts their contribution. Take a moment to think of three things that you like about what you do or who you are. Leave it in a comment if you feel brave so it will be here if you ever forget.

Don’t be afraid to try new things.

Remember what it’s like to view the world with fresh eyes and the enthusiasm of a child. If you’ve dreamed of doing something, try it and don’t stop because it isn’t perfect right from the beginning. And if you’re going to use the work of others to dismiss your own, make it a level field.

Go back to their early work when they were new at whatever they do now that you wish you could do as well, and see what their work looked like in the beginning. I’ve done this and it’s a wonderful way to remind ourselves that no one begins anything at an expert level. Stop comparing and get busy. Don’t die without trying to create the life you dream of living.

Working in community has its own gifts.

Once we get past our insecurities over whose work is better, we can enjoy the support that comes in connecting with people who share common interests. We can mentor and be mentored once we find our place. Begin today if you’ve been putting it off, ask someone for directions if you need help or offer some if you sense someone hanging about the edges unsure of which way to go.

Celebrate your achievements.

I took this photograph of Tina last year during the opening night of her college art show. She had several pieces entered and this one was my favorite. It was fun to be there to share the excitement and see her work in a more formal setting than her studio space at home and I’m pleased that she is wrapping up her art class with a similar experience for the children who participated. I’m planning on going and taking a few photos for a little write-up for our parish magazine. I may not be writing for some of the ” big ” magazines I’d like to, but putting it out there for others will likely make a young artist smile.

12 thoughts on “Life Lessons In An After School Art Class

  1. Ahh thanks Elizabeth, what a lovely reflection on a hectic day. I love the lessons you learnt.. thanks for your help and the wonderful account you have written here.
    Love you.

  2. Mike and I just enjoyed looking at your photos. Took me back to my days trying to be an artist! I was never any good but it was fun. I took art all thru high school. thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  3. Your positive thoughts and happy outlook has definitely done the job.
    you have recorded in picture and by the written word, what is really an everyday occurrence, meaning taking the time to teach and be interactive with the children.
    but you have also given it a special touch too. And sometimes we don’t see these things even when they are right in front of us. You have made it more special by allowing us to see more clearly. Thank you for that.
    Kind regards.
    Tony Sanders.

  4. I enjoyed reading about your lovely experience with the children, but I have to say that the enrollment numbers left me amazed. Only 32 students in the entire school? Does the one primary school serve all of Cornwall? My husband and I, both being teachers here in the States, would love to have class sizes like that! My great-grandfather saw the time in Florida when school buses started taking kids to school, and he predicted that they would be the downfall of U.S. education. I think that he is correct, for buses were the first evidence of the government removing the responsibility of educating youth from the community. Without the small community involvement, schools and the students cannot thrive. The more I read about life in Cornwall, the more charming it sounds. 🙂

  5. I miss art classes. I did Art A level a year early and used to slip into younger classes to sketch with them. They thought I was a bit weird but then got on with their own work. Great fun.

  6. What a lovely post. Wonderful images combined with fantastic thoughts. Our gifts change as we grow older I do believe and it is up to us to continue on the journey of self discovery as we evolve. I just LOVED this post. Your gifts are many.

  7. This reminds me of that piece about ‘all I ever needed…I learned in kindergarten’. Amazing how you’ve taken this opportunity and made it into life-learning lessons. They are everywhere..aren’t they?

  8. Elizabeth, your posts come directly to my inbox. I love all of them, but I want to say thank you for this one here! What a wonderful post. Thank you for being such a wonderful caring person…. It adds to the goodness in life for me !

    • Adee ~ Thanks so much for your kind comment. I had a blast photographing the final class and it was my pleasure to be able to do it. I had such a good time that I wanted to share it with my readers and I’m really glad you got something you needed from it. The experience worked that way for me too.

  9. I loved this post. I love the title of your blog, and I’ve been thinking about what it means. So often we rush headlong through life just taking things for granted….neither looking to left nor right…missing so much along the way. To be mindfully grateful helps you identify and appreciate the gift along the way. This in turn helps shine a much more positive light on your life. Just look at all the gifts you found this day…not every one would have. Thank you for helping me remember to be more consciously appreciative of my very fortunate life.

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