Just recently, my faithful Nissan Micra decided that enough was enough. Having driven close to 1000 kilometres every week, the overwhelmed little workhorse came to the realisation that the air-conditioning could no longer be sustained, the electric windows were simply too tired to operate, and the ignition was on a go-slow in support of the climate control components. Not only does this now mean that my budget requires trimming and tightening, but also that my addiction to shoes needs to be curtailed for the foreseeable future. It also means that my Saturdays now sharply focus on automotive retail therapy.
A recent conversation with a charming Italian car salesman focused on the beautiful styling of the Fiat range in comparison to the reliability of the equivalent Mazda options. As he and my husband began their subsequent chat about torque, kilowatts, suspension, induction, fuel capacity and engine configuration, my eyes started to glaze over………. And that’s when I had an epiphany.
While I had been focusing on colour and shape, daydreaming of a powerful sound system and wondering about the colour of the ambient lighting, I was missing an important discussion about features that provide me with comfort, space and above all, safety. I always ensure students are fully equipped with the information they need before they embark on new tasks, so why was I not listening to everything I needed to know? Is this what actually happens when I introduce new activities and performances to students? Are they sometimes engrossed in the visual stimulus, the context of their compositions or the performance possibilities, whilst I take on the role of the salesman who continues to talk about task conditions that perhaps reduce the joy of creating something that inspires them? Am I giving them enough scope to imagine the possibilities - to brainstorm and take part in vibrant discussion? Or do I sometimes bring them back to earth with a thud and prematurely stop that initial exuberance, before trying to drag them back to being innovative and original in their responses once I’m satisfied they understand the ‘essentials'? Am I truly valuing the creative process and allowing them the opportunity to imagine without limitation, or am I imposing restrictions too early in the development of their artistic responses? Much like myself, maybe they just need a little more time to dream, to think outside of the box, and to wonder what is possible!
As an Arts teacher, I am acutely aware of the creative role that Music, Dance, Drama and Visual Art plays in our society. I understand that a culture without creativity is like a blank stage. An empty canvas. A stave without notes. It is one of a teacher’s most important roles to encourage the ignition of a student’s creative spark. Without allowing students time to experiment with possibility, however, I have come to realise how easily educators can influence and inhibit student responses and, in turn, devalue both their vision and process.
Much like my weekly budget, my role as an educator has to be flexible and constantly reviewed. At the same time, whilst I struggle to balance the need for fabulous shoes and a reliable car, I have to ensure priorities are established with, and for, my students. More importantly, however, I must consider that ‘optional extras’ package, and work with my students to determine an appropriate balance between what is necessary and what is possible.
And so it appears that my Nissan Micra has given me one last gift. With some of its final breaths, the little red beast is forcing me to reassess elements of my teaching - and I do not think that is a bad thing. Whilst I always look to inspire my students, to help them become resourceful and resilient, and to give them options in their learning, I now have another goal. I need to ensure that they know how to strike a balance between the essential and the possible, whilst understanding the value of both. More importantly, I need to role model this balance, before I become that person who fills their fully optioned new diesel car with premium unleaded……
Sharyn Walker-Joyce – Head of The Arts