Year 11 Art Coursework Crying
There is no worse experience for an art teacher than when a child cries during art class. Weve all been the witness to crumpled paper, crayon throwing and plain old meltdowns. Our heart breaks for the little one and often we blame ourselves.
This post examine the reasons why some kids have meltdowns and what you can do about it.
As I was poring over my inbox after vacation, this email from Ashley stood out.
Help! I am used to teaching middle and high school students and I am not familiar with teaching little ones. I read your post about managing an art room last night and went in today feeling better. I had one child start crying mid-way through class because he didnt like any of his artwork. We had just read Beautiful Oops and I tried to convey that mistakes are OK and can become something nice in their work. He ended up crumpling his drawings and throwing them on the floor. I tried to get him to keep working through it but he was frustrated. He told me the Sharpie (marker) was too fat for his hands and he couldnt use it. He is a third grader. Have you ever had a student frustrated and/or crying?
Im pretty sure that every art teacher reading this has experienced this scenario. Ive had kids from almost every grade level break down occasionally. The most important thing for Ashley to consider is whether or not crying is a common occurrence in her classroom or if the episode was rare.
Here are a few things to consider:
Although teaching art is fun, its not always easy.
When we think of elementary school art, we conjure up happy images of children blissfully working with paint, pastels and paper. Pinterest, art ed blogs and other forms of media all contribute to the fantasy that if we introduce a fun subject, every child will be engaged. The truth is, idyllic classrooms can happen, but its not without years of practice.
My mission for my art classes is to inspire creativity. Thats my main goal and whatever it takes to get kids to experiment, learn, take risks and relax into the process, I do it. This for me means lots of reflection and questions. If a lesson doesnt connect with the students, I ask why. Was the technique too hard? Was my demonstration too hard to follow? Did I have too much expectation for the lesson? Was the lesson subject boring?
Note: Be careful of portrait making at the beginning of the year. Most classroom teachers do some type of beginning-of-the-year portraits and many art teachers do a portrait project every year. I bet if you surveyed a bunch of 6th graders, they will say that portraits are the most boring subject!
Make sure you allow time for your own lesson/teaching reflection. If you are open to the possibility that your presentation, delivery and execution could use work, you will become a stronger teacher fast. Listen very carefully to the feedback from staff members, parents and children. Some people wont say negative things directly, but they will bury them in comments that suggest that the lesson was too hard (wrong project), or that the kids were overly rowdy (class room management needs work) or the some kids were too hard on themselves (you might be too hard on them). These arent % accurate, but you get the idea. Be gentle on yourself, but never stop learning and growing as a teacher.
Take the advice from people who really know.
Im not credentialed which means the classroom teacher must be present in the classroom. If a child starts to cry, Ill often shoot the teacher a glance and the teacher will indicate whether or not the child needs to be left alone (hes having a hard day), if the crying is chronic (nothing I should do at the moment) or if the child is frustrated (my clue to step in). This is wonderful for me but what if you dont have the inside scoop on the child?
Watch for the pre-cursors for a strong reaction before it happens. Other children will often tip you off to a child who is having problems. You might hear comments about a child commenting negatively on someone elses work. Or a child may stop working and look for the teacher out of concern for his frustrated table-mate. Or maybe youll see some kids huddled over one child who is experiencing the frustration. These are all signs that something is amiss. Step in a very calmly and assess the situation. I dont like to embarrass the child by bringing unwanted attention to his frustration. Sometimes, its best to ask the child to help you with something and then you can talk in relative private.
Consider the development of your group. If you are a new teacher, this is hard to do, but if you have had these kids before, you know how much instruction they need. This is not as easy as it sounds but if you can start the year off with easy, no-fail lessons like painting paper (messy but extremely fun and satisfying for a beginning of the year project), you will reduce the potential crying rate. Starting the year with a directed line drawing is great, but make sure its easy and make sure you know how to deliver a good directed line drawing. Ask the homeroom teacher about the kids and how well they can sit and listen to instruction, or if there are any kids that might need some additional help.
Bottom line: if you dont have a relationship with the teachers at your school, develop one as soon as you can.
Some children will respond differently to instruction.
I once stayed at work late to work on some projects. I sat in the back of my art room while an after-school art program was being conducted. The instructor was doing a directed line drawing and was particularly picky about everyone following along at the same moment and making sure all lines were similar. This was not necessarily her art philosophy but part of the art franchise expectation.
There was a little kinder boy who absolutely went crazy with these limitations. The instructor couldnt stop the class to attend to him, but his outburst was very painful to witness. He was crying violently, he was shakingutter turmoil. Because I was not the teacher delivering the lesson, I felt no personal responsibility and was therefore able to really see how the child was suffering. The instructor called the office and sent the child there to cool off. When the child came back, the process started up again. I asked the art teacher if the child could work with me in the back of the classroom. We worked on something non-related to the lesson. He calmed down immediately. There was something about the art lesson that triggered his negative reactions.
All night I wondered about this child.
Was he a perfectionist?
Did he suffer from a disorder?
Was an after-school program too much for him at this age?
I then wondered how this child would work in a group supported by his peers. I went online and google collaborative art lessons. Circle paintings came up and after looking at various ways to conduct a circle painting class, I put it on my schedule.
The next day, the kinder class came in. I explain the rules for completing a circle painting (basically none). You can see my post about the process here. This childs experience was beyond amazing. He was cooperative, gentle, creative, complimentary and most importantly, calm. I could see his little body relax and I knew he was experiencing joy.
What did this teach me?
Kids will react to situations differently because of simple things like the time of day, hunger or if they had a bad experience before coming to art. Or they child can be a highly sensitive child (like this little guy) and they need different types of lessons. That doesnt mean he needs a special program, but he needs to have equal opportunity to enjoy an art lesson that suits his temperament every once in a while.
Sometimes the best reaction is no reaction
Just like I said before, intercepting the strong reaction before it happens can be effective with little ones, but sometimes, not over-reacting to the frustration is equally as effective. Older kids who grow frustrated do not need an art teacher sitting beside them telling them that mistakes are beautiful. But tapping him on the shoulder and asking for help with paints is a good way for the child to regain composure. There is no artist on earth who hasnt had a strong reaction to his work and wanted to crumple it up (including many of you!). Its natural and sometimes, you just dont need to make a big deal about it. Respect the process and move on.
Now its your turnhow often do you experience crying in the art room? How do you handle it? I cant wait to read your responses. Lets help Ashley out.
‘It took me a couple of weeks just to come to terms with it’
Jonaid Khan, 34, took accounting (D), business studies (C) and computing (X) A-levels at Josiah Mason sixth-form college in Birmingham
I was expecting Bs and Cs, so on results day I was gutted: I knew I had blown my chance of going to university and felt like I’d let my family down. The X in computing was due to being disqualified from one exam because I’d arrived late and forgotten to leave my mobile phone at the front desk. I wasn’t given a chance to explain myself and I was devastated.
Seeing many of my friends get positive results only made me feel worse; few had done as badly as I did. I’d been deciding between going for a professional accounting qualification or an undergraduate degree, but with my results I felt as though it was the end of the road for me in an academic capacity. I was thrust into panic and depression.
Are you waiting for your A-level results? Share your thoughts with us
Telling my family my results was difficult. But deep down I was hugely disappointed with myself as I knew I could and should have done much better.
I didn’t really talk to anyone about my results, and it took a couple of weeks just to come to terms with it. Then I began to look into my options, and decided to pursue an NVQ professional qualification in accounting.
After five years of work and more studies, I got a job at the University of Bradford, and ended up studying part-time for a degree in combined studies there, graduating with first-class honours in
I’m now halfway through an MBA and really happy with how things have worked out. To anyone facing a similar situation to me, I’d say that you will end up getting to where it is you feel you should be – it’s just the route may be completely different from what you’d envisaged.
‘My results taught me how to make the best of a bad situation’
Kevin Bediouhoune, 19, got an E in biology and D in English literature A-levels, and Cs in chemistry and English language AS-levels at St Mary’s Menston Catholic sixth form, near Ilkley, West Yorkshire. His grandmother died during the exam period
All summer I’d spent time guessing and trying to figure out what exam papers I did well in and which subjects I got a good grade in – then when I walked into school and opened my results I knew straight away I could have done better. My grandma’s death had affected my whole mentality, but I didn’t realise that until I got my grades; it dawned on me that my mind was somewhere else and I wasn’t as stable as I’d thought. I was gutted.
I didn’t feel failure – I hadn’t quit, I made it to the end, and just that was an accomplishment. But I had missed my first-choice course at Liverpool John Moores University. My mum wasn’t in the country at the time, she was in Cameroon, sorting out my grandmother’s funeral arrangements, so I didn’t tell her about my results until I’d figured out what to do. I decided to look at clearing.
After ringing The Ucas exam helpline, I went to see Hull, and I’m now here studying biomedical science – the same course I was planning to study at Liverpool John Moores. In the end, everything worked out for the better. I think my results were meant to test me and get me ready for the maturities of adult life; now I’ve learned how to handle – and make the best out of – bad situations.
‘I felt like the world was telling me that I was stupid’
Leah Jacobs, 31, did A-levels in geography (C), maths (E) and physics (U) at JFS school in Harrow, north London
Results day was the hardest day of my life. I remember queuing up with my mates, and when I was handed my envelope the head of sixth form gave me a look … I knew then that it was bad, but when I saw the results I basically lost it – I remember screaming and shouting and crying. I thought it was the end of the world, and had no idea what my next step was. I felt like the world was telling me that I was stupid.
I wasn’t expecting the results – I had worked really hard that year, and had extra tutors in maths and physics. I had put everything else in my life on hold to ensure I did the best I could. I genuinely thought I had done quite well.
It took me a long time to get over my feelings of failure from results day, but in the process I found out I had undiagnosed dyslexia, which affects the way I deal with exam situations. I’ve realised that I am smart, but the A-level system was never going to reflect my true ability.
My head of sixth form advised me not to do retakes. I took a gap year and worked at a civil engineering firm, then I found a university – Nottingham Trent – that would take me with the results I had because of my work experience. In my third year I found tunnelling engineering and knew I wanted it to be my career. Since then, I’ve worked on large tunnel boring machines for Crossrail, two London Underground station upgrades and had an amazing experience working in New Zealand. The industry pays really well, which has allowed me to buy my own property, which a few of my peers who did well at A-levels have struggled to do.
‘I ran to the toilet, locked myself in a cubicle and cried’
Hannah Jones, 23, got two Ds and an E in history, English literature and psychology A-levels at Birchwood sixth-form college, Warrington, plus a distinction in a drama BTec
My A-level results were the last hurdle between me moving to Liverpool to start a new life studying drama at uni, and, after doing well at GCSE, I was quietly confident walking into college to pick up my results. My parents had high expectations too.
Then I opened the envelope and my eyes scanned over the letters that I definitely didn’t want to see. Without saying a word to anyone, I ran to the toilet, locked myself in a cubicle and cried. I was so embarrassed. I thought my future was completely over.
Friends who hadn’t revised as hard as I had did amazingly well and were getting places in top universities. It felt like everyone except me was celebrating that day.
Will taking a BTec help or hinder your university application?
I’d always been such a high achiever; I didn’t feel like myself any more. I wished I’d prepared better for my results – I should have had a back-up plan for a worst-case scenario. It sounds gloomy but to others facing results day this year, I say prepare yourself for the worst and then anything else is a massive bonus.
Thanks to my coursework-based BTec, I managed to get into university – just – to study drama. But after six weeks I dropped out, having realised the course wasn’t for me. I moved back home and secured an apprenticeship at my local council and ended up in its PR department. All executive-level roles required a degree, so I went back to uni and last week graduated with a first-class degree in PR and marketing from Manchester Metropolitan University. I was the top performing student on my course, and now have a job as an account executive.
I’ve realised A-level results don’t define you. No employer has even asked for my A-level results and I’ve never thought about them since that day. Just because your forte isn’t being able to remember dates or formulae and write them all down in an hour, doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Work hard, be grateful, put yourself out there and you never know where your career might take you.
‘We stuck a pencil randomly in the clearing list; it fell on Brighton’
Sally Bunkham, 36, scored a C, E and U in English, home economics and art at Stamford high school for girls, Lincolnshire
I remember staring at my results and thinking: “I’ve stuffed that right up.” I had my heart set on going to Sheffield University, but that wasn’t an option any more. I sat on the concrete floor and listened to my friend’s voices celebrating around me, pretending I wasn’t bothered. In fact I was. I knew it was my own fault – I was just too interested in boys, drinking and going out socialising at the time.
One of my friends came to my house and persuaded me to look at the clearing list. We literally stuck a pencil on the list randomly and it landed on the University of Brighton, on a course about historical and cultural studies. I rang up and got in. I didn’t know a thing about Brighton and arrived that September having never even visited. But I enjoyed three fabulous years at university, made my best friends and later found my husband, and dad to my two kids – and we still live in Brighton.
I got a job straight after university in sales, then moved into events, and this year launched my own business, Mum’s Back, selling hamper gifts for new mums. It’s going really well and I’ve been on TV and radio talking about it.
A-levels are a world away. I asked my mum today if she could remember what I got and she had no idea. But the experience did have a lasting effect on me – even now, when I’m stressed, I have the same dream of being in that sports hall in an exam with no clue what any of the questions are about.
• Lucy Tobin’s book, A Guide to Uni Life, is out now