Saturday, October 15, 2016

Why Drawing is More Important Now Than Ever

I had a really interesting conversation with a student a few days ago.  We were swiftly approaching the big one:  the Forces Test.  In physics, this is kind of a Waterloo moment, where the math really is based off of physical ideas in a way many students (myself included) find incredibly challenging, especially in terms of the normal force.  (Aside:  If someone else says 'natural force' to me again whilst referring to normal force, I'm going to lose my mind.)

The point of all of this is the fact that I have had multiple students come to me in near tears because they are terrified of this exam.  They are normally A/B students who have found themselves getting a C or D on exams that they have prepared for as they would for any exam in any other class.  Physics is a beast unto itself, with things that may some logical but are incredibly difficult to define mathematically.  And this is an honors class, which is just another layer of math on math on math.  So, panic attacks have ensued and I have had the responsibility to talk students back from the edge. 

One such student came in and told me their study habits, which is not uncommon for this area.  On average, after they finish school they go to their after school sport and get home between 5 and 6 PM.  Then, it is not uncommon to do homework until 10-11 PM.  I can tell you as a teacher, I don't make assignments that should take that long.  Also, many students do work throughout breaks in the day and so have 8 hours of classes and possibly 8 hours of homework.  This student also dedicated their entire Saturday to my class. 

So I did what any adult would do: I asked the student what they do for fun.  A big part of learning is letting your brain rest.  You need to take a moment to not think on occasion, to do something enjoyable.  Your brain often will be still be churning through the question in the background, but focusing on something else takes the pressure off.  I think this is why I actually could engage hardcore in art and science in college.  I would oscillate between the two because they were different parts of my brain, and it allowed me a time to let something go in the background.

What the student said scared me.  Nothing.  They do nothing for fun.  I asked if they like to draw.  The response was "Yes, I love it.  But you can't make money doing that."  Which absolutely broke my heart.  I know where they are coming from.  Many parents in this area (mine included) feel that creative arts jobs are not for their children.  It's true that the jobs with stability are hard to find, but they absolutely exist.  Also, you can still enjoy and profit from your hobbies. 

So, to help illustrate my point to my student, I took out my sketchbook for Inktober.  I'm doing my best to do a draw every day this month, and I find the challenge actually really inspiring.  The look on the student's face as we flipped through brightened.  All my students can see how hard I work and how much effort I put in, and yet I have given myself time to enjoy a pastime.  This, however, doesn't help students see someone not just emotionally profit from drawing, but financially profit as well. 

And that’s when it struck me.  It's imperative that I keep drawing and enjoying myself.  It's easy as a teacher to get sucked into just grinding all the time to keep up on grades and to find new and exciting activities, but for me, creating something should be a focus as well.  And it's not just for my own amusement, enjoyment and profit anymore.  Teachers are inspirations to students, as egotistical as it sounds.  I want to be able to tell my students I made something and made money from that.  Or that I'm using my creativity or am proud of something I made.  Especially at a school with so much talent and drive, I feel like I need to match that.
Tweets by @tomatopolish