Kindergarten Art Night(mare)

So last night, Jeff’s kindergarten class had a “Kindergarten community night of art” for all kindergartners and their parents to attend. What a nice idea, I thought! I love art, right? I love my Kindergartner, right? I get to meet other parents, right? The kids will have a ball, making stuff and creating, right? Cool! Let’s go!

Um, maybe I’m just not cut out for this whole “Kindergarten Community” thing. Categorically I am not a cynical person, but holy cow, at an “art night” shouldn’t the kids get to MAKE art??

In the school gym, they had 8 cafeteria tables set up with different projects at each table. There were parent/teacher volunteers at each table, to show the kids what to do and to supervise the chaos. At each table, there was a pile of materials and a sample of what could be made with the materials. All well and good.

Jeff and I plopped down at a table and began to play- but immediately a teacher jumped in to “guide him”- and by “guide him” I mean control his every move and force him to make EXACTLY a copy of the sample. The teacher told him where to cut his paper, where to put the glue, how many of each cut-out to put on the paper, and where they should go- going to far to move his creation when he didn’t precisely follow the directions…

After about five minutes of trying to be patient and forgiving, I felt like I have a mouth full of shattered glass and had to speak out…  “Jeffrey, you can put the pieces wherever you want- and however you like them- remember, there are no mistakes in art…” as I gave my best conciliatory, proper (through gritted teeth) smile to the teacher.

Jeff finished his (sic) project at that table, and we moved on to the next- wildly hoping that was just an example of one teacher’s foibles… no such luck. It would seem that the entire district policy regarding art is- “Make what I show you how to make, and hurry up about it” My kid is not used to this idea, I am proud to say, and quickly lost interest in making institutionalized “art”.

Now, I’m not a hippy-dippy California free-lover, and while I understand the need to exercise some control over a group of forty 5-year-olds- why plan an “art” night at all? Wouldn’t it be better to just have a pot-luck and let the kids play?

Our little kids are so totally creative and open for such a short time- the world crowds in, they develop self-consciousness and begin to censure themselves- let’s don’t do it for them before that precious window closes on it’s own. Please?

12 thoughts on “Kindergarten Art Night(mare)

  1. I am soooo with you. In fact, I read a book a while ago, ‘Developing Talent in Young Children’ which sounds boring but it’s not, which backs you up completely.

    Telling even 3 year olds that their houses have to have trees in front of them ruins their creativity. It’s really bad, and my preschool teacher knows it, and helps kids make whatever they want, within the parameters given (there should be SOME parameters, so that they can focus a little, but too many will stifle everything). I know she learned it while gettting her degree for teaching young kids – so you would think other teachers know it, too. Maybe too many years in the classroom beats them down, I don’t know. Maybe they have requirements I don’t know about. I don’t want this to sound teacher bashing, so I’ll just say that I don’t know why this happens, but I know it really does, frequently. Also I wouldn’t have the first clue how to teach, so if I were a teacher, many moms would have multiple things to complain about!

  2. As one of the sad little people who has no creativity when it comes to art – I love being told what to do – I admire your approach to it, and Eric’s courage in being able to see whatever he wants when he sits down with paper and scissors and glue. Good for you for encouraging him.

    I love cross stitch which is as arty as I get, but it’s like paint-by-number with thread and needle. Although I have been known to DARE to change thread colors.

    So good for you. Leave it to an artist to have such a beautiful, “it doesn’t have to be the same way everyone else does it” attitude.

  3. NO NO NO NO NO!!!!! Pre-K teacher here, and I believe that artwork should be the STUDENTS work, not the teacher’s work. That is one of my pet peeves! Thank goodness that my curriculum is High/Scope, which is very child oriented. I’m glad you said what you did, and I wouldn’t go back to any more art nights! It should be fun for everyone!

    • I’m an art teacher that is all about the process and not the product, but how is anything going to change if you don’t go back or at least speak up? I say, be bold, let Jeff’s school know how you felt about the experience(in a tactful manner) and ask questions. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” -Frederick Douglass

  4. One of the things that I love about art is that you can give a group of 20 people the exact same art supplies, and end up with 20 completely different things. While some parts of the project may end up the same because we saw something someone did, and decided to incorporate that into your own project, you can still get 20 different great looking art pieces. You said just the right thing. I think of all of your art, (and while I haven’t seen any I have heard that it is marvelous) and what a wonderful thing it is that you can do whatever it is that you want because you can. And no one can tell you that it is wrong.

  5. If the project is about modeling how to “follow directions” and do things in a certian order trying as hard as you can to copy the original….then I see no problem. Since, however, the project was to make ART….big problem….

    That is too bad….it sounds like her focus was the end result, not the process. Sounds like a tired and not very creative teacher. I am that kind of mother so I can relate…….

  6. I’m so with you Tracy M. The “product” art projects my daughter came home with from preschool last year was the main reason we switched to somewhere new for this year. I think being a creative person, I am very sensitive to that sort of thing.

    During the tour of the new preschool the first thing I noticed was the wall of sea creature art. I think what I saw were octupus(‘s?). Anyway it was hard to tell because there were all numbers of crazy legs and eyes attached to each one. I loved it.

    Art is about creative expression–the process, not the product. I love every scribble scrabble painting and 17 legged octupus that comes into my home.

    I love your last paragraph. You summed it up completely. No need to squash their creative imagination so soon.

  7. Carrie- YES!!! Art is process, not product, and so many folks miss this, and once a child in led into the idea that “product” is Art, it is virtually impossible to reclaim “process”.

    If “Product” was what art were about, we would never have a Jackson Pollock- or hundreds of other stellar artists… the battle to break down the Product walls is almost insurmountable… hence, Pollock’s fury at the canvas. Oh, I love art!

  8. Good for you that you spoke out! It amazes me whom they choose to be the art teachers sometimes…honestly…there are a million artists out there who know how to work with children and understand what it “feels” like to make art. Its not exacting…you aren’t learning anything by duplicating the teacher’s example (i never made examples…that kept the kids from copying it and being disappointed when theres didn’t look like mine)…In my oppinion…those type of projects where all the work looks the same aren’t art projects…they are killing time and not teaching the kids anything by how to cut a straight line. Why do you think kids color outside of the line in a coloring book and fill in the hair green and the skin purple! I concur with Tracy…let them think outside of the box with their beautifully creative minds for as long as they can!!

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