Every teacher enjoys getting an enthusiastic reaction from students. To hear students exclaim, “Yay!! It’s Art time!” or “Art rules!” is music to an Art teacher’s ears. Yet only when students feel safe to create, comfortable in the vulnerability of putting a part of themselves into their work, will they respond this way. So, how do you begin to create a safe environment like this? Give your students these three simple Art Rules, and insist that these rules are non-negotiable and only students who comply may participate!
Rule #1 — Only use words that are kind and encouraging when talking about another person’s artwork.
Rule #2 — Only use words that are kind and encouraging when talking about your own artwork.
Rule #3 — Learn to say, “I’ll try,” rather than, “I can’t”.
Rule #1 is obvious.…. in other words, just be nice. Treat others as you would want to be treated. (Note: This rule also applies to the work of famous abstract artists, which students sometimes have trouble recognizing as ‘art’!)
Rule #2 usually surprises kids. They always want to know why they can’t say whatever they want to about their own artwork. Here’s why.… explain to them that other students may be thinking to themselves, “Wow — I wish I could draw (paint, or whatever) like that.” Then if you start talking about how bad your work looks, how are they going to feel??
Rule #3 is just about having a healthy, positive attitude, rather than a defeatist one. Make a habit of positive self-talk and it will serve you well your entire life. In fact, so will all of these rules.
Weave these ‘Art Rules’ into the fabric of your classroom and you’ll create an environment where students want to cheer, “Art Rules!”