I am not a STEAM expert. Science intimidates me. In school I was good at math… but that just makes it harder for me to teach math. On paper, I wouldn’t appear very qualified for this job, but I don’t care. I actually think that’s how the magic happens in my classroom—I learn alongside my students, every day.
For example, art. I can’t do art.
Agh, fine. Fixed mindset, yada yada. I can do art, I just haven’t practiced enough. And I have gotten better over the years. I’ve eased in, thanks to the magical Pinterest land for teachers. Until this year when I realized my assignments leaned a lot more toward crafts than arts. Kids walked away with a few cute posters, but few skills to build on. So, I decided to throw out all my lessons and start over. My goal: teach them skills that transfer and grow.
I decided to start with the fundamentals of drawing. I shared the importance of concentration, how to see an object as a collection of lines and shapes. Then we applied our new skills by drawing a carousel horse. A challenge for all, but that’s my job, right?
Every day I stood in front of a new batch of third graders. I smiled through clenched teeth as I failed to draw anything resembling a real animal. With an embarrassed laugh, I exclaimed, “You guys. I’ve been trying to draw these legs all week, and they just keep getting weirder!” The kids giggled with me. I cringed as I turned to add the tail.
Every day I introduced a different artist “trick” to cover up the worst areas. “I’ll add a crowd of people to cover up these blocky legs.” “Maybe I’ll crop the picture to a headshot.” “I know, I can cover up his backside with a barn! He doesn’t have to be a carousel horse.”
Every day my students followed my lead. With nervous eyes, way out of their comfort zones, they made mistakes and kept on drawing. They laughed, cropped, added, painted, created. Most of their horses turned out as disproportional as mine. They found ways to modify them into something unique, something that made them proud.
That lesson is now one of my favorite memories. There were no students or teachers, only a group of people, trying to draw a horse. In the past, I’ve seen, and done, the fake-mistake thing teachers often do. I’ve wondered if kids even buy it. This lesson was different. It was real. I sensed our relationships change, the trust grow. I wasn’t the leader. I was barely even a facilitator or guide. I was part of the team.
I am not an expert at STEAM, or art, or anything. That's ok with me. I’ve learned that the most successful moments in my classroom are not when I’m modeling a lesson, but when I’m being a model learner. The world is changing so fast—there’s no time to learn now, teach later. We’re all becoming less qualified by the day, so I embrace it. I'm an unqualified teacher who hopes to inspire quality learning.