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In so many art rooms, the number of students enrolled determines the continuing viability of the program itself. More often than not, our programs need a large number of students enrolled to do everything we want to do. The best way to do that is to have kids sign up for multiple classes, and make them WANT to be a part of the program. They come back, they tell their friends, those friends sign up, and before you know it your program is off and running.
When you look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, one of the first things kids need is a sense of belonging. For a lot of your students, the art room is that place where they find they belong. Welcome every single one of your kids with open arms, and be excited when they walk into your classroom. Don’t speak poorly about your administration, your other students, other teachers, or your budget. Establish and maintain a welcoming, supportive, and positive environment that allows kids to develop their self-esteem. This will allow them to develop the confidence in their own abilities; this confidence will serve them well as they begin to develop as artists.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret . . . most kids sign up for art class because THEY WANT TO GET BETTER! You can help them with that! Teach them how to add value, how to render detail, how to smooth their shading. Help them discover techniques with paint and pastels, and show how colored pencils can be blended and layered. Show them new skills on the wheel, techniques when hand building, and processes for sculpture.
When kids know they will learn new skills (or further develop established ones) with every project, they will be excited for those projects. When they are excited for the projects, they will be excited for the class. And when they are excited for the class, they will also sign up for more classes. Success breeds success, so get them started down that road.
Anything you can do to help your kids receive recognition for their artwork needs to be done. Can you hang work in the halls of your school? Do you have a display case? Are there businesses in the community that would be willing to show your kids’ work? Can you find art shows in which work can be entered, or can you have your own art show at school? When kids receive that face-to-face recognition and affirmation, they want to keep working for more.
Apart from the face-to-face support your kids can receive, consider your online presence as well. You (and your kids!) can publish work online–Artsonia, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever else works for you. If your kids are anything like mine, they live their lives for “likes” on their photos, and promoting them in these digital spaces can give them a sense of validation, even if it’s not the way we may traditionally think of doing it.
Build a welcoming classroom environment for your students, help them do quality work, and allow them to present that work to an audience that appreciates what they are doing. If you can successfully accomplish these three things, I have no doubt your students will keep coming back.
What is it about your teaching that keeps students coming back for more classes?
What other ways have you found to create welcoming classroom spaces?