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Parents can be the best advocates you will have. They can also create some of the biggest struggles you will face. Many times I have thought about writing an open and honest letter to them. Today I did.
Hi. I am Mrs. Carlisle, your child’s art teacher, and I want to tell you how excited I am to teach your child during the upcoming school year. Because I am the art teacher, I will be guiding your child on a creative voyage. I will be able to see sides of their personality that the regular classroom teacher may never see. I will witness them create solutions to problems rather than regurgitate rote answers. I will watch him or her struggle with tough concepts and we will celebrate their mastery. It will be amazing.
The truth is you can draw a stick figure. You can draw more than you give yourself credit for. I am sorry that somewhere on your creative voyage someone made you feel less than confident in your abilities. Please don’t do the same to your child.
Art is work. Art is hard work. It might be harder than math or science because there are no right answers. This is a special class where your child has to create the solution. When report cards come out remember that a 100% in art class would be near perfection and that is incredibly difficult to achieve. Please don’t look for a number on a report card to reflect the success or enjoyment your child experiences in the art room.
I work with 600 students a week. Each of them is special to me and I try to do my best for each of them, every day, of every week. I make mistakes. I get overwhelmed. I have the same laundry, practice, and grocery shopping that you have and it is a juggling act to keep everything going. When my sick child preempts the grading of your child’s art project, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to give your son or daughter prompt and thorough feedback, it’s just that my feverish 3-year-old deserved my attention that evening.
Don’t be afraid to ask them to teach you something. You never know what you may discover about yourself when you open a box of crayons and create something with your child.
I understand that you can’t possibly keep everything. Trust me, I know, but I also know that when your child sees you discard their work, it makes them feel like their ideas and hard work just aren’t good enough. Take a minute to look at the images, have your child save their favorite one or two. Save your favorite one and talk to them about why we can’t save everything. This simple act goes a long way to boost their confidence in their ability to be an artist.
Don’t downplay the value of art or art class. Artists play a part in the design of everything you use throughout the day. From your morning coffee cup to your new outfit, from your house to your office building, an artist made all those things or, at least, made them better. The chances are pretty good your child will be employed in a creative field and the skills they learn in art class will help them succeed. Meeting deadlines, research, planning, and dedication to the task are all non-art skills reinforced in art class and used daily in the workforce.
Thank you for your time in reading this. I truly am excited for the upcoming year and I am looking forward to the creative solutions your son or daughter will share with me. As the year goes on, please feel free to stop by the art room to help or to see what we are doing at any time.
– Mrs. Carlisle
Wow, that felt really good to do. Writing this letter helped me remember that what we do in the art room really is special. Remember the things that make art class different are also the things that make it wonderful. I don’t know if I will ever mail this to my students’ parents, but I like that writing it gives me the option.
Would you send a letter like this to your students?
What else would you say to the parents of your students?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.