I teach middle school art. In 6th grade, students are all required to take art.
And I am quite cognizant of the fact that for some of them, to put it nicely, I am not exactly their favorite subject.
So I start every year with a little speech. I tell them to throw away all of their preconceptions. I talk about growth mindsets. I tell them that we are going to make mistakes. A lot of them. I tell them that I purposefully do not buy things like whiteout. (This usually gets some murmurs of disapproval.) I let them know that they will learn much, much more than visual art during our time together. That they will grow as artists and citizens and humans.
Some of them won’t believe me yet.
We start our year. Inevitably someone asks me for whiteout, and I show the class how to change a “mistake” into something new and purposeful and creative. I am excited to do something new to enhance a lesson, and it completely bombs in fifteen different ways. I stop the class and acknowledge it. And I show them how I turn around my own failures. And we talk about what could be done differently next time. And we do it, and it is so much better after.
I have learned to embrace change. Every year it seems that we have a new district initiative, a new tool, a new acronym. And I’ve been around in education long enough now to see a lot of those new things quietly disappear the following year, replaced by the newest new.
And guess what? Every time, I still jump in wholeheartedly. I try new things. I fail at some new things. I succeed at some new things. I learn more about myself as an educator. I learn more about what I like to use and do and share and what works best for me and my classroom and my students.
My students see this. We grow.
The kids who don’t really like art will tell me at the end of the year that they enjoyed their time with me. The kids who are nervous about expressing themselves so openly will gain more comfort and confidence. Students who were afraid that they would mess up will take more risks, and will know what to do if the risk doesn’t work out as planned. We grow.
So I embrace change. I embrace innovation. I take risks, I make mistakes, I adjust, I grow. My students see this. And I think my year is all the more exciting and successful because of it.