When I signed up for the Art for Elementary Teachers course last semester, I had mixed feelings. Before taking this class, I believed my artistic skill didn’t extend far past stick figures and coloring in the lines. Nevertheless, I was excited for the opportunity to gain some artistic ability and learn how to incorporate art into the classroom.
This class helped me realize that my ability to create something beautiful hadn’t shriveled up and died. As wonderful as the end result was, getting there was extremely difficult. This class was one stressful roller coaster ride. Projects took a lot of time, creativity, sleepless nights, and emotional breakdowns. I struggled and about a week into class, I was wondering how it would even be possible to make it through with my sanity intact. Due to the confidence our professor had in her students and the reasonable expectations she set, however, I started to believe these tasks were doable. What appeared from a distance to be a big, tall, scary Goliath, turned out to be not so big, tall, or scary.
My point in sharing this is to ask this question: Isn’t this the kind of environment all teachers should create in their classrooms? As a student, it might be hard in these moments to see challenging assignments as an opportunity to grow, but if we stop and think about it, we realize the classroom should be a place where students are given obstacles to overcome with set expectations and instructions to guide them through. Students need to be challenged and stretched because that’s the only way they will become stronger.
As difficult as my art class was in the moment, I gained confidence in my creativity, improved time management and effectiveness, and worked hard under pressure. Some teachers, in an attempt to make students feel more confident about their abilities, do the exact opposite and won’t present tough challenges. They don’t want children to become discouraged or disappointed in themselves if they struggle. Although this action has good intentions, the end result is only harming the students. Students who aren’t stretched to meet demands from teachers haven’t built confidence in their ability to work hard and do things they didn’t think they could. All it really does is give students the short end of the stick when it comes to life.
You can’t protect students from struggles or failure in life, so you shouldn’t do that in the classroom. We believe our Heavenly Father sent us to Earth to prove to him that we can work hard and make correct choices. This life is full of trials and no one is exempt.The end results, however, are worth every struggle we go through. Do we not think of Heavenly Father as loving even after He sent us here to endure challenges? Then how can we, as teachers, best show our love to our students? We need to help them reach their potential by offering challenges. Don’t put limits on students’ success by protecting them from struggle. Instead, let them struggle! Encourage them and tell them they can do anything they decide to do. Praise them for their hard work. Help them see that they can accomplish “impossible” things.