Sometimes you must simply leave them alone.

By Jamie Cosumano

Something had to give and I had a decision to make. Someone in my class would not be getting the attention needed and I, we, might just have to suffer the loss, I thought…
Then again – it might be ok.
This year, I was challenged with 8 plans in 3 blocks. Not an impossible task, but one requiring strong organizational skills, tenacious nature, and patience. The challenge was further extended into subdivisions within blocks, for example, Ceramics I divides into 3 parts at the end of the year: glazing, wheel-throwing, and sculpting. So in truth, 2nd block consisted of 7 plans, give or take, depending on the month.
So in this class of Ceramics I, Ceramics II, AP Studio Art, and Research/Studio Scholars III, I found myself looking at the last – Marquaine in Advanced Art (III), recently transferred in from Norcom High School.

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I set up all lessons and got the balls rolling, but no matter how hard I tried, I found myself pulled into clay, research, and AP matters over the work of this young man – this quiet and contemplative young man, new to our school, other students, and me.
No matter, I was delighted to find that this student kept to his tasks and completed several drawings for me. I jumped in when I felt he was missing a point or going astray, but that didn’t happen often. For my “neglect” I recognized that this student was learning, without my interruption. He was finding his voice without my direct influence or style. He was contemplating important decisions while I was busy: helping another find a better composition, finding center on the wheel, or digging out new materials from the supply closet.

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What’s my point? I think that sometimes an art teacher needs to allow a student find their own voice. It’s like what college orientation-for-parents states – “Don’t be a helicopter and constantly hover.” Objectives must be met, craftsmanship and growth are important to address, but if something better is realized, then shouldn’t we as artists celebrate the discovery over our original vision. I believe that students can guide us as much as we know we can guide them.
Marquaine taught me to trust the student. It doesn’t always work – there are situations – but when the right student comes along, guide gently and with care and support – but let them evolve at their own pace. The work will become meaning ful to you, and especially to them.

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