Tag Archives: student art

Don’t play it safe! Creativity takes courage

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Ten years ago, I went to California to spend the weekend with my 98 year old grandmother. She was a sculptress that has work in several museums around the country and worked with Gutzon Borglum (who did Mt Rushmore) . We we wanted to go to her studio and make castings of some of her best work. What I did any other weekend that year I can’t tell you. But that weekend became an event that I will remember the rest of my life. She lived to 103 and is now gone.

Each day we have the opportunity to do things that are memorable. The last sitcom I watched on TV was Seinfeld in the 1980’s. Yes, I am culturally illiterate about the latest celebrity. But instead of that time watching TV, I have done a hundred projects with my kids and hopefully made the world a better place.

With our art and writing contests, there are a million kids who will NOT enter the spring contest. There will be several thousand that will enter. These students took a risk and will send in a bit of themselves through their art, poetry or essay. Henri Matisse said, “Creativity takes courage.” The students who do NOT enter will have no benefit from playing it safe. The students who Do have the courage to enter may not move on in the competition or be accepted to enter, but they won’t know unless they try. However, the students that are accepted to be published or are a top ten winner, will have taken a risk that will give them a reward they will remember the rest of their life.

This weekend, do something that you will make it a memorable weekend. That is my challenge. Make it a weekend, like I did ten years ago, that I now look back and remember. Those are the days that we cherish and the opportunities that are rewarded.

Reach out with your creativity and you’ll be amazed who you may touch

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Saturday night while watching the Miss America Pageant, I thought of all the accomplishments that culminate to this one ending competition. These outstanding women had decided what they wanted, paid the price and were now reaping the rewards of their hard work. While watching the pageant, the finalists were on stage and a few of their accomplishments were written across the screen. For Miss Arizona, Jennifer Sedler, (who ended up as 4th runner-up) one of her accomplishments was having a poem published in 5th grade. In checking our records, it was our company Creative Communication, that published her poem “Hawaiian Seas” in the Fall of 2002.

When students enter our art or writing contests, they are students like everyone else. As they move on in life, talents are developed. A 5th grade student becomes Miss Arizona. Or another student, Angela Bishop, who wrote to me the following:

My name is Angela Bishop, and almost ten years ago you selected one of my poems to be published in the Southern edition of your book. I was 15 and it was the highlight of my young life. Although it has been nearly a decade, I just wanted to finally express the thanks I have felt all these years. I cannot thank you enough for accepting my work and publishing it. I have been writing since I was a child and have continued to write. I am currently working on my second novel. So, thank you, thank you, for the confidence you unknowingly gave me in 1999. I plan to keep writing for as long as I possibly can. Your poetry contest is a wonderful thing, and you open a window for tomorrow’s great writers to find their way through and gain the confidence in their work. Keep it going, you are making dreams into realities.

To both Jennifer and Angela and thousands of other students, I am glad that we have been there for you. We helped you in creating an accomplishment that you can be proud of and add to your resume. When students wonder if they should enter a contest, I give a strong affirmative. You may not be accepted to be published, but if you don’t enter you know there isn’t a chance of being published or being a top ten winner. Sometimes you have to take a risk and enter a contest. It may change your life. Just ask Jennifer and Angela.

What are we communicating with our art?

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After leaving my Interpersonal Communication class last night, I thought of the application of communication theory and the entries we receive in our art and poetry contests. One concept is that every message has a content and relationship dimension.    When we hear a message, what the words mean is the content.  What the person means and the subtext behind the words is the relationship.  Let me give you an example with the following dialogue.

Wife:               “You watch too much TV.”

Husband:         “I do not.”

Wife:               “C’mon honey….you do too.”

Husband:         “All right then, I won’t watch any TV for a whole week, dang it.”

Wife:               “Oh, just forget it.  Do what you want.”

Husband:         “Forget it!  How can I forget it?  You come in here and make a big deal out of my TV habits.  Then to satisfy you, I agree to cut it out completely and you say forget it.  What’s   wrong with you anyway?”

 

Now when the relationship is in trouble, the husband will wonder why they are unhappy as the only thing they fought about was the TV.  However, beyond the words, at the relationship level, the real message has nothing to do with the TV, but a wife who is wanting to have some attention paid to her.

So often we receive wonderful pieces of art or poetry and the content is wonderful.  However, the piece is not appropriate (from our standards) for our readers and viewers.  We are very protective of our students.  When we receive a piece of art from an obviously talented artist, but the image is of a violent or sexual nature, even though the content is good, the relationship between the artists and our student readers is such that the poem or art would be rejected. That is always a tough decision, and often we will contact the student to let them know that they have talent, but our contests are not the correct venue for them.

Maybe my connection of communication theory to our contests is a bit of a stretch.  If so, then, oh well.  However, in either case, I hope I gave you something to think about with either your relationships and why a simple argument blew up into something larger, or for our contests and why a great piece of art or poetry was not accepted to be published.

If you want to hear more about Interpersonal Communication then give us a like.  Have a great day.

Sometimes the greatest gift is believing in someone

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For Christmas, I gave my daughter the book “Do Hard Things:  A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations” (http://www.therebelution.com/book).  She shared with me the book’s philosophy that often society does not expect much from our youth and that in response, youth often meet that lowered expectation.  I thought of the thousands of teachers that we work with each year with our writing and art contests.

Many times I will receive a packet of poems or view images of art that have been submitted by a teacher and my first thoughts are “Get a new teacher.”  When an entire class of high school students enter poems equivalent to “a cat sat on a bat” or enter art with crayons on lined paper, I know that it is not the students who are failing, but the teacher.  Raise the bar and students rise to meet the expectation.  When we expect little, we receive little.

My students go to a charter school that has a curriculum that is always one grade above the norm.  In 1st grade they are taught 2nd grade math and writing and this continues like this to 8th grade.  At first my reaction was that will just frustrate the student.  But I found that when expectations rise, the quality of the student rises to the expectation.  I have taught at the university level for 30 years.  During that time I have taught the same classes at the high school and middle school level.   When I say the same classes, I really mean the exact same content.  For both my university students and my 7th/ 8th grade students, I teach them difficult concepts, and in both classes they master them.
My challenge to parents and teachers is to higher your expectations.  The youth of today are capable of great achievements.  The book “Do Hard Things” is written by two teenagers.  These are kids who want the challenge.  In working with your students or even your own children, raise the bar, create a challenge and you may find it more rewarding for them and you when they “Do Hard Things”.