Work Experience – Early Years Primary School Teacher: What I Learnt as an Artist

On Tuesday 19th November I attended Barlestone Church of England Primary School to gain work experience as an early years primary school teacher. I was working with foundation stage 2 children (4-5 years old) under the supervision of their teacher Mrs Teresa Fowkes.

My main task for the day was to build robots with the children. I was allocated a table and the kid’s took it turns to come up in groups to make their robots. The robots were made from toilet roll tubes which I had previously covered in aluminium foil. The children then added sequins, pens and cut out paper for the buttons and face, plus bent pipe-cleaners that they stuck on top to represent the antenna.

As an artist, I felt there was a lot that I learnt from spending time being creative with the little ones. At first, I was more concerned with trying to encourage them to work orderly – as I was looking after a table full of kids, I wanted to try and show them step by step how to make the robot, keeping us all at the same stages to hopefully produce the best results. (Plus I hoped this way I could keep them engaged so that they didn’t run riot. With my little experience of working with large groups of children this was a prospect I found quite daunting.) However, I soon found that this is not how kids of the ages 4-5 years old work! They were far more interested in putting as much sequins on their tubes in the most random ways… not at all remnant of a robot! However, when Mrs. Fowkes came over, she was ecstatic with the results and spoke of how much the children had enjoyed themselves and how although the tubes might look like a bit of a mess to us, we can observe the characters of the children through the differences between the robots. Some robots were just covered all over in an abstract array of sequins and scribbles, Some had two faces and just a couple were very like the intended result of the instructions.
Then it clicked, for the kids, enjoying the process of making the robots was the most important factor. I began asking the children questions about their robots, (What does it do? How does it move? What’s that sequin for?) and soon I was able to see their creations through their eyes more clearly and the results in my mind shifted from being frustrating to intriguing and inspiring! 

I have always considered myself an artist who works for catharsis, yet my university projects are often so rigid and concerned with the final result that any enjoyment is quickly sucked out of the work. Working with young children has served as an important reminder that my practise should be more free. That the most important aspect of my artwork is my enjoyment, because although the results might not always be perfect compared to how I imagined them, they will always be a display of my expression. With a interest in psychology and sociology, the autobiographical and anthropological aspects of art fascinate me and these aspects will always exist regardless of intent. Often what we see as our artistic imperfections can actually create a sense of self. They display our individuality in a way that cannot be learnt or copied. It is no wonder that I find my work frustrating and tedious when I am so concerned with suppressing these aspects. I am not a photo-realistic artist and sometimes my abilities are inadequate to my mind’s eye. But that’s OK… my abilities will develop with time regardless.

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