The Power of "Ish"
“Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.”
~ Josh Shipp
Many years ago, I had an experience with a certain teacher I will never forget. I have had many positive experiences with teachers throughout the years, but sadly this encounter was clearly not one of them. I have always struggled in art class. I have other talents, but visual arts is clearly not one of them. I realized this early on but in elementary school we do not have the option to opt out of subjects we are not good at. Fortunately, as we enter high school, we get that option, and I was very happy and relieved about that.
On several occasions my artwork was ridiculed by this teacher in front of the class. I was used as an example of what “not to do” while the teacher laughed centering me out in the worst way possible. For this reason, I hated art class and was always nervous with this teacher. Despite my lack of talent, I always gave a valiant effort in each assignment. I remember praying that this teacher would recognize that over my abilities but continuously I was the recipient of open criticism in front of my peers. I knew I never wanted to treat a child this way ever! I am a teacher now and I always praise kid’s artwork, giving kind suggestions to those who struggle like me remembering how I felt as a kid. I did not fully realize how profoundly I had been affected by this experience though until I entered teacher’s college.
In teacher’s college I had a wonderful, kind, and warm art teacher. She had an infectious presence and wanted to convey her love for art to all she met. Our first assignment was to draw a dog. While others worked happily on their canine creations, I sat literally frozen with my pencil in hand. She kindly asked “What’s wrong Dana? Where is your dog?” I replied “I don’t know where to start? What type of dog should I draw?” With a sparkle in her eye, she replied “Any dog you want! There is no right or wrong here!” I thought … really? Wow! What a different attitude than what I was used to. I hesitantly began but, in the end, I drew a wiener dog that was not half bad actually. So different to have someone believe in me, instead of criticize. Her faith in me got me started on my assignment.
A favourite read aloud of mine is Ish by Peter H. Reynolds. In this story Ramon loves to draw, anything, anywhere but his love of drawing is crushed when his brother laughs at his creations. It leaves Ramon rattled and discouraged ready to give up drawing all together until his kind younger sister reminds him that drawings do not have to be absolutely perfect to have value. This notion liberates Ramon as he realizes that he can draw pictures that resemble things such as his fish drawing could be “fish-ish” or his house drawing could be “house-ish.” By looking at his artwork through this new lense Ramon sees himself as talented, and capable. What a beautiful story. I sure can relate to Ramon. I realized that I could make "ish" drawings too. I also know I want to be like Ramon’s sister and help bring out the greatness in people not squash their hopes and self esteem.
Recently I have discovered a wonderful resource that is called Art for Kids Hub. Through this magical and life changing YouTube channel, you are taught to draw adorable pictures step by step in a process called directed drawings. My students love doing these drawings and believe it or not so do I! When the task is broken down in tiny steps, even the most struggling artist can create something beautiful. I teach second grade. I was shocked at what my students drew in the end. Even more I was stunned at what I drew and very proud as well I might add. Something I once dreaded was something I actually looked forward to doing with my students. I must admit I chuckled to myself when one of my kiddos said “Wow! Mrs. R. You are an amazing artist!” I thought… Wow if you only knew!
We are all a work in progress in so many areas and that is perfectly ok. We all have areas we excel, areas we struggle a bit in and areas that are clearly not our forte. That is what makes everyone so beautiful. I am so glad we are all so different and blessed with different talents and abilities. When we acknowledge our strengths and limitations that makes us relatable and authentic. Maybe you feel “ish” in some area of your life. Don’t worry about it my friend. Keep working on it but in the meantime know there is still profound beauty in imperfection.
Until next time,
1 Peter 4:10 (NLT): God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
Little Lesson Learned: Be open to learning and growing. Self awareness is a wonderful thing, but don’t forget you are perfect just the way you are.
Copyright © 2021 littlelessonslearnedbydana
8/16/2021 06:31:12 pm
I love this. I’m an art teacher in a Christian school. This is my 32nd year here. I do a lot of directed drawing with my elementary students as well as some with the middle school and high school art classes. I teach concepts at kindergarten level that help them to understand things like perspective. I’m an encourager and I don’t allow any discouraging remarks by anyone. Each person is made in the image of God and have been given gifts and talents by Him Keep up the great work in your class of encouraging your students!!!!! I’m going to check out the website that you mentioned. Thank you very much for your post!
8/17/2021 07:03:54 am
I wish I had an art teacher like you when I was young. I appreciate your teaching style so much. That is exactly what kids need. 32 years already in teaching! That is absolutely incredible to think of how many lives you have impacted over your career. God bless you and thank you for your insights and comment.
8/17/2021 07:09:22 am
Keep working on your songwriting and singing! Good for you! I believe in you! God will use it for His glory. It is incredible what we can do when we believe in ourselves and have the desire to bless others with our talents and skills.God bless and thank you for your comment.
8/17/2021 08:36:17 am
What an excellent post Dana! Amazing what a little encouragement and positive affirmation can do for not only adults, but in particular kids.... Well written!
8/17/2021 10:06:49 am
Thanks so much Todd! We all sure need encouragement and yes it sure goes a long way to lift our spirits! God bless!
8/18/2021 07:13:57 am
Beautifully written, Dana. I see son many kids that say they 'can't" and shut down. I will definitely be adding this suggestion to my collection for use.
8/18/2021 10:14:23 am
Thank you so much!
8/19/2021 06:40:04 pm
Hi Dana. I am a high school math teacher and so many of my students say “I can’t do math” and give up before even trying. I’ve been trying to think of a new activity for the second day of school and you have helped me figure out a plan. We can do a guided drawing (or several) and I can maybe convince some students that math is something we can all do if we take it in small steps. Thanks for the inspiration!
8/20/2021 12:44:10 pm
That is a great idea and will surely boost their confidence for other subjects too like Math! I think they will really enjoy it and then you can transition to the math piece and growth mindset. Thanks for your comments!
8/20/2021 04:03:42 am
The tongue is a raging fire. I guess you need to decide if you want to burn up or warm up your kids. Good message.
8/20/2021 12:45:19 pm
Very true! Our words can so easily build up or tear down. I choose build up all the way! Thanks for your comment!
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