Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pushing for Perfection

As parents we all think that our children are the brightest, most talented little creatures that ever lived and it's our job as parents to encourage and support our children. However, there is a line that occasionally gets crossed. We all know of those crazy soccer parents who are at every practice with a mug of coffee, a whistle and obnoxious commentary from the sidelines, or the parents that push their children into learning the violin at age 3. We all want our children to be the best and have happy healthy lives, but realistically they can't all be sports stars or masters of the violin, or in Binny and Mae's case award winning artists.

Hubby and I have encouraged art in our children's lives since the moment they were able to grasp a paintbrush or pencil. We see art as an expression of one's self and an outlet for their emotions. I can tell if Binny's having a good day or bad day based on a drawing and same for Mae. We never criticize their art and rarely ask "what is it?" because does it really matter what it is? Not to us. They are old enough now to draw things that are recognizable and they'll tell us what they drew, for example Binny drew a picture of me recently and came right out and said that it was a picture of me getting out of the shower. I couldn't have instructed her to draw such a thing; she thought of it on her own, drew it on her own, presented it to me on her own, and hung it on the fridge on her own. She feels a great sense of accomplishment when she can do something all by herself, why wouldn't she, she's 4.
At school, Binny's class has been learning about families for the past week. The children brought in photos of their families, practiced writing the names of all of their family members, and so on. Yesterday she brought home a handmade book with the title "My Family." On each page of the book was a drawing of each family member. One for mom, one for dad, one for Mae and one of herself. As I paged through the book I was quite pleased with her progress... until I got to the picture of her.
The picture she drew of herself reeks of adult "help." The hair, the eyes, the nose, the perfectly round face. That's just not Binny's style, and not the work I would expect out of the average 4 year old. I know she didn't draw this because I know my child and her drawings, and frankly I'm irritated that a teacher had the nerve to take a crayon from a child's hand and destroy the beautiful work she was creating. Her father and I know that she's still developing her drawing skills and we feel that she needs to learn this on her own or by example on A SEPARATE PIECE OF PAPER. I don't mind someone reinforcing that she needs to include all the features of a face, or instructing her to maybe use more than one color, but taking over and doing it for her, not my idea of constructive teaching.

To us, art is a very personal thing and judging someone by their artistic abilities just isn't fair. Either you have it or you don't. No different than the ability to sing (in a pleasing way- forget American Idol), dance, play an instrument, etc. If she were uninterested or had a short attention span I could maybe understand, but I know that's not the case and if so I would like to hear about it. Her report card came home yesterday, with all high marks and no concerns from the teacher. What gives?

These are two of Binny's recent drawings, both of herself.


Rachel said...

Could she have asked the teacher for help? Even still, the teacher should have encouraged her to draw on her own. Sometimes my kids get an idea in their head of how they want a drawing to look and get quite frustrated when they just can't get it right, so they ask me to help. I will usually draw an outline and let them fill in the colors or details. Anyway, I couldn't agree more, I love the 'imperfect' artwork of pre-schoolers!

I couldn't agree more

Aliceson said...

I guess I never thought of her asking the teacher. It's possible, but she's usually pretty confident in her drawing, so probably not. Also I should mention that one of the teachers is out sick and a substitute has been filling in, so maybe that's it.

sheila said...

Oh. I think this is way over the line. I wonder what the reason is. Weird.

I the same feelings on art/sports/etc as you. So i'm floored.

We let our kids try whatever they want. Sometimes they like it, sometimes not. The point's what THEY wanna try. I'm not gonna live out MY fantasies or dreams by making my kids do what I think they should.

btw, your DAUGHTERS drawings, are much prettier than the one the teacher drew.

Kelly said...

I bristled with anger reading this. Then I remembered that sometimes Violet whines for help so long and so loud that I just draw the damn unicorn for her. However, a note admitting to a "strong" collaboration between teacher and child is called for I think.

Out in Them Sticks said...

I just love your daughter's real drawings. They are just beautiful. I haven't dealt with teachers yet, but I agree with the others. It doesn't hurt to say something. :)

Shady Lady said...

Binny's drawings are beautiful. I think it's important to follow your heart and your instincts. A conversation is definitely in order. I'm sure you don't want her to feel that her own work is less than. Teachers should know better than to anger the mommy.

suchlovelyfreckles said...

Ugh, I don't know what I would do if I was in this situation. We don't usually deal with teachers, except for the classes we take at Village Home. And that's homeschooling community, where teachers generally do not interfere with the child's work. Yes, this was wrong. And yes, I'd tell the teacher to back off. :)

And by the way, the real Binny drawings are super cute.