Understanding the world through art-My grandmother’s story.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
― Pablo Picasso

I am dreadfully in love with Sir Ken Robinson, and have been since I heard his first Ted talk entitled  “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” My interpretation of his talk, therefore, may be a bit biased. I think it is so important to bring humor to important topics such as education, for many reasons. The first is that it helps to grab the attention of what may otherwise be an uninterested audience. Also, it brings joy to the simple task of listening. Sir Ken Robinson manages to be both humorous and serious, both joyful and fearful.

When he began discussing the topic of ‘No Child Left Behind’ in his talk, I perked up in my chair. This has been a politically dividing topic for what seems to be the majority of my lifetime. Improving eduction is at the forefront of most every politicians mind, however the way in which we go about improving it is a different topic entirely. What about the students who are in school but do not enjoy being in school? What about the student who learns differently? We certainly don’t want to leave these students behind. We must not only recognize the importance of education, but also acknowledge how different each children is from one another and how differently they learn. We mustn’t conform. He continues, “A real education has to give equal weight to the arts, the humanities, and to physical eduction.”
I’m going to use my grandmother as an example, for a few reasons. She grew up with dyslexia. She is an artist. She is a philanthropist. She donated millions of dollars to have an arts center built on campus. Her name is P. Buckley Moss, my mom’s mother, and she is absolutely incredible. Her childhood, however, was far from incredible. The way her story differs from many other children similar to her was this: a teacher in grade school recognized her talent in the arts and helped her to find a way to incorporate art into her schooling, which she otherwise did not excel. Her dyslexia prevented her from understanding simple math equations. She still spells my name wrong from time to time on birthday cards. For her, it took one person, one teacher, to recognize that she was different and to embrace her talents and interests rather than using them as a crutch to hold her back. Art changed my grandmother’s life for the better, and I wonder where she would be today if her artistic mind was not given the opportunity to flourish in her elementary school classroom. According to Robinson, “the arts aren’t just important because they improve math skills, they are important because they speak to parts of children being which are otherwise untouched.” I’m grateful that my grandmother had the opportunity to learn and grow immersed in her artwork and embraced by her educators.
How important it is for all educators to recognize the support needed by students who learn differently. How important it is for educators to teach them differently. Classrooms and schools mustn’t be molded and shaped to fit the ideals of a group of legislators. We cannot lose sight of the little minds and the little souls inside those little bodies. We cannot forget that at the very root of the word humanities is ‘human.’ Let us praise and celebrate the true and immeasurable beauty of what makes us human– our differences.
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7 thoughts on “Understanding the world through art-My grandmother’s story.

  1. That’s a really cool story! Thank you so much for sharing!! How do you see yourself incorporating the arts or other student strengths into your classroom? I would be interested to know how you have or plan to support students who learn differently in your own classroom.

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    1. That’s a great question. I think about this a lot. I think the most important thing is being consciously aware of how your students are processing information. To connect with them at a deep enough level that they feel comfortable sharing their weaknesses and struggles. I realize that this is one of the more difficult tasks when handling a large classroom, but we mustn’t lose sight of the individual. Had my grandmother been passed aside as just another “lazy” student, which is oftentimes the label given to students who struggle in the classroom, she may have never reached the place in her life that she enjoys today. I think the answer to your question is very complex though, and I hope to get better insight into this issue throughout the semester!

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  2. That’s awesome that the Moss Arts Center is named after the philanthropy of your maternal grandmother. What’s even more awesome, is the potential recognized by the teacher for her greatness that allowed her to achieve, thereby facilitating the philanthropy!

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  3. What a lovely story! Many thanks to your grandmother for helping create the Moss Arts Center here at VT– its a beautiful, state-of-the-art building.
    Isn’t it ironic that NCLB sets high standards, focusing on standardize testing, and doesn’t cater to those students who learn/think differently? I always thought the term “No Child Left Behind” was an oxymoron. As you say, educators need to be aware of and accommodate their students who are different. Like your grandmother’s story, there are ways to accommodate these students (such as incorporating art into the classroom), however, more educators need to learn these teaching techniques.

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  4. You are absolutely right to mention laughter! Laughter and Humor maintain students’ attention and help them memorize more the key content of the course. It also creates a great environment in which students are immediately comfortable to participate.

    As for you grandmother, first of all; THANK YOU. I love the Moss Arts Center, it is one of those places that made Blacksburg so much more entertaining culturally speaking.

    Indeed, professors can have a tremendous impact on their student if they interpret some difficulties as a potential to expand, grow and explore. They can change a lifetime through their dedication to students.

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