As was the case during my elementary experience I have found my calm attitude to be an advantage for high school students. For many of my students the art room is an escape and having a calm attitude helps them relax, de-stress and focus. Reflecting on my own experiences in high school, I looked forward to art class as my opportunity to be creative and de-stress from my other classes. My high school art teacher would start every art class with little exercises aimed at getting us to shift from our right brain to our left in order to be in the right state of mind for art making. She would also play light, instrumental music to help us focus. The combination of the exercises, her demeanor and the music created a safe space where we could explore ourselves and our art. While I haven’t incorporated similar exercises into my own lessons I think an overall calm or relaxing feeling to the classroom helps that shift happen and allows students to feel comfortable with the work they are doing and with me.
I always try to present myself as genuinely as possible to my students. I speak naturally, include appropriate personal information, make jokes and try to notice and relate to their world. Simple things like mentioning how you got soaking wet bringing in groceries on the weekend reminds students that you're human too. One goal that I have for myself, as a teacher, is to continuously challenge my students. I want them to explore new concepts, materials and ideas boldly. In order for students to really push themselves and take that leap they have to feel comfortable and trust you as the teacher. It's important that your students know that they can take those risks because they have your support. I have found that in order for students to trust you they have to be able to relate to you and build a relationship. Being genuine and honest with them makes students feel like they can and want to build a relationship with you and that opens up the door to be able to really challenging them to grow.
Looking back I think there are opportunities for me to be a bit more of a performer. I think I can improve on variety, projection and volume in my voice. I think that adding more variety to my voice and projecting to the entire room will help keep students engaged. While I try to have variety throughout each lesson there are many times when you are relaying important information to the class and you need them to really listen for an extended period of time. Sometimes, an aspect of the lesson is complex and needs detailed explanation, sometimes, there is a new tool or material that requires demonstration and other times, there are safety concerns that students need to be aware of; in all these cases students need to be fully engaged and listening and adding variety your voice, projecting, moving around the room and being animated can help them.