A little thought
For those who do not know yet, I am an Art teacher in one of the schools in Metro Manila. I have been an Art teacher for 21 years, the same number of years I have been married. Not that that is relevant but just to give you an idea of how old I am. Teaching has never been my intended vocation, though. I am a Fine Arts graduate with an Advertising major but never got to practice this trade. I worked as soon as I graduated. Meaning I took whatever was available.
Anyway, not having been trained to be a teacher, I labored each day during my first years of teaching. I had to learn the tricks of the trade, sometimes, painfully. I had to learn to deal with each problem that came my way. Slowly, I learned what works and what does not work with my lessons. I kept those lessons that many were able to grasp, threw away those that were too hard to comprehend. Always a hit or miss with my lessons, I tried to come up with a cohesive syllabus, a word which meaning II did not have a full grasp of at the time I started.
Anyway, I have been thinking about showing examples to students. First and foremost, examples that we show the students should always be what we, in the academic world as "authentic material". By this we mean those that are seen in print and has been available to the public. Hence, if say for example that a teacher, who writes poems, should want to show a poem as an example, it should only be those that have been published and not a personal poem, he/she has written. Of course, with subjects like Science, authentic material would be an actual leaf, or whatever material is being discussed rather than showing a picture or a drawing.
At any rate, will showing examples in art, like painting styles, be beneficial to the learner. My theory is that sometimes, they are not. While it is true that examples facilitate in the understanding of a concept being taught and at best, trigger an idea for the day's project, I have the feeling that sometimes, they stand in the way for new creative ideas to prosper.
Showing examples may limit the avenue for the creation of a new style or concept since the learner has fixed his/her standard of beauty based on the example. Hence, the learner might not try to explore new avenues to attack the problem/project on hand. And yet, we must remember that the great artists, especially during the modern era, became what they are in the Art world simply because they did not go with the flow. They rebelled with what was considered as the norm. Remember, too, that art is the pursuit of beauty, which is relative in the first place. This line of thinking, again, posed a big problem for me during my first years of teaching. What if a student submits a mere line on the premise that this is his ideal of beauty? Would you have considered this as creative seeing that he/she diverted from the norm or is this a product of sheer laziness? It took me a while to learn how to parry a retort like this one. First, I should know how a student works in class. Secondly, know how his/her mind works. And lastly, come up with projects that has less subjectivity in it.