Friday, February 3, 2012

Response to Process vs. Product

I am so fortunate to visit in and out of buildings, programs, schools, centers and libraries! [You know my motto, "Have guitar, will travel!"] There's always something new to see and with my blog(s) and Pinterest now, I have a platform for sharing what I observe on the road. 

My recent article over at our collaborative blog, PreK+K Sharing, has stirred up a LOT of comments, feelings and insight regarding the creative process and children. For me to receive a dozen comments on a post is AMAZING!! But to be approaching two dozen lengthy responses in a couple days really turns my head around! To read the heart-felt expressions written in the comments department is incredible. 

One teacher left this sentiment, "Great post on a very conversational topic! I got into trouble in the very first school I worked at because I put children's art into the take home folders that wasn't "perfect". Those pieces were removed and replaced with carbon copy art work." 

I have a feeling that she's talking about this sort of snowman work, where the head is floating precariously away from its foundation. Perhaps this is the sort of project that would have been deemed unacceptable for the take-home folder in her first place of employment?

If you work with young children are you ever tempted to:
  • "fix" a child's artwork to fit the parental or program's expectation?
  • "tidy-up" a child's project to make it look more like the model?
  • "fluff" a child's efforts to meet your own sensibilities?
  • "wiggle" a child's wet project before it dries?
Does your program have those sort of expectation of you as a teacher?

I think that the snowmen pictured above are an example of the middle ground of process vs. product..... perhaps more toward the product end of the continuum. The whole creation of the snowman is formulaic as a base foundation. There are precut pieces that require some 'assemblage.'

These were created by 3 year olds. The actual placement of noses and feeties et. al.  were obviously child-directed. The snow fall of white paint is obviously open-ended and child directed and the one 'process' componant of the finished pieces. Does this please the parent need for refrigerator products and still give some room for each child's interpretation? What do you think?

Here's a heart-breaking response written from a parent's perspective: 

"I love your article, process is the only way to recreate children who are courageous enough to be creative...when my daughters were in "middle" school they were in an art class and asked to create a certain type of picture, they both worked very hard and were very proud of their accomplishment....unfortunately their art teacher didn't view the art with the same girls never tried the creative process again, art needs to be a process of wonder not a grade to fit the criteria of someones agenda."

This response from a favorite Art teacher really concerns me dramatically:
"Kids don't like when their work looks DIFFERENT, and I swear it's this whole "teach to the test" mentality. Everyone needs to pass the test. There is a right answer and a wrong answer. If their artwork looks like the teacher's then they're doing the project right. If their work looks even a teensy-weensy bit "off", it's wrong. Kids are intimidated by Art---if they can't draw, they aren't good. That is why I make SURE that I do TONS of different media (weaving, clay, wire sculpture, collage, scribble, splatter, cute, glue, drawing, etc) so that the students see that they are successful in SOME SORT OF MEDIUM, not just drawing.

I understand their frustration, and I understand HOW they got to that point, unfortunately. I've seen a huge shift in creativity in the past few years, since the FCAT (in my state, fill-in-the-blank-with-your-state's-version-of-the-standardized-test-here) has pressured SO many students to come up with the RIGHT answer. Students don't think analytically anymore, they're totally product-oriented. It's a sad transition.   (I edited here for brevity..... there's more to read in her original comment.) 

I knew that it was very different for 'me' to be expressing an opinion in my article, and  I anticipated that there would be a variety of responses to the examples I shared, but I can promise you that I had no idea to anticipate the types of responses that have been shared to this point. I am so proud that Amy Ahola started my engine with her kick-off on her article, "We Love Paint"  and then held my hand behind the scenes to help me step-up-to-the-plate on the issue. It seems there's plenty of room for conversation here. 

AFTER DINNER UP-DATE!!!! I pinned the picture of the two stop-lights above on my Pinterest PreK board and asked a question in the description area. What I intended by that was to invite people here to answer. LOW + BEHOLD there are currently nine 'lengthy' comments over there! (In my Pinterest addiction, I've never seen nor instigated anything of the sort.) 

Here's a whistle-blower's response from the Pinterest comments: 

I'm sorry, but I'm a preschool aide, and I've worked with a lot of teachers that "fix" the kids projects to make them look "better". The teacher I am with now, and I, only help when necessary (like squeezing glue bottles, tearing tape, etc.) I find it somewhat unusual that none of the teachers or aides or parents that have commented have admitted to "fixing". I guess none of the guilty parties want to comment about it! But, there are teachers out there that do it! 

Oh WOW! An insider's experience.  A Preschool WHISTLE-BLOWER! She's seen it!

Originally I was going to write this post and tie together the white added snow flakes in the preschoolers Art to the white design elements in the elementary school Art below, but that whole concept got thrown out with the bath water. I had already made this collage. So enjoy it for what-its-worth.  I'm am just 'whelmed' by all of this! 

What's your experience?
Where do you fall on the continuum?
Which prepares you most for 'the real' world'???

--Debbie --

I am so eager to hear your feedback!!!
And come back tomorrow -- I've got a big article to share on Fine Motor Development, with specific suggestions!

Article linked to Link & Learn Also lined to Kreative Resources.
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Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!
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