Providing Space for Leadership and Creativity: Lessons From Ashley

“Art is the key to creativity, stress reduction, and problem-solving. Kids who have space to create and make seem to enjoy not only the results but the process of creating art.” Ashley grade 8 Health Sciences Middle School

Meet Ashley, the leader of our afterschool art club. During a parent conference, her dad brought in a picture that this young lady had painted. I had no idea she had that kind of talent and passion for art. She was quiet in class, all smiles, but often I felt like she was overwhelmed in our day to day activity in our classroom. I wanted to get to know her more, and find a way to help her open up more in our class discussions and take more leadership in group projects and lessons.

We were talking about ways in which students could complete their requirements for our Humanities Honors program, and Ashley asked if she could start an afterschool art club. She noticed that many kids liked hanging out after school and not everyone wanted to be part of the sports program. She and a few friends spent lunch times drawing in sketchbooks and would love more time for art. I was thrilled to support her project and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.

Here is the lesson I have learned this year by creating a social action project option for our students, leadership evolves when students are truly passionate about what they are allowed to create themselves. One of the things our site does is honor the aspirations of our students. We constantly evaluate what students care about by asking them in a variety of ways to share what their goals and dreams are, and then bring in materials, books, articles and projects or options for them to explore in those areas. This is just another example of the many things that go on at our site.

The first day of art club I sat in the back of the room prepared to help quiet the group, or get materials, or organize something in some way. It was soon apparent my skills were not needed, and my role would be exactly as it should be, a guide on the side of the project, there to support and celebrate the work. Ashley took over the room with this big smile and confident voice. She surveyed students on their art experience and interests, developed a sign in sheet, a calendar of projects based on student interest and gave me a list of supplies we would need. She worked with other social action projects making posters or cards or whatever was necessary to support their work. She skillfully taught art lessons and allowed other students to share their skills as well. I can’t wait to see her final presentation next week alongside other projects at our school symposium.

Lesson learned from Ashley, let them lead. Give them guidance but for the most part, stand back, ask supportive questions and get out of their way.

One thought on “Providing Space for Leadership and Creativity: Lessons From Ashley

  1. Yarn! Macrame’ knots! Takes me back to the stitchery days when I worked in your 5th grade classroom and learned that the boys in the room had no preconceptions about “how-to” and just dug in—everything was possibility for them as they let the materials teach them what worked and what didn’t. I remember Eric the budding philosopher who sighed a big sigh and said: “That’s the trouble with adults, Mrs. Mullen. They don’t really believe in flying saucers, but they want to tell you what color they should be!” I also remember telling them that “in stitchery EVERY color is a mouse color” to encourage them to let their imaginations fly. And fly they did.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *