Career options for school-leavers
13th February 2017
Teaching beckoned me
13th February 2017

The role of the art teacher

Art gives learners freedom and promotes their sense of creativity, says Ferreira. Photo: Busisiwe Ntete.

Making art accessible so the magic can start happening

Cecilia Ferreira

I know that general criteria exist for teaching in general, however, I believe that my subject is entirely unique. Children feel different in the art class than in any other class. They move differently and act differently.
My classroom is a platform for authenticity, individuality and personal freedom. This doesn’t mean there is no discipline. It means that my quest is to provide freedom for my learners in order to open up those valuable, creative cognitive channels that only artistic practice can.
It is through these channels that a learner who comes from difficult circumstances at home can release fears and anxieties, or just escape their circumstances for a while. A whole new world of possibilities can open up for the learner through expressive techniques and stimulation of imagination (which is simply blooming at this age). Pablo Picasso once said that all children are artists I couldn’t agree more.
My goal as a teacher is not only to provide academic knowledge and technical skills relating to art but also to be some sort of counsellor, or someone they can open up to.
Your artworks reveal much about what is going on in your head, and I think that the two fields of art and psychology are intricately entertwined.
I have a specific interest in art as therapy. Many learners who are struggling academically in other areas excel in art, and there is nothing that thrills me more than seeing the look of pride and accomplishment on those faces.
I don’t shape a learner to use only one particular style or approach. One of my biggest aims is to let him or her develop his or her own style, by constantly reminding him or her that there is no right or wrong in art: there is beauty and possibility. There should, however, be some technical know-how otherwise, assessment would be practically impossible. I give high marks to projects that show application, experimentation and ability.
If I could spark art magic in a few learners so that they could one day choose to follow a career in art … then, I believe, my job done. My approach often leans towards graphic design instead of fine art in order to steer the learners towards a smart career choice one day.
On a practical level, I try and instil respect for art material in my learners. I need to be strict, as art material are very expensive and it is important for the learners to realise that it is a privilege to have wonderful art material, when many underprivileged schools only have pencils and wax crayons.
We overcome obstacles as a team by cleaning the class and organising and counting materials. The art class can very easily become chaotic: children become excited during the creative process and this is where discipline needs to be maintained. It is very important to be quiet and be in a calm mental space in order to let the creative juices flow. It pleases me to see learners getting so involved with their artwork that they almost go into some state of trance. When it is time to leave, many children don’t want to stop drawing. This is when I know that the lesson was successful.
Art is not some unattainable ability — it is in all of us — we just need to find ways to access it. This is where I step in, as an educator, to assist in making art accessible in order for the magic to start happening.
Cecilia Ferreira is an art teacher at Victoria Park Grey Primary in
Walmer, Port Elizabeth

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