Last year, while attending a parents only Back-to-School night, I took a picture of my daughter’s drawing hanging up in the classroom. When I got home, I sat her down and asked why her self-portrait was crying. She said sadly “because my drawing isn’t as good as everyone else’s portraits”
… Yes her drawing in fact did not look anything like the drawings of all of her peers. You see they were instructed to draw their portrait a certain way and were given a step by step tutorial of what it should look like.
I was crushed. It’s hard enough to see your child sad, but then to see them draw themselves sad is too much for any mom to take. It was in that moment, I began to tell her about really famous artists and all the different ways they create art. I pulled up paintings by a little known man named Pablo Picasso. Her somber face succumbed to smiles as we looked through google images of Picasso’s work…
I asked her “What do these paintings remind you of?”
Almost giggling with excitement she answered “My self-portrait!”
And for just one moment, I felt like I won at Motherhood.
Weeks later, I had a conference with this teacher in which I brought up my daughter’s portrait. Her response “well maybe if she listened more during the lesson, her portrait would look like everyone else’s.” What?! Again, I was crushed… mainly because this teacher was fully aware of my child’s special needs and learning disabilities… this wasn’t math, this was ART!!! A place for special minds to create and express themselves, “there is no wrong way to create art!” I replied. I should know, I was raised by an incredible Artist… my mother. I went on to explain to this teacher that in that moment she missed an opportunity. It could have been a teaching moment, to celebrate each child’s unique, creative form of expression. What a perfect history lesson it could have been on Pablo Picasso:)
That week, we changed her teacher.
Disclaimer: I would like to note, this post is in no way bagging on teachers or even this particular teacher… I’m sure she is gifted in other ways, teaching children with special needs may not be one of them. And I have the absolute highest level of respect and admiration for teachers and all they do. In the same school, I have seen my child with special needs thrive due to some of the most amazing teachers. I write this more for us parents and teachers to keep an eye out for those “Picasso” teaching moments. You have the power to literally turn a child’s tear of disappointment into giggles of excitement.
I will end with a quote that goes something like “don’t ask a child to live in your world… visit their world instead.”
by Lucy Riles, Life of Mom Co-Founder