May 14, 2011

Failing in Art Class

The only way to make progress as an artist is to fail and fail a lot. It means you're taking risks. A lot of the greatest successes and discoveries have come from "failures."

In school, failing is not taught. We teach kids that there is only one "right" answer out of four A,B,C, and D. So when my students get discouraged because there drawing doesn't look "right" I totally get it. We all want to make things that are beautiful and right. . . but how can we do that if we don't allow ourselves to fail? And, is there really a "right" answer?

I had to find a way to let the kids know it's okay if their work isn't "right." It's part of the process. So before they crumple their work for the garbage, I tell them about some of the most famous failures. . .  here are a few.

Have you heard about the guy who tried to invent the strongest glue in the world? No not the guy who invented super glue . . . the guy who invented the adhesive on post it notes. Spencer Silver set out to make a super strong adhesive and instead created a low tack adhesive. He was intrigued by his failure and shared it. One of his friends came up with the idea of using it to create book marks. He was tired of losing his book marks in his hymnal. So from his failure POST IT notes were invented.
James Wright was working on finding a way to make rubber. So he poured some boric acid on silicon and made a strange gooey putty. This failure was forgotten about until Peter Hodgson thought of a new use for it "Silly Putty"! which made him a very rich man.
If it weren't for a "failure" there would be no such thing as potato chips. An unsatisfied customer wanted his potatoes sliced thinner and cooked longer. The chef got so mad he sliced them paper thin, salted them and "over" cooked them. To his surprise the customer loved them and everybody started asking for potato chips.

And let's not forget some of our most favorite and famous leaders are essentially failures. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. J.K. Rowling is no stranger to failure she describes it as "a stripping away of the inessential." Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for not having any creative ideas. 

These are just some fun facts that I like to work into conversations with my students. If it doesn't inspire them to be brave in art at least it will give them some interesting dinner conversation.

Do you know of any other famous failures? How do you deal with the "I CANT'S" that seem to be popping up this time of year. As spring time fills the art room and students get more distracted it is important for us teachers to remember too that a "failed" lesson might lead us to a new and awesome idea. 


ArtfulArtsyAmy said...

Good thoughts! I have a girl crier, who -I swear- finds something EVERY class to cry over. Apparently, it isn't just art, and all of us teachers are working to collectively help her.

It is hard to not hug a crying 1st grader, but I've learned in this case that forcing her to be responsible for her feelings and mastering them -when needed- is better.

She cried again on Friday because she "didn't cut it right." I took a deep breath, looked at her and said: "Have you ever done anything in here that we couldn't fix or turn into to something new and wonderful?" She shook her head no. I continued: "Well, then. I will tell you that we can make what you have work. But, I wont' help you until you can come and ask me for help without crying." And, WALKED AWAY.

It really kinda killed me. I worried I was being too harsh (for someone so young).

30 SECONDS later she skipped up, no tears in sight, and asked for help.

:) There is no failures in art class, just moments for ingenuity.

Unknown said...

I totally have that kid! Are you sure we don't teach in the same place??? That was the best way to handle the situation, honestly it's tougher on the teacher then the student.