One year, at the end of the year, all the kindergarten classes that I taught put together a book of their drawings, which they gave to me at the beginning of the following year. They did this because I saved their drawings from their English class which I had sorted into three (because there were three quarters in the year) books of English Drawings.
In the process of sorting the drawings, it became clear that many kindergartners forget to put their names on drawings. But it also became clear, that most of the time, I could tell who drew what, even though my sample of students was 162 students.
How is that possible?
Each student had things that he or she liked. Each one had a specific way of putting together images. Some of them were “more advanced” than others: they knew how to draw things behind each other, or how to draw the clothes on a person better than another; conversely some had very little idea how to show space, but were excellent at expression.
It was interesting to see how these drawings related to the students’ social and academic ability. Being their English Teacher my knowledge of their developmental progress was limited. I endeavored to speak only in English, and although I didn’t always succeed, the language barrier meant that the children didn’t confide in me as much as they did in their classroom teachers. Nor did they have the capability in English to express very much.
But because of their drawings, and how quickly or slowly they learned vocabulary, or solved the tangram puzzles that we used as support materials, there was already a lot of incidental information about my students’ developmental progress available to me.
When I collated their drawings into books, I wished that I had more time to look at each student’s drawings. That I could talk to them about their drawings instead of just asking them to name the plane or the cat in their drawings in English. This inability to connect on a deeper level to my students’ progress was sometimes quite stifling, and one of the reasons that my final year in Spain, I wanted to work with older children.
Now, I’m at a crossroads. In order to teach in the U.S. I need to get a certification which means more school. Since I have to do more school anyway, I’m thinking about studying Art Therapy.
The observation of those hundreds of drawings laid out on tables and chairs in the teacher’s lounge as I put them into the little booklets was one of my most moving experiences as a teacher. It was a concrete showing of what the young learners were coming to understand, and even more, it was like looking in their heads like the mother in Peter Pan who shuffles through her children’s thoughts while they are dreaming.
Looking at their drawings, I can’t remember anymore who did what but I can still see things about who these children were and where they were in the course of their growth. I’d love to see some of their drawings, now that they are in second grade. I’m sure they are quite different and quite the same.
Looking at the drawings of the girls I lived with, I can see a big difference from when we began our lessons and three years and a bit later when I left Madrid. They gave me some of the newest drawings to keep, and have mailed me more. This transformation is very dramatic and beautiful, and I wish I had the tools to better understand it. It is like some key to a room that I can tell is there, but inside of which lies I know not what!