I remember reading somewhere recently that an excellent way to motive a class is to say something like “I think this is probably too difficult for you….but we’ll give it a go anyway”. The philosophy being, give them a reason to prove you, the teacher, wrong!
At the time I didn’t think much of it, apart perhaps from thinking….’yeah….would they really go for that?’. Well, a couple of weeks later I have to admit to coming up with just such a statement (without intending to) to a class of 12 year olds and then watching them exceed what I thought they were capable of.
Most years I do a little perspective drawing with my first years. It fits in well with talking about the art of the Renaissance. Over time I’ve tried out various assignments, and for my own amusement and variation I continue to do this. This year I decided to try, with one of my classes, something a little more ambitious where they were to produce a two-point perspective interior space drawing, spread over two sheets of paper, with one pupil working on one half of the drawing and a second on the other. The idea was to simulate collaboration, teamwork and plenty of discussion (in English, as I teach them in English, which is the pupils’ second language), plus of course to learn about perspective.
After a first session working, fielding questions about vanishing points, how the area where to two pages came together should work and just how accurate it all needed to be, I went home feeling that this was perhaps one step too far.
I returned to the lesson the following week ready to explain this, and that I thought it better if we maybe went for something just a little less ambitious. There was total amazement and disagreement from the class. From their perspective they had invested a lesson puzzling it out and felt now that they knew what they needed to do. Slightly reluctantly I gave way to their view and we continued.
Two weeks later and we’re finished and while the standard of drawing from the class is varied (as it always is with any class), the grasp of the perspective rules they have been working with is fantastic, I’m hugely impressed.
Whether or not my ‘I think it’s too difficult for you’ moment with the class was the turning point we’ll never know for sure. But the way the pupils rose to the challenge was fantastic to see.