My son, at 10 months, going through his right of passage into the art world.
Bob Ross, the man who taught people how to paint happy little trees, rivers, mountains and more. He was the oil landscape guru, RIP.
It's been about a year now since I left my teaching position at NIST International school to be a stay at home Mom for my son for a couple of years, big thanks to my headmaster for understanding the importance of family time, and after the dust settled from having a newborn I had some time to reflect on my past teaching practice and the skills versus inquiry question is something I've been thinking a lot about. Here's the conclusion I've arrived at.
It's okay to teach skills. I have been teaching the IB program, ( mostly MYP with some DP and and PYP sprinkled in), for several years now and I have definitely been bitten by the inquiry bug which seems to make it's home in the IB philosophy. I believe in student-based learning, not teacher-centered learning; I believe in asking open-ended questions, student choice and in differentiation. For the past several years most of my PD has been sponsored by the IB or by inquiry guru's like Cathryn Berger Kaye and I've learned a lot about how to teach, not just art but just, teach well. I've prefaced what I'm about to say with all of these facts because I want the reader to understand that I really, really do value these things highly. With all that being said, I've come to believe that subject- specific skills are also a crucial spoke in the wheel and that this has been something I had not focused on as much for the past few years. I had a strong fear of boxing my students in and limiting their creativity by limiting their choices and demonstrating techniques. I was convinced that this would be too dictatorial and teacher-centered. It's not that I never taught skills to my students, but skill building was something that I began to consider less important than the concepts. After having some distance from teaching I've decided that creativity with reasonable limitations is a positive thing and that the demonstration and modeling of skills is actually a very valuable and effective way of teaching. It's the balance of concept driven, flexible, open-ended, and individualised learning with organised, skill-building that I'm aiming to develop as I re-enter the teaching world in the next couple of years. I want my students to pursue their ideas freely and to always ask themselves the 'why' questions but I also want them to have the knowledge and skills needed to make informed decisions about the 'how' questions in order to create well-executed products. The journey is the destination and often more valuable than the end result, but, the pride that my students feel when they have worked really hard on something and overcome challenges to create something that is well made and true to their vision is something that I want them to all be able to experience.