I have always envied the artistic and creative people in the world. Those who can draw, paint, sculpt and make amazing artworks with ease have my admiration. Like most students, I studied Art as a subject in my early years of high school but as I didn’t experience immediate success I became frustrated and channelled my energies into the things at which I seemed to be more naturally adept.
After all, I thought, you are either good at art or you are not; and after my lack lustre artistic attempts as an adolescent I mentally classified myself in the latter category.
Over the last couple of years, I have been faced with health challenges that have left me unable to enjoy many of the physical activities that would normally occupy my leisure time. So, not being one who is content to sit around and do nothing, I set myself a challenge to come up with a new hobby or interest that was more suitable to someone with my current physical limitations.
As I contemplated my options I remembered a conversation that I had with one of our teachers at Cedars, Mrs Claremont. Both Mrs Claremont and her husband Richard are what I would call “creative people” and Richard in particular is a successful artist. In the conversation I had with Mrs Claremont I was expressing my admiration and appreciation of art when she surprised me by saying “you know anyone can learn how to draw and paint”. At first I thought this may have simply been an encouraging throw away statement but as I thought more about it I realised that drawing and painting should be like any other skills and thus there is no reason why I, even at my age, could not learn them if I had the right instruction and was committed to the process.
So given my new circumstances, I set out to put this theory to the test by trying my hand at drawing.
Not being one to do anything half-heartedly, I equipped myself with everything I thought I would need for my new hobby. I purchased a sketch book, various pencils, sharpener, eraser and most importantly a book entitled “how to draw anything”. After reading the first chapter of this step-by-step book I felt confident enough to put pencil to paper. I soon found that with the right equipment and instruction, combined with patience and perseverance I could actually draw a simple landscape.
As the days and weeks progressed I worked my way through more chapters of the book and discovered my drawing was becoming increasingly more detailed and realistic. Although I still didn’t have anything worth framing, I found myself proudly showing off my sketches to friends and family members who seemed impressed with my growing level of skill. Perhaps there was some truth to this idea that “anyone can draw” after all?
As an educator one of my primary roles is to ensure that each one of our students at Cedars is continually challenged to learn and develop their skills in a wide variety of areas.
It is exciting to see our youngest students in Prep and Kindergarten embrace almost every learning experience before them with enthusiasm and confidence. However, as the years progress and students become more aware of their areas of strength and weakness there is a tendency to develop a reluctance to do the things they don’t experience immediate success in. While continuing to develop our strengths is normal and healthy, it is equally important not to impose limitations on ourselves or our children by pigeon-holing them according to this.
We aim to overcome this at Cedars by encouraging and supporting our students to continually try new things, develop new friendships, persist in areas of difficulty and recognise that success and mastery of skills almost always takes time.
For many years, it was believed that as we aged, the connections in the brain became fixed. Research, however, now tells us that in fact our brain never stops growing and changing through learning. This phenomenon, called neuroplasticity refers to the capacity of the brain to change with learning. Changes associated with learning occur mostly at the level of the connections between neurons where new connections can form and the internal structure of the brain changes. In other words, God has designed our brains so brilliantly that we can continue to learn new things and improve our skills in any area throughout our lifetime. I for one am definitely grateful for this and look forward to continuing to develop my skills in drawing throughout the year.
While I may never produce anything worthy of an exhibition, I am encouraged by knowing that each time I draw my brain is changing to accommodate my increasing level of skill.
As we embark on a new school year my challenge to all students, staff and parents in the Cedars community is to carefully consider their goals for 2018. And in doing so, try not to be limited by past experiences, disappointments, frustrations or even failures. Instead embrace new opportunities for learning wholeheartedly seeing these as prospects for continued growth and improvement.