CGS Professional Development Blog
Hoping to improve my understanding of what is developmentally appropriate for students of Art, I searched out a course which would give me insight into the projects and outcomes that occur in in various early and middle grade Art classes. The course was called: “A Visual Arts Intensive in Painting and Drawing for Teachers.”
The course was conducted by the Artist, Author and Teacher, Evan Van James. I had read one of his books, “Drawing with the Head, Hand, and Heart; a natural approach to the art of drawing” and had found it interesting and useful. I expected that taking a class from this artist would be a way to establish improvements in my teaching practice, giving me practical applications for the Art room that would be appropriate for the student’s age and sensibility.
The course lasted 6 consecutive days. It was attended by a dozen people about half of whom were teachers from other countries. It was most scintillating to discuss the developmental ability of “the child” with people from different cultures. The sharing of our experiences in the Art room pointed out the tension that exists in attempting to reconcile what is developmentally appropriate for “the child,” according to some standardized model of the child, and what is the actual development of a specific child within the context of a classroom and culture. In other words, to a person, we struggled with defining what outcomes should occur at what moment, and how to assess the outcome with some reasonable objectivity. The exploration of a large group of exemplars of student work offered us some benchmarks, however, these benchmarks seemed strongly influenced by culture and the previous experience of the child and teacher.
Our course was practical and we painted and drew various representations in various ways, moving from pre-school to grade 9. Mostly we worked in watercolor, chalk and pencil. It was most enjoyable to be the student. It caused me to reflect on the experience of the students in my class. Were they as relaxed as they could be when doing projects? What environmental conditions could/should be offered to make the experience richer? Does the teacher explain too much or too little? What is the role of personal exploration within the static assignment?
We were instructed in a way, which, at it’s heart, revealed the continuum of developmental processes. Foundational techniques develop with the child to become more advanced. It was a very positive experience to see an organized pedagogy of techniques ‘scaffolding’ across the grades. Yet, this recognition of advanced practice building upon earlier understandings did make me aware that we do not have a comprehensive system in place at our school. Despite the amount of ‘art’ work we do in the elementary grades, we do not actually teach artistic techniques in any meaningfully organized manner but rather it is by chance that many students receive instruction at all. And it is by chance that the student’s work in the higher grades echoes of past art experiences in school.
I took many solid techniques for Art in the classroom away from this course, but more so, I took many ‘little, subtle, insights into how one must develop a nuanced approach when teaching. I also found the whole course rejuvenating of my personal artistic spirit. I remembered that I once loved drawing and drew often. I realized I had displaced my desire for drawing with distraction of digital programs. I also felt reassured in the validity of artistic experiences being necessary for the growth of a child, particularly if we wish fully authentic citizens to arise out of our educational system.
Making Sense of Anxiety by Gordon Neufeld
‘Dr. Neufeld’s approach has the power to change, if not save, the lives of our children.’ -The National Post
About Gordon Neufeld
Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D. is a Vancouver-based developmental psychologist with over 30 years of experience with children and youth and those responsible for them. He is a foremost authority on child development, an international speaker, a bestselling author (Hold On To Your Kids), and a leading interpreter of the developmental paradigm.
Dr. Neufeld’s professional experience includes years of working with violent young offenders and thousands of consultations regarding youth with aggression problems. His personal experience includes having been a father to five adolescents of his own. Dr. Neufeld is not only a seminal theorist but also a seasoned therapist and an inspiring teacher.
Dr. Neufeld’s unique synthesis of the developmental literature and his exceptional ability to make children understandable has made him much in demand as a speaker. His style is dynamic, his approach is refreshing, and his effect is to affirm intuition. His insights are regularly sought by experts and media alike. Dr. Neufeld consistently receives outstanding ratings for his courses and seminars.
Because of his ability to make sense of complex problems, Dr. Neufeld is a much sought-after speaker. He gives over 40 presentations and educational seminars a year and has been invited to present at the following: First National Symposium on Bullying, Ottawa, 2002; Educational Symposium on the State of Education in Nagano, Japan, 2002; Focus Conferences on Violence, International Counselling Congress, Canadian Teacher’s Federation Symposium on Youth Violence, Educational Symposium in Portland, Oregon; and WONCA World Conference on Family Medicine.
Dr. Neufeld’s book Hold on to Your Kids with Dr. Gabor Mate was released by Knopf Canada in January, 2004 and has made several best-selling lists.
About the Conference
The escalating level of anxiety in our children begs for an explanation as well as a solution. Dr. Neufeld sheds light on this age-old problem, paving the way for natural intervention that can actually get to the root causes as opposed to just managing symptoms. This workshop brings a fresh and promising perspective to one of our most troubling and perplexing human problems. Although the focus is on children, this enlightening material will benefit anyone suffering from anxiety. The time has finally come to be able to answer the problem of anxiety.
What Was Covered
Session One – Neuroscience of Anxiety
The key discovery here is of a complex and comprehensive human alarm system
Session Two – Anxiety, Attachment & Vulnerability
To discover what alarms us, we need to go to the science of attachment and redefine our understanding of human threat
Session Three – Working Model of Anxiety
Understanding where obsessions and compulsions come from and outlining seven classical themes in our anxieties
Session Four – Addressing Anxiety
Six surprising solutions are described for reducing the anxiety in our children
This was a profoundly moving experience for me – both personally and professionally. We were first introduced to the theories of Dr. Neufeld at our staff retreat in February 2015 when we learned about Attachment Theory. In a nutshell, attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space – to be loved, to be connected, to feel that we belong and that we matter. When any of these aspects of human connection are missing, we are deeply impacted.
There is a lot of information to be found online about Attachment Theory – a quick search turned up several comprehensive sites. The wiki page can be found here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_theory
The workshop I took in Edmonton focused on Attachment Theory as it relates to anxiety, trauma and stress in children.
If You Want to Learn More
To watch a condensed version of what I learned over the 2 day conference, you can watch the video linked here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hymwvaZ9oKg
I gained a lot of insight during this three day workshop. If you want to learn more about Attachment Theory and Dr. Neufeld’s approach to helping our kids, I encourage you to read his book Hold on to Your Kids. It’s a powerful and important book and highly reviewed. Check out the listing on Amazon.ca here: http://www.amazon.ca/Hold-Your-Kids-Parents-Matter/dp/0307361969/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442345877&sr=8-1&keywords=hold+onto+your+kids
If You Want to Take a Course
The Neufeld Institute is an awesome site that offers online courses and DVDS for sale. Everything from helping your children navigate the digital world, to Aggression, Discipline and Attention. You can even purchase the 4 hour course that I took in Edmonton on Anxiety. Prices for DVDs and audio books are totally affordable and really worth it. I am continually impressed by how comprehensive Dr. Neufeld is without being overwrought with too much heady information.
Here’s the link for the website: