Don’t Take it Personally! Some Students don’t like Art Class

By The Arty Teacher - April 14, 2019

‘Don’t Take it Personally! Some Students don’t like Art Class’ is a guest post from Art Teacher Madelyn Hewins from Don Tyson School of Innovation in Springdale, Arkansas. I read this on her blog ‘Teaching from my heART‘ and thought she had some wise words to share.  You can also find her on Facebook.

Some students don’t like art class. And guess what? That’s totally okay with me.

Similarly, I don’t like baseball. Did it hurt my dad’s feelings because he loves baseball? Not at all, because he knows that it’s nothing personal. I don’t have a job as a baseball player because I found out at a young age that I was not passionate about baseball. Instead, I followed my own passion of becoming an art teacher, which made my dad SO proud!

We should feel the same way about our students! High schoolers are weird because they don’t always know what they like. They’re still figuring out who they are (just like everyone else!!). I’m an adult and I feel confused about who I am still- so I know that confusion is even worse for my students. It’s often more clear to them what they do NOT like, and sometimes that thing is art.

I want students to appreciate art, and it’s significance today and throughout history, but it doesn’t hurt my feelings if they don’t love my class. If everyone made art, it would be even harder to be an artist. If everyone was good at painting, there wouldn’t be jobs for painters, because everyone would just DIY their painting projects! Our world needs artists- but it also needs viewers, curators, and buyers!!

What do we do when we end up with those students in our class?

1. Encourage, encourage, encourage! Teach them about growth mindset. Tell them to try even if they might fail. Do not compare them to other students, yourself, or Picasso. One student’s best effort might only be as good as another’s worst effort. Focus on personal growth rather than comparison, and tell students to do the same!

2. Make relationships, even if they don’t like art, they will like your class if they know you care. Find out what they do like. Is it baseball? Let them make art about baseball!! Help them figure out their passions, then show them how their passions can benefit from art. If they love helping people- let them make art to give away as random acts of kindness. If they love orginization- let them make art in a bullet journal. If they love animals- let them draw animals and sell their work to raise money for a local shelter. If they don’t know what they love, let them make a vision board to help figure it out. When they see how art connects to their passions, they’ll have more passion about art.

3. Focus on their strengths. Sometimes the only reason students don’t like something is because they aren’t good at it, but they’re not good at it because they don’t practice- this is a vicious cycle! Help them figure out what they CAN do, make it about something they DO like and you will see even the laziest students start to care about their artwork.

4. Don’t take it personally. You are not a failure because students dislike your class. You can’t save every soul that walks through your classroom door- and that’s okay, just keep doing you! You will win over more students, and be a happier teacher if you allow yourself to be yourself in your classroom!

Everyone wants to feel comfortable in their own skin. Don’t you remember high school? That was definitely my biggest struggle as a high school student. We can help them feel comfortable in their skin, by modelling the behavior and showing that we are comfortable with ourselves. We can use art to help them find their own passions- not our passions- THEIR passions. Everyone has their likes and dislikes, and we are all different.  I think that fact is one of the greatest things about humans, and the world in which we live. So let’s embrace it and help our students discover their passions through their projects, instead of trying to force them all to be artists. We need some of them to make money to buy our artwork!! We all know the best way to make money isn’t doing what you’re told, it’s doing what you feel passionate about. Let’s teach that to our students, instead of being sad when someone doesn’t like our class!

Teaching from my heART  … Madelyn Hewins Facebook  …   @madelynhewins

If you have some successful ways of engaging those students who profess to not like art class, please comment below.

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The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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6 responses to “Don’t Take it Personally! Some Students don’t like Art Class”

  1. Paola Piazzi says:

    In Europe Art and Music is mandatory not an elective. The students give them a value if you do not consider a choice a subject..

    • The Arty Teacher says:

      In the UK art and music are mandatory up to the age of 14. After that, students opt for the subjects they want to take further but art isn’t made to feel valued. I agree that students give them a value if they are not a choice.

  2. Loved this article!!!

  3. lschuman says:

    Love all your neat ideas! Keep them coming thank you so much! Lori

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