There is a German Proverb which says: "Drunk people and children always tell the truth". Well, mostly there is a lot of truth in this saying but we sometimes should put a filter on and look behind the story. Children quite often tell a story how they felt during an incident and the reality can be a little bent, so we always need to have a closer look without questioning their integrity.
I have so many examples from my own children where teachers told me what they had heard from them, and I have to admit they are mostly true if you look at each narrative from a child's perspective.
My son told his teacher once his great grandma had a toy boy... well... You can make your own story up if you'd like.
My favourite example from a student I taught in year 2;
Boy came into class on a Wednesday morning and told me that his mum was drinking beer at 3 o'clock in the morning. Of course I was a little surprised and started listening closer. He told me that he woke up in the middle of the night and his parents were trying to get someone to fix a huge water leakage in their bathroom. So there was a lot of excitement in the house, in the end they got a worker coming, everybody was running to try and get the water cleaned up. After everything was sorted the mum sat down with a beer. According to this boy at 3 o'clock in the morning.
During pick up time I saw his mother and recounted the story of the water leak, and purposely not mentioning the beer, as I didn't want to make her feel uncomfortable.
So she started laughing and said yes, but it all happened at 8 o'clock just after kids had gone to bed.
So, can you blame someone having a beer after an evening like this?
Why am I writing this story on a blog where everything is supposed to be about how to teach art??
Because I want you to be aware that children tell you everything, and in my experience of 25 years and working in different areas. Never I heard so many as when I was teaching art, either when students talk to each other or while talking to you.
The reasons are wide spread, but mainly because they are allowed to relax more than in other subjects, they are mostly allowed to talk and when you are working with your hands your mind sets off. You might have experienced this for yourself while you are doing something you enjoy you have the best conversations with other people.
But back to our art room. So what to do with all the stories, worries and deep insides?
For me the most important rule. I don't judge and I listen. Of course when you are bundled up in a busy lesson and 25 students shout out your name it can be tricky from time to time, but when I feel a student needs my attention I actually sit next to them or at least close. and the nice thing about art, we can do that, we have the freedom to move around, more than other subject leaders.
If I feel a child has told me something very deep I usually don't immediately jump the gun, I wait. I listen again and I let my guts take the lead. Every school has a policy how to deal with information that is confidential. Use these when you feel the child needs real help. And sometimes just ask the parents directly in a way they don't feel cornered or judged. Remember the beer drinking mum... If I would have judged her for having a beer at breakfast time, she probably wouldn't have told me what actually had happened.
By the way... The toy boy was 65 years old while great gran was 89.
Keep in mind everybody is an artist! Really!