Excerpt from Knight, Jim (2013); High Impact Instruction.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, Chapter 7, “Stories.”
“I want to start our class with a story,” Hannah Grant told her students, who were taking her intermediate school art class.
Hannah had taught art long enough to know that by the age of 11, many of her students had let others convince them that they didn’t have any talent for drawing or painting. On this first day of class, Hannah wanted her students to know that creating art is a tremendously rewarding experience that they shouldn’t let others hold them back, so she began her story.
“There was a little girl who lived on a farm,” she said, “and the farm was her favorite place in the world.”
“Yes, I was,” Hannah admitted, “but let me tell you the story. There were many animals on the farm, and one of the things the little girl used to love to do was sit on her porch and watch them. Of all the animals, without a doubt, her favorite was a beautiful goose.”
“One day, the little girl thought, ‘I wish I had a camera to take a picture of this goose.’ Then she realized that if she drew a picture that might be as good as a photo.”
With every student listening with great interest, Hannah continued her story.
“The little girl took out a pencil and paper, and the goose stood still for her as if he knew that he was being drawn. When the little girl finished, she was very proud. ‘Who needs a camera?’ she thought. ‘I love to draw.’”
“After the little girl grew up, she moved to a big city. She really missed her family and her home on the farm, and sometimes when she felt lonely, she pulled out the picture of the goose. For many years thereafter, she loved to look at her drawing of the goose.”
“One day, she decided to show the picture to a man she knew. When he looked at it, he immediately began to criticize the drawing. ‘This looks more like a duck than a goose,’ he said. ‘The neck is too short, the eyes aren’t drawn well, and the shape of the body is wrong.’”
When Miss Grant told her students what the man said, they hissed and booed. Hannah took quiet satisfaction from this reaction, since the man was her ex-husband.
“After that, she put away her drawing, and for a long time she stopped thinking about being an artist. Then one day, the girl realized that she still wanted to draw and paint and she decided she wasn’t going to let anyone tell her whether or not she was an artist. She loved to watch a blank page turn into a drawing. She loved the idea of trying to make something beautiful.”
Then Miss Grant showed her students some pictures she had created, including the drawing of the goose, and they realized that it would have been a great shame for their teacher to have given up art.
“And you can be an artist, too,” Hannah told her students. “In our class, you’re going to enjoy being an artist. I did, and you can too.”
The students dove into their first assignment with excitement, and Hannah’s art class was launched with a story.