MAKING THE MOST OF THE ON-LINE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT: Observations from Monart.

Observations from Monart. When Monart is taught properly, students with no skills endlessly achieve results that are hard to believe. After 40 years of observing thousands of children in Monart classes, I have always known the environment of the classroom was as important as the way an art lessons is taught or a project is designed. Monart teachers are trained in specific ways to establish totally silent classrooms. They believe there is no wrong way to do art and criticism, as well as praise, just relates to personal preferences. Students learn to draw for themselves and quickly stop looking for constant praise.

Students realize that artists never like everything they do and do not fear mistakes or self-criticism. As a result, they are willing to be more creative. They do not fear exploring new ideas and find ways to solve problems. I knew I could count on every class becoming engaged in the project. Students were able to follow the easy instructions and quickly achieve the level of focused participation necessary.

As the Pandemic closed Monart classes across the country, some of us embarked into the world of On-line classes. We had no idea that the biggest challenge would be to help parents create an environment in the home that would support that kind of focus. After testing and compiling the technology that could most effectively teach a lesson, we opened classes in April.

Within a couple of classes, it became apparent that something was wrong. Even prior Monart students were suddenly incapable of functioning at their prior skill level. New students were taking so much time to follow each instruction that it became impossible to teach a tried and true project in the normal time allotted. There seemed to be no answer as to why the students had such immature results.

It did not take long to find the reasons for what the major difference was in the on-line teaching format. The word DISTRACTIONS sounded loud and clear. We had no control over the environment of the “classroom”. We began to observe other members of the household interrupting the student making comments about their drawings. In one case a parent took the drawing tool out of the hand of a student and began to give contradictory instructions. We often noticed the TV or radio blaring and babies crying in the vicinity of the lesson.

Other people in the house needed to go on about their business of living, sometimes in very tight quarters. In some cases, the drawing paper and supplies were disorganized and not even on a flat surface (which is important to rectify).

We began to send home instructions to the parents that would facilitate success with the classes. We tried to make suggestions about how to set up a space that would support the student. We did not see much of a change in the following month. I realized that the average parent would not know how much the quiet and focused environment mattered to the student. Parents probably did not even read many of the memos we sent home. They were dealing with so many challenges in these troubled times. It is rare to experience quiet and peacefulness in many homes. It would not be automatic for a parent to realize it was needed.

Realistic Drawing happens to be a subject that requires focused concentration. Other forms of art can even be done while multi-tasking, like crafts or design. But if you intend to draw a tiger leaping through the air in a jungle, you need to use all kinds of perspective and proportion to achieve success. After a student has experienced the type of quiet they need, they will request it if the classroom gets noisy. They learn to want the quiet.

As we began to talk to parents with phone calls and the chat room, we began to make some headway. We had to make some compromises in order to adjust to the on-line format. We have to teach more slowly and make some lessons last two weeks instead of one.

We cannot expect a family to create a totally silent space for a student, but we can educate the family to understand why it is needed. If you have a family member taking a class with us, consider purchasing noise cancelling headphones. Although it won’t make the environment completely silent, it will go a long way towards the artistic success of the student by facilitating a quieter environment.

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