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Pre-teen Success!

I am currently working with a wonderful young lady in her pre-teen years to compile a portfolio for admission to the Rush Arts Academy in Philadelphia. This young lady has raw talent, but also is a fabulous listener! She struggles in self-confidence (what artist doesn't?), but we are making great improvements. We have meetings every other weekend, and I demonstrate a new technique and project for the portfolio. So far, we have completed a pencil still life of dishware, a 2-part positive and negative charcoal still life of fruit, and a watercolor painting of a bamboo plant. They have all come out fabulously. Currently we are working on her awesome self-portrait collage idea, incorporating several small canvases on a large canvas, with emphasis on what she enjoys to do. I have a great feeling about this current project! The next meeting is going to focus on creating a landscape work with oil pastel and matting her finished work for presentation.

There are a few things I have done with this student that I feel have worked well:

1. Use humor! - She struggles with self-confidence so I try to “loosen” her up during the lesson with some silly humor about the trials of being a young woman.

2. Praise! Praise! Praise! - Of course with every dose of humor, comes praise for her fabulous work – because it truly is delightful. I am honest with my student, because everyone deserves that respect, but I focus on what she is doing well. My suggestions for improvement are always “sandwiched” between praises, as I do not in anyway want to damage her confidence in her artistic talent.

3. Make a Sample with Her! – For every lesson I have demonstrated for my student use of material and how one would approach such a project. In doing this I, of course, make a sample. (It is absolutely imperative that you make the sample in front of the student so he or she can see the techniques in action!) I always leave my sample with my student so that she can look back at it and recall the lesson. Remember – artwork takes time, and she is going to have other things on her mind during the week, so make it as easy as possible for your student to remember the lesson!

4. Leave a List! - I also always put a bullet list of the lessons focal points on the back of the sample so she remembers what is important for that particular work. I usually make this list with my student as a conclusion summary to the lesson, so if there are any questions about any part of the lesson, she has the opportunity to ask them, and you can include the answer in the list.

There is also something I have noticed that needs improvement:

1. Prepare the Parent for the Lesson! – I have a habit of “flying by the seat of my pants” when it comes to lesson planning. I am not saying that I do not arrive prepared, but I am saying that I tend to wait until a few days before the tutoring session to decide what exactly we are going to do. This is the artist in me, as I habitually let my inspirations guide me. This, though, does not make life so easy for the parent. Here is where I am trying to improve, because as we know, parents are our partners. My efforts to improve include deciding on the next lesson/project before I arrive for the current meeting, and bringing a list of supplies for the next project for the parent. This helps because the parent can then make sure all of what the student needs is available, and it creates less havoc and stress for everyone! The parent also has time to decide where he or she would like the lesson to take place with consideration to the mess it will make.

All in all, I feel like my time with my pre-teen has been a success! I truly enjoy our sessions together and always leave feeling upbeat and accomplished! It’s a wonderful thing to share your passion with a young person! :-)