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Angela Wong
Visual & Media Arts Educator

Student Stress & Grades

Hi Everyone!

I teach students in grades 9 - 12 at a suburban high school outside of Boston. I'm in my 5th year teaching and my colleagues and I have been noticing what seems to be an emerging trend with our teen students. Many are under such intense stress while they try to achieve "perfect scores" because college competition is so high that their creativity is stifled. They are afraid to take risks and make mistakes because they see it as hurting their average and ruining their chance for an A. I consistently encourage my students to take risks and even demonstrate that making mistakes are OK and a part of the creative process, but the mindset they come into the classroom with seems so ingrained from school culture in general. I was wondering if anyone else was dealing with this and what you do to help your students?

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Dan Ross

Posted on 2/7/18 2:21:52 AM Permalink

I teach college level at a private school so sometimes getting them to show up is half the problem. Interesting that a lack of risks is the trend. I'm interested in checking back to read other thoughts. ​

Christine Layden

Posted on 8/18/17 5:46:02 PM Permalink

​I also teach high school art in a suburban area in upstate New York and have noticed the same thing. We art teachers are constantly trying to come up with new ways to get students to be more playful and less uptight as they learn, thereby more willing to take some creative risks. We have started to have more success when I create mini tasks and exercises (relatively easy) where students get comfortable with new media before assigning a graded project. In my computer based art classes for example, I will walk them through some technical aspects of Photoshop, learning a few tools then applying them to a somewhat silly image we build together. Keep it fun and light; a meme, design a donut, change a celebrity's image etc. Along the way students make their own choices for colors, text, sizes etc. Then at a point I let them finish it up on their own and embellish their own practice image. I supply them with a check list so they can check their work and ask for help if they need to fix something. The checklist and finished exercise are printed out and turned in for total of 20 points. In our non computer based art classes, we will have students do a few exercises to test out new applications of media, again for 10-20 points. or sometimes no points. Then we may have students work in a group of 4 to complete a creative task, each student choosing which task to complete. Larger projects require more planning, sketches, discussion etc. The students feel, by then, like they have the tools and know how to have success. Also give them some autonomy for the bigger project, to make more creative decisions as far as concept, which materials would work best, etc. Sometimes they will have an idea, but not sure of how to quite execute it. That's a great opportunity for brainstorming. By no means is this a quick solution, but a way for students to ease into taking creative risks with baby steps. All the while they will begin to realize what it means to be an artist - brainstorming, practicing, doing research, sharing then executing an idea with some bumps along the way.

Renee' Smith

Posted on 6/21/17 4:10:18 AM Permalink

​I teach college students and experiencing the same with my students. I'm searching for ways to ease this stressful issue as well.