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I heard a tale from a 16 year old art student recently, and it disturbed me. He said he’d brought an artwork of his to class to show his art teacher at school. The teacher gave him very little reaction; nothing negative nor positive. Just the barest acknowledgement that he’d shown her his work.

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I asked how this made him feel, and he said ,causally, not so great.

What he did not say- it hurt him badly. He had created a work that he was proud enough to expose himself to an adult opinion. This made him extremely vulnerable; a turtle out of his shell. The teacher’s lack of response was like a harsh wakening. It said you are not a good artist. You stink. And many other things the teen made up to himself.

This is not what you want to do when a child shows you his creations. Absolutely wrong.

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This age of a person generally holds a secret self, one guarded carefully to not appear unacceptable and “normal” to others his age. Talents and intelligence are sometimes covered up just so as not to stand out. But the secret self dreams of being successful and fitting into an adult world someday because of those talents and dreams.

Teachers, parents, trusted adult friends all have a duty, an obligation to support those dreams. To uphold the hidden secret talents and support the talents as they emerge. If the adult is too busy at that moment, he should say so to the teen. And to state that he is very interested, could he see later? After class or other time? And follow through.

If the trusted adult is indifferent to the very vulnerable teen, it can have devastating consequences to the child. A more confident child can fall back on his own core; while the most fragile can just give up on a dream as a result.

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But what if the presented work of the teen, is apparently of poor quality? Find something in it good. A thought, a line, a color combination. An original aspect, an interesting point- find it and tell the teen.Then give him some ideas to improve the work. And thank him for showing you.

I believe this is a more general position as well. A talented dancer, an invention presented with some thought and planning, a technical skill or handcrafted item, a story or poem; all deserve the attention of the trusted adult they are divulged to.

Across the ages as well- a young adult or an older one learning a new skill both deserve attention for their aspirations when presented to an instructor. Opening yourself up to scrutiny for an other is always a difficult position to place yourself in, and consideration is a kindness that is much needed.

 

Putting yourself in the position of a teacher or mentor brings this responsibility. And that is that.

 

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