Here's how it went...
During free play I headed over to spend some time at the art table. For a while it was a popular place with lots of creative preschoolers enjoying the project. Which was to use some cut outs and then trace your hands and make an animal. For the most part the children that came up - took the pieces and did their own things. They made some amazing creations. They tried things sideways, they added extra hand prints, they changed the colors anything and everything that could be explored in the project, a lot of them did explore.
When things cleared out another child came up to the table. He went to the end facing the wall. When he looked up - he saw the "teacher's version" of how this project should end up. He saw the product and I watched him change his process. It was amazing to me how stressed a 4 yr old face can look. He kept looking up at the example and then down at his page. He tried to make his look like what was in front of him. I could see how frustrated he was getting at himself and his lack of ability to reach the goal in front of him. Eventually, he gave up. It was really sad to watch as he tried, and even after he and I talked about how he could do anything he wanted with the paper and paints, he just couldn't stop comparing his to the picture. He said he "couldn't do it" then he said he "didn't want to do it" then he left.
His experience was so different from those of the children before him. They we so busy in the moment most of them didn't even see the example. They were also sitting across the table from each other as opposed to across from the picture so they weren't faced with this idea of what the project SHOULD look like.
When I went to talk to the classroom teacher about what just happened she said "Oh, no! I left that there as an example for the working parent, because I don't always have time to explain the idea. We were following up on a character from the story we read yesterday and I wanted them to create their idea of what that character looked like for them. I had no idea she would post it up."
She then walked over to the art table and removed the picture.
I am not a fan of project oriented art. I think that especially in preschool the emphasis should be on the process, on creativity and exploration.
I have always thought this, I went to lectures, had discussions with co-workers, basically I was into the theory of process oriented art, but I had never had any concrete examples until now. Watching him try and give up because he felt he failed was a learning experience. Preschool art time should be the time where you feel confident in trying new things because there are no mistakes, just lessons waiting to be learned or interesting projects waiting to be created.
Are you giving your children enough freedom to explore? What types of "perfection" have you placed in front of them and expected them to live up to? As parents we have to find someway of walking that fine line between challenging and discouraging.
What "perfect product" have you place in front of your self that may be preventing you from moving forward? Do you have friends in the "perfect" relationship and feel like yours never quite measure's up? Do you hate to have people over for dinner because you're not sure if your cooking skills can match what you had at their house? Think about the barriers you place in front of you. Try not to get too frustrated with yourself and try hard to allow yourself the opportunity to explore beyond your comfort zone.