Tap into your artistic side on the first Friday of every month. We showcase Arizona art educators committed to making a difference.
For teachers, the sound of the bell can be bittersweet. Yes, it drives students from one class to the next — which some days might be a blessing, but also it halts the creative process. Rather than rushing students through assignments, Laura Motush says she’s learned to slow down the learning process.
“There is so much to do that I found myself rushing all the time — at work, at home, with students, everywhere. Then, I came to the conclusion that it is OK to not get through everything on a specific timeline,” the Kyrene School District art teacher says. “Time is fluid, and slowing down allows for deeper understanding and more innovative ideas. By approaching my teaching with this mindset, students feel more able to take risks and have choices, which encourages the type of learning environment I want to cultivate in my classroom.”
While this tactic might not be the golden ticket for all teachers, it serves Motush and her learners at Aprende Middle School well.
It’s clear the Illinois-born educator believes education, like life, is a process. She says although alternative routes seemed enjoyable along the way, she was destined to work in the classroom — as a child, she remembers gathering all her stuffed animals to play school on the floor of her bedroom.
“I knew I wanted to be a teacher. As I grew, that stayed constant, but what I wanted to teach changed with my interests. By the time I graduated high school, I found my passion in photography and felt I could say things through my photographs that I was often too shy or anxious to say aloud. I thought I may want to pursue it as a career, but quickly realized that I belong in a classroom showing others how to express their ideas in various ways,” she says.
Eight years later, she declares she’s proud to be an art teacher.
While she’s committed to growing young artists’ skills and curiosity, the Arizona State University alumna admits she’s not looking to mold professional painters or sculptors. Rather than perfectionism, she aims to teach self-expression, an ability to understand others, and respect for all.
“My goal has always been to open their eyes to the world, to learn to see things, to observe, to try and fail, and learn, and to recognize how the arts play a vital role in many avenues of their lives. I want to teach kids how to truly see something rather than simply look at it,” she says.
Her philosophy is revealed in her love for teaching students to work with clay.
“I know the cleanup, storing, loading, and unloading of the kiln isn’t always an art teacher’s favorite, but for me, it is that immediate creation out of a block of clay, causing a light in the kids’ eyes, that gets me every time. The ability to create something that didn’t exist just moments before is magical,” she says.
According to Motush, another dreamlike component in education is reciprocated art and core content integration. She believes it grants students access to knowledge on a deeper level.
“There are so many options, especially in social studies and language arts. Last year, I worked with a social studies teacher to create cuneiforms of names out of clay slabs. I worked with another teacher to provide suggestions on how to create 3-D barnacles,” she says. In her mind, the possibilities are endless.
Whether it’s collaborating with language arts teachers to better understand how to teach poetry so students can design a poem inside a painting, or integrating new vocabulary words within a vivid piece of art, Motush knows cross-cirricular activities pose a challenge.
“Teachers have so much pressure on them to get through their own curriculum, so it can seem like just one more thing to do to consider arts integration. I recommend reaching out to teachers at your school to see who is interested in working with you. Slowly, word will spread at how effective and engaging arts integration is for our students,” she encourages.
To learn more about ways to join art with core subjects, register for The Art of Making: CREATE, Play, and Engineering the World of STEAM on July 10-13.