Let kids draw in class

When I was 11-years-old, I received my first C letter grade. It was on a notebook submission and points had been docked for disorganization. I fanned through the spiral bound pages, which had red Sharpie minus signs next to the various characters I had inked between chapter notes. Utterly heartbroken, I decided the next unit would be a caricature-free zone.

My teacher did not want me doing art while she was teaching. Unfortunately, I was bored out of my mind without any creative entertainment. The next unit in my notebook was not only doodle-free, it was math-free.

During a later year, I had a teacher raise her voice at me for drawing during a lecture. She was a passionate speaker who would aggressively pace back and forth while speaking. Personally, it made me anxious. Having somewhere to put the nervous energy, whether in a drawing of a cat bristling like a cactus or a kid jumping down a manhole to get away, helped me let go of my agitation and process the lesson she was spitting at the class.

Maybe by shouting and insisting I drop the pen, my teacher wanted to demand discipline. However, upon the release of her fury, my chest filled with a terror that sadly left no room for a disciplinary takeaway. If she meant to scare me into concentrating in her class, she scared me out of it.

Anecdotes aside, I understand the want for focus in the classroom. It makes sense for teachers to want their students to respect them and their work enough to pay attention. Education is a privilege, but for some students, focusing on one thing at a time is near impossible.

The majority of us are not trying to be defiant. It is just the way certain brains are wired. I prefer to do three or four things at once. In my house, there is often a dining table covered in abstract art made from spaghetti noodles, an ottoman with a painted t-shirt drying over it, needle nose pliers and wire on my desk upstairs and an open sketchbook with cartoon concepts crammed into all four corners (the sketchbook goes where I go).

To someone who prefers not to multitask, this may sound like mayhem. For me, it is a working system. The subject surfing keeps me most consistently engaged in them all, and I finish projects without burning out.

I know I cannot have quite as many real life tabs open in school, but if something as non-disruptive as sketching while I listen can miniaturize my home system, what is with the learning style prohibition? Maybe I will actually go somewhere with art someday, and my teachers can pat themselves on the back for letting me do… whatever it is I do.

In the end, it is how I most effectively learn. That is the ultimate goal of both myself and, hopefully, my instructors. To reap the benefits of the academic environment, I and others like myself deserve the freedom to use tools that work for us.