Contributor: Sahba Rohani, Director of Community Development at Community Roots
I had the pleasure of sitting in on one of our 8th grade art classes as they presented their "In Your Shoes" milestone project. They had just finished their Visual Biographies, a series of work inspired by four personal milestones that have in some way shaped or influenced who they are today. Each student shared one piece of art - one of the shoes they had drawn - and the reflection connected to that piece.
"I chose to draw this in shadow and with shadow because I felt like a shadow of myself at the other school I went to. But here, I feel like I can be my whole self." As one student shared her piece, the 8th graders in the room listened intently and asked questions. They discussed the power of art, that art is never perfect and it is not supposed to be perfect. They talked about how the final piece is not the most important thing, but that the process that gets you there is what is most important, and they reflected about how they connected to their own lives, their own processes, and their own growth as people.
There was such an honesty and purity in which they spoke that as I watched and listened to the conversation, it was as if it, itself, was a piece of art, masterfully created by the reflections of these astute students.
Of course I was blown away by their pieces of art. But I was also blown away by the fact that, when authentic learning communities are created, students have the safety, the courage, and the space to be 100% themselves. They have room to be vulnerable, to hold one another accountable, and to learn from the multiple perspectives and experiences in the room.