At Sawyer we have the privilege of working with hundreds of inspiring educators around the country. Whether they teach virtual classes or in-person activities, the curricula always foster enriching atmospheres for children of all ages to discover their love of learning. We got the opportunity to chat with Chicago-based educator, The Paintbrush, an online and in-person organization that teaches art classes to children of all ages.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! I’d love to hear a bit more about you and why you started your business.
I am a single mom of two boys (now young men!). I needed work that was flexible so I could always be available for my kids. And I needed to work from home. So I opened my own business.
Can you describe an inspiring moment you’ve had as an educator?
I think the most inspiring moments are when kids take a project or something they learned in class and apply it to their real world. Sometimes, it’s an art creation of their own, or, my favorite, when a little boy put on mix-and-match pajamas and told his mom he was dressed in Picasso style.
What’s the most rewarding thing about teaching children?
Kids are so great. They are enthusiastic and creative and funny, and they say the darndest things. I just love their energy and their innocence and their view of all things.
What’s one time a child surprised you and made your day?
A little girl (she was 2 or 3) once insisted that her mother let her bring me a banana. She knew I had one every week and she wanted to bring me one. I felt so lucky that day because I had forgotten my banana and I was hungry! The thoughtfulness of this tot made my heart swell.
On a similar note, what’s the funniest thing a child has done in your class?
It’s usually more the things they say that what they do. But we once had a child (5 or 6 years old) describe, in detail, to the entire class the process of mummification! It was both horrifying and incredibly amusing, not to mention educational.
Why is after school enrichment so important for children?
Kids may be lucky to get the “special classes” in school. But even if they do, it’s always a graded class. Art isn’t about a good grade, it’s about finding your creativity and building skills and self-esteem. After school programs allow kids to do the things THEY want to do in the relaxed non-school environment.
How do you think children can discover their passions when they’re not in school or your programs?
Kids need to have an opportunity to just play, like we did in the 1970s and 80s. They need more unstructured time to read books, play outside, explore, get dirty, make messes, clean up their messes, figure things out, solve their own problems.
What's one trick you learned from another educator that you still practice?
I’ve learned a lot from the documentaries on Mr. Rogers. He was kind and patient and always listened to what kids had to say. It’s a little harder with masks on, to get close to a child and really get to know them, but I still try. It’s important to treat kids with respect and to understand that they are small and have yet to develop the skills that adults have.