Saturday, October 23, 2010

Are You a T.A.T.A ? To The Teen Artists Trapped in Academia

Do you wake up every morning just longing for the chance to express yourself in art? Do you feel personally attacked by the existence of school uniforms and overly stringent dress codes? Do you long for the day that you will be free to learn the way you want to learn things, and about the things you want to learn? If so you may be a Teen Artist Trapped in Academia.

I feel like I can comment on the existence of the Teen Artists Trapped in Academia because I too was once a T.A.T.A. Trust me, the plight of a T.A.T.A is very sad. They are hardly difficult to identify and chances are that if you are not one yourself, you have at least run across some in the course of your life. Fitting into the conventions of academia is pretty hard especially if you are not a conventional person, and let's face it, the current state of academia can only appeal to so many people, because everyone is not the same, does not have the same goals and values and does not learn the same way. If you can't fit into the conventional academic structure, you might think that learning is not for you and that education is not a very worthwhile venture for you. You might think that school and education are equal to torture and may begin to look for several ways of fighting/escaping the system.

I can't blame you for wanting to stop the torture. I just think that it might be more worthwhile to try to work with it and to make it work for you.

Ever since Grade School I've known I was a little odd. I couldn't organise well. I would go through phases in my clothing during which I would pursue a particular style of dress for months at a time. I had a melange of mismatched bracelets, bangles and scrunchies on both hands, and took great delight in changing my hair style at least once a month. I spent weeks of my summer, reading in the public library, and hours creating and playing in my own incredibly intricate fantasy world, past the age of 10. By the time I was 12 I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer and literally counted down the years until I could go to University and start working on my dream. I hated learning traditionally, and always learnt better when I could physically be allowed to understand the concept holistically. Abstract cramming and random studying was never my thing, and classes in which you just sort of had to know something (i.e. commit something to memory), left me quaking under my sheets in horror. So if you do think that the traditional school system thing is not working for you believe me when I say I know how you feel. In fact, I was recently thinking about words of advice that I could give to current teen artists to help them learn to live with (and possibly love academia). Here are some of the tips I came up with:

  1. Embrace the fact that you are different and that you, like everyone else, have your strengths and your weaknesses. Look for your strengths, and spend at least some time every day working on them/ enjoying them. If most of your school work doesn't inspire you, definitely work on it but try to spend some time, writing music if it's what you like doing or join a dance class as an after-school activity. Do something that makes you happy everyday. It works wonders for your self-esteem.
  2. Don't put your dreams off until university. No. Scratch that. Don't put off your dreams period. Try to live them at least a little bit today. Do whatever you can for to work towards your dream in a little way today. It is never to early to start living the life you want to live.
  3. Try to look for the bright side in learning everything that you have to learn in school. Sometimes you might discover a hidden talent or random interest in an unexpected subject. Sometimes all you'll learn is that whatever you are taking is not for you. At least you've learnt something.
  4. Remember that no knowledge is wasted. Art is a reflection of life. Academia is awesome because it enables you to broaden your knowledge about the world around you and gives you the opportunity to build your well of experience. Creatives especially should be curious about the world around them because you can only improve what currently exists if you know what currently exists. So the next time you're trying to figure out how to survive another day in that class you hate, remember that inspiration can come from anywhere, and give the class (yet) another chance.
  5. Study the way you want. Only you truly know how best you learn. If you realise that rote memorisation does not work for you, try to learn the material in another way. If you don't know how best you learn, try taking a learning style test. No matter what kind of learner you are (visual, kinesthetic, auditory, etc), learning in a way that uses various methods to learn to learn the same subject matter tends to help you learn better. For example, while studying from your notes, you could try making lists, diagrams and pneumonics to help you remember what you've learnt. You could also try explaining general concepts out loud to yourself, to make sure you understand what you've just read.
  6. Adopt a more holistic approach to studying. I personally can not strictly memorize anything to save my life, so I try learning concepts and general ideas first, before attempting to place specifics into the mix. By getting the background info of a subject, I am able to paint a picture in my mind of what I'm trying to learn and then it becomes so much easier to remember the random facts that I need to know. One way in which you could make this easier to do would be to always know the why behind any particular fact. Knowing the why, even if its not necessary for the test, helps you make connections in your mind, and these connections can act as a guide leading you to the right answer if you ever get lost during a test.

Academia is not the devil. In fact, it can be a really powerful ally and can bring a whole new dimension to your art.

Love you all and Stay inspired,

P.S. So let me know what you think. Are you a T.A.T.A? Do you know one? How did you adapt to the world of Academia? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.

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