Such joy and pleasure have no practical benefit. They have nothing to do with duty or responsibility or achievement, but they do have a great deal to do with education.
Adults sometimes feel that they have to educate the child to enjoy beauty. They try to cultivate "good taste." They feel that children's art work has to be evaluated, that the piece of music has to be analyzed, that the techniques of creating precede the true enjoyment of creating. Actually, children need only to be free to experience the joy that is already theirs. Esthetic enjoyment is just "for the joy of it." "Good taste" comes about through great experiencing. Without joy, good taste is something dead.
Esthetic experiences are a part of every child's every moment. The smell of classroom chalk has its own special pleasure, the feel of the grass, the enjoyment of new clothes, the sun coming in through the window, the teachers face.
Does the teacher have a role in enhancing the esthetic lives of children? What does she do?
First, the teacher permits or provides opportunities for esthetic experiences. She offers opportunities for children to sense - they may touch, they may hold, they may watch, they may listen, they may move about, they may share with friends, they may try out new things. The teacher knows that children lead a rich life of the senses. Their enjoyment should not be dimmed by her imposing her own perceptions or formulations upon them. Without exercises in the enjoyment of life, children will by their own natures enjoy it. The teacher will welcome the children's feelings, their responses, and their creations. Favorite poems and stories will be read again and again. Pictures will be put on the wall for the enjoyment of everyone. Each child's contribution is accepted as an expression of his or her way of seeing the world. If children decide to see something new that is not in conformance with the usual ideas of beauty, the teacher will respect the child's creative searching.
Not only does providing opportunities mean providing experiences and materials for children, it also means providing time. Human senses do not thrive when the output is more important than the person. Classrooms in which children are forever hurried, and where the schedule rules, will dull the senses. Joy comes to us. By hunting it we lose it.
Children must express themselves. It is their creating that makes the experience a joy. Within each esthetic experience there must be an element of personally choosing and expressing. It is this choosing and expressing which makes the person know his or her own humanity.
The teacher can help the child to express himself or herself - without fear and without hurtful comparisons with others. She can show that she values what he or she wants to do above any product. She can give encouragement for him or her to be true to himself/herself.
Is it forbidden for a teacher to discourage slapdash work? Can a teacher make a friendly suggestion, such as suggesting that more content be added to a picture? Certainly slapdash work can be discouraged and friendly suggestions can be made if done in the context of accepting the child as a creator.
Children want to feel proud of their work. Through talking with the child, the teacher can stimulate his or her thinking. Hasty, poorly-thought-out work that is not the child's best expression can be avoided by the teacher's talking with the child about his or her choices, his or her use of time, and his or her reactions. Is the child's product expressive? Does it convey a feeling? Does it say something? Does it show that the child was giving wholehearted effort to his or her work?
Children's lives are enriched through their enjoyment of beauty at every moment of their lives. In the classroom, this comes from clothing, the interior design of the classroom, and the out-of-doors seen through the window. It comes from the sights and sounds of friends and teacher. It comes from music, poetry, and stories. It comes from pets. It comes from children's creating with materials - materials with texture, color, and shape. It comes from sharing with others what has been created.