We asked Al Ochsner, art teacher at Geneva High School, for some advice for parents. In his own words:
Take an interest: My advice to high school parents would be to be respectively active in their student's interests. Attend band concerts if they're in band, volunteer for field trips -- but allow their students to hang with their friends, participate in fundraisers for their activities, anything to be active with their interests during their amazingly brief high school stint. Let their peers think they have a far greater rein than they actually do. Allow their friends to hear you ask their opinion.
Encourage creativity: Insofar as art is concerned, if they enjoy any creative program -- drawing, photography, graphic design, sculpture, painting -- allow them to run with it. Proudly display any work they do.
Avoid study halls: Encourage them to avoid study halls. The only students that should take them are students active in sports with a demanding job, maybe certain rare exceptions with a struggling student in a 'one-on-one' guided study seminar. Everything else is an hourlong credit-less social or sleep option. They will miss memorable and potentially life-enhancing opportunities for something they will forget about in a few months.
Seize the moment: High school is such an important fleeting time. And so much happens. Art can visually capture emotions that express where students are emotionally and convey their (perhaps unknown) skill. It can define their future paths, even if it isn't art. These young adults are literally a few steps away from running the show. What a privilege it is to be integral in guiding their paths and seeing it documented for their and our future.