We loved catching up with Sophie Adderley - a newly qualified teacher who we got chatting to at our CPD session for educators held at The Hepworth Wakefield in November 2018. We were lucky to steal a few moments with Sophie to hear more about her opinion on the STEM vs STEAM debate, the importance of drawing and access to arts in schools, and her experience taking part in our CPD session.
Hi Sophie! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. Could you start by telling us a little bit about you? You’re currently working as a trainee teacher in your second placement at a secondary school. What inspired you to go into teaching?
Hello! Throughout my academic life I’ve studied quite a wide range of creative subjects; fine art, media, photography and my undergraduate in Metalwork and Jewellery. After university, I had a break and worked full time for about 3 years in an entirely admin-based job. It took getting stuck in a sort of ‘9-5 rut’ to put the wheels in motion to make a career move. I wanted to find my passion for art and design again and share it with others. Friends and family had said to me before that I’d make a good teacher, but I was never sure, so I volunteered in a local secondary school once a week for around 6 months to make sure that it was something I wanted to do and absolutely loved it. I finally applied to do a PGCE through a School Direct route and am currently three quarter of the way to becoming qualified! I have also just accepted my first teaching job at the school I’ve been on placement at, so I’m absolutely over the moon!
[Sophie's sketchbook drawings]
What effect do you feel that access to the arts – or lack thereof – can have on young people?
Having the opportunity in school to try new things in an environment that is safe and nurturing is so so valuable for young people. Having lived in South Yorkshire all my life, I am very much aware of the labels that come with the demographic of the area, and how government cuts have affected the people that live here. It’s especially important in areas such as SY, that aren’t as affluent, to make sure children are exposed to the arts. The need to have the opportunity to be expressive, consider new ideas, learn and build skills (be that drawing, making something out of clay, learning to play an instrument) to enable them to find a vocation that is going to bring out the best in them.
[Jewellery design during university for the Goldsmiths Craft and Design council annual competition, 2013]
At The Big Draw, we promote the idea that visual literacy underpins not only the visual arts, but all areas of education including Maths, Science and Engineering. What is your opinion on the importance of embedding the arts across the curriculum?
I love that The Big Draw promotes ‘drawing to learn, not learning to draw’. Too right you don’t have to be an artist to draw! A common barrier that children and adults alike face when it comes to drawing is the fear of failing and feeling embarrassed because they’re ‘no good at drawing’ and ‘it looks stupid’. Visual literacy doesn’t mean translating masses of words into gallery worthy illustrations; it means using artistic tools and skills to embed knowledge and deepen understanding. This might be drawing graphs and diagrams in Maths with compasses and rulers; using CAD in engineering to create a visual prototype; using colour in Science to identify groups in the periodic table of elements; mark making to show topography on maps in Geography; designing costume’s from a Shakespeare play that develops character understanding; the list really does go on! When children are encouraged to use colour, to sketch diagrams, use equipment like rulers and compasses – it builds confidence in their skill and ability to understand and communicate a complicated idea.
You took part in a CPD session in November 2018 run by The Big Draw’s Director, Kate Mason, that focused on the STEM vs STEAM debate at The Hepworth Wakefield. What impact did this event have on you? Do you feel that this is an important topic to introduce to all teachers and trainee teachers?
It was a fantastic, eye opening session that I would recommend to anyone. Listening to professionals from so many different backgrounds (architecture, lecturing, mechanical engineering to name a few!) was so interesting. Sometimes we can get into our own little bubble of whatever we’re doing, we forget actually how big and broad the STEM vs. STEAM debate reaches and it certainly doesn’t end in the classroom… but it does start there. That’s why I particularly believe that anyone training to teach any subject but especially in science, engineering, technology, maths or the arts, we have to work together to keep informed and make sure it’s clear how important embedding those basic art skills is throughout the curriculum. As young professionals about to embark on new careers, we need to enter them understanding the importance of drawing and how it is a universal tool in communication.
[STEAM Symposium, organised by The Big Draw (2018) @ The Hepworth, Wakefield]
Our theme for this year’s Big Draw Festival is ‘Drawn to Life: Creativity and Wellbeing’. We want to address the ongoing issue of mental health, and celebrate the transformative effect that the arts can have on our emotional and physical wellbeing. Are there any moments in your life that you can point to where the humble pencil has helped you through a difficult situation?
As I’ve mentioned, I had a break after uni and worked full time for about 3 years in an
entirely admin-based job. While I have no regrets about the length of time working there, what I do regret is letting myself get into that ‘9-5 rut’. I got home every day and never felt motivated to get the paints out or start sketching because I was tired and made excuses. The longer that went on for, the more it ebbed away at my confidence in my ability because I was out of practice, so was subconsciously avoiding getting stuck back into it – I had no focus or drive and was feeling really uninspired until I volunteered at a school for the first time. The head of department was so encouraging and enthusiastic that it was contagious. and the students (especially GCSE) were so talented and gave up their lunchtimes and came after school to spend time working on their artwork that I felt silly for never just biting the bullet and just drawing ANYTHING. The HOD gave me a sketchbook so that I could, if I wanted, follow the year 10s who were just starting their Art GCSE. So that’s what I did, I did some artist research and created some sketchbook pages in response to a theme, and I felt like a weight had been lifted!
[Sophie's Abstract Experiments]
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I can’t remember where I read it or who actually said the quote, but I really like: “Comparison is the thief of joy” because it’s absolutely true. In an age of social media, students and even teachers can get really wrapped up in platforms like Twitter and Instagram and feel like they are not good enough or aren’t working hard enough. Whenever I feel like this, I always have a social media detox and delete the apps. 100% worthwhile.
Finally, do you have any pearls of wisdom for anyone who feels that STEM and STEAM cannot be interconnected?
By dismissing art skills, creative thinking and visual literacy, you’re eliminating potential.
Potential to problem solve, invent, create. Get yourself on board the STEAM train. Choo
Thanks for chatting with us, Sophie!
Want to find about more about the importance of drawing in Schools, and what The Big Draw's campaign for creativity? You can read more here.
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Did you know?
Big Draw Festival Organisers receive a complimentary welcome pack which contains posters, certificates, stickers, a t-shirt, 50% off in The Big Draw Shop and up to 3 free copies of our ever popular Power Drawing Books - great resources for teachers (of all subjects) interested in the importance of drawing as a learning tool across the curriculum.
Have you been inspired by Sophie's interview and The Big Draw Festival 2019 theme: #DrawntoLife? Why not join our global Festival in 2019? Registration is now open
! Find out more about the benefits of becoming an organiser here
and other ways to support The Big Draw's mission here.