Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"That" Art Teacher

I don't know about you, but I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about what sort of art teacher I'm being right now.  Maybe it's the Pat Quinn workshop I attended earlier in the month when he said "don't get frustrated when kids don't know.  Don't sigh, don't roll your eyes.  Be excited, be happy, be like WHEEEEEE!!!! You don't know? Great, let me teach you again, because that's what I'm here to do!"  I really reflected on my own behavior and what it's like to be the student.  It's part of the reason I go to so many conferences and workshops: I'm the student.  And have you ever been in that class or workshop and the teacher makes you feel stupid?  Seared in my memory: a conference workshop all about origami folds.  The presenter says "Just follow the handout, and you'll be fine."  Totally thought I was, but when he asked for volunteers and I raised my hand, he came over and said something like "Well, these are all wrong.  Nothing I can do with this! Who did it correctly?!"  I wanted to crawl under the table and dig a nice deep hole.  
Early in my career co-workers and parents would say, "Oh, you must've had an amazing elementary art teacher!"  Nope.  I do not remember that woman smiling ONCE.  All of my memories of her are her sitting behind her desk.  My mom has three identical everything from our elementary careers: a pre-cut pumpkin with triangle eyes from me, my brother, my sister.  A paper scarecrow on a stick from me, my brother, my sister.  The only project I remember enjoying was a day where she literally shoved a black paper at us and said "Make something out of the scrap box!"  As an adult, I can think about and wonder what sort of unhappiness was going on in her life, but as a kid, I just didn't enjoy art at school.  Flash forward to upper elementary, I enjoyed my teacher and art. . . .and then the allegations of sexual misconduct/abuse came out.  Uuuuuggghhhhhh.  I called my high school art teacher when it all surfaced (I was in college) and said "Please tell me this isn't true!" to which she replied "I'd love to tell you it isn't true, because we as art teachers don't need this, but I think it is."  My high school art teacher was (and is) amazing.  She even took me to college when my mom couldn't, so my first few days of art school were spent with Mary.  More than 20 years later, I still call her, and she picks up right away, joy in her voice.
I want to be remembered by my students as someone who loved art, loved them, loved being there everyday.  But I'm human, and I have a cold and a toddler and a preschooler and two young adults and a grandchild for gosh sakes!  So what does that mean?  It means I have to keep it in the forefront of my mind: what kind of art teacher am I being today?  A rockin' one? Or "that" one???  Time will tell, of course, and I've come to realize that perception is more important than reality many times.  I just hope their perception is a good one.


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