One thing that is on my mind today is maintaining my role as a teacher while still being an artist, and vice versa. I want to exceed in both. It seems like I am constantly feeling a push and pull between my desire to excel at teaching yet also express myself as an artist. Truthfully, for a long time I feel like I have put more into my teacher, leaving my artistic self neglected. I think it was easier for me to nourish my inner artist when I was working with high school students, when came back to teaching and went into the elementary classroom I really started to part with the artist, on some level. Sure, I was in graduate school and immersed in my projects, but on a day in, day out basis my focus was on teaching these little folks art.
Thankfully, I am working with middle school students now. They are able to work independently- they need to work independently. Last year I set up a little corner of the classroom to serve as my in class ‘studio’. Towards the end of the year I would paint some while the students were working on their projects, and I didn’t think much about it. I knew that it made me happy, and my students seemed supportive and interested in what I was doing. That was it, that was all.
Then fast forward to now. Coming out of my summer filled with an awakening of sorts, of late night painting, of drawing trees, of reading about artists that I like, of meeting like-minded folks also interested in creating art…that is where I am now, as I do my daily drive to school. Excited about teaching my students…but wishing I had just a few more hours in the day to dedicate to drawing. Add in coaching…something else I am passionate about…and the truth is the art just gets put to the side. I think that is why I work in large quantities when I do sit down to create.
So this is what I have been struggling without really throughout college and my teaching career…how to teach…and how to keep making art…the whole reason I wanted to be an art teacher in the first place. Today I really did make an effort to do both. I set up my classroom ‘studio’ again, this time moving it to a more central location so that I can easily reach any of my students and monitor student behavior. I did the introduction of the lesson/focus at the beginning of each class, made a round to each student….then I left the kids alone for a bit to paint. Stopped, made another round…back to painting. I think that is good to just let them work sometimes, to encourage them to be independent thinkers. I do not want them to be dependent on me; rather I want them to apply what they are learning to their own art experience. We were all creating together, and it was a very powerful energy. I also noticed that, well, I noticed some things when I stepped back and painted. For instance, I became more in tune with the sound of the students working, the sound of the materials, the students talking…it was like losing a sense and finding other senses hypersensitive.
What I am trying to say is, I am going to keep working at being a successful teacher and artist. I know that sometimes the art gets put in the background, but I feel more fulfilled when I do both. And I think that will make me a better teacher, and vice versa.
Artist and Art Teacher