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So You Want to Teach Art?
At first I was reluctant to go into teaching, but in my first year, after an internship and a senior teaching student in art education, I realized that my personality was perfect for the job If you don’t like children, teaching is not for you! They will tease, deceive and test every fiber of your patience. Especially if you were a “special subjects teacher” like me. “Regular” teachers will too. My schedule consisted of teaching art to 1200 kids once a week. I was a traveling art teacher for some of my sixteen years of art. When you enter another classroom, it’s their domain!
There are special rules that a visiting professor must follow. Never trample on the authority of the classroom teacher. It is very humbling to be a “special one”. Some of the kids asked me if an art, music, and PE teacher had gone to college. I was often asked if I was a real teacher. After an art/social studies lesson on ancient Egypt, my students were telling me that I should be a real teacher and teach social studies. Flattered and yet humble, she didn’t know how to take it. Was it a compliment?
After the birth of my fourth child, I got a Masters in Art. It took me twelve years to finish. I was like that bunny that ran across your TV that just kept going, and going and going. I would tell my students to try something new or something they thought they didn’t like. Some of us have to try harder, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know if you can do it, or if you even like it. What if a child never set foot on a stage? Would he become an actor? What if a physicist never looked at the stars as a child? You know what I mean.
My art teaching life was full of challenges. The art teacher, in addition to planning and teaching an art program for kindergarten through twelfth grade, must also be a school-wide diplomat. There is scenery to build, gym decorations for dances and shows, signs for parent organizations, signs for the principal’s order needs in the building, helping teachers with bulletin boards, school-wide window decoration for changing seasons, judging science fairs, being invited to children’s study team meetings to display a particular student’s art, teaching art workshops for to teachers, meet with parents, draw circles on the floor for kindergarten to sit in, collect classes from assemblies if it’s during a teacher’s period. art class time (prep), attend assemblies during teacher “prep” time, distribute the school’s art supply order, and substitute teach when many teachers were absent. Should I continue? Now you want to be an art teacher? I had incredible energy, but I got tired enough to catch the flu a few times during my art career.
When I was pregnant with my fifth and last child, the principal called us into his office and told us that they were cutting the special subjects and we’d better get another certification. Well, with five kids on a teacher’s salary, I needed this job! My home economics friend and I bought the NTE prep book and studied like hell. We passed! I was an art teacher! Unbelievable! She taught the boys and girls how to cook and make clothes! Unbelievable!
My friend got a job as a 5th grade teacher and they placed me in Title 1, Basic Skills Program because they were saving money. The government paid half my salary. With my masters, I was nearing the top of the pay scale. Also, it was easy to get placed there since I was starting in November. My son was born on September 15th after I attended the first week of school with a very big belly! I went back to work after a C-section, with only six weeks of maternity leave. I was greeted at home by my beautiful new baby boy, four other beautiful children, and my stack of supplies for the four grade levels I would be teaching. To sleep? What is this? You don’t expect sleep when you have a large family and a full-time job. All she had to carry now was a handful of books instead of boxes of glue, art supplies and stacks of construction paper. Might as well wear teacher clothes. Gone are the splattered abstract expressionist trousers, smocks and blouses that had to be thrown away at the end of the day!
I shared my space with another teacher who kept asking me how I could teach reading, writing and math, after teaching art. Was it difficult? Well, I used to go over homework every day with my own kids who were in high school at the time, and I knew the subject pretty well. Our teacher editions had the answers. I was confident. I passed the national teacher exam on the first try, and after teaching art for sixteen years, I had experience relating art to all subjects. I explained everything and she never said another word. He was more than qualified. My new certification was for kindergarten through eighth grade, so I was covered.
I didn’t know how much I would like this new job. The best thing was that my working day ended with my son’s. So, according to him, he could have been at home all day. I was there to pick him up. sweet After school it was homework time, with milk and cookies, then some outdoor activity while making dinner, more homework, nursing, bottles, diapers, diaper bag and stroller, little league , lunches, finally my reading and then at 11:30. do it all again from 6 am. You can and you will get through it because children go through stages. They get big! I look back and cherish every moment spent.
So teach art if you like it. It’s fun, creative and challenging, but get another certification to protect your job and stick with it until your pension is vested. This is so worth it. I took early retirement, so now I’m off to the river, with my husband, to whitewater paddle my Jackson Punk Rocker! See you later!
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