Thursday, May 10, 2012

One Day I'll Be a Respected Educator

I thought that once I lost some weight I'd stop getting comments about how young I look. I was convinced it was the moon face that gave me a student-like appearance, but I've lost 25 lbs and I'm certainly not free from the offhanded comments that grit on me so.

Today I started a long term sub position in my favorite elementary school. It's only one day a week, because someone else is working the rest of the days and can't do Thursdays I guess. I wouldn't complain (as it gives me something to put on my resume) except that I've lost tooo many leave positions on account of not being able to be somewhere for 5 days because of grad school. Of all the days for the rest of the school year, I only have uncancelable duties on one! I could have done this entire leave position. Oh well. 

I decided to start each class super positive. Instead of telling the students what I wanted them to do, how they should behave, what I don't allow, I just told them how much I like working at that school and how respectful and quiet and polite all the students are and how much I was looking forward to working with them and having them follow directions and seeing what sort of awesome artwork they'd come up with. (Perhaps you've heard of the experiment in which two groups of students are given candies and one is instructed on how they need to be more cleanly while the other is praised for being cleanly. The latter group ends up throwing their wrappers neatly in the trash can while the former tends to litter quite a bit. This sort of idea.) It was working pretty well until one class started piping up about how not quiet or good they were. I had to switch on my stern teacher voice and be firm about that I expected they would do their very best to be. 

Enough pedagogy.

I'm in the middle of teaching a lesson about how to draw a barn (I was informed at 10pm the night before that I had to make my own lesson plans, so we do something uncomplicated) and I'm walking around the room checking that all the kids are in the right spot when one pipes up: "YOU LOOK YOUNG!"

You know how much I hate to be told that. Especially from people who are questioning whether or not they should respect my authority. Especially when I'm teaching at a public school. 

I shut her down with a "are you supposed to be talking right now?" and the question did not come up again. 

Later in the class I'm demonstrating simplistic barnyard animals. I've drawn a cartoon chicken and two styles of simplified pig. I tell them that they're free to draw any other animal that is farm appropriate that they'd like. A student asks me to draw a horse, but I was never one of those horse girls, I never spent a lot of time looking at horses or caring about horses and so I can't really whip out a horse without having one to look at. And I don't have one to look at. 

"I can't really draw a horse, " I say, and then proceed to draw this crappy horse head with all the other crappy animals I've drawn: 

A girl on the other side of the room calls out, "So you're not an art teacher?"

Not only am I an art teacher, but for the rest of the year I am HER art teacher. MFA and NYS Certified. I. Am. An. Art. Teacher.

"I am an art teacher," I respond with feigned confusion.

"But, like, not a real art teacher."

"I am a real art teacher."

"But not a FULL art teacher."

"I AM a FULL art teacher."

At this point she sort of sighs and is becoming visibly exhausted with me. It seems as though she might think I'm daft or that I'm messing with her. I launch into a diatribe about how drawing things from memory is NOT AT ALL what makes someone an art teacher, an artist, or even a good drawer. I find cause to mention not having been a horse girl nor having drawn lots of horses as a child nor spending time looking at horses, but add that if I had a horse to look at I could draw you a picture that looked very realistic, and went on to criticize my other animals, identifying them as stylized.

I don't even think the horse head that I drew was that horrible.

But anyhow, I think the takeaway here is that Drawing Horses is a key skill.

Maybe someday I'll be a respected educator. 

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