Introduction: "Dear Art Teacher" is a new series I'm starting where I'll reflect on various experiences I've had with art teachers over my life. The format was inspired by Mary-Louise Parker's book titled, "Dear Mr. You." If you haven't read this book yet, please do, it's fantastic.
Dear Scary Lady,
My first memory of you is of you sitting behind your desk as a group of children queued for a moment with you to present our project. Most children were given a few seconds before being turned away and sent back to their seat to try again. I got to the front of the line and was quickly included in that group. I think I may have had one or two previous trips up to you in this line before this memory began lodging itself into my long term memory. I was terrified of your rejection and surely had an increased heart rate. When it was my turn you told me that you could tell by the jagged edges of my paper circle that I was still rotating my scissor hand around the circle instead of holding it still and rotating the paper through the stable cutting scissors. I don't think you looked at me. If you had you would have seen a terrified and shy little kid welled up with tears.
I went back to my desk and tried cutting another circle with your words echoing in my mind. This time I kept my scissor hand stable while my other hand slowly rotated the paper through the clamping blades. It clicked for me at that moment that what you had just told me was an amazing trick for cutting out a circle and this realization washed a massive relief from your rejection over me.
This is my only memory of you and I wish that it had stuck with me not because my fight or flight mode was kicking in but instead because I was discovering some control and a language around my deep love of making a shape. I wish this because I don't think anybody knowingly goes into a career as demanding as a teacher wanting anything less than to inspire excitement and a thirst for deeper learning in your students.
Did the long and difficult hours burn you out? Did you really just want to be in your studio all of the time but mistakenly thought that teaching elementary art classes would be an easy thing to do in your field to pay the bills? Did your original plan to work with college students not pan out and you didn't even like kids? Had our school district just made another round of budget cuts to the arts program so you then had to figure out how to keep a room of kids busy for 35 minutes with only one piece of paper each?