I’m nervous this year. I haven’t felt that way in a long time. This will be my 14th year to be a teacher, but I have never taught the subject I will be teaching- the subject I went to school to teach!
My original plans were to be a college professor of art, but after graduating with my BFA we never had the money for grad school and I didn’t want to have to move far away to get into the program for an MFA. I took a job as curator in a small museum for 3 years then I went back to school and finished getting my teaching certificate- in art. I quickly learned that there were VERY few and far-between art jobs in public schools, and even fewer in elementary settings (which is what I wanted to teach after college-age). So, I studied very hard and got certified for elementary and early childhood. For the last 13 years that is what I have taught. We have not had an elementary art teacher in ages in my district or any surrounding ones. I will be the first. This will be a flagship program. I’m feeling the pressure. It’s like I’m a new teacher all over again. And did I mention I will be teaching approximately 150 kids a day? Almost 1,000 kids between my two buildings that house PK-4th grade? Ya’ll I’m freaking out a little bit!
Ok, let me catch my breath. I’ve had all summer to process this. I’m excited and scared and having a hard time with my identity right now- even though this was the job I wanted for so long. I also LOVED teaching first grade and I taught it for 10 years you guys! BUT it was a huge ball of stress- the testing, the testing, the testing, sorry. I loved it all but that.
For so long I’ve identified as an elementary teacher and an artist, not both. Somehow people don’t seem to take the art of art teachers seriously and I think I wanted to stay away from that. But I’m kind of a horse of a different color. I enjoy perpendicularities. (I made up that word- it means things that aren’t supposed to be done together or intersecting being done together.) I’m the rarest Myers-Briggs personality type and I used to catch a lot of flak for being “different,” but I rarely cared. As an introvert I live in my head. It’s fun for me to blog because I can communicate much better in writing and through images than talking. Since I’m “weird” anyway I might as well break a few biases. Lol
Will my work change? I have no idea. I am really hoping in my heart of hearts that I won’t be burned out by teaching art all day. I’m praying that this job gives me less stress and more free time in the evenings to actually do more art during the school year.
I desperately want to write and illustrate a lot more picture books. I think they will be my passion for a long long time. Waiting until the summer to work sucks. With this job? Hopefully I will have the stamina after school and the clear head to be creative instead of using that time to detox from admin stress over testing and such. (Yes, I know I’m bringing it up a lot. Testing pressure and stress is a horrible reality even teaching 6-7 year-olds, and it shouldn’t be.)
What will I miss the most though? If the first grade job is so stressful why not rejoice in kissing it goodbye? Aside from my deep love of art I have a matched deep love of books and reading. I almost became a librarian ya’ll! My favorite thing about first grade was teaching kids how to read their own books with phonics and reading to them and sharing amazing books with them. I was like the gatekeeper. I sussed out the best children’s books (there are thousands of TERRIBLE ones) and showed to and read them to my students. I helped them pick books they would like, introduced them to books, showed them how books by the same author could be found and enjoyed and shared my love of the written and illustrated word with them. And it was heaven. I listened to kids read most of the morning, helped them learn the read the rest of the morning, then read to them in the afternoon. I will miss that so much.
My plan? To do this with my 1,000 new (and returning!) students again- but with art. I want to focus on book illustrators and how they tell a story. I want the kids illustrating their own books and learning all the different ways art can me made to communicate with others. I want them to be able to know the joy of creating, the joy of having an idea and being able to express it. I’m not super-solid on how that is going to look in my day yet, but I’m getting there and it may turn out to be the best job I’ve ever had.
But starting? I always feel that I can do anything if my environment is ok. So now I’m busy at both my buildings (I’ll have older kids in the morning and young ones in the afternoon) trying to put two new art rooms together. I’ve had to leave my beloved first grade classroom that I have had since our building was built and opened and move to the art room that has never been an art room! In the other building I’m in a room that has a sink in the hall! Aaaaah! I’m doing the best I can and after lots of hours and sore muscles and happily McDonald’s french fries (my favorite!) it’s working! I’ll post pictures here of my classrooms when they are done.
My early childhood classroom has the theme of “English Storybook Woods.” Think Paddington and Pooh, fairy tales and Peter Rabbit. It is really cute! My elementary classroom is ocean and 1960s school stuff. I’m decorating with ocean colors and vintage school supplies, Dick & Jane books, a record player, and restoring my room’s gorgeous porcelain chalkboard. It’s very soothing and gorgeous. Stay tuned!
With Arty Farty-ness to you from
Kansas Elementary School Street,