Being An Art Teacher Starts With…
Published on January 12, 2012
After eight years of teaching Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art, I decided that I wanted to expand my horizons, go back to school for Art Education, and get myself snuggled nicely into a public school–where, I felt, I could reach more souls out there that desperately needed Art.
One of the many requirements I had to meet to receive my Art Education License was called “field service”. Where you would spend two weeks observing a teacher, followed by one week of actually getting to teach a class in that teacher’s classroom.
I was assigned to a pretty rough and tough middle school in inner city Cleveland, Ohio. We’re talking metal detectors at the front door, security guards on every floor, and students old enough to be graduating from high school filling your seats. The teacher I had to observe was this teeny tiny, little petite woman about my age at the time–who was terrified of her students and basically hated her job.
She told me the first day that she had one of those huge science lab tables put in the front of the Art room on purpose–and she did all her “teaching” from behind there.
For the first week I sat on a chair perched behind her and watched as kids doodled on construction paper as she struggled to draw something on the chalk board for them to copy.
Most of her time was spent yelling at them to stay in their seats, pay attention, and be quiet.
I hated it. I dreaded going to my assignment. So, the second week as she began her “lesson” I left my chair behind the safety zone and began to stroll around the classroom–silently looking over the students’ shoulders, sometimes patting them on the back if I saw something at the least productive, and finally taking a seat next to them and asking them about what they were drawing.
At first the kids didn’t know how to handle the situation. I mean, an adult that ventured out into the classroom in an Art room? Someone willing to sit and talk with the natives–not at them?
The first day I did this my host teacher immediately said “I wouldn’t do that if I were you Miss Hozvicka.” When I simply responded with “I know.”
Finally, it was my turn to have a chance at teaching.
I came in that Monday morning with my lesson plans all typed and neat to give to my host teacher and I began to rearrange the room. I took all of the tables and I placed them together into one big table–with all of the chairs in a big circle around them.
Yes, my host teacher by this time was sweating bullets and planning her emergency escape for sure. Moments before that bell rang I stood at the door and said hello to each student as they walked in, handed them a paper, and insisted that they follow the directions written on the chalk board.
Once everyone was in I closed the door and proceeded to take my place–right there on top of all those tables. Smack in the middle of the natives.
Yep, none of them knew what to think of me at that point. I walked on all of those tables wearing my two and a half inch chunky boots and began to express my expectations of them for the week that I was teacher–and began to discuss what I would be teaching them, what they would be learning, and how we were in this together. That I was an Artist–and the reason I was there was not because of a job–but I was there for inspiration–to be inspired by the youth of my neighborhood and to witness a freshness that I knew each of them possessed. When I was finished with my little speech, I stopped towering above them–and instead sat down on the tables and began my lesson.
When I finished my field service the principal personally wanted to see me. Other teachers had told them that for the first time students were talking and excited about Art and he said whatever he could do to help me get a position in the Cleveland Public School System when I was finished with the program please don’t hesitate to ask.
See, I didn’t really do anything special.
Nothing at all actually.
All I did was trust.
Teaching is all about trust.
Number one–your students need to trust you. They need to trust that you have their best interest at heart and that you know what is best for them individually.
Second, as a teacher, you need to trust your students.
I no longer teach in a public school, and when my FEARLESS™ Painters attend Total Alignment in Sedona they are greeted with a hug and not a metal detector–but it doesn’t matter who your students are–trust has to be established between both parties.
My students need to trust that I am invested in their learning, their growth, and their development as Artists. And the best way I know to do so is by creating personal connection with them. Learning their names–their strengths, their fears, and what makes them come alive. That is why I always limit registration on my FEARLESS™ Painting workshops and retreats. I want to know who my students are–even though we might only be online.
But more importantly I need to trust my students. I need to trust that they are willing and ready to receive what I have to offer them. I need to trust that they trust in me–and by that a dance between the two of us can begin.
Over my 15+ years of teaching I have unfortunately met many Art teachers who fall short on trust. They feel that teaching means distributing knowledge and the more letters they can stack after their name, the more certificates they can frame in their office, and the more skills they can demonstrate is simply enough.
I whole heartedly disagree.
The teachers who have made the most impact on my life have never been about what I learned–but rather how I walked away a better person for being in their presence.
That is why my FEARLESS™ Painting Teacher Training Program that I will be announcing and putting on sale Monday, January 23rd is called IGNITE.
Successful teachers IGNITE their students souls–minds–and creativity.
Other teachers, well, they stand behind tables and miss the best part of it all.