Friday, August 10, 2007

school-start is just over a week away . . .


And what the hell happened to the summer? For teachers, this is a time to recover from the challenges of the the previous school year, to regenerate, to recharge, all that. I'm sure there's been some bizarre mistake, some awful tripping over a wrinkle in time from June to August. Did July even happen? I didn't see a single firework on the 4th (we live in the city and aren't supposed to see them), so I'm not convinced it's actually passed yet. And if I could check my battery the way I check the one on this laptop, I know it would tell me there's a plug unplugged, I'm running on 8% power, and I better switch to a power source because I'm about to shut down and lose all my data.

But summer is almost over and my brain is already switching over to high school art teacher mode. What changes will I make to the assignments, to my teaching methods, to the way I relate to the administration? I'm not worried how I relate to the kids. I think I was born with a gene that makes me automatically care about the kids. I'm always optimystic (odd spelling intentional. It's good to make up words when you need them). But administrators and teachers often experience and move through the world differently. At least it seems that way when I try to compare--which may be a bad idea anyway.

You know, the apples and oranges thing.

We teachers, if we care about what we're doing, are constantly figuring new ways to "get the kids", and by that I mean understand and reach them, as well as snag them into wanting to learn from us and be in our classroom, and be happy their counselors put them there even though they didn't sign up for us.I'm a high school art teacher who teaches drawing and painting to beginning artists as well as more advanced artists (between the ages of 13 and 18). I used to really resist the idea that I could be a high school teacher for life. The first few years I promised myself and everyone near me that "this year is my last year of teaching, I swear to god!" Then summer would happen and I'd relax and somehow convince myself that I should try maybe just one more year. I mean (I'd rationalize), "I spent all that time and money on credentials and all" Somehow I've made it to my 10th year and I've noticed that for the last couple of years I've been making the promise to quit less and less often.

And it's for one reason.

Young people amaze me. And they kick my butt. They are thinking, creative people with phenomenal energy and good will. They make me think, they make me laugh, they make me be creative. I suppose there are other jobs that could do that for me (and plenty that wouldn't), but the fates have given me this one. I'm a lucky woman. Mostly.

Still, with all that said, there is also a lot to say about the educational system and American society as a whole. Right now I guess I'll say a little and later, a lot more.

When I walk into my classroom on August 20th, I walk into the beginning of a year filled with joy and learning, yes, but it's a year guaranteed to be filled with difficult situations, students who don't trust the world (especially the adults in it), students who will bug the shit out of me, and who I will bug the shit out of. I'll meet students who check out of school because they don't "fit in", some who spend most of their time high or escaping into video games, who believe school is "gay" and will be shocked (or not) when they find out that I am. That will no doubt be fodder for this blog later, as the issue comes up (and out!) every year. There will be students who I will be successful with and students who I will be unsuccessful with. But I may never know which are which (I try not to pretend I do). My high school teachers most likely had no idea if they were successful with me or not--oh, but that's another story for later. Some students will be surprised when they find out the "easy art class" they signed up for requires them to read and write and think about art, along with actually learning to draw, and they will push against it. And I'll let them lean on me a little, then give them a gentle, yet firm, nudge, because I want them to know what art can do.

It's an optimystical thing. Making art is an optimistic act. Which writer was it that said that about writing?

So, my hope for this blog is to share some of my teaching year with you all.

Each year teaching changes me a bit more, some years more than others, and I hope I can relate some of the process that occurs this year. High school teaching can be creatively draining, so I'll give this my best effort--which I actually have worked into my grading criteria because in art class anyway, effort counts.