Art for Art’s sake

That week off was very necessary to recharge my teaching batteries, so to speak.  I finished my first week back with a renewed sense of purpose and a new game plan for how to find more successes in the classroom.

Upon arriving at Waltham in August I was given my year at a glance, with all the teaching responsibilities that I was expected to undertake.  Written simply, and covering the entire school year, was art.  Now my colleagues that know me back home understand that I am NOT the best art teacher.  Sure I have a few lessons that always succeed and are fun to teach, but I do not have as many ideas as many of them do.  Usually my art is embedded in the reading, writing, science, or even math assignments I teach.  Seldom do I teach art for art’s sake.  Well, now I have no choice!

I still remember my shop teacher at Walnut Creek Intermediate.  I can’t remember his name (help me out Doug Levin), but I do remember that he only had four fingers on one of his hands.  I had never met anyone with fewer digits than me, and the memory of his hand has never lapsed.  I also have not forgotten how he talked with me about the projects I created in his class.

As well as shop he taught sculpture, and my assignment was to make a clay pot with a lid.  Well the lid never fit quite right, and the pot was not terribly cylindrical.  Both points he let me know when we conferenced over my grade for my art.  He told me my work was OK, but not much better than average.  As someone who was (at that age) very concerned about my grades I was unhappy to receive a B (or was it a B-) for my clay pot.  Then he asked me why I had not submitted my other sculpture I created?  Turns out we had some free time one day and I threw together a clay head with a hole in the top.  For a candle, of course.  I thought it would look good in a college dorm room one day.  I remember getting my head and showing it to him and he told me that if I had submitted the head then he would have given me an A!  Now not only was I saddened by my art projects, but now I did not know how to judge my own work.

(By the way, the clay pot is at my parent’s house and I think it holds paperclips.  The clay head is somewhere in my house in Portland).

So here I am so many years later expected to teach a multitude of art mediums.  Collage,drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, model building, etc… More than I have ever done before.  Instead of this bringing me down I decided to bring it on and challenge myself to teach art.  This week we began our printmaking lessons, beginning with vegetable prints.  My school has all the necessary tools for teaching this, and I purchased a big bag of vegetables to cut up for the art.  Well, the kids loved it and I loved it and the art came out great.  I was really surprised how well my pupils did with some real, basic printing.  Art usually entails many intangibles such as tears, mess, clean up time, teaching time, endless questions, and endless running around the room by me.  Even with all of this we succeeded.  I broke a sweat but I broke new ground as a teacher.

For all my upcoming printmaking lessons I was able to order the art supplies from a catalogue, paid for by the school.  When I am done with them they will stay at the school for other teachers to use.  It is nice to feel that my intentions are supported even when I myself am not quite sure what I am doing.  Maybe teaching art isn’t so bad after all????


4 thoughts on “Art for Art’s sake

  1. I would agree with what Jim above has said. Your insights will have your students remembering what a special time it was in your classes……..

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