My wife and I were chatting before supper the other day about art classes.
“You don’t realize how scary it is for art students,” Kerrin said.
I was not sure what my wife meant by this. “Oh yes?” I replied.
“Yes, many people are afraid of looking silly. Putting themselves in a situation where others can see them painting. I’m not sure if they understand what to do,” she said.
“If they feel comfortable enough to enjoy the class, they will appreciate your teaching forever. It is a big deal.”
Kerrin was right. How easy it is to forget that taking a class is a leap of faith. No doubt you have to be a keen artist to attend a workshop. It takes a commitment in time and money. Yet we often believe that is all it takes. But it is the courage part that we never mention.
I do remember attending my first workshop with a professional artist of some repute. “This is a great opportunity,” I thought. “I can learn new things and my own painting will improve. This is important to me.”
When the workshop started, I was nervous. Amazing. Why? After all, I had years of experience behind me. The thing is that creativity is usually a private thing. It is personal.
To paint in public exposes a part of you that is sensitive to scrutiny. Your emotional connection to your art spirit is easily bruised. It is not about ego. Although that may be part of it as well.
All teachers should remember how important it is to help each participant feel at ease, to feel safe. If the teacher fails in this respect, he breaches a level of trust that he cannot restore. It is a tremendous responsibility.
It is also a responsibility I feel grateful for. When I think back to my school days, I have one teacher in mind. What did he teach? No surprises here – it had to do with art, of course. The class was on art history. And it so happened that our high school had outsourced art classes to a local art school. This worked out great for us.
The art school was across town, so our small class climbed into a bus twice a week to attend our art lessons. Three hours of practical art lessons each week. Sweet deal. Moreover, we had art history lessons for an hour once a week at another off campus venue. It was like a field trip. I loved it.
The other plus was that the art history teacher was more like a university lecturer – unlike the typical uptight school teachers. He treated us like real students. Classes were in lecture format, and we took our own notes. Occasionally, he would cuss someone who was not paying attention. We lapped it up.
I now know the amount of dedication it takes to teach well. Especially if you have a group of tired school kids who are distracted. To keep this up means you love what you do. And how lucky are we to learn from someone who loves what they are teaching. Most school kids do not appreciate this at the time. But I get it now.
That is why I want to express my gratitude to my high school art history teacher. My enjoyment of art, to this day, remains enriched by his teaching. I also know that he is grateful for the opportunity to teach. How do I now this? He still continues to teach art history to adults for the love of it. He passed mandatory retirement age a long time ago. That is proof enough. Thank you Mr. Gibb.
Now I teach art. Johnny come lately of the art world. Back doing what I love, while, perhaps, giving art students more confidence and inspiration and helping them conquer their fear. I am ever so grateful for this opportunity.
I also think about those art lessons at school. Learning about the trials and tribulations of artists making a go of their lives. It took guts to make it as an artist back in the day. I am grateful for those artists who suffered for their calling.
There was no pension plan for them. No security except what they made for themselves in a hard world. Yes, I do feel that I am honoring them in my own little way for what they have taught me.
If you have considered teaching in any form, then go for it. Whether it is to your grandchildren, at the community center, your club – whatever. I’m sure you know a lot about something! Pass some of that knowledge on. You never know who may need it.
It is a reminder. We need to be grateful for what we know, for those who have taught us, and passing on that wisdom is putting that gratitude into action. It is the best compliment we can give to those who nurtured us. It is never too late to enrich someone else’s life, too. Who knows what you may start? And yes, thank the teacher who did right by you.
Have you considered teaching? Did you have a teaching career? What was your experience? Please share your wisdom below!
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